Development of the SdKfz 7 can be traced back to a 1934 Wehrmacht requirement for an eight-tonne half-track. The production vehicle first appeared in 1938 and was intended to be used mainly as the tractor for the 8.8cm FlaK gun and the 15cm sFH18 150mm howitzer.
The vehicle could carry gun crews of up to 12 men in theatre-type seats with under-seat storage for various tools. The whole vehicle was spacious enough to carry their kit. The rear of the vehicle housed an enclosed compartment for storage of ammunition, though a second ammunition carrier was desirable. The tractor could tow loads up to 8,000kg (17,600lb) in weight. Most were fitted with a winch that could pull up to 3,450kg. It had a payload of 1,800kg. The windscreen was able to fold down and a canvas roof could be erected.
The use of half-tracked prime movers for artillery was common in the German forces but not elsewhere. Compared to wheeled vehicles, half-tracks were more difficult to maintain, they often suffered track breakages, and were slower on roads. However, they had better off-road mobility compared to wheeled vehicles.
The iconic SdKfz 7 was used throughout the war and saw extensive use in the North African Campaign where their tracks allowed them to drive through the desert sands far more effectively than trucks. From 1938, a total of 12,187 units were built before production stopped in 1944.
The SdKfz 7 also became the basis of a number of self-propelled anti-aircraft variants based on 20mm and 37mm FlaK types in use. The SdKfz 7/1 was armed with a 2cm Flakvierling 38 quadruple anti-aircraft gun system; about 750 to 800 were produced by the end of Dec 44. The SdKfz 7/2 was armed with a single 3.7cm FlaK 36 or 43 anti-aircraft gun; about 1,000 were produced by the end of Jan 45.