1:72 Gesellschaft für Systemtechnik ‚WT-105R (Waffenträger 105, rückstoßfrei)‘; vehicle ‚359 (Y-358 829)’ (2nd Prototype), Deutsches Bundesheer; during evaluation at Munster Proving Ground, summer 1962 (Whif/modified Aoshima kit)

1:72 Gesellschaft für Systemtechnik ‚WT-105R (Waffenträger 105, rückstoßfrei)‘; vehicle ‚359 (Y-358 829)’ (2nd Prototype), Deutsches Bundesheer; during evaluation at Munster Proving Ground, summer 1962 (Whif/modified Aoshima kit)

Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based on historical facts. BEWARE!

Some background:
The WT-105 (WT = Waffenträger/weapon carrier) was an experimental vehicle of the German armaments industry on behalf of the Federal Office for Defense Technology and Procurement. After the Second World War, the Bundeswehr, formed in 1956, relied on a "mobile defense", which included the use of tank destroyers. These should support the infantry in repelling enemy tanks. For this purpose, German manufacturers Hanomag and Henschel developed the Kanonenjagdpanzer from 1960 on, a design like German WWII Jagdpanzer vehicles as a turret-less SPG with high mobility and a low silhouette, as well as the missile-armed Raketenjagdpanzer. These were to replace the US American models M41, M47 and M48 used in the tank destroyer companies and the tank destroyer platoons of the armored infantry battalions.

While these vehicles were classic tanks in the 25-30 ton range, the Bundeswehr also considered a light, potentially air-transportable armored fighting vehicle, more specifically a lightly armored weapons carrier. With an operational weight of less than 10 tons, this vehicle could be quickly deployed and supplement heavier vehicles or protect light infantry brigades. The Gesellschaft für Systemtechnik (a mutual working group consisting of Krupp, Ingenieurbüro Dr. Hopp, Krauss-Maffei, MaK and Rheinstahl Transporttechnik) was contracted by the Federal Office for Defense Technology and Procurement for two prototypes. These were to be powered by a 110 hp six-cylinder diesel engine and armed with 105-millimeter (4.1 in) recoilless rifles as main armament.

A recoilless rifle (rifled), recoilless launcher (smoothbore), or simply recoilless gun, sometimes abbreviated to "RR" or "RCL" (for ReCoilLess) was a type of lightweight artillery system or man-portable launcher that was designed to eject some form of countermass such as propellant gas from the rear of the weapon at the moment of firing, creating forward thrust that counteracted most of the weapon’s recoil. This allowed for the elimination of much of the heavy and bulky recoil-counteracting equipment of a conventional cannon as well as a thinner-walled barrel, and thus the launch of a relatively large projectile from a platform that would not be capable of handling the weight or recoil of a conventional gun of the same size. Because some projectile velocity was inevitably lost to the recoil compensation, recoilless rifles tended to have inferior range to traditional cannon, although with a far greater ease of transport.

The prototypes were ordered in 1960 and already delivered in 1961, thanks to their simplicity. The vehicle was officially called “Waffenträger 105, rückstoßfrei”, or WT-105R for short. The WT-105R was inspired by the American M50 “Ontos” SPG, which had been delivered to the USMC in 1956, but was specifically designed for higher maneuverability and ambush attacks against enemy tanks, with the option to carry it aboard the new French-German Transall C-160 transport aircraft with a payload of up to 16 tons, which was under development at the time, too.
The compact WT-105R sported a noticeably low profile, almost 2’lower than the American M50, and the armament consisted of a stacked 2×2 array of American 105mm M40 recoilless rifles (whose special rounds were, in practice, designated 106 mm to avoid confusion with conventional 105 mm rounds). The M40s could be fired from the lowered traveling position but were normally raised for firing with a manually operated lifting mechanism. This increased their traverse from 20° to 30° to each side, and elevation was +10° and depression -5°.

