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German Balkenkreuz

Germany's Panzerkampfwagen I, SdKfz 101 light tank

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Panzerkampfwagen I, SdKfz 101 light tank:
Germany's Panzerkampfwagen I, SdKfz 101 light tank

Panzerkampfwagen I, SdKfz 101 light tank:
Germany's Panzerkampfwagen I, SdKfz 101 light tank

Design

The Reichswehr (German Army after World War I) wanted a light tank that would be quickly and cheaply produced that would be primarily used for training. In 1932 the specifications were developed and Daimler-Benz, Henschel, Krupp, MAN, and Rheinmetall were asked to submit designs.

It was expected that the PzKpfw III and PzKpfw IV would be the main tanks used, but these wouldn't be available until late the late 1930s.

The German Army Weapons Department purchased a British Vickers-Carden-Loyd tankette in 1932 to test a fully revolving turret with a 20 mm gun mounted. However, it was found that the chassis did better when two machine guns were mounted in the turret as opposed to the 20 mm gun. Because of this, the Weapons Department issued specifications to five firms for a 4.9 ton light training tank with two 7.92 mm MG13 machine guns mounted in the turret.

In 1933 orders were given for a 5.3 ton light tank, with two machine guns in the turret, and a crew of two. Daimler-Benz, Henschel, Krupp, MAN, and Rheinmetall Borsig were asked to submit designs.

The engine was mounted in the rear with the drive sprocket in the front.

Crew

The commander was located in the turret and the driver was to the left of the turret.

Turret

The turret was mounted at the center, slightly to the right. The PzKpfw I carried 1,525 rounds of ammunition for the machine guns.

Prototype

The Krupp prototype was influenced by a collaboration with the Swedish Landsverk company. The Rheinmetall-Borsig design was based on their experience with the experimental light tractor VK 31/A2 designed in 1928-29.

The chassis from the Krupp and the turret from the Daimler Benz designs were chosen for development. Henschel/Krupp was contracted to produce three different prototypes.

Initially the prototype was called the LKA I. To conceal it's real use the Germany Army called it the Landwirtschäftlicher Schlepper (LaS, industrial tractor) as production of this tank violated the Treaty of Versailles. The tank was also just the chassis to help skirt around the Treaty of Versailles restrictsions. The German High Command also gave it an ordnance inventory number Sonderkraftfahrzeug (SdKfz) 101.

The Krupp design was chosen for production.

Production

Krupp delivered the LKA1 tank in February 1934. The Weapons Department put it through trials for four months, and then placed an order for 150 tanks that became the PzKpfw I Ausf A.

Additional orders followed, and the total was now 300 vehicles to be produced. By July 1934, 600 had been ordered.

Three factories were specifically chosen so that they would get experience at tank production.

  • L.K.A. I:
  • L.K.B. I:
  • PzKpfw I Ausf A aufbau: 15
    • Production: February 1934 - April 1934
    • Manufacturers: Henschel, MAN, Daimler-Benz, Rheinmetall-Borsig, Krupp-Gruson.
  • PzKpfw I Ausf B aufbau: 164
    • Production: 1936 - November 1938
    • Manufacturers: Henschel, MAN, Daimler-Benz, Krupp-Gruson.
  • PzKpfw I: 1,493, 1,500
    • Production: 1935 - 1939

