8.8cm Raketenwerfer 43 (Puppchen)
Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher
The 8.8cm Raketenwerfer 43 Puppchen was yet another German Army attempt at providing additional anti-tank firepower to traditional ground infantry.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Just as the machine gun had altered the state of battlefields prior, the "tank" also arrived with much attention in World War 1 to help change the course of the critical, later battles. From this, thought was given to developing weapons to counter these steel beasts that now proved enemy defense somewhat moot. Ironically, it took some time for the Germans to appreciate the value of the combat tank and it was not until World War 2 that the Panzer was used to begin the enslavement of Europe and alter the course of history. Development of tank-killing weapons also persisted into this period and with good reason - the tank battles of World War 2 proved the largest on record - particularly after the stunning German invasion of the Soviet Union in June of 1941 through "Operation Barbarossa", officially beginning the East Front.
As armor usage proliferated along all fronts, German engineers began ascertaining the value of current tank-killing weapons. To this point, the German Army relied heavily on artillery systems to deliver hollow charge projectiles when attempting to defeat enemy armor at range and several World War 1-era anti-tank rifles existed. However, these proved limiting and many such designs precluded their use by mobile forward infantry and airborne troopers alike while also delivering the projectile much too fast and thereby reducing the optimal effects of the warhead as an armor-defeating weapon. As such, there was a shift in thinking to develop a rocket-assisted hollow charge warhead through a more portable means. The caliber of choice was 8.8cm which proved capable of defeating all armor of the day. As the Germans held little experience in a proper, portable rocket delivery system, the launch tube would be sat upon a two-wheeled carriage with integrated gun shield.
The resulting weapon became the 8.8cm Raketenwerfer 43 - better known as the "Puppchen" (meaning "dolly"). The weapon appeared as nothing more than a typical artillery piece of the period though made much more compact and able to be broken down into seven different loads for transport by pack animal, man or vehicle. The system consisted of a launch tube with a conical muzzle, fed from the breech as a conventional artillery piece and fired via a twin hand grip arrangement (as in a heavy machine gun). Sighting was simply accomplished by looking down the barrel in most cases - this limiting effective engagement ranges to several hundred yards. A thin gun shield protected the firer from small arms fire and shell splinters while direct line-of-sight vision was retained via a square cutout in the armor along the left side. Instructions were dutifully printed along the inside of the gun shield to help train even the most green of operators. The two-wheeled carriage was heavily spoked and useful in hauling the gun about (the wheels were further removable if required for static mounting). Some winterized forms incorporated skis for easier movement about snow. Unlike conventional artillery pieces, which utilized some form of recoil service, the Puppchen lacked any sort of mechanism and relied on its own weight to absorb forces caused by the igniting propellant. As a whole, the weapon promoted a low silhouette which forced the gunner/gunnery crew to assume an equally low profile when firing. The barrel allowed for an elevation range of -18 to +15 degrees and traversal of 60-degrees.