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Vks, (H) And (P), L/56 And Pzkpfw? German Tank Names Explained


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WhoopAss_McGue #1 Posted Dec 16 2010 - 23:01

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The original source for this information was the book 'The Tiger Tank’ by Roger Ford, with bits added by myself.

Getting confused by all this VK3001 (H) and PzKpfw VI Tiger I Ausf E and L/56 business? Then read on, for all shall be explained.


PzKpfw’s and Ausf’s
The 2nd-generation tanks with which Germany fought WW2 were called Panzerkampfwagen (Literally translates to ‘Armoured battle vehicle’. The Germans have a habit of sticking words together to create bigger words, as you’ll see) and were initially abbreviated to ‘PzKw’ but this caused some confusion, as personnel carries were known by the abbreviation ‘PKw’. Armoured battle vehicles therefore became designated ‘PzKpfw’ or ‘Pz.Kpfw’, though not until halfway through the war. A Roman numeral was used to distinguish one vehicle type from another – PzKpfw IV, for example – and models or versions were distinguished by a capital-letter alphabetic Ausführung (meaning model or design) number, usually abbreviated to Ausf. The Ausf designators were not always allocated in alphabetical order, the original Ausf suffixes of the Tiger were ‘H’ and ‘P’, and these referred to the designers Henschel and Porsche. And yes, this is the same Porsche that makes cars, but that does not give you the right to refer to you 911 as your ‘PzKpfw CMXI Ausf P’.  Subvariants sometimes received an Arabic number after the alphabetic designator: PzKpfw IV Ausf F2, for example. Ausf number could be changed retroactively; the PzKpfw VI Tiger Ausf H became the PzKpfw VI Tiger Ausf E. Similarly, the King Tiger lost its VI Roman numeral number, simply becoming the Tiger II.


VK’s and E’s
From 1938 prototype and experimental tanks first received a ‘VK’ designator, followed by a 4-digit number. The first pair of numbers was the approximate weight in tonnes, while the second pair differentiated one prototype from another. When an identical specification was given to two or more manufacturers, a simple abbreviation of their name was used in brackets such as in VK3001 (H). There are two potential meanings for 'VK', the first: Versuchskonstruktion (‘Experimental design’.) The second: 'Vollkettenfahrzeug' ('Full-tracked motor vehicle'.) It seems likely that it should stand for 'Versuchskonstruktion' as they were experimental designs, however this could mean literally any design, 'Vollkettenfahrzeug' would specify what type of design it was, making this meaning likely also. Interestingly enough, many books state that it means 'Vollkettenfahrzeug', whereas many internet sources state 'Versuchskonstruktion'. I personally have no idea which one it actually is, so I'll leave it up to you which one you choose.  From 1943 onwards, experimental tanks and those under development were given a simpler ‘E’ (for Entwicklungstyp meaning ‘Developmental type’) designation, followed by an approximate weight-class. As a side note, the ‘DB’ in ‘VK3002 (DB)’ stands for Daimler-Benz.


L/XX’s, KwK’s and PaK’s
I’ll start with KwK and PaK, as these are the easiest to explain. Simply, KwK stands for ‘Kampfwagenkanone’ (Battle vehicle gun. I.e. The gun on a tank) and PaK stands for Panzerabwehrkanone (Armour defence gun. I.e. Anti-tank gun). In artillery guns, the calibre is not the diameter of the barrel, but instead refers to the length of the gun. (The Germans measure this from the rear of the breach to the muzzle. If a muzzle brake is fitted, it is not included.) A gun with 56 calibres has a barrel 56 as long as its nominal bore (the bore width usually excludes the rifling.) The calibre is expressed as 'L/(Number)', e.g. L/71. The 'L' stands for 'Länge' (Length). The number after KwK show the year the gun was first tested. (To save myself typing out 'gun first tested in...' I shall use 'model'.) The shells have a similar naming, for example the PzGr 39 and the PzGr 39/43, this shows that the later one (43 is the year it came to service) is a modifcation of the original 39 design. So for the KwK 36 8.8cm L/56 we have tank gun model 1936, with a bore of 8.8cm (The Germans measure artillery gun diameters in centimetres, as opposed to millimetres) with a calibre of 56. (So the total barrel length is 56 x 8.8cm, equalling 4.928 metres.) Tanks of the same type but with different guns were differentiated by a reference to the main gun, either by its nominal bore, by its own type designator or by its calibre. So a PzKpfw III with the 7.5cm gun may be referred to as a PzKpfw III (75). Tigers were often differentiated from King Tigers by reference to their main guns. The Tiger being PzKpfw VI (8.8cm KwK 36 L/56) and the King Tiger the PzKpfw VI (8.8cm KwK 43 L/71).


