A half-track is a civilian or military vehicle with regular wheels on the front for steering, and caterpillar tracks on the back to propel the vehicle and carry most of the load. The purpose of this combination is to produce a vehicle with the cross-country capabilities of a tank and the handling of a wheeled vehicle. It is not difficult for someone who can drive a car to drive a half-track, which is a great advantage over fully tracked vehicles which require specialized training. Half-tracks thus facilitate moving personnel and equipment successfully across varying terrain.
The main advantage of half-tracks over wheeled vehicles is that the tracks reduce the vehicle's overall ground pressure and give it greater mobility over soft terrain like mud and snow, while they do not require the complex steering mechanisms of fully tracked vehicles, relying instead on their front wheels to direct the vehicle, augmented in some cases by track braking controlled by the steering wheel. halftrack during world war 2
In America, 43,000 Half-Tracks were produced by three primary manufacturers, by far the largest being the White Motor Company, the original designer, with a total of 15,414 accepted by War Department. The other manufactures, Auto Car made 12,168 and Diamond T with 12,421. These designs were produced under license in Canada, and widely supplied under the Lend Lease program, with 5,000 supplied to USSR alone.
A German Schützenpanzer Sd.Kfz. 251 half-track. Photograph taken in 1942 in Berlin.Half-tracks were used extensively in World War II, especially by the Germans with their SdKfz 250s and SdKfz 251s, and by the Americans with their M2s and M3s.
Half-tracks were widely used as mortar carriers, self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, self-propelled anti-tank guns, armored fighting vehicles and in other tasks. A German Sd.Kfz. 10/4 or 10/5 with Behelfspanzerung==== Utility and tractor half-tracks==== The Germans used a small 2 seater 1/2-ton class Sd.Kfz. 2 half-track (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "half-track motorcycle") to pull small artillery guns, for ammunition haulage, general transport, and as a ground towing vehicle for the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. Built by NSU Werke AG Neckarsulm and Stower Werke Stettin, with a total of 8,345 vehicles produced between 1940 and 1944. Other Wehrmacht models were:
- 1-ton class, Sd.Kfz. 10 produced by Demag, Berlin; Adler, Frankfurt am Main; Bussing-NAG, Brunswick; Phanomen, Cottbus and Saurer, Vienna, to a total of 25,000
- 3-ton class, Sd.Kfz. 11 produced by Hanamog, Adler, Auto-Union and Skoda from 1938 to 1944 with a total of 25,000
- 5-ton class. Sd.Kfz. 6 manufactured by Bussing-NAG, Berlin-Oberschonweide; Daimler-Benz and Praga (Czechoslovakia) with about 3,500 in total
- 8-ton class. Sd.Kfz. 7 production was of about 12,000
- 12-ton class. Sd.Kfz. 8 some 4,000 were produced by five manufacturers
- 18-ton class. Sd.Kfz. 9 with a production of only 2,000
Larger German half-track tractors were used to tow anti-tank and field artillery guns. The largest of these were also used by mechanical engineers to retrieve bogged down vehicles of perform repairs such as engine maintenance.