Durchbruchswagen 1

The Durchbruchswagen 1 was the first in a series of heavy tank designs that ended with the Panzer VI Tiger, and was produced after several years of discussion within the German military establishment.

The first concrete steps came late in 1935, when Maybach was asked to produce a specialised tank engine, so that the German army could avoid using modified aircraft engines. The aim was to produce 600-700hp engines, but they wouldn't arrive in time for the DW prototypes, which were powered by the 300hp Maybach HL 120 of 1936.

The second step came in November 1936, when Krupp was asked to produce a design for a turret armed with a 7.5cm gun, suitable for use on a 30 ton tank.

The third step came in January 1937, when the tank design office of the ordnance department (Wa Prw 6), asked Henschel to design the chassis for a 30 ton tank. At this stage the new tank was named the Begleitwagen (verstaerkt) or 'escort tank, (strengthened), suggesting that it was seen as having a similar role as the Panzer IV, the original Begleitwagen.

On 12 March 1937 the name was changed to Infanteriewagen, suggesting an infantry support role.

On 27 April 1937 the name was changed once again, this time to Durchbruchswagen (D.W.), or break-through tank. In 1939, after the adoption of the VK designation system, the D.W. became the VK 30.01 alte Konstrucktion (old design), an acknowledgement that was the precursor of the VK 30.01.  

The D.W. 1 had a simple boxy hull and superstructure. The superstructure was the same width as the hull, so didn't overlap the tracks. The front of the superstructure was over the front road wheel. The D.W.I had cast steel road wheels with solid rubber double tires, and a 300mm track pitch. It used torsion bar suspension with cushioning to make the ride smoother. It probably had five road wheels on each side, and three return rollers. The hull was built in two sections (at this point the available steel mills couldn't produce a long enough piece of rolled steel to allow for a single piece) and bolted together just to the rear of the fighting compartment. A vertical stiffener was added to strengthen the join. The turret ring had a diameter of 1500mm. The sole example was built from soft steel, 50mm thick on the front, sides and rear and 20mm thick on above and below.

Steering was provided by Cletrac three stage steering gears arranged in series. Each Cletrac stage contained an idler that slowed down the track it was connected to by a fixed amount, produced a different fixed turning circle.

The D.W.1 was followed by the similar Durchbruchswagen 2, which had a modified automotive system. The Krupp turret didn’t arrive in time to be used on either vehicle and they were tested without it during 1939 (see D.W. 2 for more details of the turret). Work then moved onto the VK 30.01 (H), which was authorised on 9 September 1938.

In 1939 one further D.W. chassis and superstructure was ordered from Krupp, to be built from the correct armour, for use as a target hull. By the time this was delivered late in 1940 the design had been changed to more closely match the VK 30.01 neue Konstrucktion, with a different arrangement of armour and a single piece hull.

Tiger, Thomas Anderson. A very useful book on the Tiger tank, using contemporary battle reports and other German documents to examine its service record, looking at issues including its reliability, performance in combat, the structure of the units that used the tank and the tactics used with it. The result is a very valuable study of the effectiveness of the Tiger, based on original combat reports and thus reflecting both its virtues and its flaws. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 August 2017), Durchbruchswagen 1 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_durchbruchswagen_1.html

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