German Tank Radios
During W.W II the German military made extensive use of radio. One of the key elements
of the Blitzkrieg was the co-ordination of armour, air power, artillery and infantry, and
radio was the perfect medium for this co-ordination. The German victory over Poland in
1939 illustrated how intermedate communication between land and air units could more
effectively defeat an enemy. However, it was the success of the panzer troops in France
and Russia that showed how indispensable radio had become in armoured warfare. A brief
review of their opponents' failures will help to show the advantage radio gave to the
Detailed accounts of the 1940 battle of France illustrate time and again how the French
army lacked the proper command and control techniques. Despite having a numerically
superior tank force, the French were never able to mount a concentrated defence or a major
counter attack. Their battle plans were issued verbally before combat and units would have
to stop and regroup to receive updated objectives.
During battle most commands were relayed via flag signal. These signals were frequently
obscured by smoke, darkness or a dispersed battlefield and thus never received The French
forces that were radio equipped often fared no better. One report mentions a French unit
whose radio batteries ran down just before combat, thus insuring a lack of proper
The invasion of Russia in 1941 again pitted the Germans against an opponent with
inadequate command and control capacity. In the case of the Soviets, however, it was
mostly a lack of proper training that left them paralysed. When the Germans encountered
the radio equipped T-34 tank, no Wehrmacht tank could defeat it at normal combat ranges.
Heavy artillery, 88rnrn anti-aircraft guns or attacks from the side or rear were needed to
knock out aT-34.
The Soviets were never able to press this advantage however. Their armoured commanders
lacked the ability and freedom to make rapid decisions. While local counter attacks by
T-34s were often successful, they were not maintainable without fresh combat orders or
co-ordination with other units. By the time further counter-attack was approved and
organised, a German defence would usually be prepared. Thus, while most Soviet armour had
basic radio equipment, the training and infrastructure necessary to properly utilise this
radio equipment was not available.
In stark contrast to the French and Soviets, the Germans provided both the training and
equipment necessary to meet the radio needs of their armoured troops. Almost every
armoured vehicle bad a radio receiver and most had a transmitter as well Special armoured
radio vehicles were used to co-ordinate communications between head-quarters, air,
armoured, artillery and infantry units.
These vehicles were designed to accompany armoured units on the front line and beyond.
By equipping their combat vehicles with radio, and supplying special armoured radio
vehicles, the Germans formed a complex radio network for their panzer troops.The most
frequently encountered of these specialised vehicles were the command vehicles. The key
element of the command vehicle was the presence of additional radio equipment, which
provided access to a wider range of frequencies. These supplemental radios allowed the
relay of information from headquarters or aircraft to other vehicles in the unit The most
common of the command vehicles was the command tank, or Panzerbefehlwagen PZB fwg).
The Panzerbefehlswagen consisted of a Standard production tank that was converted to
command capacity by the installation of additional radio equipment This resulted in a
reduced ammunition storage capacity. Externally, the only visible change was the
additional antenna. The "star,' antenna, which had an umbrella-like fold out frame on
the top, was used on these vehicles. The added antennas were difficult to observe at
combat ranges and thus the command tanks were not conspicuous targets.
Also included in the family of special armoured radio vehicles were armoured
half-tracks, along with four, six and eight wheeled armoured cars. These vehicles were
equipped with a variety of radio sets, depending upon their objective. They initially had
a large frame antenna but later versions used the less conspicuous mast antenna. Perhaps
the most versatile armoured radio vehicle was the half-track SdKfz 251. While all models
of this vehicle were radio equipped, several versions had special radio equipment.
These included the command vehicle (SdKfz 251 /6), the artillery slilvey vehicle (SdKfz
251/12) and the observation vehicle (SdKfz 251/18). The radio command half-track (SdKfz
251/3) could be adapted to accept eight different combinations of radio equipment. The
selection of radio combinations depended upon its assignment which could include command
post vehicle or front line link between headquarters and air, artillery or armour.
