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 platform was interesting as being among the first cohort of infantry fighting vehicles. However, it would eventually be replaced by the the much improved Marder beginning in 1971.

So that was the basic idea of this company; infantry mounted in IFVs with an emphasis on the mounted fight and cooperating with tank forces. As for the organization of the company itself, it was split into a Company Command Group, Company Sergeant Group, and three Platoons.

The vehicles and men of a Panzergrenadier Company all lined up.
The full Panzergrenadier Company (SPz) on display.

The Company Command Group (Kompanieführungsgruppe) was the command element of the headquarters, consisting of an HS.30 Lang, a quarter-ton utility vehicle, and three motorcycles. Some sources state only one motorcycle, while others state three. We assume three because tank companies had three, the Heeresstruktur III organization that superceeded this had three, and every photo we've seen of HStr II and III Panzergrenadier companies have three motorcycles. The Company Commander (Kompaniechef) would have acted as vehicle commander of the HS.30, which was further crewed by a Gunner and Driver. In the back, there would be the HQ Troop Leader (Kompanietruppführer)—who was the administrative leader of the soldiers in the Company HQ—and two more personnel. There were also three dispatch riders on the motorcycles, a driver for the quarter-ton truck, and a Radio NCO. We assume in combat, the Radio NCO would be co-located with the command post contained in the Sergeant's Troop.

The Company Sergeant Troop (Kompaniefeldwebeltrupp) was, as the name suggests, the under the purview of the Kompaniefeldwebel, who was equivalent to a Company Sergeant Major or First Sergeant. This soldier was the head of the NCO (Unteroffiziere) corps in the company and was the chief of administrative matters. The troop itself was the second-line logistical component of the company, containing maintenance personnel and a truck-mounted radio command post. In addition to the Kompaniefeldwebel, there was an Accountant, Company Clerk, Motor Sergeant, and Maintenance Crewmen.

The three Platoons (Züge) were the company's close combat elements, consisting of five HS.30 Lang infantry fighting vehicles each. According to Deinhardt's (2012) interpretation of the relevent TO&E (STAN 321 5000) from 1966, the platoon internally had the Platoon Troop, three Panzergrenadier Groups, and a Sharpshooter Group that would be distributed among the platoon (this was replaced with two Sharpshooters in the Platoon Troop when the Marders came on line in the 1970s). Two platoons in the company would be led by an officer, usually a grade of Leutnant. However, in German fashion, the third would be led by a non-commissioned officer, usually an Unteroffiziere mit Portepee (so at least a Feldwebel). They would act as vehicle commander in the Platoon Troop's HS.30, further crewed by a gunner and driver. There were four more people in this vehicle. One was most likely an NCO Deputy Platoon Leader, while another was likely a Radioman. Of the remaining two, one manned an MG1/MG2/MG3 Machine Gun when mounted, but did not when dismounted. One could have been a Sharpshooter from the Sharpshooter Group, but we are unsure how this group was actually intergated.

The Panzergrenadier Groups (Panzergrenadiergruppen) meanwhile consisted of 8 personnel. Like the other HS.30s, their vehicle was crewed by 3 men with the Group Leader as vehicle commander. In the back was a dismount element of 5 men under a Troop Leader (dismount commander). This element in all included the Troop Leader, Machine Gunner on the GPMG, Loader for the Machine Gun, and two Riflemen. Except for the Machine Gunner, the dismounts would have been armed with G3A3 Rifles. In addition, the last two Rifleman could have also manned an FFV 84mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle available to each group if necessary. The Swedish Carl Gustaf had begun phasing out American M20 Super Bazookas within the Bundeswehr in the mid-1960s. The Panzerfaust 44, which was mainly for local defense of the company CP, was not in use by the Panzergrenadier Groups at this time.

The HS.30 mit 106mm in parade order.

With the introduction of the 1966 TO&E, a 106mm M40A1 recoilless rifle was mounted to the roof of one HS.30 in every platoon. While a clunky solution to be sure, it provided the Panzergrenadier Companies with an anti-armor capability more capable than the dismonts' Carl Gustafs out to 1,000 meters. The 106mm also gave the Platoon Leader a mounted-capability that could take on things as light as the new BMP-1 (resistant to the HS.30's 20mm from the front) without requiring a dismount. However, the BMP-1 was likely not part of the calculus at all since the west did not know of its existence when the HS.30s with 106mm came online. The M40s on HS.30s were ultimately phased out of Panzergrenadier Companies specifically in the early 1970s when the HS.30 as a whole was replaced by the Marder. Its spiritual successor (although not immediate) would be the Marder IFV when a MILAN anti-tank guided missile launcher was added to it in the mid-1970s.

Unlike the other groups in the platoon, the group with the so-called Leichtgeschütz 106mm only had 7 personnel and gave up the Carl Gustaf capability on the dismount. At least one of these personnel manned an MG1/MG2/MG3 machine gun when mounted and another one or two likely helped load the recoilless rifle.


↓ Main Sources

Article written by Brendan Matsuyama

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