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The Sd.Kfz 184 Elefant Heavy Tank Destroyer brings awesomely long range hitting power to German armies, capable of eliminating enemy vehicles at a range of over 3 miles – well before any return fire was possible for most targets.
The Elefant was an improved version of the Ferdinand Heavy Tank Destroyer, designed to overcome the deficiencies experienced at the Battle of Kursk. While the eighty-nine Ferdinands committed in the battle claimed to have knocked out over 300 enemy tanks, for the loss of just 13, they were dogged by mechanical failures and the lack of any anti-infantry weapons meant they could be swarmed by Russian troops with grenades and Molotov cocktails.
In September 1943 all surviving Ferdinands were recalled and, 48 of the 50 surviving vehicles were modified by addition of a ball-mounted MG 34 in the hull front (to improve anti-infantry ability), a commander's cupola for improved vision and the application of Zimmerit paste. The frontal armour was thickened and the tracks widened; these changes increasing the weight from 65 to 70 tonnes.
Although the Elefant modifications improved the vehicles, some problems could never be fully fixed. In 1944 the Elefants served on the Italian front but were rendered rather ineffective, as their weight did not allow them to use most Italian roads and bridges. As at Kursk, most Elefant losses were not as a direct result from combat, but resulted when mechanical breakdowns and lack of spare parts compelled their crews to destroy and abandon them. The very last surviving vehicles saw action at Zossen during the Battle of Berlin.
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