One of the oldest trees in the game but certainly not the simplest. German tank destroyers have been in the game since the beta for ground forces back in 2013 but are they worth playing if at all grinding? The following will be a historical/opinion based piece regarding all of the vehicles within the German tank destroyer category. But as usual here are the ground rules:
- These are opinions that have been formed over years of play throughout the numerous iterations of the game
- I'll be using the battle rating of realistic in every situation stated below
- This list will also include premium tank destroyers (even if they're hidden) as well as vehicles that aren't considered Tank Destroyers in game but were historically suited for tank destroying duties. (I don't consider the StuH 42 to be a tank destroyer)
- I'll be including a brief history that will include historical application along with in game application
As a further note some vehicles will be grouped together (Such as the Sd.Kfz. 251 or 234 as well as the Panzer IV/70 series) due to the vehicles being minor modifications of each other.
Like a phoenix from the ashes the German army quickly and efficiently rearmed in time for the outbreak of the second world war. Tank destroyers were a dated concept but the practicality of the vehicles didn't show until war returned to Europe. Meaning "Tank Hunter" the Panzerjager was a mix of German and Czech technology with a Panzer I chassis and a 4.7cm Skoda built anti tank gun. It performed well at knocking out light to medium vehicles deployed by the Polish, French, British and even Soviet armies. While seeing success in the early years of the war, the appearance of vehicles with heavier armor rendered the Panzerjager obsolete. The ranges of engagements in the desert or on the eastern front led to a need for a better vehicle in both armor and armament.
In game the vehicle is quite enjoyable at 1.3 where it will face some heavier tanks that will take a bit of precision to destroy but overall most opposition is easily defeated by the 47mm. Utilizing APHE it has no issues with offensive actions but it's defensive actions are lacking for a tank destroyer. Being based on the Panzer I doesn't do it any favors with it's limited traverse and poor armor. Most enemy vehicles will cut through you like butter due to the nature of the light tank hunter. Overall it's a great introduction to the German Tank destroyer tree as it's set up and playstyle are awfully similar to some of the heavier variants. Not much else to say but keep your targets ahead of you and keep your distance to make up for the lack of a turret.
Sd.Kfz. 251/10 and 251/22
As the doctrine of mechanized infantry came into being so did the idea of mechanized support weapons. The Sonderkraftfahrzeug 251 has a long line of variants with some more effective than others but the 251/10 and 251/22 armed with the 3.7cm Pak 36 and 7.5cm Pak 40 were specialized in dealing with enemy armor. Stemming from the over abundance of Anti Tank guns while being short in supply for vehicles to mount them on, the 251 was a perfect stop gap solution for an ever increasing problem during the later years of the war. Serving until the bitter end and even in post war countries, the Sd.Kfz. 250 is an iconic and influential vehicle that can pack a punch.
As most half tracks are they're somewhat limited in their mobility compared to fully tracked vehicles, they're lightly armored and are usually not great at fighting enemy armor. The Pak 36 gained the nickname "Heeresanklopfgerät" or Army Door Knocker due to it's increasing ineffectiveness, this in turn reflects in War Thunder as you might struggle to pierce some front plates. Best used as an ambush vehicle in positions that takes advantage of side armor or other weaker portions of the enemy vehicle. Unfortunately your shells are not great and your distance has to be close for most engagements. Arguably the Sd.Kfz. 251/10 is more of a trophy vehicle than a serious competitor but nevertheless still enjoyable given the proper position and circumstances.
Thankfully it's successor is much better due to being armed with one of the best low-mid tier guns in the game. The Pak 40 is renown for being accurate, dependable and devastating to enemy armor. Allowing you to pick apart enemy armor from not only the front but also at a distance. Played slowly and defensively the Sd.Kfz. 251/22 is a force to be reckoned with if you find yourself not receiving return fire. Both vehicles have their niches and as such can perform admirably when played like a proper light weight tank destroyer.
