The Sd.Kfz. 7 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 7) was a half-track military vehicle used by the German Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Waffen-SS during the Second World War.
Development of the Sd.Kfz. 7 can be traced back to a 1934 requirement for an eight-tonne (7.87 tons) half-track. The vehicle first appeared in 1938 and was destined to be used mainly as the tractor for the 8.8 cm FlaK gun and the 15 cm sFH 18 150 mm howitzer. The Sd.Kfz. 7 also became the basis of a number of self-propelled anti-aircraft variants based on 20 mm and 37 mm flak types in use. Further because of its heavy power it often found use as a recovery vehicle.
The vehicle could carry gun crews of up to 12 men in theatre-type seats. Under the seats was storage room for various tools, and the whole vehicle was spacious enough to carry their kit. The rear of the vehicle housed an enclosed compartment for storage of ammunition, though a second ammunition carrier was desirable. The tractor could tow loads up to 8,000 kg (17,600 lb) in weight. Most were fitted with a winch. The windscreen was able to fold down and a canvas roof could be erected. A number were also constructed with a hard top, but this was less common in service. A later simplified type appeared with a timber frame truck-type layout, the ammunition being stored behind the driver's station and the gun crew having space on wooden benches behind.
The running gear consisted of two front wheels with hydro-pneumatic tires for steering and a track each side with 14 road wheels (7 overlapping on each side of the vehicle); a drive sprocket was located at the front of each track system. Minor variations on the track and road wheel design and manufacture took place throughout the course of service, some being combined in the field as repairs took place. In 1943, the Maybach HL 62 engine was replaced with Maybach HL 64.
The use of half-tracked prime movers for artillery was common in the German forces but not elsewhere. Compared to wheeled vehicles, half-tracks are more difficult to maintain, they often suffer track breakages, and are slower on roads. However, they may have superior off-road mobility.
The iconic Sd.Kfz.7 was used throughout the war. Sd.Kfz. 7 were seen during the 1940 Paris victory parade and the Sd.Kfz. 7 features in much German wartime propaganda footage, contributing to the myth of the mechanized Blitzkrieg. In fact, while produced in large numbers, there were never enough to fully equip the German forces. Typically like many other types, the artillery elements of Panzer and mechanized units (Panzer grenadier) received them, while others continued to rely on horses to draw their guns.
Some Sd.Kfz. 7 were pressed into service by the Allies during and after the Second World War. An Italian-manufactured variant was also built, and is easily recognized by its longer hood and right-hand-drive steering.
Sd.Kfz. 7/1 - Sd.Kfz. 7 armed with a 2 cm Flakvierling 38 L/112.5 multiple gun mounting, appearing with both open and armored cab.