Variants

  • L.K.A. I: Krupp prototype. Four road wheels with trailing idler on each side. Two machine guns mounted in turret. Krupp air cooled four cylinder engine (57 HP).
  • L.K.B. I: Prototype that became the production model. Maybach engine.
  • IA La S Krupp, LaS IA: The initial vehicle was called the LaS IA. It weighed 5.3 tons, had 6-13 mm armor, had a crew of two, and had four pairs of road wheels. It was powered by the 57 HP, Krupp M305 B 4-cylinder gasoline engine, which propelled it up to 37 kph/23 mph. A short ranged radio was also installed.
    Saw action with the Condor Legion in Spain.In February 1938, it was renamed the PzKpfw IA.
  • IB La S May, LaS IB: This vehicle was based on the second Krupp prototype, the LKA2. It was viewed that the LaS IA was underpowered, so the 100 HP, Maybach NL38TR engine. It's speed went up to 40 kph/25 mph. With these modifications, it now weighed 5.9 tons. It entered service with three panzer divisions that were formed in 1935.
    Saw action with the Condor Legion in Spain.
    In February 1938, it was renamed the PzKpfw IB.
  • Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf A ohne Aufbau: Designed as a training tank.
  • Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B ohne Aufbau: Produced to be a maintenance vehicle for each armored company.
  • Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf A:
  • Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B:
  • Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf C:
  • Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf D:
  • Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf F :
  • Panzerkampfwagen I neuer Art verstärk (VK 1801): Designed in December 1939 to be a infantry support tank with heavier armor. Prototype was built in June 1940. Project was abandoned.
  • Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen I (SdKfz 265): Command vehicle.
  • PzKpfw I(A) Munitions-Schlepper (SdKfz 111): Converted PzKpfw I Ausf As into ammunition carriers.
  • Brückenleger: Bridge layer version that was developed but the suspension wasn't strong enough.
  • Flammenwerfer, Flammpanzer I: Flame thrower Model 40 installed in place of the right MG. Used in North Africa by the 5th Light Division. Had range of about 25 meters and could have 10-12 one second bursts. PzKpfw I Ausf A chassis were converted.
  • 15 cm sIG 33(Sf), 15 cm sIG 33 auf Geschützwagen I Ausf B: Forty were converted to carry the 1.5-cm infantry gun. Used as support for motorized infantry in Poland, France, and Russia. The armament was much too heavy for the chassis.
  • Panzerjäger I, 4.7 cm Pak(t)(SF): Self-propelled mounting the Czechoslovakian 47 mm anti-tank gun. The turret was removed. 200 Ausf B chassis converted at Alkett of Berlin. Saw action in France and North Africa.
  • PzKpfw Ib Ladungswerfer I: ("Explosive Charge Layer I) Had and arm that could place an explosive charge next to an obstacle/fortification. A contract dated May 9, 1940, was given to Waggonfabrik Talbot of Aachen to construct a vehicle that could place an explosive charge of 75 kg. The arm was 2 m long when retracted and could be extended 2.75 m. 10 Ausf Bs of the 3rd Panzer Pioniere Kp of each Pioneer Battalion in the Panzer Divisions were outfitted.

Usage

Spanish Civil War

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), 120 / 122 LaS tanks were used by Colonel Ritter von Thoma's armored units. Some of these were modified by putting a 20 mm gun in the turret. If the PzKpfw I got within 165 yards / 150 m of a T-26 it could penetrate its armor with the machine gun. However, the Soviet crews quickly learned to keep their distance as in the autumn of 1936 a BA-10 armored car was able to destroy several PzKpfw Is from a safe distance.

It was clear that the tank was inadequate with a two man crew and its light armament. However, experience in Spain provided the proving grounds of later German combat. Towards the end of the Civil War units were moving 25 miles a day in the Aragon battle and faster in Catalonia.

Anschluss & Sudetenland

Defects were found during the Anschluss and were fixed by the time of the move into the Sudetenland.

Poland

The PzKpfw Is were used in the invasion of Poland.

Unit Quantity of
PzKpfw I
1st Panzer Division 68
2nd Panzer Division 136
3rd Panzer Division 136
4th Panzer Division 136
5th Panzer Division 136

A total of 1,445 were used during the invasion of Poland.

Even though it was light, the PzKpfw I still would bog down in the mud, as it did during the Polish counterattack along the River Bzura. A total of 89 PzKpfw Is were lost in Poland, almost 45% of the total German loses. Many of these were lost in Warsaw.