Sd.Kfz. 234/3 and 234/4
Continuing with the rare vehicles of the game we find ourselves at some of the most sought after and enjoyable vehicles available. Derived from the earlier Sd.Kfz 232 (8 rad) series, the 234 was designed to be a reconnaissance vehicle but eventually took on heavier roles such as heavy armored car, infantry support and even tank destroyer. The 234/3 and 234/4 are armed with the 7.5cm K51 and 7.5cm Pak 40 respectively. Both vehicles possessing the same speed, armor and cross country abilities as each other meaning there's only one real difference. Finding little success in the war due to being produced in the last months leads us to questioning the overall effectiveness of the platform's roles in infantry support and tank destroying.
In game however both vehicles fit well and perform admirably with the short 75 dealing excessive damage to light and medium targets while being able to crack some of it's heavier opposition with a quick reload and punishing HEAT projectiles. The longer 7.5cm Pak 40 while being an exceptional gun now finds it's self in the realm of much heavier armor and enhanced capabilities. At 4.7 the vehicle has seen much better days, however this shouldn't discourage you as smart usage of maps and flanking spots can still decimate swarms of enemy vehicles. Downsides of this vehicle include it's armor and lack of tracks. There's no doubt that the physics tied to wheel based vehicles are abhorrent on rough terrain such as sand, snow or even mud. Overall if you're lucky enough to have either of these vehicles consider using them if you haven't already.
Sturmgeschutz III Ausf. A, F, and G
One of the old guard considering it's date of introduction to War Thunder. Based on the Panzer III chassis the StuG is one of the popular German tank destroyers that is hard to go wrong with. A low silhouette, good frontal armor, decent mobility allowed the StuG to be the most effective German tank destroyer of the entire war. While it's original job as an assault gun didn't have tanks in mind, it's later iterations proved lethal to enemy armor. Serving until the end of the war on every German front, the StuG's efficiency and legacy are not to be questioned.
In War Thunder the StuG shines as a cornerstone of tier I-II Germany with the Ausf. A being armed with the fan favorite 7.5cm Kwk 37 (StuK 37 in this case) and protected by a generous 50mm of armor at 2.3. Quick firing, speedy and reliable in almost all scenarios, the Ausf. A is not a vehicle to sleep on. It's ability to take a hit or two is welcomed in comparison to the earlier fragile vehicles. However the real winners are it's later iterations.
The Ausf F and G differ in numerous ways, the Ausf F shares the same armor and layout as the Ausf A but the firepower has been significantly upgraded. Similar to the Pak 40, the 7.5cm StuK 40 allows for the Ausf F to tackle much larger prey but be warned that it's armor doesn't hold up nearly as well as it's earlier iteration does.
Ausf G finds upgrades in most departments with the addition of not only schurzen (side skirts) but also an additional 30mm of frontal armor bringing it's protection up to 80mm. The firepower also finds an upgrade with the StuK 40's barrel being lengthened by 5 calibers and as such increasing penetration minimally. Dependable, reliable and a winner in all regards, the StuG series has been an enjoyment for as long as tanks have been in the game.
Designed as an interm replacement for the Panzerjager I, the Marder series of tank destroyers were effective light vehicles that could be quickly moved into action in comparison to the towed anti tank guns the Germans were often fielding. Utilizing captured chassis or spare vehicles with no apparent use the Marders were interesting amalgamations turned competent fighting machines. The original Marder III saw the Panzer 38(t) chassis being paired with the Soviet 76mm field gun and combined to produce a tall and lightly armored tank destroyer. The Marder III H was a much more streamlined production which did away with the Soviet gun and armed it with the Pak 40, both vehicles served from their origination in 1942 until the bitter end in 1945.
Being lightly armed seems to be a constant for tank destroyers in the early tiers of the game and the Marder III is no exception. Following closely in the steps of the Panzerjager, the Marder III is to be played the exact same way. Light armor and open top leads to destruction by every threat under the sun. Thankfully it's heavy firepower is nothing to scoff at as it finds it's self at a comfortable battle rating where not much is going to be left standing after taking a direct hit from the guns that arm the Marder III. Ambush tactics and defensive positions favor the Marder III, just make sure to watch out for enemy machine guns or air power.
