Tank destroyers were important lethal weapons which were produced in large numbers during World War II for purely economic and production reasons. Among the types of tank destroyer and German Panzerjäger (tank hunter) were some superb fighting vehicles such as the Hetzer, the M18 Hellcat and the superlative Jagdpanther, the latter of which would be a viable fighting machine today as it was armed with the powerful 8.8cm Pak 43 anti-tank gun. Although the Jagdtiger was a slow lumbering vehicle, it was an excellent weapon when it was used as a defense in the defense role, since it was armed with a 12.8cm-caliber anti-tank gun. On the other hand, the American M18 Hellcat was the fastest tank destroyer in World War II as it was powered by a Continental R975 C1 Radial gasoline engine, delivering 390 hp. But there were some dreadful lash-ups that were undergunned, lacked protection for their unfortunate crews and, in addition to these failings, were so underpowered they had difficulty in moving at combat speeds.
The tank destroyer and the tank were very different beasts. Although they often used identical chassis, and at times even looked alike, they were markedly dissimilar when it came to combat. The tanks, with their combination of firepower, mobility and protection, usually had the combat edge over the tank destroyer with its limited-traverse armament and relatively thin armored protection, but to be set against this the tank destroyer usually had the more powerful gun and a low silhouette that gave it the edge in concealment. There was at one time the philosophy that as tanks were not expected to fight tanks, specialized tank destroyers would have to be used. This approach did not last long under the severe strictures of combat, where it was soon learned that the best way to defeat a tank was to use another tank. The tank destroyer could be used for this purpose but at a cost in weapon flexibility and all too often in protection for the crew.