SdKfz 302 / SdKfz 303 leichte Ladungstrager Goliath Tethered Remote-Controlled Tracked Demolition Carrier
The small German Goliath was one of the earliest useful battlefield concepts involving remote-operated weapons delivery.
Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The small "Goliath" engineering vehicle was one of the most intriguing German land weapons of World War 2. Classified as a "tracked mine", the Goliath was intended primarily for use as a demolition vehicle suitable for removing heavy road obstructions, destroying strategic structures and even combating enemy forces directly. In the end, the type proved something of a novel weapon concept whose potential was never realize and whose design suffered in several key areas concerning self-preservation on the battlefield. Such an endeavor, however, served to provide the basis for future remote-controlled battlefield systems utilized by the militaries of today in its use of UAVs
and bomb disposal robots.
The automotive firm of Borgward of Bremen was charged by German authorities with design and development of the Goliath beginning in 1940 and followed the general idea set in a captured vehicle development by French engineer Adolphe Kegresse. The design was essentially nothing more than a low-profile hull housing the engine and the design was straddled along its sides by a tracked road wheel arrangement. There were four road wheels to a track side along with a suspension system. The track idler was fitted to the front of the hull with the drive sprocket located at the rear. To accept commands from its operator, a spooled communications tether made up of three wires was housed in a rear compartment that gradually released the line as the tankette made its way further ahead. The three lines allowed for simple commands intended to control both steering to the left or right and final detonation (of course, once the payload was detonated, the vehicle was rendered a total loss). Design culminated with a period of evaluation and, ultimately, serial production was ordered in 1942 under the German Army
designation of "Sd.Kfz. 302 leichte Ladungstrager Goliath". The name selection of "Goliath" was rather consistent with the German nature of applying weapon systems a contrary name - for instance, the super-heavy tank Panzer VIII
was called the "Maus" (translating to "Mouse") despite its sheer weight and size.
The initial Goliath production form was the Sd.Kfz. 302 with production beginning in April of 1942. The type was fielded with a electrical propulsion system consisting of a pair of 2.5 kiloWatt motors allowing for a maximum speed of just 6 miles per hour. Coupled with the limited-reach tether system and two internal batteries, the Goliath could reach out to 0.93 miles on road and 0.49 miles off-road. The structure measured in at 1.5 meters long, 0.85 meters in width and 0.56 meters in height. Overall weight was in the vicinity of 814lbs necessitating the use of a transport wagon to port the Goliath to key fronts. Each Goliath was fitted with up to 132lbs of explosive content. The vehicle was controlled by its operator via electromagnetic clutches. Armor protection was just 6mm and this was only along the front, leaving the sides and rear extremely vulnerable to enemy fire - even from infantry small arms.
In practice, the Goliath proved limiting in its reach, at least from a tactical standpoint. The 132lb charge payload was impressive to say the least though the weakness inherent in her armor protection and the exposed tether wire were soon proven liabilities in the field. The explosives charge could be detonated ahead of the intended target area by precision shooting or a lucky shot by the enemy and the thin armor protection meant that bullets or artillery spray could pierce the protective layers and penetrate deep into vital working components, particularly the drive motor. Additionally, the frail tether wire could just as easily be severed from the drive unit, rendering the Goliath completely useless. As such, many Goliaths were either disabled or prematurely detonated before completing their missions where Allied or resistance fire was found. The electric drive nature of the little beast ultimately proved temperamental and time consuming to repair in-the-field and its base production cost prohibited purchase of large quantities forcing a rewrite of the Goliath design and production scope. Production of the SdKfz 302 finished in January of 1944 to which some 2,635 examples were completed before work switched to a new approach.
The Goliath appeared in a second, albeit dimensionally larger (1.62L x 0.84W x 0.60H meters), version and this variant also held within itself two distinct production models. Work on a much improved Goliath form began in April of 1943 while production of the SdKfz 302 was already underway. The revised form came to be known under the German Army designation of "SdKfz 303". Key differences in the versions lay in the selection of a Zundapp gasoline-fueled 2-cylinder engine over that of the original's electrical drive motors, larger explosive payload capability and a lowered track idler for improved performance. The Zundapp powerplant supplied up to 12.5 horsepower and allowed for ranges up to 0.74 miles on road and 0.45 miles off-road while reaching speeds up to 6.8 miles per hour. Weight was slightly lighter at just over 800lbs. The engine proved a more reliable match and easier to maintain (as well as repair) once in the field. Armor was improved from the 6mm in the original to 10mm in the upgraded design. One version of the SdKfz 303 series held a 165lb explosives payload (SdKfz 303a) while another was saddled with a 220lb explosives payload (SdKfz 303b). The tether release system was still dependent on a housed rear-mounted spool and defense along the sides and rear quadrants was not further addressed. Production completed on 4,929 SdKfz 303 examples in January of 1945.
As with the SdKfz 302 before it, the SdKfz 303 exhibited the same limitations which rendered her , on the whole, unviable on the hectic battlefields of World War 2. Regardless, the weapon type was utilized by specially-trained German Army engineering companies across all major war fronts of the war. The Goliath was featured in the German response to the Polish Warsaw Uprisings and was even spotted by Allied forces on D-Day in northern France. Again, these forces needed only to sever the command line to ensure the Goliath remained relatively harmless. As a result, hundreds of Goliaths of all three types were captured by Allied soldiers as the advance towards Germany continued. These troops found great interest in the new-fangled weapons of war and, as with other interesting late-war German weapon creations, captured Goliath specimens were further researched by her enemies in the post-war world to provide additional insight into their construction and operation.
The Allies came to know the Goliath as the "Beetle Tank" for obvious reasons.