Jagd's, StuG's and artillery guns
The ‘Jagd’ bit in ‘JagdTiger’ and ‘JagdPanther’ comes from the German word Jäger (Hunter). Thus a PanzerJäger is a tank-hunter - I.e. a tank-destroyer – and this simply gets abbreviated to ‘Jagd’ and put in front of the chassis which the PanzerJäger is based upon (So a JagdPanther is based on the Panther chassis.) StuG stands for ‘Sturmgeschütz’ (Assault gun, ‘sturm’ literally means storm, in this sense meaning ‘to storm’) and the III or IV distinguishing whether it was based on a PzKpfw III or PzKpfw IV chassis. StuH 42 stands for ‘Sturmhaubitze 42’ (Assualt Howitzer model 1942). As for the artillery guns; sIG means 'Schweres Infanteriegeschütz' (Heavy infantry gun.) leFH stands for 'Leichte Feldhaubitze' (Light field howitzer) and sFH means 'Schwere Feldhaubitze' (Heavy field howitzer.)


Other abbrieviations
In general, most of the abbrieviations and/or words you need can be found here, however if you cannot or have one to suggest that is not already on that website, feel free to make a reply about it.

FuG stands for '[FunkGerät' (Radio Unit).
FlaK means 'Fliegerabwehrkanone', 'Flugzeugabwehr-Kanone' or 'FlugabwehrKanone' (depending the source) meaning 'Air defence canon' i.e 'Anti-aircraft gun'.
PzB means 'Panzerbüchse' (Anti-tank rifle)
PzSpWg stands for 'Panzerspähwagen' (Armoured reconnaissance vehicle)
SchPzWg or Schütz Pz Wg means 'Schützenpanzerwagen' (Armoured troop vehicle.)


Captured vehicle naming and numbering
Source: Achtung Panzer!
You may have noticed some odd lettering appear after German tank names that do not match the initials of any tank producers or designers, the chances are that it is a foreign tank pressed into German use. In order to classify captured/foreign equipment, a numerical block system was introduced. All vehicle were divided into following categories.

200 - armored cars
300 - halftracked vehicles
400 - armored halftracked vehicles
600 - fully-tracked artillery tractors
630 - armored artillery tractors
700 - tanks
800 - gun carriers / self-propelled guns

In addition numbers were followed by letters. Letters were used to recognize the previous user (not a producer) of a certain piece of the equipment. For example: Panzerkampfwagen T-34 747[r].

Czechoslovakia - (t) - Tschechisch
Belgium - {b} - Belgien (The odd brackets are to avoid the  B) emoticon and embolding things.)
France - (f) - Frankreich
Great Britain / Canada - (e) - England / Kanada
Hungary - (u) - Ungarn
Italy - (i) - Italien
Netherlands - (h) - Holland
Poland - (p) - Polen
Soviet Union - [r] - Russland (Square brackets to avoid ®)
United States of America - (a) - Amerika


Tank names
Here are the definitions of some of the tank names (Yes, I do realise some are obvious, but 'Tiger' could mean 'Desk' in German for all some people know):

