Work on the Sturer Emil began in as early as 1939, when the German army had need of an effective weapon against the reinforced Maginot Line. But by 1942, the situation had changed fundamentally: France had already fallen, and Germany was waging an entirely different war against the USSR. At the start of the Great Patriotic War, when the Germans first clashed with the newest Soviet KV and T-34 tanks, the question of creating an effective weapon against them became critical: no German tank cannon at that time could effectively penetrate their armour. Only high-calibre anti-aircraft weapons showed good efficiency in penetrating Soviet heavy armour, such as the 12.8 cm FlaK 40.
A self-propelled gun based on the experimental VK3001(H) tank and armed with a Rheinmetall 12.8 cm K L/61 gun (based on the 12.8 cm FlaK 40) adapted for SPG usage had every chance to be the silver bullet against Soviet tanks that the Germans needed. For that reason, the Sturer Emil, once an assault tank, was reclassified as an anti-tank SPG.
This fired a 58lb/26.4kg shot at 2887fps/880m/s. It could penetrate 120mm of armour sloped at 30 degrees at 2000m and over 200mm at point-blank range. Despite the weight of the shell, the spacious fighting compartment allowed the two loaders to maintain a good rate of fire.
The chassis was left over from Henschel’s submission for the canceled VK30.01 heavy tank program, but the hull was stretched and an extra road wheel added to accommodate the large gun, which was mounted on a pedestal ahead of the engine. A large, open-topped, fighting compartment was built where the turret was intended to go in the original design.
The Sturer Emil was slow and its lack of compatibility with other equipment caused logistical problems. These problems paled in comparison with the outstanding performance of its gun. It could easily engage targets at extreme ranges unmatched by any Soviet tank or anti-tank guns. This gun could traverse 7° to each side, elevate 10° and depress -15°. It carried 15 rounds for the main gun.
However, the ‘Stubborn Emil’ never reached mass production: the Germans bet on the Tiger tank instead (also armed with an adapted anti-aircraft cannon, but this time with a calibre of 88 mm). This meant that the two already built Sturer Emil SPGs (named after Max and Moritz) that were sent to the front in 1942 were the first and last of their kind.
Both Sturer Emil tank-hunters saw service with 521. Panzerjägerabteilung in 1942. One of two prototypes was destroyed in combat, while the other one, with 22 kills rings painted on its gun barrel, was captured intact in January of 1943 in the Stalingrad area. It was shown at the captured equipment exhibitions in Moscow's Gorky Park in 1943 and 1944. Today, the one captured by the Red Army can be seen in the Museum of Armoured Forces in Kubinka, Russia.
In the new episode of the "Inside the Chieftain's Hatch", Nicholas Moran will tell you about the German Sturer Emil assault gun. Why was it designed? Was it easy for Nicholas to pronounce German names? And the most important question: where can one find new tires for Emil? Let's watch!