The Sd.Kfz. 251 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 251) half-track was a World War II German armored personnel carrier designed by the Hanomag company, based on its earlier, unarmored Sd.Kfz. 11 vehicle. The Sd.Kfz. 251 was designed to transport the Panzergrenadier (German mechanized infantry) into battle.
Sd.Kfz. 251s were the most widely produced German half-tracks of the war, with at least 15,252 vehicles and variants produced by seven manufacturers. Some sources state that the Sd.Kfz. 251 was commonly referred to simply as “Hanomags” by both German and Allied soldiers after the manufacturer of the vehicle; this has been questioned, and may have been only a postwar label. German officers referred to them as SPW (Schützenpanzerwagen, or armored infantry vehicle) in their daily orders and memoirs.
There were four main model modifications (Ausführung A through D), which formed the basis for at least 22 variants. The initial idea was for a vehicle that could be used to transport a single squad of 10 panzergrenadiers to the battlefield protected from enemy small arms fire, and with some protection from artillery fire. In addition, the standard mounting of at least one MG 34 or MG 42 machine gun allowed the vehicle to provide suppressive fire for the rifle squad both while they dismounted and in combat.
The armour plates were designed to provide protection against standard rifle/ machine gun bullets (like the 7.92×57mm Mauser bullet). The front-facing plates were 14.5mm thick; the sides were steeply angled, V-shape 8mm thick plates. This level of armour provided protection against normal (non-tungsten) rifle AP round, which could pierce about 8mm of vertical armour.
Hanomag was a German producer of steam locomotives, tractors, trucks and military vehicles in Hanover. Hanomag first achieved international fame by delivering numerous steam locomotives to Finland, Romania and Bulgaria before World War I and making of first tractor Hanomag R26 in 1924 in Germany.
In 1925, they added automobiles to their line, additionally moving in 1931 into the production of construction machinery. Since 1989, the company has been part of the Komatsu company.