Dicker Max/Sturer Emil
Both experimental and produced in single digits, the Dicker Max was developed to engage bunkers or fortifications at a distance it would be invulnerable to return fire. But due to the shifting nature of the war it was redesigned as a tank destroyer. Two vehicles were combat trialed and neither ended up in a favorable position. One vehicle caught fire and detonated after it's ammo exploded and the other vehicle survived until sometime in 1942 when the vehicle was lost. The Sturer Emil was a similar program which similar fates, designed to be heavy tank destroyers two vehicles were combat trialed with one being destroyed and another captured in 1943.
In game both vehicles play expressly similar to each other. Long slow vehicles with poor armor but heavy cannons that can take out most vehicles in single hits. Slow reloads and limited traverse leave you with areas that have good sight lines leading to success. The Sturer Emil has exceptional gun depression meaning you can hide the majority of your vehicle behind hills or slopes that allow you to quickly reverse into safety after firing but as numerous other tank destroyers it's open topped nature leave you vulnerable to aircraft and artillery. Overall they're not bad vehicles especially considering the break they're received recently with their BRs being decreased significantly.
8,8 cm Flak 37 Sfl.
The new tanks fielding by the Russians presented a problem for the 37mm and 50mm armed vehicles during Operation Barbarossa that needed to be solved quickly. Combining the Sd.Kfz 9 and the already reputable 88mm Flak 37 created a more mobile version of the dreaded anti-tank/anti-aircraft cannon allowing for some German units to dispatch heavy armor or aircraft at a moment's notice. The lack of armor or protection on the vehicle was of course a downside but nevertheless being able to pull something into action against the new Russian tanks proved useful in the long run.
In game it has a number of both upsides and downsides with the vehicle being somewhat mobile but lacking armor which results in quick deaths if the user is not careful. A lightning fast reload allows you to knock out numerous vehicles in quick succession provided you place yourself in an advantageous position. Vulnerable to everything under the sun there's always going to be some threat that proves fatal to this large battle bus. But given the proper distance and aim there's virtually nothing that you cannot take down with the tried and true 88mm Flak 37.
Known to many as the Hetzer (or Chaser) this light tank destroyer was one of the ultimate forms of the Panzer 38(t). Armed with a 7.5cm Pak 39 and firing the same ammunition as the Panzer IV and StuG III series vehicles, the Hezter was a small package with a big bite. But due to the already overloaded nature of the Panzer 38(t) the Hetzer sacrificed a lot of it's armor on the sides and top to provide a suitable front plate for taking hits. Serving until the end of the war and in a couple of post war Armies it's said that the Hetzer is one of the most numerous surviving German vehicles.
In game the Hetzer is a joy to play with it's powerful cannon and good frontal armor. Mobility could be better but it's aged chassis keeps the vehicle down in this regard. While the Hetzer has good frontal armor the sides and especially the top are very thin resulting in basic calibers from aircraft being lethal. Small size gives you the advantage of ambushing and sneaky movements while keeping your effectiveness high. This vehicle is best played methodically with a keen sense for defensive positions that are not easily outflanked.
Jagdpanzer IV and Panzer IV/70 A & V
Developed to be a successor to the StuG, the Jagdpanzer IV (also known as the Panzer IV/70) series was geared with destroying tanks in mind. Unlike the StuG the Jagdpanzer IV as the name implies was built upon the Panzer IV series which gave it the ability to lumber both a heavier gun and heavier armor. The vehicle was put into production during the final month of 1943 and was produced until it's factory was captured by allied forces. Keeping in line with the StuG's low profile and high velocity gun, the Jagdpanzer IV was very successful for most of it's career as a tank destroyer but performed poorly when used as an assault gun. The numerous variants of the series allowed for a more universal capabilities when it came to destroying tanks.
As said the numerous vehicles resulted in numerous loadouts and this is reflected upon in game with the Jagdpanzer IV being armed with the 7.5cm Pak 39 and later vehicles being armed with the much more powerful 7.5cm Pak 42. All vehicles in this series are vulnerable to transmission case hits which can often lead to the death of the driver but the sturdier upper armor allows for the vehicle to (usually) take a hit or two. The main difference between the V (Vomag) and A (Alkett) vehicles is the existence of a flat strip of 80mm armor on the front of the A version's superstructure. Due to this much weaker portion of armor the A sees a much lower battle rating and as such a much higher success rating given the proper attention.
