Outwardly, the Wespe was a utilitarian-appearing, single-minded-purpose vehicle. Its Panzer II roots betrayed it along the lower hull and running gear. Clearly identifiable were its five road wheels to a track side with drive sprocket at front and track idler at rear. Four track return rollers were used to guide the upper track sections. The leaf spring suspension system was reused from the Panzer II as was the Maybach 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine (outputting at 140 horsepower). Operational range was improved to 137 miles though the top road speed of 25 miles per hour was comparable.
The major design change emerged with the new hull superstructure which housed the four crew. The fifth crewmember, the driver, was seated at front-center with vision slots and a hinged hatch at his position set to open upwards. He was the only crewmember protected from the elements and battlefield hazards. His position was situated along a well sloped glacis plate for an optimal vantage point of the action ahead. With the hatch buttoned down, however, his views were decidedly restricted and his operating position equally cramped. The vehicle commander resided in the open-air superstructure with the gunner and ammunition handlers. Between 32 and 40 x 105mm projectiles could be carried aboard and most vehicles were outfitted with a 7.92mm MG34 series general purpose machine gun to counter enemy infantry and low-flying threats. Additionally, the crew could call upon their personal weapons as needed, usually pistols or perhaps service rifles or submachine guns. 105mm projectiles were managed as two individual pieces featuring the shell and propellant. The Wespe utilized the same ammunition as the towed field gun version of the howitzer which made logistical sense.
The 12-ton Wespe was delivered to German frontline forces in 1943 and absorbed into Panzer artillery battalions and mechanized infantry divisions. Six howitzers made up a single battery with five batteries assigned to a battalion. It was pressed into action against Soviet forces along the Eastern Front where early gains has now turned into unacceptable losses and stalemates. Wespe systems performed so well that it overtook manufacture of all future Panzer II hulls and precedent over Marder II conversions in time (under Hitler's direct personal order). The little vehicle was very well-liked by her crews for her agility, speed and inherent firepower. During the North Africa campaign, the Wespe proved a godsend for the Afrika Corps operating in the inhospitable desert environment though with generally unobstructed views against the horizon. The vehicle held the required range to reach out against embedded enemy targets and the firepower to dislodge stubborn forces. What it lacked was protection which almost always required that it be fielded with supporting vehicles and personnel and set well aft of the frontline. Additionally, the 40 x 105mm onboard projectiles limited inherent ammunition availability.
The Wespe was produced in only one other major variant, a dedicated ammunition carrier has its gun barrel, recoil mechanism and mounting removed to make room for 90 x 105mm projectiles. 158 of this vehicle were manufactured and retained the fighting prowess of the armed version. As such, a 105mm gun system salvaged from a lost Wespe could be fitted to the ammunition carrier to bring the carrier to the original Wespe fighting standard. A complete Wespe unit consisted of six SdKfz 124 gun platforms and one ammunition carrier assigned in support (the ammunition carrier could also be replaced by a supply truck or other tracked vehicle). Despite always intended as an interim SPA solution, Wespe vehicles were in play up to the end of the war in Europe which concluded May of 1945, such was its value and battlefield lethality. The vehicle appeared on all major fronts involving German Army units.