This weapon does not truly belong on these data pages, as it did not really enter service use as a naval weapon. However, about once a year, I receive an Email from someone who has just discovered that during World War II there was a naval 38 cm (15") projectile with a shaped charge warhead. Most of these people simply want to know if this projectile was used on the Bismarck class battleships, as those were the only German ships of that era that carried 38 cm (15") guns. A few, however, go much further, claiming that this was the "secret weapon" that exploded and destroyed HMS Hood at Denmark Strait.
The reality is somewhat more pedestrian. About 1942, the German Navy had developed a short-barrel 38 cm (15") Raketenwerfer (literally, "Rocket Thrower") gun as an anti-submarine weapon. This was employed at least in Norway, but was unsuccessful in that role and it appears that few were manufactured. However, in 1943 the Wehrmacht was developing a wall-busting AFV based upon the Tiger IE chassis. One of the requirements for this vehicle was that it mount a weapon that could fire the largest possible HE shell. The Naval rocket gun was chosen, slightly modified for mounting in the Tiger fighting compartment, and then redesignated as the "38 cm RTg (Raketen-Tauchgranate) Stu M RW61 L/5.4." And so, the "Panzermoerser 38 cm" (self-propelled 38 cm mortar) or "Sturmtiger" was born.
To give this vehicle an increased ability to penetrate thick concrete walls, one or more hollow-charge projectiles were developed. These, of course, are the 38 cm "naval" projectile that I get asked about.
Please see the cut-away drawing of these projectiles shown below. From this drawing, it can be seen that these projectiles had very thin walls and thus could not withstand the shock of being fired out of the naval 38 cm (15") gun.
Additional data about the "Sturmtiger" can be found from the references listed below or from any of the many websites devoted to the AFVs of the German Army - I personally recommend Achtungpanzer.
|Designation||38 cm (15") Raketenwerfer 61 L/5.4|
|Ship Class Used On||Coastal ASW|
|Date Of Design||1941 (?)|
|Date In Service||1942 (?)|
|Gun Length oa||about 81 in (2.500 m)|
|Rate Of Fire||N/A|
|Projectile Types and Weights|
|Bursting Charge||4581 - 275 lbs. (125 kg)|
|Projectile Length||about 60 in (1.5 m)|
|Muzzle Velocity||299 fps (91 mps)|
|Approximate Barrel Life||N/A|
|Ammunition stowage per gun||N/A|
|n/a||5,030 to 8,750 yards (4,600 to 8,000 m)|
- "Naval Weapons of World War Two" by John Campbell
- "Panzerkampfwagen VI: Tiger I and II 'Königstiger' " by Walter J. Spielberger and Uwe Feist
Special help from Richard Worth and Nathan Okun
- 23 June 2006
- 20 May 2012
- Updated to latest template