The playstyle of these vehicles are very similar to the StuG but should be played with the idea that your armor isn't always going to save you. That being said the vehicles are rather sturdy and when played at a distance can survive a multitude of hits. All three vehicles are very effective in their role as tank destroyers and as such are highly recommended to anyone interested in them.
The German Nashorn (or Rhinoceros) was yet another in the long list of tank destroyers based on the Panzer IV chassis. This behemoth was armed with the dreaded 8.8cm Pak 43 that allowed it to neutralize enemy targets at a distance of over 2,000 meters. The biggest downsides of this vehicle are it's size and light armor which while being a benefit on the Eastern Front; proved to be a liability when fighting the American forces in the mountainous of Italy. Beginning it's production run in early 1943 it was one of the first successful attempts to arm a vehicle with the heavy 8.8cm Pak 43. It served until the end of the war with only a few examples surviving.
As stated above the light armor and size of the vehicle makes the Nashorn an easy target even at a distance in game. The open topped nature of the vehicle allows for aircraft and artillery to make quick work of it and usually it's not putting up much of a fight. But when put in a position where it can safely engage enemy tanks the heavy gun makes quick work of almost any enemy vehicle on the map. Recommended if you enjoy destroying enemy heavy tanks with little to no effort.
The Versuchsflakwagen or Grille 10 is a rather rare vehicle with it's prototype phase not producing a production variant. Other than it's original purpose as an assault gun not much else is know about the vehicle. However halfway through it's development it was decided to make it more of a multiple purpose vehicle that could engage aircraft. Three prototypes were made and not much else was done with the vehicle after 1942.
This vehicle is rather broken in game with it's armor not being thick enough to detonate certain fuses and it's reload being absurdly quick. I've personally had this misfortune of shooting this vehicle for nothing to happen due to the shells penetrating the armor but not detonating. The vehicle comes in two flavors with it's sides up protecting the gun crew or the sides down allowing for the gun to rotate on it's platform. The latter seems to be the more popular set up given the nature of self propelled guns. The ammo also sits far below the gun preventing detonation in most scenarios. Overall a complete menace when used correctly, this vehicle surprisingly hasn't been nerfed into the ground yet.
The Waffentrager or Weapons Carrier was another prototype designed to carry the heavy 8.8cm Pak 43 but this time with an emphasis on cheap and ease of manufacture. The vehicle was designed to have an open topped turret and a low silhouette which was already popular with other effective tank destroyers. Unfortunately like many other prototypes this version lost to a competitor's design and only one was built with no production units being ordered.
However this vehicle can be a breath of fresh air to tank destroyer players due to the existence of a turret. With poor mobility the vehicle still requires setting up and an advantageous position for most engagements. But you will be hard pressed to find an enemy vehicle you cannot tackle from afar with the Pak 43. Playing this vehicle like a mobile anti tank gun is a good strategy with no heavy armor to speak of and being vulnerable to any enemy action. Open fields and staying away from tight corners will provide you with enough room and time to score well in the Waffentrager.
A rather famous tank destroyer with a unique design that proved to be extremely effective. Based on the Panther series it incorporated the heavy frontal armor and combined it with the powerful 8.8cm Pak 43 (noticing a pattern yet?). With roughly 400 models being produced from early 1944 until the end of the war, the Jagdpanther was the first true combination of armor and firepower that wasn't constantly breaking down or getting stuck with the Ferdinand's poor mobility. Serving until the end of the war in heavy tank destroyer battalions it was loved by crews and critiques alike.
In game it finds it's self in an advantageous position with it's opposition often being Shermans, T-34s and early Centurion or M26 tanks. While not impervious to all enemy fire and suffering from a couple of weakspots in it's armor, the Jagdpanther is a truly an enjoyable tank destroyer that often finds it's self over extended which is arguably it's biggest downside. Suffering from the same poor reverse gear system as the Panther it's advised not to push past the front line unless there's an urgent reason.
