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Apr 16, 2013

Sorting out the 210mm Ferdinand

 By Zarax

The introduction of "GW-Ferdinand" by Wargaming left me scratching my head.
The first reaction was "yet another fantasy tank!", but I had an hitching feeling about reading a "21cm auf Elefant" somewhere.

The first hint came from the forums, where "Panzer Leader" by Guderian was mentioned as a source.
It is there indeed mentioned as a proposal (among other things, like additional front plating for Tiger, Panther and Panzer IV)  but I still was not sure as he seemed to be mixing out stuff. The fact that the 210mm mortar itself was nicknamed "Elefant" due to its weight didn't help of course as it could have allowed further confusion.

"Gunpower 22", by Tadeusz Melleman briefly mentions that heavy self propelled guns on Tiger P chassis were proposed for 150 and 170mm heavy howitzers on page 7, however no source is given, leaving me skeptical about it, although it mentions the same reason for dismissal as Guderian's, economic cost. 

This led me to dig deeper into the main authors. A deeper check into "Special Panzer Variants" by Spielberger revealed a "Elefant 21cm on Hummel chassis" proposed on March 1945 but it turned out to be talking about the mortar itself rather than the tank.

"Panzer Tracts 08" gave a precious start, saying in thr Sturmpanzer IV chapter that succesfull production of the model would stop the need for a 21cm Tiger (P) based Stug. This, and the fact that Sturmtiger itself was initially considered to use a similar howitzer, made me consider the possibility of a "Sturmtiger (P)", although still not direct enough to be certain.

"Tiger und seine abarten" by Spielberger finally hit the nail. On pages 104 and 105 (translation courtesy of Silentstalker) it says Hitler wanted the conversion of Porsche Tigers into Sturmgeschütz vehicles with 200mm frontal armor and a 88mm L/71 gun. He also ordered the research of the possibility of installing a 210mm French captured mortars into them. For that, the hull and the superstructure was to be strenghtened. 

The order to rebuild one (Porsche vehicle) into a Sturmgeschütz was given by the army high command to Porsche on 26.9.1942.  On 14.10.1942 Hitler said that if Panzer IV could have the SIG gun installed, the need for the 88 or 210mm Porsche Tiger Stug has no longer priority and only constructive suggestions should be given from now on. 

What does this mean?

Basically, a 210mm assault mortar used as howitzer on a Ferdinand. Same armor, likely slightly different superstructure but definitely a front line tank, not an artillery unitSo, after VK 7201, Wargaming did it again and utterly misread a german design.

Will they ever learn?

Bonus detail: On 5.1.1943 Hitler requested the trials of a 88 L/100 on Tiger P chassis.

Addendum for those that argue about its use in WOT

My articles are purely on an historical perspective although usually based on WOT tanks or events.
My aim is to rectify historical accuracy mistakes, not to create WOT tank designs.

Someone pointed that the armor on a "mortar carrier" would be useless thus it's not logical.

This tank was not meant for facing other tanks tanks but rather bunker defences (which included anti-tank guns) in an urban settings, while the tank role was simply to bring the biggest gun close enough to do the job.

I'll try to explain the role in simple words:

1) Pick a big city (historically, Stalingrad).
2) Infantry discovers a fortified building that indirect fire artillery cannot reach
3) Tank caliber guns fails to breach the reinforced walls

At this point a solution is needed:

Hitler proposed a ramming Tiger vehicle that would act like a motorized battering ram.
Someone a bit less insane proposed a vehicle armored enough to withstand anything thrown at it by bunker defences and with a large enough gun to crack it.

