Historical Information for Nashorn
After the first German experiences with the newer Soviet tanks like the T-34 or the Kliment Voroshilov tank during Operation Barbarossa, the need for a Panzerjager capable of destroying these heavily armoured tanks became clear.
In February 1942, the Alkett (Altmärkische Kettenwerke GmbH) arms firm of Berlin designed a tank destroyer using their recently developed Geschützwagen III/IV which as its name indicated used components of both the Panzer III and Panzer IV tank. The 8.8 cm Panzerabwehrkanone (PaK) 43/1 L/71, a long-barreled anti-tank gun, was mounted on the rear of the chassis complete with its gun shield and an open-topped superstructure was built up around the gun to give the crew some protection. The gun had the same traverse and elevation as if it had been on its carriage: 15° to either side and between -5° to +15° elevation. To accommodate the long and heavy gun, the hull had to be lengthened and the engine moved from the rear to the centre of the chassis. Weight considerations meant that the amount of armour which could be used for the fighting compartment was limited, the crew were only protected from blast and small arms.
This model was presented for approval to Adolf Hitler in October 1942 and entered production in early 1943. It had numerous official designations, such as 8.8 cm PaK 43 (L/71) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III/IV (Sf) or 8.8cm PaK43 (L/71) auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sd. Kfz. 164), though it was also known as the Panzerjäger Hornisse (in English "Hornet")
During the first half of 1943, a new model of the Hornisse was introduced into production. This model altered the driver's front armour plate, along with other petty differences. The difference between this model and its predecessor, the few early production vehicles, were almost indistinguishable. All the vehicles were named 'Nashorn' by Hitler's orders.
Total production of the Hornisse and Nashorn amounted to some 494 vehicles, of which most were built in 1943. As a Panzerjäger, it was soon replaced by the newer German tank destroyers, like the Jagdpanzer IV and the Jagdpanther. However, production continued, though at a slow pace, into 1945.
There are two Nashorns on display in military museums: at the United States Army Ordnance Museum and at the Kubinka Tank Museum
The Hornisse/Nashorn was issued to the schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilungen ("Heavy Antitank Battalions"), with which six would eventually be equipped: schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 560, 655, 525, 93, 519 and 88. Each Abteilung/Battalion was equipped with 30 Nashorns.
Nashorn's gun was one of the most effective anti-tank guns deployed during the war. Its tungsten carbide–cored sub-calibre round, Pzgr. 40/43, was capable of penetrating 190 mm of rolled steel armour at a 30° angle of impact at a distance of 1,000 m. The gun's tremendous performance enabled Nashorn to engage enemy tanks while they still were out of range themselves.
The Hornisse/Nashorn made its debut during the Battle of Kursk, where they performed well. The ability to engage the enemy at long distances negated the disadvantages of light armour and a high profile and revealed the weapon was suited to the open, flat landscape of much of Russia. Like all German vehicles armed with PaK 43 or KwK 43, Nashorn could punch a hole in the front plating of any Allied armoured vehicle. The Nashorn has the distinction of being the only German vehicle to destroy the American M26 Pershing heavy tank,whose Gun and armor was able to deal with most German heavy tanks and guns; the Pershing began to appear on the battlefield in limited numbers just months before the hostilities in Europe ended.