JR Potts, AUS 173d AB (Updated: 2/16/2016):
After the war's end in 1945, Germany had no need for their own standing army with the country now divided between the Allies and the Soviet Union in an "East meets West" fashion. At the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the United States called for the rearmament of West Germany in order to help defend Western Europe from a possible Soviet land invasion. The first prototypes of the "Kanonenjagdpanzer" were built in 1960 by Hanomag and Henschel for the West German Army. This tank destroyer was designed with a low profile and high mobility, increasing her battlefield survivability rate in case war would find Europe once more.
The "Jagdpanzer Kanone" was constructed with a welded steel hull of only 50mm of armor protection. Speed would be her inherent defensive quality, being able to make upwards of 43mph with her 500 horsepower diesel engine supporting a four man crew. The commander, driver, gunner and loader were cramped in the vehicle dimensions of 28.7 feet long, 9.7 feet wide and 6.8 feet high and the fighting cabin was NBC protected to deal with the very real threat being posed by Nuclear, Biological and Chemical threats from the Soviet Union.
Her primary function as a tank destroyer was, naturally, to destroy enemy tanks within range with her powerful 90mm Rhinemetall BK 90/L40 main gun. 2 x 7.62mm MG3 general purpose machine guns were secondary and served as enemy troop suppression weapons. For concealment, the destroyer could call upon 8 x integrated smoke grenade dischargers if retreat under cover was preferable. These grenades could also provide a handy smokescreen when undertaking a possible counter attack on the offensive. The ideal combat situation for these Jagdpanzer units was, however, the planned ambush and the skill of such units fighting from prepared locations and lying in wait was a battlefield quality that could prove high in demand once a war in Europe was underway.
Hanomag and Henschel produced Jagdpanzer units until 1967 to which 770 units were built for the West German government. Totals included 375 systems as produced by Hanomag and a further 375 by Henschel. At least 80 of these were ultimately delivered to the Belgian Army by April of 1975 and beyond. When the Soviets deployed the newer T-64 and T-72 main battle tanks, the 90mm gun fitted on the Jagdpanzer was no longer capable of destroying Soviet tanks at long range, making the Kanonenjagdpanzer obsolete as a self-propelled tank destroyer.
Between 1983 and 1985, by removing the original main gun, some 163 of the Jagdpanzer tank destroyers were converted to accept anti-tank guided missiles by the installation of a roof-mounted guided missile launcher for the "Raketenjagdpanzer Jaguar 2" missile system. Some converted Jagdpanzers remained in service until 1990 in their new guise.