Implementation phase 1: a SIG heavy howitzer is mounted on a Panzer III chassis with 80mm front

Implementation phase 1.5: Hitler wants something bigger and orders the heaviest gun on his favourite engineer's (Porsche) platform

Implementation phase 2: someone saner persuades Hitler that a panzer IV with a 15cm STUH 43 short howitzer and 100mm frontal armor is enough

Implementation phase 2.5: Hitler gets angry and states that nothing less than a Tiger will scare away enemy soldiers from position

Implementation phase 3: Sturmpanzer Bar and Sturmtiger competes for the heavy sturmpanzer role, with Sturmtiger winning the competition.

How would it work in battle in its concept?

The tank would simply approach the enemy strongpoints relying on strong frontal armor to resist anti-tank guns, grenades and anything a fortified position cold fire at it.
Once within range (from a few hundred meters to 1-2 kilometers) the tank would fire with a heavy howitzer and demolish the enemy bunkers either with HE or with a large HEAT demolition shell.

Tanks were not their primary targets and they were not meant to be used as tank destroyers primarily, although that role was occasionally envisioned.

Would they wreck any tank if they fired on it? Yes if close enough to score a direct hit with their low velocity guns.
Would they be optimal for the task? No, as everything in the tank is optimized for short range use against static targets. Perhaps they would be devastating in an ambush, but with the naturally slow rate of fire it would be a waste of heavy shells.

Someone likened heavy sturmpanzers to  the soviet SU-ISU 152. It is an analogy with limited purpose, as the german tanks were much more specialized in their role than the soviet design and would be out-ranged by them.



  1. where did you find the info about the 88 L/100?
    its pretty much impossible to find values for it..

    1. Yeah and was there any more info? Documents?

    2. "Tiger und seine abarten" by Spielberger
      If you get in Skype I can give you more details Thor

  2. I'm sure their soviet tank expert knows it better than some random guys and some books..

    trololol. WG did it again.

    1. I put their "batman sign" for Pasholok, WG tank expert.
      Maybe one day they will feel like giving a serious reply.

  3. Please, someone email this blog and this page particularly to the devs, they must be so dumb they need someone to put the right info in front of their eyes.

  4. 'mortar used as a howitzer' and a 'frontline tank'
    --mortar frontline tank
    --mortar frontline
    oh internet, the dwelling of self-taught experts.

    1. I assume the concept of Sturmmörser eludes you... :)

    2. you mean, the one with 380mm rocket launcher ? :)

    3. Mortar tubes later in the war were used as direct fire HEAT cannons for short range use.
      8H63 and 10H64 would like to have a word with you.

      BTW, shortened heavy howitzers/mortars coupled with heavy armor used for urban warfare were the base of StuIG 33b, Sturmpanzer IV and Sturmtiger.

      For that, Guderian would like to have a word with you as well.

    4. Sturmmörser means "assault mortar" in German. It's a generic term, not one particular vehicle. Originally the Sturmmörser Tiger (or Sturmtiger, as it is popularily known) was to be equipped with a 210mm mortar (can't remember which model) and was to serve as a heavily armored assault gun, much like the Sturmpanzer IV. The whole concept was of course rather ridiculous, but existed nonetheless. Same goes for the Elefant chassis, which would most likely be actually more effective, as the superstructure was bugger.

    5. Also, you think the 150mm frontal armor of Sturmtiger were for decoration?
      Or the 100mm of Sturmpanzer IV, the 130mm of Sturmpanzer Bar and so on...

    6. @Frank: My point really was that the only tracked vehichle that was named 'Sturmmörser' never actually had a mortar installed :)

      @Zarax: Sorry if my comment sounded offensive, and thanks for the info. To the point, however: neither Guderian, nor any of those poor volkssturmtruppen pho had to use PAWs would ever suggest a mortar as an optimal for direct line of sight primary weapon for a tank; the reasons for that are quite obvious (or are you suggesting a 210mm HEAT shell?). Moreover, assuming out of thin air a 200mm frontal armor for a mortar carrier is a bit of stretch, no?

    7. Germans were in love with HEAT shells, it was a fixation of Hitler actually.
      They even made a 7 ton airborne HEAT bombshell for overly protected targets (which utterly failed operationally as near misses are useless with such a design).