The network of these armoured command, observation and communications vehicles and
radio equipped combat vehicles was effective. It gave the German commanders both a clear
picture of the battlefield and the means to direct their troops as quickly and precisely
as possible. This network allowed the panzers to roam deep behind enemy lines yet maintain
contact with headquarters. It also allowed them access to the latest reconnaissance
reports and to be deployed at a moments notice.
During the early war years, well trained commanders such as Erwin Rommel were
frequently given the freedom to exploit this advantage to the fullest extent. Certainly,
the rapid German advances in 1939 - 41 would not have been possible without radio. The
combination of wide radio distribution, special armoured radio vehicles and though radio
training allowed the Welnniacht to get maximum use of its armoured units.
A large variety of panzer radios were built, each with a specific purpose and designed
for a specific class of vehicle. Tanks, self - propelled artillery, half-tracks and
armoured cars all had different radio equipment and operated on different frequencies.
Thus, the standard tank radio set was not capable of operating in the frequency range used
by self-propelled artillery, the Luftwaffe or other branches of service that might be on
the same battlefield.
As noted earlier, command vehicles had additional radios which allowed them to receive
a broader range of frequencies. For example, information from the Luftwaffe would be
received by the company leaders tank on the command set and then relayed to all other
tanks via the standard tank radio set. This helped to organise the radio communication and
prevent one unit from accidentally interfering with the communications of another.
If a German armoured vehicle had to be abandoned and was at risk of enemy capture it
was the radio operators responsibility to remove or destroy the radio equipment. After the
war the Allies ordered all German military radio equipment destroyed to help prevent any
type of resistance or reorganisation Those radios that survived were frequently used by
amateur short-wave radio enthusiasts. These "ham" radio operators would often
modify the radios or simply use them as a source of spare parts. As a consequence, W.W.II
German panzer radios are difficult to locate today.
Therefore, I have provided illustrations and descriptions of the panzer radio equipment
in my collection I welcome any correspondence on this subject and I will gladly share any
information that I have. I am always interested in acquiring any panzer radio material,
from complete sets or accessories (dynamotors, intercom equipment, antennas, manuals,
etc.) to any spare parts, connector cables, photographs or other information.
You may contact me through E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone AC 727- 585-7756
15W.S.a. and Umformer
|Umformer 15a and its mounting plate. This is a diagram
showing the Umformer 15a in a set up with its radio, the 15 Watt Sender - Emfanger
The article above, written by Scott Clark in 1995 provides a good introduction to the
role of armoured forces and their radios during WW 2. As Scott pointed out, there were
many radios used by German armoured forces. Scott's article had a chart with it which
referred to various configurations as Fug XXX. For the most part, the Fug (Funk Sprech
Gerate) term was used for aircraft radios. The sets that were found on the command half
tracks, seem to be either ground force radios or Luftwaffe compatible radios.
30- S Transmitter and U 30 b Dynamotor
Radio Transmitter 30 W.S.a.
30 W.S. Transmitter 1,110 - 3010 KC ( Usually found at Regimental and
Division level )
During World War II the Germans produced some of the finest military radios
the world had seen. Rugged, dependable and made with the finest material,
these sets have stood the test of time and most of these sets show up today
1ooking almost like they left the factory last week. Those sets which look
damaged got that way in basement floods or from lack of care by current
To support the fast moving Panzer forces, reliable communication
equipment was needed. A whole series of tank force radios were developed.
These were all AM sets and the most common were the: 10 W.S. a 10 watt
transmitter, the 20 W.S., a 20 watt transmitter and the 30 W.S.a, a 30 watt
The 30 W.S. started as the 30 W.S./24a-120. This set was not up to the
requirements of modern combat as the Germans discovered and a new set was
developed and placed in service. This set was the 30 W.S.a. This set was
first identified for U.S. troops in the War Department Technical Bulletin TB
SIG E-ll dated 10 May 1944 and again in the War Departments bulletin TM
E-ll-227 dated June 1944.
TB SIG Ell gave detailed instruction on how to place the set is service.