The long list of Porsche prototypes and designs usually leads to dead end prototypes with no production, however the Ferdinand (and Elefant) are not such vehicles. Built upon the Porsche Tiger chassis the Ferdinand was a large heavy vehicle that suffered from numerous faults such as reliability issues, overweight failures and poor maneuverability. It was armed with the fearsome Kwk 43 and while it was effective on the steppes of the Eastern Front where virtually no tank could outrange or outgun the vehicle it unfortunately suffered heavily in the Mountainous terrain of Italy where it was often engaged at much shorter distances. The vehicle was produced in the dozens and never got over it's reliability issues.
In game this vehicle shines as a somewhat super heavy tank destroyer boasting 200mm of frontal armor that allows it to withstand a large percentage of standard AP shot. Poor speed and maneuverability shows often with the vehicle being outflanked if the driver does not take the proper precautions. An excellent sniper and good for open fields the Ferdinand/Elephant only sees issues when it begins to fight shaped charge projectiles or hyper velocity AP rounds. An excellent addition to the 6.7 line up for Germany especially if you feel that you're lacking in heavy frontal armor.
One of the last vehicles produced by the German army in the second world war. The Jagdtiger was the culmination of years of tank destroyer design which ultimately fell flat on it's face. The already overweight chassis of the Tiger II was forced to bear even more weight strained the relatively weak engine which induced numerous mechanical failures and ultimately provide a very poor vehicle that rarely worked. Combat records show that most Jagdtigers were lost to failures instead of enemy action but when the vehicle was used properly it was virtually invulnerable to the front from most projectiles. Ironically the first Jagdtiger was destroyed due to American infantry with a Bazooka. Only 80 were produced and they served until the end of the war.
Sometimes War Thunder's lack of mechanics provide benefits to certain vehicles and the Jagdtiger is one of them. Similar to the Ferdinand it's slow, large and heavy which leads to a relatively immobile machine but when put into the right position provides a fearsome roadblock that can withstand almost every standard AP shots and even some HEAT projectiles. The armor which has a thickness of up to 250mm allows for frontal assaults against certain tanks and excellent defense against others but be aware that the anemic engine and poor side armor will prove to be your downfall if you don't play with caution. It's an exceptional addition to any 6.7 line up with it's 128mm Pak 44 that can knock down just about any enemy tank within firing distance.
Hanomag-Henschel Jpz 4-5
By the late 1950s the newly founded West German Republic and Bundeswehr found it's self with a strikingly apparent shortage of modern tanks. Supply from the US only allowed for vehicles that the US no longer wanted to use (such as M47s) and as such the Germans contacted Hanomag and Henschel to build prototypes of a new tank destroyer. The first prototypes were created in the early 60s but it wasn't until 1965 that the Kanonenjagdpanzer entered production and service with the Bundeswehr. Unfortunately the development of new Soviet T-64 and T-72 series tanks put a short service life on the Kanonenjagdpanzer.
This vehicle is a step away from the usual German thinking of heavy hard hitting gun with a slow up armored chassis, instead you are provided with a speedy vehicle that allows for hit and run tactics while having a somewhat short BK-90 90mm gun that utilizes HEAT as it's main offensive shell. This allows for the vehicle to take on heavy enemy armor from most distances. It's speed comes at a price of minimal armor which can be apparent if you're used to play the earlier heavy SPGs that can be rather forgiving if you take a hit. Choose ambush positions wisely and run away if you sense the position is about to be attacked. Ultimately it's a breath of fresh air in comparison to the slow heavy tank destroyers that come before it.
Raketenjagdpanzer 2/2 HOT
The Kanonenjagdpanzer's short service life led to a revolutionary design change when it came to tank destroyers in service with the Bundeswehr. Since the 1950s the Anti Tank Guided Missile had forced not only a change in tactics but a change in design when it came to tank warfare. The existing SS.11 and HOT missiles were provided to the Bundeswehr and were mounted on a light and versatile chassis. This combination which went into service around 1967 provided a long range anti tank vehicle that could knock out most enemy tanks without closing the distance. Altho the MCLOS nature of the SS.11 was a downside it was still praised for it's abilities. The later version armed with HOT SACLOS missiles which was fielded in 1978 provided a much easier and effective platform. Both vehicles were arguably dated for their service lives but they proved effective and served until 1982.
