Heavy Tractor SaZgM

Quiet signals: Return of large-scale mechanized warfare

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The heavy tractor does not sound sexy nor get big headlines, even when it’s big business in defence industry. 

Rheinmetall told at the end of May that the company had received an order from the German armed forces – Bundeswehr – to supply another 57 heavy tractor units – a contract worth over €50 million.

Mechanized warfare in large scale is possible only if you have a long logistic tail. At least if you have decided to create the sum of the mobility, firepower, and protection by maintaining a heavy main battle tank (MBT) fist. 

And the logistic tail is the thing to note when observing the change in developing armed forces. 

EU, Germany, Bundeswehr, or Rheinmetall are not threatening anybody. There is no need for the capability to do such in peaceful, democratic Europe, but Russian action in Ukraine forces us in NATO and the EU to send a signal to keep the threshold high enough to prevent the escalation and to help Ukraine. 

Tanks are not marching on a strategic scale without transportation. The Russian army is dependent on railway transportation. That makes them dependent on railway infra and denies their operational and strategic freedom. 

For flexible operations, you need the ability to use heavy-wheeled logistic support, transport, and maintenance. 

Rheinmetall heavy tractor units in the 70-tonne payload class are one strong answer to the question of how to move MBTs on strategic and operational levels. ”Known as the “SaZgM 70t mil” in German military parlance, the unprotected heavy-duty trucks are scheduled for delivery in 2023 and 2024. The total value of the order is worth just over €50 million, including value-added tax. The German armed forces use the trucks primarily for transporting heavy armored vehicles like the Leopard 2 main battle tank and the PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer.

Just booked, the current order is the last call-off from a framework contract signed in 2018 for the delivery of up to 137 SaZgM 70t mil trucks. Under the framework agreement, which had a 7-year lifetime, eighty tractor units have already been ordered and delivered to the Bundeswehr.

Rheinmetall’s HX81 tractor units are powered by an eight-cylinder 680 hp diesel engine. This gives the high-mobility all-wheel-drive truck a top speed of 89 km/h and the ability to climb gradients of 60 percent. The Gross Train Weight of the system is 130 tonnes. The HX81 tractor unit has the same driver’s cab as Rheinmetall’s UTF family of vehicles. If necessary, the cab can be exchanged for a protected version. It comes with a Rotzler double action winch system, with a combined maximum tractive force of 40 tonnes, enabling the all-terrain tractor unit to tow vehicles onto the trailer. 

Logistic vehicles play a crucial role in assuring the operational effectiveness of combat units, enabling rapid response and subsequent sustainment in the field. Being able to transport heavy combat vehicles is a key capability in national and alliance defence. The HX81 complements the Bundeswehr’s SLT heavy transport vehicle. Besides the unprotected HX81, Rheinmetall also supplies the Mammut-protected heavy transport vehicle, along with the UTF unprotected transport vehicle and the WLS hook loading system.” Rheinmetall informed May 26th.