Improvements and Modifications

Initial Hetzers were equipped with horizontal mufflers on the rear deck, twelve hole idler wheels, a narrow main gun mantlet, side armor skirts which were completely flat plates on welded brackets, and two fuel tanks which were both filled via the same fuel port located on the left tank.

Through troop testing and combat, improvements were made to all aspects of the vehicle. Improvements included a more vertically oriented exhaust with flame arrester in place of a muffler, wider mantlet for the main gun, corners of the side skirts angled inward to avoid snagging vegetation, better fuel filler port, gratings over the air intake openings to prevent leaves being sucked into the engine compartment and blocking the radiator, replacement of electrical fuel pump with a mechanical pump, improvements to the road wheel rim by replacing fastening bolts with rivets and later by welding, improvements and strengthening of the leaf spring packs of the suspension, improvements to the fighting compartment heating arrangements, providing for heating of the batteries in winter, replacement of the commander's single arm mount for observation telescope with a double arm mount, splitting of the commander's hatch into two hatches, increased ammunition storage by five rounds, installation of hand grips on the ceiling of the fighting compartment to assist the driver when exiting his seat, improvements to elevation and traverse mechanisms of the main gun, improvements to the final drive assemblies, as well as changes to the idler wheel to simplify production.

Experimental HETZER "STARR"
Continuous plans were made for other modifications which ranged from the rigid (Starr) mount for the main gun to the installation of a Tatra 8 cylinder diesel engine. Finally, plans for the "final" version of the Hetzer, the Jagdpanzer 38 D, included a wider hull, rigid mount gun and a 12 cylinder Tatra diesel engine. Designs were drawn for Hetzers equipped with 7,5 cm L/70 main guns, 2 cm guns, 12 cm mortars, 10.5 cm howitzers, flame throwers, 3 cm anti-aircraft turrets, and other schemes. Some Hetzers were produced equipped with flame throwers. In addition, a tank recovery vehicle, the Bergepanzer 38, was produced as was a small number of infantry gun equipped vehicles identified as 15 cm sIG 33/2 auf Jagdpanzer 38. Photos also exist of the prototype Aufklaerungspanzer 38 equipped with the 7.5 cm K 51 L/24. Development continued after the end of WWII with the Czech Hetzers being called the ST-1 (Stihac Tanku = Tank Hunter) and a driver training version designated ST-III. Orders were placed with Skoda for the modification of some 50 existing Hetzers into a turret equipped flame thrower tank but the order was later cancelled.

Swiss G-13
The Hetzer was also slightly modified and sold to the Swiss Army who applied to it the designation Panzerjaeger G-13. The major differences between the German and Swiss vehicles was the Swiss use of the muzzle brake on the main gun, the swapping of the loader and commander positions, the use of the rotating MG optics of the German version as an observation device under an armored cupola for the commander and placement of an external machine gun mount on the rear deck. They also converted about two thirds of their vehicles to a Swiss Saurer diesel engine in 1952/53. Switzerland continued to use the G-13 until 1970 when they were finally phased out of active service.

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26 June, 1999

Richard Gruetzner