The relatively lightweight guns (209.5 kg/462 lb each) could easily be removed from their mounts, so that they could be used separately by accompanying infantry with a tripod or mounted onto other vehicles. HEAT, HEP, HEAP, and canister rounds were available. Beyond the recoilless guns, the WT-105 carried a single, manually operated 0.30 caliber (7.62 mm) MG3 machine gun on its hull for anti-infantry use, and two clusters of three smoke dischargers could be mounted to the front hull to protect the vehicle’s retreat.

The WT-105R was powered by an air-cooled Deutz F6L 6-cylinder diesel engine delivering 150 horsepower, a proven machine that was used in many commercial trucks of the time, too. The running gear featured a forward-mounted drive sprocket and rear-mounted idler, three track return rollers and five road wheels with space-saving torsion bar suspension.
Armor protection was only 12 mm (0.47 in) at its thickest and consisted of steel. However, the glacis plate was severely angled for maximum forward ballistics protection. The sides of the superstructure were flat, as were the top and rear panels. There was no NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection for the crew, which sat, in fact partly exposed to the environment.

The WT-105 was crewed by three personnel made up of the driver, commander (doubling as the) and a loader. The commander was seated to the left of the weapons and his position was attached to their mounting so that he remained at the same height when they were elevated for firing. The loader also operated the vehicle’s radio and sat back-to-back with the driver, facing backwards. He had to exit the cabin through his rear-opening hatch to reload the recoilless rifles while on top of the engine deck or behind the vehicle. When the vehicle was "buttoned down", the driver made use of small vision ports to pilot the tank, but could raise his seat to look out of his hatch and raise a windscreen for protection.

After their completion the vehicles, coded out-of-sequence ‘358’ and ‘359’, were taken to the Bundeswehr’s Proving Ground in the Lüneburger Heide, where most weapon and vehicle tests for the nascent German army had been taking place since 1956. WT-105R trials lasted through late 1961, and the prototypes were also deployed together with regular Bundeswehr forces in several military exercises, partly together with partner armies, until summer 1962.

The WT-105R’s relatively light weight made it exceptionally mobile for the amount of firepower it carried, and it was at that time the Bundeswehr’s only tracked vehicle light enough to cross a pontoon bridge. However, the tests and field deployments revealed several operational deficiencies.
For instance, the WT-105R’s tactical value was limited by a reload capacity of only 10 rounds on board, six inside of the cabin and up to four rounds stored externally on the rear right mudguard. The lack of night vision equipment also limited the effecticveness.

Another problem was the vehicle’s silhouette; despite its very low hull, the WT-105R was quite tall when the four guns were raised into firing position. This also markedly raised the center of gravity of the light tank and changed its handling. To counter this issue the upper pair of guns was removed as a trial. This improved the tactical situation a little but also reduced the firepower and limited the attack capability to just two shots before the WT-105 had to retreat so that the crew could leave the vehicle’s protection and re-arm the single-shot-weapons.

Furthermore, despite its impressive array of four guns, the M40’s range and effectiveness turned out to be very limited. The recoilless gun only had a muzzle velocity of 503 m/s (1,650 ft/s), with an effective firing range of 1,350 m (4,500 ft) and a maximum firing range of 6,870 m (22.500 ft) with a HEP-T round. With HEAT rounds, the M40 was able to penetrate more than 400 mm of armor – but only at the very limited distance of less than 300 m. This meant that the WT-105R had either to completely surprise its target from a well-protected position and from a promising rear/side angle, or it had to come very close to a target to land a high-probability fatal shot or volley of rounds. Both tactical situations would have been quite unlikely in a Cold War scenario and would put the vehicle and its crew into very hazardous, if not suicidal, situations.

