The ZG 1229 Vampir 1229 (ZG 1229), also known in its code name Vampir, was an active infrared device developed for the Wehrmacht for the Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle, intended primarily for night use.
The ZG 1229 Vampir weighed in at 2.25 kilograms (about 5 lbs.) and was fitted with lugs on the StG 44 at C.G. Haenel at Suhl, the weapons production facility. The grenadier carrying this was known as a Nachtjäger (night-hunter). As well as the sight and infrared spotlight, there was a 13.5 kilogram (about 30 lbs.) wooden cased battery for the light, and a second battery fitted inside a gas mask container to power the image converter. This was all strapped to a Tragegestell 39 (pack frame 1939). The searchlight consisted of a conventional tungsten light source shining through a filter permitting only infrared light. The sensor operated in the upper infrared (light) spectrum rather than in the lower infrared (heat) spectrum and was, therefore, not sensitive to body heat.
Vampir gear was first used in combat in February 1945. However, small arms infrared device introduction took place in early 1944. 310 units were delivered to the Wehrmacht at the final stages of the war. Eastern Front veteran reports consist of snipers shooting at night with the aid of ‘peculiar non-shining torches coupled with enormous optical sights’ mounted on their rifles. Similar infrared gear was fitted both to MG34 and MG42 machine guns.
In 1936, AEG was ordered to start the development of infrared night-vision devices and in 1939, first successful prototype unit for use with 37mm Pak 35/36 L/45 anti-tank gun was constructed. In autumn of 1942, unit for use (infrared headlamp with viewer ZG 1221) with 75mm PaK 40 L/46 anti-tank gun was constucted and was also mounted on Marder II (Sd.Kfz.131).
In mid 1943, first tests with infrared night-vision (Nacht Jager) devices and telescopic rangefinders mounted on Panther started. Two different arrangements / solutions were created and used on Panther tanks.
Solution A – Sperber (Sparrow Hawk) was made up of one 30cm infrared searchlight (with range of 600m) and image converter operated by the commander – FG 1250.From late 1944 to March of 1945, some Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf G (and other variants) mounted with FG 1250, were succesfully tested. From March to April of 1945, approximately 50 Panthers Ausf G (and other variants) mounted with FG 1250, saw combat service on the Eastern Front and Western Front. Panthers with IR operated with SdKfz.251/20 Uhu (Owl) half-track with 60cm infra-red searchlight and Sd.Kfz.251/21 Falke (Falcon). This solution could be easily mounted on any type of armored fighting vehicle.
SdKfz.251/20 Uhu (Owl).
Solution B – Second more complicated arrangement / solution was “Biwa” (Bildwandler), which provided driver (installed on the front hull), gunner (installed on the mantlet in front of the gun sight) and commander (as in Solution A) each with one 30cm infrared searchlight (with range of 600m) and image converter. Various variants of Panthers were converted and mounted with “Biwa”. It was reported that tests were successful, but there is very few combat reports from the Eastern or Western Front. Due to the lack of evidence,existence of Solution B is still questionable and even considered a hoax.
Various units received IR Panthers including 116th Panzer Division (3rd company of 24th Panzer Regiment, Western Front, Summer of 1944), Sixth SS Panzer Army (Hungary, early 1945), Panzer Division Muncheberg and Clausewitz.One combat report is by a veteran of 1st SS Panzer Regiment of 1st SS Panzer Division “LSSAH”, who states that few Panthers equipped with infrared night-vision devices possibly from 116th Panzer Division were used in 1944/45 during the Ardennes Offensive.In April of 1945, Panthers equipped with IR equipment (solution B) joined Panzer Division Clausewitz and in mid April near Uelzen destroyed entire platoon of British Comet cruiser tanks. Also on April 21st of 1945, same Panthers overran an American anti-tank position on the Weser-Elbe Canal.Most of those reports can’t be confirmed and are questionable.
In addition, it is reported but not supported that single unit equipped with Jagdpanthers also received and used infrared night-vision devices.
ZG 1229 Vampir (Vampire)
Crews of infrared night-vision devices mounted vehicles were also armed with MP44 / StG 44 assault rifles fitted with infrared night-vision device – ZG 1229 Vampir (Vampire). Only small number of IR sets for assault rifles was produced.