Both vehicles are perform well in War Thunder with their speed, maneuverability, armor and chassis being the same. However the armament is vastly different in performance and effectiveness. The SS.11's MCLOS (Multiple Command Line of Sight) nature forces the player to utilize archaic controls to guide the missile on target. However this comes with the upside of having two missiles ready in comparison to the HOT's one. The HOT is much more streamlined and user friendly due to the updated SACLOS (Semi Active Command Light of Sight) system. Allowing players to engage heavy enemy targets from behind hills and at extreme distances. With virtually no armor and vulnerable to enemy fire at any distance it's advised to move after expending ammunition to avoid counter attacks. Being some of the oldest ATGM carriers in the game they're hard to go wrong with.
Abnormal, Unorthodox and downright strange. The VT1-2 or Versuchsträger VT1-2 was a test bed vehicle designed and produced by the Bundeswehr during the 1970s as apart of the Leopard I replacement program. Armed with two 120mm L/44s in a casemate design backed by a monstrous engine. The vehicle's life as a test bed was short lived and it obviously didn't reach production. But the interesting takeaways from this program included the potential effectiveness of using more than one gun, the above average mobility that could be in theory included in a upcoming production main battle tank, the idea of decreasing the overall crew compartment space and risk to crew members as well as the concept of using autoloaders to replace loaders similar to how the Soviets were doing at the time. Fortunately replaced by the Leopard 2 in the upcoming years the VT1-2 was a beneficial testbed but not much more.
In game this vehicle is blistering fast for it's size and armament. It's dual 120mm cannons can be tamed with proper use of the hull aiming mode which allows for players to quickly get guns on target. The left gun reloads in 5 seconds while the right gun reloads in 7 seconds which in theory allows you to be able to fire 3 rounds in 10 seconds. Utilizing flanking routes and sniping spots it's easy to see why the VT1-2 could be a beloved vehicle but due to it's casemate design it can falter in close combat situations or in the event of being flanked. Due to being a rare (and now expensive) vehicle it's not only uncommon but difficult to obtain.
As times changed and the ATGM revolutionized tank warfare it became exceedingly obvious that mobile warfare was the way of the future and as such vehicles or infantry that couldn't keep up would be left behind. The BGM-71 TOW developed in the 1960s proved to be one of the world's best ATGMs at the time and the Germans wanted to mount it on a mobile vehicle which could provide support with air dropped infantry as the usual stand and set up for the TOW was not only heavy but time consuming. The Wiesel AMC provided a small and light weight chassis that could remedy the issues and provide a fast enough vehicle to fit the bill. As it's been upgraded numerous times throughout it's service life, the Wiesel family of vehicles doesn't seem to have an end in sight.
Small, Fast, Hard hitting. It's hard to go wrong with this vehicle even at higher tiers. It's small enough to hide in plain sight while allowing for a quick response to almost all threats. The TOW's versatility gives it a top attack ability with later modifications meaning that no enemy is beyond your capabilities. But as it stands with great power comes great vulnerability. It's vulnerable to every threat under the sun with single strafing runs being fatal in most cases. With many traits of a light tank such as scouting and mobility it's simple to provide a good firing position for the Wiesel. Hull down capabilities also allow for the vehicle to minimize the potential return fire but be aware of the ammo track being exposed in case of disaster.
As it might be obvious the design philosophy for German tanks didn't change much throughout the Second World War but as times shifted so did their thinking. From some of the heaviest and slowest vehicles ever to be fielded by a standing army to being apart of the fastest airdropped vehicles armed with heavy weapons. The German tank destroyer tree is one of those of which if you like one you'll typically enjoy the rest as the playstyle and capabilities of each vehicle differs minimally through each iteration. With most of these vehicles being renown by their crews and combat tested to some degree they're hard to dislike unless you're usually facing against them. Ultimately one of the best tank destroyer trees in the game by pure number of vehicles with proper care and attention it's easy to find a vehicle that you can enjoy.
Thanks for reading if you have any questions, suggestions or would like to suggest an article you can find us on discord at https://discord.gg/A3BTNkdTYE or if you want to talk to the author his discord is Shermy#2519.