Hummel – Bumble bee (Though Hitler hated this name, he thought it too 'cute'.)
Grille – Cricket
Wespe – Wasp
Marder – Marten (A ferret/weasel thing.)
Bison – Bison
Hetzer – Agitator or Baiter.*
Maus – Mouse
Ferdinand  - Ferdinand Porsche (Designer)
Elefant – Elephant (This was the same vehicle as the Ferdinand.)
Luchs – Lynx
Leopard – Leopard
Panther – Panther
Tiger – Tiger
Nashorn – Rhinoceros (This was sometimes known as 'Hornisse' meaning 'Hornet')
Brummbär - Growler**

*There are two meanings to the word "hetzen" in Germany. One is a social meaning which would roughly translate to "stir up hatred" (by saying bad things about someone/something). The other one is a special type of hunting with dogs, that is usually done to hunt down red deer with the intention to make the deer become tired so that he can't run away anymore. It seems that this is the more likely meaning, but I didn't want to put this in and ruin the neat look of the list.

**Brummbär" was never used by the germans, it was the nickname the Allied Intelligence gave it. The germans used the nickname 'Stupa' wich was just a contraction of the term: Sturmpanzer



Well, that concludes this gateway to understanding all those German tank names. I hope you found it useful, and please tell me if anything is wrong, whether it is something factual or simply an grammatical or seplling error, it’d be much appreciated, and I’ll give you a mention below. (I have a feeling I've mixed up the terminology regarding bores and calibres, but I'm not sure, clarification is appreciated.)


Thanks to:
2ndPzDiv, Lert, Blizzard36 and Itum for helping with the meaning of 'L'.
PostMisanthrope1 for confirming the meaning of 'DB'.
stygium for the meanings of sIG, leFH and sFH.
gorbi and Djerin for helping with the meaning of 'VK'. (Though they provided opposite views, making me confused.)
derkb for explaining the numbering of guns and shells.
Christian_Ankerstjerne for the meaning of PzSpWg and SchPzWg.
seraph013 for the meaning of 'Hetzer'.
xthetenth for (t) meaning 'Tschechisch' and for reminding me about the foreign tanks section.
boxtosser for 'Hornisse' meaning 'Hornet'.
austrian_avenger for the meaing of 'FuG'.
Djerin for the hunting spin on 'Hetzer'.
theta0123 for the meaning of 'PzB'.
Reanoe for correcting the meaning of 'KwK'.
MetalForever for the meaning of 'FlaK'.
Kameho for the info on 'Brummbär' and the Hitler fact regarding the 'Hummel'.


These are all great people!


Things I shall add in at some point:
- SdKfz
- The shell names (E.g. PzGr.)
- Names of equipment (E.g. 'Ketten' meaning 'tracks'.)
- Any other odds and ends I feel appropiate.

Jesha1337 #2 Posted Dec 16 2010 - 23:12

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Nice one  :Smile_honoring:

SiberianExpress #3 Posted Dec 16 2010 - 23:20

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:Smile_great:
Awesome, just awesome. I come a way from this post feeling smarter.
What about the new arty, G-Panther and G-Tiger?

GlennGreen #4 Posted Dec 16 2010 - 23:21

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*Clap Clap* !

WhoopAss_McGue #5 Posted Dec 16 2010 - 23:38

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View PostSiberianExpress, on Dec 16 2010 - 23:20, said:

:Smile_great:
Awesome, just awesome. I come a way from this post feeling smarter.
What about the new arty, G-Panther and G-Tiger?

'Geschützwagen' means 'Gun vehicle', which technically just states that it has no turret, but due to it being arty, it's probably use in a similar way the American 'HMC' abbreviation means 'Howitzer Motor Carriage'. Naturally, the 'Tiger' and 'Panther' part show the chassis which it is based upon.

Thanks y'all for the comments!

rukasu113 #6 Posted Dec 16 2010 - 23:42

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i just want only hear all those words being saying by a german, lol idk why xD

EDIT: aahh.. and thanks a lot! i really don't know what means all those words, but now yep (:

Blizzard36 #7 Posted Dec 16 2010 - 23:44

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Pretty sure the L/X for barrel length really does just stand for length.  Or the German word for it which also starts with an 'L' rather.  I can't remember the exact derivitive that would be used in that case.

