The SdKfz 11 liechter Zugkraftwagen was developed at the same time that another light-class half-track was in the works for the rearming German Army as the SdKfz 10. Whereas the SdKfz 10 was rated to tow 1-ton's worth of battlefield hardware, the SdKfz 11 was rated for up to 3-tons which meant it could haul greater-sized pieces from 3.7cm anti-aircraft guns to 10.5cm leFH 18 series field systems. Design work spanned from 1934 to 1938 and initially involved Hansa-Lloyd and Goliath (Borgward AG) and, from 1937 onwards, the design became associated with Hanomag of Hanover who took over the line and ultimately produced the vehicle as the SdKfz 11. Production covered 1938 to the end of the war in 1945 to which some 9,000 units were produced. Several notable variants also emerged.
The end-product was a 16,000 pound vehicle with a length of 18 feet, a width of 6.6 feet, and a height of 7 feet. A standard operating crew numbered two and additional seating allowed for six to eight more (though wartime pressures often saw many infantry packed onto the truck). Power was from a Maybach HL42 TRKM 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled, liquid-cooled engine developing 100 horsepower and mated to a Honomag U50 series transmission system. The chassis was suspended on a torsion bar arrangement with ground clearance measured at 13 inches - providing the vehicle with rather excellent cross-country mobility. The rear drive component was of a track-and-wheel design similar to a combat tank's while the front drive section mimicked that of a truck. While steerable as a unit, the front wheels were unpowered so steering was complicated to an extent over softer terrains. Pivoting the wheels beyond 15-degrees did call up assistance from the tracks (by way of brakes) which aided in turning the long vehicle. Operational ranges reached 150 miles (87 miles off road) while speeds could reach 33 miles per hour on paved surfaces.
From the beginning, the SdKfz 11 was intended for the artillery hauling role and utilized for heavier-caliber German Army weapons like field guns, howitzers, and anti-tank guns. They provided strong mover capabilities that worked well with the mechanized doctrine of the re-imagined German military. The SdKfz 11 series proved so successful in its mover role that it ultimately replaced the dimensionally-larger (and more expensive) SdKfz 6 movers over time. The line was broadened through official variants and other in-the-field modifications that (in the latter) produced non-official variants as the war progressed. Beyond serving in the artillery hauling role, these half-tracks were also utilized as ammunition / resupply vehicles for German artillery batteries.
Notable variants of the SdKfz 11 included the base troop carrier model. The SdKfz 11/1 was used as an ammunition carried for the 10cm Nebelwerfer 35/40 series rocket projectors. The SdKfz 11/2 was a chemical decontamination model and the SdKfz 11/3 was designed for the chemical spraying role. The SdKfz 11/4 served as an ammunition resupply vehicle for the 15cm Nebelwerfer 41 series rocket projectors and the SdKfz 11/5 was similar in scope though installing a two-compartment, wooden upper body structure over the rear flatbed section.
Production of SdKfz 11s continued up until the last weeks of the war in 1945 though, by this time, the handful of factories participating (originally Hanomag, Adlerwerke, Horch, Skoda, and Borgward) were limited to just one. The base design was somewhat modified by the final days to help streamline production (hence the use of wooden superstructures and the like) and was forced to carry even greater artillery loads than originally imagined. The chassis also formed the basis of the famous SdKfz 251 half-track line detailed elsewhere on this site. At any rate, the SdKfz 11 series of light half-tracks served the German Army (and its Luftwaffe as an AA gun carrier/tow vehicle) with distinction and proved itself well-liked by her users while becoming an immensely critical portion to ongoing German actions in the war.
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