West German Panzergrenadier Company (1966-71)

Military Organization > West Germany > West German Panzergrenadier Company (1966-71)

West Germany Panzergrenadier Company in 1966

Part of: Panzergrenadierbataillon (SPz), Panzergrenadierbrigade or Panzerbrigade

Type: Mechanized Infantry

Time Frame: 1966-71

Personnel: 3 Officers, 129 Other Ranks

These companies were the premiere mechanized infantry of the Bundeswehr in the 1960s, mounted in the flawed, but conceptually interesting Schützenpanzer HS.30 Lang infantry fighting vehicle. They were part of the Schützenpanzer-equipped Panzergrenadier Battalions, which had 1 Staff and Supply Company, 3 Panzergrenadier Companies, and 1 Heavy Panzergrenadier Company providing direct and indirect fire support.

↓ Organization*

* Information on personnel is incomplete. Some details synthesized from multiple sources or inferred. Most key personnel are listed but seating configuration could be inaccurate depending on the unit and situation. See "Discussion" for elaboration.

Kompanieführungsgruppe (1 OF, 10 OR)

Schützenpanzer HS.30 Lang

1× Company Commander (Kompaniechef), Hauptmann*

1× Driver (Kraftfahrer)

1× Gunner (Richtschütze)

1× Company Troop Leader (Kompanietruppführer), armed with G3A3 Rifles

2× Panzergrenadiers, armed with G3A3 Rifles

* Acts as vehicle commander.

DKW Munga 4 Utility Vehicle (Lkw 0.25t)

1× Communications NCO

1× Driver

3× Maico M 250 B Motorcycles

1× Dispatch Rider each

Kompaniefeldwebeltrupp (7 OR)

DKW Munga 4 Utility Vehicle (Lkw 0.25t)

1× Company Sergeant Major (Kompaniefeldwebel), Hauptfeldwebel*

1× Driver

* Sometimes Oberfeldwebel or Stabsfeldwebel

MAN 630 Cargo Truck (Lkw 5t gl)

1× Motor Sergeant (Schirrmeister)

2× Maintenance Personnel

Unimog S404 Command Post (Lkw 1.5t gl)*

1× Accountant (Rechnungsführer)

1× Company Clerk (Kp-Schreiber)

* Possibly a normal Unimog S404 1.5t in practice.

3× Züge (0-1 OF, 37-38 OR)

Platoon Troop

Schützenpanzer HS.30 Lang

1× Platoon Leader (Zugführer), Leutnant or Unteroffiziere mit Portepee*

1× Driver

1× Gunner

1× Deputy Platoon Leader (Stellvertreter Zugführer), Unteroffiziere mit Portepee

1× Radio Operator

2× Panzergrenadiers**, armed with MG1/MG2/MG3 Machine Gun (mounted)

* Acts as vehicle commander. Two platoons led by an officer.

** One could be a Sharpshooter under the Sharpshooter Group, but unsure.

3× Panzergrenadier Groups

Schützenpanzer HS.30 Lang

1× Group Leader (Gruppenführer)*

1× Driver

1× Gunner

1× Troop Leader (Truppführer)**, armed with G3A3 Rifle

1× Machine Gunner No. 1, armed with MG1/MG2/MG3 Machine Gun

1× Machine Gunner No. 2, armed with G3A3 Rifle

2× Panzergrenadiers***, armed with G3A3 Rifle

* Acts as vehicle commander.

** Acts as dismount commander.

*** Could man 84mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle.

Light Gun

Schützenpanzer HS.30 Lang with 106mm Recoilless Rifle

1× Commander/Recoilless Rifle Gunner

1× Driver

1× Gunner

4× Panzergrenadiers*

* Two likely act as loaders for the recoilless rifle while one mans a MG1/MG2/MG3 Machine Gun when mounted. Remainder could be a Sharpshooter under the Sharpshooter Group, but unsure. No 84mm Carl Gustaf for this group.

↓ Discussion

German soldiers dismount from an HS.30 Lang
The West German IFV of the '60s was the HS.30 Lang.

The Panzergrenadierkompanie (SPz) was one of three variants of West Germany mechanized infantry company under Heeresstruktur 2, notable for their use of the Schützenpanzer HS.30 Lang. The two others were mounted in the Mannschaftstransportwagen (MTW)—a variant of the American M113 armored personnel carrier—and the motorized Panzergrenadiers mounted in Unimog S404 1.5-tonne trucks. Generally, only one battalion in a 1959-1970 Panzergrenadier Brigade could be mounted in infantry fighting vehicles. For example, of the 16th Panzergrenadier Brigade's three Panzergrenadier Battalions, only the 163rd Battalion was of the SPz variant. Meanwhile, the one Panzergrenadier Battalion of a Panzer Brigade would be mounted in the HS 30, as was the case for the 122nd Panzergrenadier Battalion of the 12th Panzer Brigade. Generally, this meant the SPz Panzergrenadiers would have been working in cooperation with M47 Patton or the later M48A2 Patton tanks following transition in the 1967-8 timeframe.

The early German use of infantry fighting vehicles was essentially a continuation of a World War II-era school of thought within Armored Panzergrenadier units in half-tracks that emphasized the mounted fight. For half-track units working in close cooperation with tanks (a minority of Panzergrenadier units when compared to the truckborne variant), the dismounted fight was temporary state of being brought about by complex terrain or enemy action that necessitated it. Committing to a dismount gave up the mobility and protection of the vehicle and could hinder the momentum of an armored assault. To mitigate this, the infantry fighting vehicle concept provided an infantry carrier that had the armament and protection to fight through threats that a truck or APC might not. Such a capability limited (but didn't eliminate) the amount of time infantry would need to dismount. Additionally, a closed vehicle that could handle harsh terrain while limiting dismount operations was necessary for the realities of hypothetical nuclear warfare (something the truckborne Panzergrenadiers were not well-suited for). At the same time, there is usually a significant tradeoff in dismount capacity with IFVs compared to APCs or trucks—problem when a unit has to perform dismount-centric functions—which in the German case could explain why the SPz Panzergrenadiers had 5-vehicle platoons while the MTW and Motorized Panzergrenadiers had 4-vehicle platoons. However, this could also be explained by their more close doctrinal cooperation with tank units, who also had 5-vehicle platoons. We are unsure which issue took precedence officially.

The IFV concept was realized in the form of the HS.30 Lang, a Hispano-Suiza design from the early 1950s. It was crewed by 3 (driver, commander, gunner) and carried a maximum of 5 dismounts. It was armed with a turret-mounted 20 mm autocannon, and when fighting mounted the Panzergrenadiergruppe provided machine gun coverage (MG 1 or MG 2 general-purpose machine guns initially, or MG 3s after 1968) to the front while the remaining four provided security with their G3 rifles. It also had frontal protection against 20 mm rounds, which would at least be sufficient at shirking off BTR 60 heavy machine gun rounds. While mired with technical and procurement issues—the HS.30 was likely the largest German military procurement scandal ever—the pl