The second World War was not a war cavalry and horse-drawn carriages. This was a war of tanks, maneuvers, rapid attacks, advances and retreats. Therefore, along with military equipment – tanks and artillery, played a significant role trucks is a modest but essential war workers. Without them it was impossible movement of the infantry, the supply of fuel and ammunition tanks, repair and connectivity. If groomed, landscaped and paved Europe regular trucks with standard traffic everywhere kept pace with the troops, in the vast expanses of Mother Russia, they are faced with an insurmountable obstacle – the lack of roads, sticky mud in the spring and fall and loose and deep snow in winter.
Road conditions were so difficult for wheeled vehicles that create all-wheel-drive cars was not enough. One solution for all belligerents attempted to cross the truck and … tank. Because caterpillar machines had much more traffic, the decision to use as propulsion caterpillars, like a tank, begs itself. About the most successful and popular examples Halftrack trucks and I will tell you in this article.
The idea to create a Halftrack vehicle that can move along the wetland and snow-covered areas, appeared in 1909, but up to the beginning of the war, successful and reliable in operation and failed to create. The prototypes had a number of limitations – caterpillar engines rushed, flew at the wrong time, were heavy and expensive operation, and therefore went into production in small series or not go at all. The first successful and, as a consequence, the mass Halftrack truck of the Soviet army was ZIS 42 created on the basis of the ZIS-5V, but used as a propulsion rubber track width mm with metal shoes. After a long and unsuccessful attempts to create their own type of propulsion, Soviet engineers copied caterpillars American armored personnel carrier “White”. ZiS-42M had excellent maneuverability in deep snow and mud, in comparison with the previous prototype. The flaws were too much fuel 40-50 litres per 100 km on the highway, and maximum speed of 45 km/h and poor controllability in the fight. The payload on the ground and the highway was 1750 and 2250 kg, respectively. All were released about 6,000 copies until 1946. The main use of the ZIS-42 was still as a transport machine, and only occasionally as an artillery tractor. Low performance and unprofitable use due to the large fuel consumption and frequent breakdowns showed that the concept of symbiosis wheeled and tracked vehicles was wrong.
Naive plans of Hitler to conquer Russia before the onset of cold weather and only its pink and unfulfilled dreams, and yet autumn rains turned the roads into a dirty mess in which ordinary trucks had to literally throw, not helped and all terrain versions of the standard trucks. So decided to release a Halftrack trucks and artillery tractors on the basis of already existing mass models. This family was named Maultier, or “Mule”. Practical Germans do not have to reinvent the wheel, and as the mover of the used license suspension Carden-Loyd with suspension Horstmann for the 2-ton truck Opel Blitz, Ford,and suspension from lung obsolete tank Pz II for heavy 4,5 ton trucks. (Mercedes-Benz L4500). The most popular truck of this type was the Opel Blitz Maultier (Sd.Kfz 3) thanks to the good reputation of the donor truck Opel Blitz and ease of alteration (had to drill a few extra holes and replace the drive shaft is shorter), and brake levers allow the truck with caterpillar to maneuver as a tank. Due to heavy chassis, payload dropped to 2 tons and a speed of up to 40 km/h, respectively increased and fuel consumption. It is worth mentioning heavy truck Mercedes Benz Maulter L4500. Its capacity was 4.5 tons, it was often used as an artillery tractor. However, the fuel consumption of 200 liters per 100 km did this car is very disadvantageous in terms of the acute shortage of resources. During the years of war was released about 21,000 trucks Maultier. In one of the following articles I will go into further detail about tracked and half-tracks, artillery tractors and armored vehicles of the Wehrmacht and the red Army.