Lert #8 Posted Dec 16 2010 - 23:56

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Länge.

2ndPzDiv #9 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 00:01

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View PostBlizzard36, on Dec 16 2010 - 23:44, said:

Pretty sure the L/X for barrel length really does just stand for length.  Or the German word for it which also starts with an 'L' rather.  I can't remember the exact derivitive that would be used in that case.

German for Length is Länge according to my brother. Though he didn't do amazingly well in his German GCSE so i'm not sure how correct that actually is... Does fit with the L Designator for a tank gun though.

EDIT: Lert beat me to it :)

WhoopAss_McGue #10 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 00:12

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I thought it might be Länge, but those crazy Germans have different words for length, such as Dauer. Though I think 'Dauer' may be the length of time something goes on for. E.g. How long it took someone to run a marathon. Länge seems to be the actual physical length of something, so due to your extra support that it is Länge I shall put it in.

Itum #11 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 00:41

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View PostWhoopAss_McGue, on Dec 17 2010 - 00:12, said:

I thought it might be Länge, but those crazy Germans have different words for length, such as Dauer. Though I think 'Dauer' may be the length of time something goes on for. E.g. How long it took someone to run a marathon. Länge seems to be the actual physical length of something, so due to your extra support that it is Länge I shall put it in.


That is correct. If you intend to continue with that great explanation and need some help refering to put the crays german words into the right place (:P), just drop me pm or contact me ig.

+1 anyway :D

WhoopAss_McGue #12 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 00:48

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View PostItum, on Dec 17 2010 - 00:41, said:

That is correct. If you intend to continue with that great explanation and need some help refering to put the crays german words into the right place (:P), just drop me pm or contact me ig.

+1 anyway :D

Thank you very much for confirming this, the OP has been modified accordingly. I shall be sure to ask you if I need any more help.

Misanthrope1 #13 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 02:34

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View PostWhoopAss_McGue, on Dec 16 2010 - 23:01, said:

As a side note, I believe the ‘DB’ in ‘VK3002 (DB)’ to stand for Daimler-Benz, though I could be wrong.


Yes, the DB stands for Daimler-Benz. In fact, the 3002(DB) was one of the prototypes, that were developed in order to create a PzKpfw IV succesor. VK 3002(DB) was based on soviet T-34, but after field tests, the MAN construction was approved. After joining force, the VK 3002(MAN) became PzKpfw V Panther.

Ssgt_Pool #14 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 09:35

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View PostWhoopAss_McGue, on Dec 17 2010 - 00:12, said:

I thought it might be Länge, but those crazy Germans have different words for length, such as Dauer. Though I think 'Dauer' may be the length of time something goes on for. E.g. How long it took someone to run a marathon. Länge seems to be the actual physical length of something, so due to your extra support that it is Länge I shall put it in.


It is "Länge". That's right.
I thought it is not only dicribing the barrel length as in 88 * 56 for example but it is also saying that the shell "hülse" or cartride is 56cm long.
It is the same in the official discription of the 9mm Parabellum Pistol ammunition. In Germany it is refered to as 9*19. Saying that the shell is 19mm long.

Gorbi #15 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 11:17

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Great guide, but one small remark:

View PostWhoopAss_McGue, on Dec 16 2010 - 23:01, said:


VK’s and E’s
From 1938 prototype and experimental tanks first received a ‘VK’ (Vollkettenkraftfahrzeug, meaning ‘Full-tracked motor vehicle’) designator, followed by a 4-digit number.

'VK' stands for 'Versuchskonstruktion', meaning 'experimental design' (or just 'prototype').

WhoopAss_McGue #16 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 12:16

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View PostMisanthrope1, on Dec 17 2010 - 02:34, said:

Yes, the DB stands for Daimler-Benz. In fact, the 3002(DB) was one of the prototypes, that were developed in order to create a PzKpfw IV succesor. VK 3002(DB) was based on soviet T-34, but after field tests, the MAN construction was approved. After joining force, the VK 3002(MAN) became PzKpfw V Panther.