Another tactical problem that quickly became apparent: Firing the recoilless guns immediately revealed the vehicle’s position! Due to the massive dust cloud which the weapons stirred up when fired, a change of position after each attack was necessary for survival. The characteristic dust cloud would also make threat identification for the enemy quite easy. The backblast from the recoilless guns was also considerable: when all four weapons were fired simultaneously or in short succession, the combined recoil pressure shock knocked bricks out of a nearby building and crushed the rear windows of several cars nearby. Close cooperation of the WT-105R together with infantry was therefore highly restricted, due to the potential dangers for personnel and collateral damage behind the vehicle. However, with HEP rounds, the recoilless rifles could knock holes in or completely knock down walls at ranges of 270 to 460 m, so that infantry support became a secondary mission for the specialized vehicle.

Quick target acquisition and subsequent aiming with the large weapon cluster was another operational problem of the WT-105R. While the weapons’ movement was mechanically supported it had to be done manually and proper weapon direction took quite long and consequently exposed the vehicle to potential enemy detection and countermeasures. To improve aiming, co-axial 12,7 mm (0.50”) M8C spotting rifles were soon added to the recoilless M40 guns, with a rack for one on top of each upper gun, even though in practice only one M8C was typically mounted to save weight. The rifles fired single tracer rounds with the same trajectory and range as the M40s’ 106 mm rounds and gave off a flash and puff of white smoke on impact. With these the gunner could test his main weapon alignment and considerably improve hit probability, but this procedure also extended the vehicle’s exposure to the enemy and potential retaliation (as a side note, the first laser sight that could have been used instead or the spotting rifles was first brought to market by Laser Products Corporation (a.k.a. SureFire) in 1979).

Nevertheless, all these self-imposed restrictions kept the vehicle’s gross weight to less than 9 tons (20.000 lb) and guaranteed a high mobility that greatly improved its survivability on the battlefield. With the main guns removed, two WT-105Rs could be carried by a C-160, or a fully equipped single WT-105R could be together with its crew, maintenace equipment and extra ammunition.

In 1963, after thorough tests, the WT-105R program was cancelled and the Bundeswehr did not procure the M40 recoilless rifle, either. The lightweight, gun-armed tank hunter concept had revealed too many weaknesses, was too highly specialized and could not add value to the Bundeswehr’s tank destroyer companies. In the end, almost the same firepower, mobility and tactical flexibility could also be achieved through a single recoilless gun mounted onto an unarmored FAUN “KraKa” air-transportable transport quad vehicle.
The WT-105R’s concept was, however, somewhat revived ten years later with the development of the “Wiesel” Armored Weapons Carrier (AWC), a compact and lightly armored weapons carrier, produced by Rheinmetall, to meet a new requirement for an air-transportable vehicle for use by the Bundeswehr’s airborne troops, as the infantry of the German Bundeswehr, especially the airborne infantry, were considered unprepared to successfully fight enemy main battle tanks (MBT) in the 1970s. By then, guided weapons like the French/German HOT anti-tank missile or the American TOW had become the anti-tank weapons of choice, which could be easily carried by light vehicles and effectively fight tanks at ranges of 4.000 m and more.

The WT-105R prototypes were, after their tests ended in 1964, mothballed and stored at the maintenance facilities of the Munster-Nord Training Area. The fist one (‘358’) was revived in the early Seventies for Bundeswehr trials as a carrier for the American BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile, sporting a dual launch ans optical sensor array instead of the recoilless rifle cluster, receiving a new three-tone NATO camouflage. The second prototype ‘359’ was kept in storage and was in 1982 restored to its original 1962 four-gun test configuration and added as an exhibition piece to the collection of the Deutsches Panzermuseum (German Tank Museum) in Munster, where it resides until today as s static exhibit.

