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The Sd.Kfz. 7 was a half-track military vehicle used by the German Wehrmacht Heer, Luftwaffe and Waffen-SS during the Second World War. Sd.Kfz. is an abbreviation of the German word Sonderkraftfahrzeug, "special purpose vehicle". A longer designation is Sd.Kfz. 7 mittlerer Zugkraftwagen 8t, "medium towing motor vehicle 8t".
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 have better off-road mobility compared to wheeled vehicles.
The Sd.Kfz.7 was used throughout the war. They 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 infantry units (Panzergrenadier) received them, while other units continued to rely on horses to draw their guns.
The Sd.Kfz. 7 saw extensive use in the North African Campaign where their tracks allowed them to drive through the desert sands far more effectively than trucks. Often, columns carrying troops or POWs would include at least two half tracks with one generally riding point in order to make a path through the sands that the trucks could follow.
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. The Sd.Kfz. 7/1 was armed with a 2 cm Flakvierling 38 quadruple anti-aircraft gun system. The Sd.Kfz. 7/2 was armed with a single 3.7 cm FlaK 36 anti-aircraft gun. On many of these variants, the driver's position and the engine cover was armored (8 mm thickness). There were also conversions made mounting a single 2 cm anti-aircraft gun. Trial vehicles mounting a 5 cm FlaK 41 were produced but proved unsuccessful, and did not enter serial production.
A variant with an armored superstructure based on the Sd.Kfz. 7, the Feuerleitpanzer auf Zugkraftwagen 8t, was used by launch crews of the V-2 ballistic missile. This was necessary as the V-2 sometimes malfunctioned and exploded on the launch pad. It was also used to tow the launch pad into place. Bunkers were not used as the V-2 was transported to widely dispersed launchpads by carriage on Meillerwagen trailers that could erect them atop the launchstands/flame deflectors that each dispersed launchpad facility was equipped with for surprise launches, to avoid Allied air attacks.