15cm schwere Feldhaubitz 18/40 or schwere Feldhaubitz 42

The 15cm schwere Feldhaubitz 18/40 or 15cm schwere Feldhaubitz 42 was a compromise design for a heavy howitzer, combining the barrel from the sFH 40 and the carriage from the sFH 18.

The sFH 40 was developed between 1938 and 1941, and was intended to be a longer range replacement for the sFH 18. Prototypes were produced in 1941, and the design lived up to expectations, increasing range by just over 2,000m. However it had a new barrel and new carriage, and the industrial capacity wasn’t available to put it into production. During 1942 a compromise version was developed, the sFH 18/40. This took the longer barrel and muzzle brake from the sFH 40 and the existing carriage from the sFH 18, although modified to allow the same high elevation firing. With a No.9 charge the sFH 18/40 had a range of 15,100m, slightly down on the sFH 40.

The sFH 18/40 had a self-obturating sliding wedge type breechblock, which meant that it didn’t need steel cartridge cases. The sFH 18 has a horizontal sliding breech, where the cartridge itself acted as the obturator, providing a seal around the shell to keep the propellant gasses from escaping via the breech. This would have been of some benefit if the gun had been produced in large numbers, but as only a handful were made it wouldn’t have been worth producing special ammo.

The sFH 18/40 was put into very limited production, with only 46 built. The army then decided that it wanted a weapon with 360 degrees of traverse and even higher elevation fire, and began work on the experimental sFH 43, which never got beyond the wooden mock-up stage.

The sFH 18/40 was also known as the sFH 42 (and possibly the sFH 18/43). This caused some confusion on the Allied side, where the US Handbook on German Forces of March 1945 described the sFH 18/40 as a version of the sFH 18 with a muzzle brake and the sFH 42 as a further improvement that had been reported.

The sFH 42 took twelve months to built and cost 60,000 Reichmarks. It also used more of the scarce non-ferrous metals than the sFH 18. The few that were produced entered service in 1943.





Barrel Length

4,875mm L/32.5

Weight for transport


Weight in action



-8 to +70 degrees


56 degrees

Shell Weight


Muzzle Velocity

595 m/sec

Maximum Range


Rate of Fire

4 rounds/ min

German Heavy Artillery Guns 1933-1945, Alexander Lüdeke. Despite the title actually covers light, medium and heavy artillery as well as mortars and anti-tank guns (excludes railway guns, flak and rocket launchers). Each gets a useful write-up, supported by stats and at least one photo. Covers German-built guns and the many types captured and used by the Wehrmacht. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 March 2018), 15cm schwere Feldhaubitz 18/40 or schwere Feldhaubitz 42 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_15cm_schwere_feldhaubitz_18_40_42.html

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