Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper (sWS)

Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper, armoured, German Heavy Prime Mover, 1943–1945
Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper, armoured. This antique 1:87 scale ROCO model of the heavy military tractor has had its cargo bay extended to the proper length. The missing dropsides have been replaced by scratch-built items made from steel mesh and sheet styrene; the vehicle now sports a muffler, head- and taillights, width indicator rods with rear mirrors attached, tools, handrails, licence plates, a trailer coupling, and other small details parts.

The German Wehrmacht used a plethora of sophisticated half-tracked vehicles with exceptional cross-country mobility, but which were expensive to produce and difficult to maintain in the field. Under the impression of the supply crises of the winter of 1941/1942, Hitler called for a simpler half-track with more torque and less speed to replace the »m.Zgkw. 5 t« medium prime mover series of vehicles. The new standardized half-tracked vehicles were designated light or heavy military tractor »Wehrmachtsschlepper«, of which only the »Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper (sWS)« went into production. It was designed to carry a 3 t load and tow a 6 t trailer. Büssing-NAG and Ringhoffer-Tatra produced 825 »Schwere Wehrmachtsschlepper (sWS)« from 1943 to 1945, not nearly enough to replace the enormous vehicle losses on the eastern front.

Its slow speed of only 27 km/h, compared to 55 km/h of the Sd.Kfz. 6 tractor or 53 km/h of the T-34 tank, proved to be the Wehrmachtsschlepper’s greatest liability. Too slow to accompany the Panzers and other fast-moving formations, the sWS was relegated to the infantry. From 1943, following the defeat at Stalingrad, until the end of the war, the Wehrmacht found itself more or less continuously in retreat. When it became necessary to redeploy quickly, precious fuel was rarely wasted on vehicles incapable of outrunning an advancing enemy. Accordingly, many sWS tractors were simply abandoned by the roadside.

Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper (sWS) Model Kits

  • Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper (sWS), 1:72 MACO 7201
  • Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper (sWS), armoured (late Ausf.), 1:72 MACO 7207
  • Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper (sWS), 1:87 Artmaster 80538
  • Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper (sWS), armoured, 1:87 ROCO 126

Self-Propelled Guns on sWS

  • 2 cm Flak-Vierling 38 auf Sfl. sWS, armoured, 1:72 MACO 7212
  • 2 cm Flak-Vierling 38 auf Sfl. sWS, armoured, 1:87 ROCO 128
  • 3.7 cm FlaK 43 auf Sfl. sWS, 1:72 MACO 7206
  • 3.7 cm FlaK 43 auf Sfl. sWS, armoured, 1:72 MACO 7201
  • 3.7 cm FlaK 43 auf Sfl. sWS, armoured, 1:72 MACO 7211
  • 3.7 cm FlaK 43 auf Sfl. sWS, armoured, 1:87 ROCO 127
  • 8.8 cm L/71 PaK 43/41 (Scheunentor) auf Sfl. sWS, armoured
  • 12.8 cm L/55 Kanone 81/1 (K 44) auf Sfl. sWS, armoured
  • 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 auf Sfl. sWS, armoured, 1:35 Italeri 356
  • 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 auf Sfl. sWS, armoured, 1:72 Revell 03264
  • 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 auf Sfl. sWS, armoured, 1:72 MACO 7204
  • 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 auf Sfl. sWS, armoured, 1:87 ROCO 131
  • 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 auf Sfl. sWS, armoured, 1:87 Artmaster 80539

Projected sWS Variants

  • sWS, armoured, mit 60 cm IR-Scheinwerfer (Uhu), 1:35 Great War Hobby L3511
  • sWS, armoured, mit 60 cm IR-Scheinwerfer (Uhu), 1:87 ROCO 129
  • sWS, armoured, mit 60 cm IR-Scheinwerfer (Uhu), 1:87 Artmaster 80540
  • sWS, armoured, mit FuMG 64 Mannheim, 1:87 ROCO 130
  • sWS, armoured, mit Ringtrichter-Richtungshörer (RRH), 1:87 ArsenalM
  • sWS Supply Vehicle, 1:87 ROCO 126
  • sWS Schützenpanzerwagen, 1:87 ROCO 126

Technical Specifications

  • Schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper (sWS)
  • Engine: Maybach HL42 TRKMS 6-cylinder; 4170 cc; 75 kw @ 2800 rpm
  • Transmission: 4 Forward 1 Reverse; two gear ratios
  • Maximum Speed: 27.4 km/h
  • Range: 300 km on roads; 150 km cross-country
  • Length: 6675 mm
  • Width: 2500 mm
  • Height: 2070 mm (2800 mm with tilt)
  • Weight: 9500 kg (13,500 kg armoured)
  • Crew: Driver and 1 Passenger
  • Production: 1943–1945 (825 Units)

Historical Employment

  • German Army, 1943–1945
  • Czechoslovak Tatra 809 half-track, 1953

The schwere Wehrmachtsschlepper is a good example of a sitting duck: a large and slow-moving target with flimsy armour or none at all. Any consideration to use such a vehicle in an active combat role, perhaps as a make-shift armoured personnel carrier or Pakwagen tank hunter, surely borders on insanity. Wargamers, of course, are in the enviable position to simply ignore such facts and use an attractive vehicle like the sWS in any role they fancy. In fact, renowned wargamer and author Charles Grant did exactly that in his book Battle! Practical Wargaming, where Airfix 1:76 scale Soviet troops can be seen riding ROCO 1:87 scale schwere Wehrmachtsschlepper into battle or using them as artillery and anti-tank gun tractors.

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German Miniatures of World-War Two