      I'm NOT assuming 200mm front out of think air btw, this is in line with many similar projects.
      Do a search for "Sturmpanzer Bar" and you'll see a 305mm "mortar carrier" with sloped 130mm armor, while the one in this article was basically a bigger Sturmpanzer IV.

      Allow me to reiterate: Those designs were made for an extremely specialized purpose: demolishing strongpoints at short range in city fights.
      For that you don't need a gun precise at long range, you need something that can shoot a big shell without too much recoil and weight, and that's basically the concept of "mine thrower" that made germans rely on direct fire mortars-howitzers.

      The struggle at Stalingrad created the need for this niche and they were again used for that purpose later on in Poland.

    8. and you are describing exactly what artillery is doing in this game :) - demolishing strongpoints consisting of those slow yummy heavy tanks, since buildings are indestructible and there are no infantry.

      as for the nitpicking - you are assuming 200mm out of thin air, really. Porshe Tigers never had a hull of 200mm strong; additional plate was simply bolted, as i am sure you know. this assumption is really a stretch for a vehicle that is never supposed to meet tanks in direct combat.

      also, what Baer are you speaking about? the napkin drawing that was never built?

      finally, suggesting this ( french beutemorser pic )as an anti-tank direct fire gun is just an enormous stretch.

      but thanks for discussion anyway.

    9. I added a piece to the article explaining sturmpanzer role.
      BTW, you're the only one here arguing that the 210mm ferdinand would be used as a tank hunter.

    10. Useless, perhaps.

      Hilariously entertaining, definitely.


    "[...]already manufactured 90 hulls for production of self propelled guns. At first they were intended to be armed in heavy 150 or 170mm howitzers, or heavy 210mm mortar"
    i'll just leave it here

    - niick [eu]

    1. ....because random Polish authors know more about German panzers than W.Spielberger?

    2. If you'd like to read the article again I cited the book where that figure came from.
      It is not confirmed by the most reputed authors.

  6. These seem like German machinations based upon SU/ISU (ie: use big HE munitions).

  7. There is no artillery class. There is a Self Propelled Gun class. Technically most TD's fall under this as well though there's enough of those to warrant a separate class. Analogous to the Sturmtiger (P) being a frontline Assault Gun (hence the sturm bit), a StuG is not really a TD either. If I were to argue about misclassing anything at all, I'd rather argue that the StuG is an SPG, than arguing that the Sturmtiger (p) is not an SPG, because it clearly is.

    SPG's just tend to be used as artillery in WoT, and even that isn't always the case.


    1. Well put. Same holds for SU/ISU-152, or SU-122

    2. Well, the thing is, even IF what you said is true (and the SturmElefant was used for indirect fire), it would still mean the Wargaming GW Elefant is fake. First, there is nothing at all in any reputable sources about prolonging the Porsche chassis, or mounting a thin Grille 17-like superstructure on it.

    3. Of course.
      Take into account however that germans did not have a clear definition, with any kind of SPG used by both Panzer and artillery units.

  8. I don't see the issue with a Ferdinand armored howitzer just because it can be used "on the frontline"....tier 2 Bison in game was used to level buildings point blank...

    1. Nobody is taking issue with the concept but rather the implementation.
      WG basically made a Grille 17/21 copy while instead sources points to something a lot closer to the Ferdinand we have in game.

  9. So, basically what it should look like is something similar to the StuG serie, which, if I'm not wrong, went from a defences destroyer purpose, to also a tank destroyer purpose, or howitzer support, right?