Shown in the bulletin was a data plate with the date of manufacture as 1942
so that means these sets were in the field when American Forces came ashore
in North Africa. The dynamotor data plate shown had a manufacture date of
The 30 W.S.a covers 1,110 kc to 3,010 Kc in three overlapping bands. It
is capable of both CW and voice. With a ground mounted station the set had a
range of 42 miles for CW and 15 miles for voice. In a vehicular mount the
ranges were 24 miles and 6 miles. According to one source the set has a
range of 100 miles when used with a 30 foot antenna.
It is a MOPA transmitter using 6 tubes, 5 for CW and 6 for voice. The master oscillator
is a type PL12P35, the power amplifier uses 2 type RL12P35 in parallel. The modulator uses
2 type RV12P2000 in parallel (used as a tone oscillator on CW) and 1 type RL12T15 for
calibration (It is also used as a suppresser-grid and grid bias rectifier in the voice
The transmitter is housed in a grey metal case that is 19.1"x .9" x 9.2"
and weighs 41.9 Lbs. Unlike other German sets, the front cover is smaller than the outer
case and fits inside the case and is held in place by studs on the front panel. Most
German sets have hasp fasteners on the sides. It is assumed that this arrangement was to
facilitate sliding the radio into a mounting box on the vehic1e. There is a carrying
handle on the back side an when the the set is carried. the front panel is on the bottom.
30 WS Inside View
U-30b Dynamotor and Mount
The power requirements for this set were supplied by a 12 volt dynamotor, the U3Ob.
This provided 12 volts at 2.7 amps for the filaments and 400 volts for the plate supply,
drawing 120 ma for CW and 170 ma for voice. A light cast metal case houses the dynamotor,
the starting relay and the noise filter. The dynamotor is held on its mount by two wing
nuts on the front and can easily be removed from the mount. The mount has a junction box
at the rear and the power cable is fed in to one side.
Another power cable can be fed out from the other side and connected to another
dynamotor. For installations with several radios, this allows for a bank of dynamotors to
be operated from one battery. With the dynamotor connected to a 12 volt battery, the power
cable in place, the set is ready for operation. All that remains is to connect a key or a
The controls for this set are easy to operate, even with gloves on. The band switch,
marked "Berichschalter", has three settings. Band I is at the top of the scale
and marked with a white dial cover, band II is in the centre with a red dial cover and
band III is at the bottom with a yellow dial cover. At the bottom is the main tuning
control, marked "Frequenzeinstellung" which moves ganged tuning capacitors.
Between the main tuning control and the power input socket is the four position
function switch. The first setting is "S-Aus",(transmitter off), the next
setting is "Tn" for voice operation, the third setting is "SBereit,
Empfang",(transmitter off, receive only), and the last setting is "Tg" (for
CW operation). Three more controls are located in the upper right side and these are
"Ant.Kopplung" (Antenna coupling control) which is a five position switch used
to select antenna coupling capacitors, "Ant. Abst Gross" (Antenna coarse-tuning
control ) which is also a five position switch used to select antenna series tuning
capacitors and Ant. Abst.Fein" (the Antenna fine-tuning control) which controls a
variometer for antenna series tuning.
Above these controls are a brass screw connection for the main antenna and a small stud
for grounding the antenna lead-in shield if a vehicular set up is used. On the left side
are two more screw connectors for antenna and counterpoise. The Germans used a form of
knurled nut on a screw that had the tip flared so the nut could not come off completely
which save a lot of nuts from getting lost, both during combat and in the post war period!
The antenna lead on the left side is connected to the companion receiver and the
counterpoise is grounded to the vehicle chassis or a ground counterpoise.
Three sockets exist, one marked "Taste" for the key, one marked
"Mikrofon" for the microphone and the one at the top marked "z Empf."
for connection to the companion receivers side-tone socket. If the receiver does not have
a side-tone capability, a headset may be plugged in here.
This set has a unique system for calibration. The cover plate marked
"Frequenze-kontrolle" is swung to the left, disabling the power amplifier tubes.
