Schutzenpanzer SPz 12-3 (SPz Lang / Lang HS.30)
Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) / Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)
Though some 10,000 Lang HS.30 systems were intended, only about 2,176 examples were ever produced.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Following the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945), Germany became a split nation, occupied by the victors through an East and West division. The East was governed by the Soviet Union and the West handled by the United States, Britain and France. As another major land war in Europe seemed an all too real possibility during this period, it fell to the various Western powers to developed the counters necessary to match the perceived might of the Soviet armored corps. As West Germany settled into its new European role, its defense industry began the long road to recovery. It was during the 1950s that a new light-class, tracked Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) was commissioned for its rebuilding forces. This initiative produced the "Schutzenpanzer Lang HS.30", which also came to be known as the "Schutzenpanzer 12-3" (SPz 12-3), introduced during 1958.
The HS.30 proved a 16-ton (short) vehicle with a running length of 5.6 meters, a width of 2.5 meters and a height of 1.85 meters. Internally, it carried a crew of three - driver, commander and gunner - and supported up to five combat-ready infantry. Power was delivered through 1 x Rolls-Royce B81 Mk 80F series 8-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine developing 220 horsepower. The chassis was suspended atop a torsion bar system for improved cross-country travel while the running gear included five double-tired road wheels to a hull side with three track return rollers, a rear-set drive sprocket and forward-mounted track idler - the vehicle used a conventional "track-over-wheel" arrangement. The hull was of a low profile with angled sides for inherent ballistics protection, armor thickness measuring up to 30mm at the 45-degree angles. Frontal armor alone protected against 20mm hits and smaller caliber damage. A low-profile turret was sat over the frontal section of the hull roof with 360-degree traversal and inherent elevation capabilities. It fitted a rather powerful 20mm Hispano-Suiza HS820 L/86 autocannon (with 2,000 projectiles in tow). The vehicle also carried a 7.62mm MG3 machine gun. Eight smoke grenade dischargers, in two banks of four, were seated along the frontal hull facing and could be used to screen the actions of the vehicle. Unlike other APCs of the period, the HS.30 was not given amphibious capabilities.
All told, the HS.30 could reach road speeds of 58 kilometers per hour and operational ranges out to 270 kilometers.
In many ways, the HS.30 proved something more akin to a modern-day Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) than true Armored Personnel Carrier. It held a formidable 20mm cannon that could be brought to bear against light-skinned vehicles, infantry concentrations and low-flying aircraft. Its frontal armor could also protect it (to an extent) when supporting direct tank actions against the Soviets. Indeed, the infantry occupants of the HS.30 were trained to fight with, and alongside, their vehicle as oppose to simply relying on it as a ferry to-and-from a battlefront. In this same way, the HS.30 was envisioned as fighting alongside West German tanks as a potent "one-two punch" - running contrary to typical Western thinking concerning APCs.
As with most vehicles of such a class, the HS.30 was seen as fulfilling various battlefield roles within the West German Army. Beyond its fighting capabilities, there emerged the "FuFu" Command and Control (C2) vehicle with additional, specialized equipment carried aboard. The LGS M40A1 was fitted with the 106mm M40A1 recoilless rifle and intended as an Anti-Tank (AT) vehicle. The "Raketenjagdpanzer 1" was similar in scope though made more potent through its assembly of SS-11 AT wire-guided missiles. The "Panzermorser" was a mortar carrier, first seen with an 81mm type and then with a larger 120mm system. This also carried a shielded 7.62mm MG3 machine gun. The "Feuerleitpanzer" proved a forward observation vehicle for artillery direction.
To begin with, the West German Army sought a total of 10,000 HS.30 vehicles. However, despite its rather promising design, the HS.30 fought through several issues during its service life. The speed at which it was brought into existence no doubt led to the issues found with the underpowered powerpack, fragile suspension system and other technical/mechanical problems which led to consistent breakdowns in the field. Such a performance certainly led to the HS.30 earning a terrible reputation for its service career. From this arose an investigation by the daily German newspaper "Frankfurter Rundschau" which uncovered large bribes related to the HS.30 program. The HS.30 went on to live a rather forgettable service life, also stained by scandal, before it was given up for good upon the arrival of the Rheinmetall Landsysteme Marder IFV in 1971.
Some 2,176 HS.30 vehicles were produced, far less than the envisioned 10,000 strong force.