    1. Yes, the tank was considered for a breakthrough role initially but then refocused on long range tank hunting.

  10. I found the book:

    "Am 22.09.42 verlangte Hitler den Umbau einer Anzahl von Porsche "Tigern" zu Sturmgeschützen (no Sfl, so no Arty) mit 200mm Stirnpanzerung. Sie sollten mit der 8,8 cm L/70 Kannone bestückt werden. Ferner sollte die Möglichkeit des Einbaus eines 21cm Beutemörsers untersucht werden. Wanne und Decke sollten dabei verstärkt werden. Hitler war damit einverstanden, daß die Panzerbleche Marinebeständen entnommen würden. Der Befehl zum Umbau in ein Sturmgeschütz ohne Turm wurde vom OKW offiziell am 26.9.42 geben. Am 14.10.42 erklärte Hitler, daß, sollte sich das schwere Infrantiegeschütz auf dem Panzer IV Fahrgestell unterbringen lassen die Notwendigkeit eines Strumgeschgützes auf Porsche Tiger mit der langen 8,8 cm Kannone bzw. dem 21 cm Mörser nicht mehr im früheren maße geben sei."

    "On 22.09.42 Hitler demanded the conversion of a number of Porsche "Tigers" to assault guns [no Sfl, so no Arty] with 200mm frontal armor. They should be equipped with the 8.8 cm L/70 Kannone. Also, the possibility of installing a 21cm "loot"/"spoil" mortar should be investigated. Hull, top and bottom of the tank should be further strengthened. Hitler had agreed, that the armor plates could be taken from marine stocks. The command for rebuilding the Porsch Tiger into an assault guns without tower was passed from OKW officially on 26.09.42. In 14.10.42 Hitler declared that, if the heavy Infrantiegeschütz can be accommodated on the Panzer IV chassis, then the need for a Strumgeschgützes on Porsche Tiger with the long 8.8 cm Kannone or the 21 cm mortar was no more necessary (as it was in the past)."

    So no arty, No GW.... just an idea about a Strumgeschütz.

    Your Staufen

  11. >Someone a bit less insane proposed a vehicle armored enough to withstand anything thrown at it by bunker defences and with a large enough gun to crack it.
    Just slightly less insane, it's still an overspecialised weapon built by a country that was running short of everything, yet another example of German madness.

    1. That was the result of deeply ingrained WWI mentality in many people at the top.

    2. To be fair, the basic concept was sound enough and there was a clear demand for such weapon systems (or something similar) - even the Soviets with their ISU-152s sometimes found it necessary to use their high-level 203mm howitzers over open sights against particularly stubborn strongpoints, which was effective but obviously hazardous for the gun crews. And most if not all of these projects were based on existing tank hulls from the start so they wouldn't have been *that* much of an extra burden on the industry.

      That said they tend to come across as a wee bit over-specialised for their particular niche, all the more so compared to the rather versatile StuGs and SUs.

  12. I can only say, why are all so upset when WG thinks about including paper tanks? I for myself consider WoT as an arcade computer game. Just for fun. And WG tries to include historical accuracy, which is good. But cannot be successful in each term.

    I'm rather happy and interested, if the include such paper tanks,
    because you can have a feeling how it could looked like if it were ever produced (think about T28 Prot. Image vs. ingame). I like such things, would be rather boring having only real tanks.

    On the other hand, you can only blame WG IF they say "its historical accurate" when it isn't. Why not having Ferdi with 210mm as arty? (besides i hate arty... another story) If it was mentioned in a sentence like above, I'm fine with introducing it :)

    1. My problem is not with paper tank designs, but rather with WG grossly misunderstanding many of them.

      I covered artillery extension in an earlier article, using both production and paper tanks and there was no need for such a design.

      "Sturm-ferdinand" would have made a very interesting armored artillery, with a strong albeit short range punch, while being protected enough to survive pesky t-50-2.

      Instead, we get an unhistorical "Grille 21(P)" that gives nothing new to the game except for more grinding.

  13. WG also have confusing names
    ingame Bison - "15cm sIG 33 auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf. B", nickname Sturmpanzer I

    ingame StPz II - Sturmpanzer II Bison officialy


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