A headset may then be plugged in and the band switch set to one of the bands and the set
tuned to a blue calibration mark. Pressing the microphone should result in a beat note
being heard in the headset.
To remove the set from the case, four retaining screws, usually painted red or marked
in red are loosened and the entire unit slides out revealing the insides. This set, like
most German sets consists of a light cast metal frame with the components mounted on the
front panel or on the frame. Being a transmitter, all the circuits are shielded by
aluminium panels. Repairs are thus limited to changing tubes or fuses. There is a panel
which mounts three spare fuses for the set. Any repair requiring new capacitors or
resistors, etc would require evacuation to a repair facility and removal of the various
panels. The panel with the spare fuses also has a panel with test points so that a
voltmeter can be used to check the voltages with the set in various stages of operation.
In operation, this set was superior to its predecessor but lacked the capability to
pre-set two frequencies. The prior set had a ring with two stops which would allow rapid
shifting from one frequency to another, even in the dark. The 30 W.S.a required a light to
see the dial and manual turning of the dial to the proper frequency, a difficult task for
an operator bouncing along in a tank going over rough terrain. This must have been a
common complaint because by 1945 the sets were made with this ring mounted on the front,
as can be seen in the photograph.
My first acquisition for this set was a key of WW II vintage that I picked up at a gun
show in 1987 and hoped that I would find a set that it would fit. I located a dynamotor in
September 1991 and wondered if I would ever find the 30 W.S.a transmitter. Fortunately one
appeared on my door step and I snapped it up, so I am well on my way to a complete set. I
am missing the power cable so I have not made any effort to operate the set. If anyone
else has a similar set, I would recommend that they get TB SIG E-11 before they power it
up as the TB has detailed instructions for connecting the components and the operation of
Fifty years have elapsed since this set was made but it looks factory new, a real
tribute to the German war effort. German capacitors of WW II were generally considered to
be the best so the capacitors in these sets are probably still good. Resistors are
probably also still good so the only problems in placing these sets in operation is the
tubes which may have bad filaments. These tubes are available from collectors in Europe.
They are usually in the $25-$35 dollar price range.
With a range of 100 miles, this set is practically useless for HAM radio work but as a
collectors item it is a valuable set as there were not that many made as contrasted to the
10 W.S. sets and the 20 W.S. sets. Displayed along with the companion receiver, the
UKw.E.c ,d or e sets, or the Torn Eb set, and with the dynamotors, cables, key and
microphone and headsets this makes a very impressive display.
80 W.S. Transmitter
More on the 30WS and
80WS, by Hue Miller KA7LXY
It's very interesting that the German scout and command vehicle set-ups included low
medium wave equipment in the MWEc receiver and the 30WSa and 80WS. this equipment was
carried in addition to the more generally distributed low-vhf equipment of the UKW series,
( UKW = Ultra Kurzwelle = ultrashort wave ) with its shorter range of less than 5 miles.
The apparent logic was to provide a stronger ground wave signal which would follow the
lay of the land better, over hill country, for example. of course in motion this was
fairly impractical to operate with a standard antenna, so when you see photos of German
scout cars you will see what is called a "frame antenna" around the top deck,
which looks rather like a handrail.
This antenna itself was not practical for the command Panzer ( AFVs ) so these, in
addition to the usual UKW mast antenna of about 1.5 meters length also carried another
robust and heavy mast antenna with some capacitive "whiskers" from the top,
called "Sternantenna" = "star antenna. The 30WS covers 1000 - 3000 kc/s so
it is well suited to amateur radio operation, either A1 or A3, on the 160 meter band,
simply by supplying the correct voltages.
Italian radio seems to have followed along the same line of MW frequency employment.
Marinelli is I believe the firm which built the Italian low-vhf AFV radios while A.
Bocchini company built several models of LF-MF equipment, such as the movable set RF-4
which covered 200 - 4000 kc/s.
80 W.S. Transmitter Internal View
Hue Miller ka7lxy E-Mail email@example.com
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