Norway

Two dozen were sent along with the 40th Panzer Battalion that were used in Norway.

The West

Around 1,077 PzKpfw Is were still being used in the German Army, and of these, 619 (523) were used in the invasion, with the rest being converted, used for training, or used for garrison duties. They were primarily used for reconnaissance, but even then, there were heavy losses when meeting British or French armor. Because of this, the PzKpfw I weren't used as a front line combat tank.

Specifications

  Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf A ohne Aufbau
Crew 2
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 3.5 tons
Length 4.02 m
Height 1.15 m
Width 2.06 m
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm)  
Hull Front, Upper 13@27°
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper 13@0°
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear 13@15°
Hull Top 6@90°
Hull Bottom 6@90°
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Krupp M305
Bore / stroke  
Cooling  
Cylinders  
Capacity  
Net HP  
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type) 5 forward, 1 reverse
Steering  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type)  
Octane  
Quantity  
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road 37 kph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road 145 km
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth  
Trench crossing  
Vertical obstacle  
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type) Coil Spring (front road wheel)
Leaf Spring (other wheels)
Wheels each side 4, +1 Idler
Return rollers each side 3
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  
  Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B ohne Aufbau
Crew 2
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 4 tons
Length 4.42 m
Height 1.35 m
Width 2.06 m
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm)  
Hull Front, Upper 13@27°
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper 13@0°
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear 13@19°
Hull Top 6@90°
Hull Bottom 6@90°
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Maybach NL 38TR
Bore / stroke  
Cooling  
Cylinders  
Capacity  
Net HP  
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type) 5 forward, 1 reverse
Steering  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type)  
Octane  
Quantity  
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road 40 kph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road 170 km
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth  
Trench crossing  
Vertical obstacle  
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  
  neuer Art verstärk
Crew  
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 18 tons
Length 14.3'
Height 6.75'
Width 8.6'
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 30 - 80
Hull Front, Upper  
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom  
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model)  
Bore / stroke  
Cooling  
Cylinders  
Capacity  
Net HP  
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type)  
Steering  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type)  
Octane  
Quantity  
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road 15 mph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road  
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth  
Trench crossing  
Vertical obstacle  
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  
  PzKpfw I
Crew 2
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 12,100 lb
5,500 kg
Length 13.2'
4.02 m
Height 5' 7"
1.72 m
Width 6' 7"
2.06 m
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 2: 7.92 mm MG13
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 6 - 13
Hull Front, Upper  
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom  
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Krupp M305
Bore / stroke  
Cooling  
Cylinders  
Capacity  
Net HP 60
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type)  
Steering  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Gasoline
Octane  
Quantity  
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road 21 mph
37 kph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road 81 miles
145 km
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth 2' 10"
0.85 m
Trench crossing 5' 9"
1.75 m
Vertical obstacle 1' 5"
0.42 m
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  

Sources:

  1. Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two, Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle, 1999
  2. Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  3. German Tanks of World War II, Dr. S. Hart & Dr. R. Hart, 1998
  4. Tanks of World War II, Duncan Crow, 1979
  5. Panzers At War, Michael and Gladys Green, 2005
  6. Tanks - Over 250 of the World's Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles, Chris Chant, 2004
  7. Airfix Magazine Guide #8 German Tanks of World War 2, Terry Gande and Peter Chamberlain, 1975
  8. German Tanks and Armoured Vehicles 1914 - 1945, B. T. White, 1966
  9. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  10. Profile, AFV Weapons #55, German Self-Propelled Weapons, Peter Chamberlain, H.L. Doyle, 1973
  11. AFV #15 Panzerkampfwagen I & II, Major-General N. W. Duncan
  12. Atlas of Tank Warfare From 1916 to the Present Day, Dr. Stephen Hart, 2012
  13. Armored Fighting Vehicles, 300 of the World's Greatest Military Vehicles, Philip Trewhitt, 1999
  14. World War I and II Tanks, George Forty, 2012
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