Crew: Three (commander/gunner, loader/radio operator, driver)
Weight: 8.400 kilograms (18,500 lb)
Length: 4,30 m (14 ft 1 in)
Width: 2,23 m (7 ft 4 in)
Height: 1,80 m (5 ft 10 3/4 in) in marching configuration
2,24 m (7 ft 4 in) overall with guns in firing position
Ground clearance: 0,35 m (14 in)
Suspension: Torsion bar
Fuel capacity: 140 L (37 U.S. gal)

6 – 12 mm (0.23 – 0.47 in) steel

Maximum road speed: 55 km/h (34 mph)
Operational range: 250 km (160 mi) on road
Power/weight: 17,8 PS/tonne

Engine & transmission:
Air-cooled Deutz F6L 6-cylinder diesel engine, delivering 150 PS (110 kW),
manual gearbox with 4 forward and 1 reverse gears

4× 105 mm M40 recoilless rifles with a total of 14 rounds (4 ready and up to 10 in store)
1-2× 12,7mm (0.50”) co-axial spotting rifles
1× 7.92 mm MG3 machine gun with 1.000 rounds

The kit and its assembly:
This literally small project had been lingering on my list for a while, but the Sixties Group Build at in April 2024 made me start it, because if would fit thematically well and I already had the respective kit stashed away.
Effectively, this is just a “re-skinned” JGSDF Type 60 SPG, Aoshima offers a 1:72 scale kit of this rather obscure vehicle, and because it is so small the kit directly contains two of these tank hunters. I used this “offer” to mod the Type 60 with two stacked pairs of recoilless rifles as main armament (the upper pair was mounted on small scratched support paylons), and I did some other small mods to change the vehicle’s look a little, and add more Bundeswehr flavor.

This included a light MG3 machine gun on the roof, next to the commader’s cupola, a set of four smoke dischargers, a typical yellow flashlight for public traffic operations, and a crewman in the driver’s hatch. The latter is actually a British WWII tank commander (but the uniform comes quite close to the early Bundeswehr style), the other small bits were taken from a Revell Leopard 1 kit. However, I retained the Type 60’s overall shape, because it is so minimalistic that you can hardly change anything at all without compromising the concept.

A word about the Type 60 Aoshima kit(s): these were made with a good eye for details. For instance, the segmented styrene tracks are asymmetrical and reflect the staggered torsion bar running gear, and all hull areas which contain glazed sight slits are clear parts, just as front and rear lights. Even the interior is complete (even though you hardly see anything from it later, even though you can leave the engine cover open as well as the gearbox maintenance hatch on the front glacis plate). But with a gazillion of TINY bits and pieces, why must they have such thick sprue attachment points? The whole thing feels like a short-run kit. It is as good as impossible to clip the parts off of the sprues without either damaging the parts or requiring serious cleaning – not easy when the bits are 1-2mm in size only! Such a shame, because the kit as such is really excellent and otherwise goes together well, without need for PSR.

Painting and markings:
Well, the livery I settled upon is quite unspectacular, and there is no alternative to the Bundeswehr’s post-WWII uniform overall Gelboliv (RAL 6014) paint scheme, which was retained well into the Eighties and then replaced with the NATO-conformal three-tone camouflage in green, brown and black. On the other side, this typical style makes the vehicle easy to identify and its whiffy story more believable.

For Gelboliv I used Revell’s acrylic 42, which is authentic but IMHO quite light and saturated. I real life, vehicles painted in Gelboliv quickly faded into a muddy, greyish brown, and sun-bleaching on the upper surfaces was very common, too, so that I gave the model, after an overall base coat had been applied, a treatment with thinned Revell 46 (RAL 7003) and 87 (Dark Earth), and even mixed that with light grey (Revell 75) for horizontal surfaces to simulate this worn look. The interior of the vehicle was painted with Humbrol 41 (Ivory), an attempt to simulate the real RAL 9001 (Cremeweiss), with a grey engine block and transmission elements – even though there’s hardly anything to see from the latter once the model has been assembled. Another measure to add some diversity were simple small red dots on the wheel hubs.

Markings are minimal, I just provided the WT-105R with national markings, “Y” Bundeswehr registration plates, a tactical code and some standard stencils. After that a coat of matt acrylic varnish was applied.

To add visual excitement and hide some flaws (like the track segments) the model received dirt residues around the running gear, created with watercolors and mineral pigments. These were also used to simulate dust and mud crusts.

Posted by Dizzyfugu on 2024-03-26 13:25:24


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