Thanks for the confirmation! The OP will be changed.

View PostLtCol_Moor, on Dec 17 2010 - 09:35, said:

It is "Länge". That's right.
I thought it is not only dicribing the barrel length as in 88 * 56 for example but it is also saying that the shell "hülse" or cartride is 56cm long.
It is the same in the official discription of the 9mm Parabellum Pistol ammunition. In Germany it is refered to as 9*19. Saying that the shell is 19mm long.

You are right, but I believe this is only for small arms, such as the 9mm, and not large-calibre weapons. Any more help on the matter from anyone would be appreciated.

View Postgorbi, on Dec 17 2010 - 11:17, said:

Great guide, but one small remark:

'VK' stands for 'Versuchskonstruktion', meaning 'experimental design' (or just 'prototype').

This would make more sense, but I don't want to change this without some extra confirmation. If anyone else can help with this matter, or provide sources, I'll be more than willing to change it. For the moment, I'll put both in.

View Poststygium, on Dec 17 2010 - 11:20, said:

You may add the Artillery Guns aswell, which would be
sIG  - schweres Infanterie Geschütz: heavy infantry cannon/gun/ordnance
leFH - leichte Feldhaubitze:         light field howitzer
sFH  - schwere Feldhaubitze:         heavy field howitzer

As for the L/x, you are right, it's the barrel length.

so long

Thanks! I'll add these in.

Troo86 #17 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 13:09

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Well, King Tiger was known as King Tiger to allies but that came from Königstiger which means Bengal Tiger. And if I recall it right it was also known as "Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. B" and Tiger II.
But thank god they didn't put Sonderkraftfahrzeug or simly Sd.Kfz. (Special purpose/ordnance vehicle) numbers. Since all german armored vehicle had one.

Arkhell #18 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 13:49

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nice work on that explenation very clear.

This should be pretty helpfull for people who wern't into tanks before this game (shame on you if wern't btw :P )

Gorbi #19 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 14:44

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Here are some sources for the 'Versuchskonstruktion'

Two sites on German:
http://mf-panzermode....de/Lexikon.htm
http://www.zweiter-w...Einfuhrung.html

And one site on English:
http://www.achtungpa...er-glossary.htm

Interestingly, the english site lists both meanings for 'VK', Versuchskonstruktion and Vollkettenfahrzeug. I think that Versuchskonstruktion makes more sense, as all these tanks were just prototypes. You could describe every tank as a Vollkettenfahrzeug, so a special designation besides PzKpfw would seem a bit unnecessary -even for the abbreviation-addicted Germans.

derkb #20 Posted Dec 17 2010 - 15:48

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First, nice post.

VK = Versuchskonstruktion, my sources confirm that too.

Vollkettenfahrzeug would be short VKFz,
Vollkettenkraftfahrzeug would be VKKfz

behind all this is a system and it works if you know it.

L = Länge is right, it is used today for the 120mm of the Leopard II and if you calculte it like sayed you get the right length.

Length is only given for the gun, the "Hülse" was not includet in the naming of a gun, even for smaller calibers it is not in the name of the gun.
A round like the 9x19 is the name of the round, not the gun that uses it, there it is the "Hülse" like the naming is today for ammuniton of small arms.

So here as we talk of the gun it is its the length of the gun itself.

The KwK 36 or KwK 43 is an easy thing to, the 36 or 43 are the years it was first seen/used/tested this also goes down for the StuH 42, were the 42 is the year.
But some guns have a 18 in there naming, but were later designs, this was to mask the weapon development cause it was not allowed and so these guns were given the last WW I year as there service date.

Even for the rounds used there was a difference in the naming, for example the PzGr 39 and the PzGr 39/43, this shows that the later one (43 is the year it came to service) is a modifcation of the original 39 design, the first was for the tigers gun, the secound for the Tiger II gun.


Oh and the SdKfz numbers would be nice, you would have a hard time to get the tanks right even with the modification numbers behind the first numbers like SdKfz xxx/2.




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