German Light Tanks
Selected Panzer II Variants
In 1939, acknowledging the limitations of the first production German Panzer II units, the German army issued a set of requirements for a special Panzer II reconnaissance version. The results appeared on the battlefield in 1943 as the Panzer II Ausf L. This designation was later changed to Luchs (Lynx). The vehicle weighed 11.8 tons and had a crew of four men.
The suspension system on the Lynx consisted of five large overlapping road wheels on either side of the hull. The axle for each wheel was mounted to the end of a roadarm. Each roadarm rotated around a bearing at the hull end. A torsional spring (torsion bar) rigidly attached to the hull on the opposite side of the vehicle provided independent springing for the suspension. The improved suspension, coupled with a Maybach six-cylinder 180-horsepower engine, gave the Lynx a top speed of 38 miles per hour. The Lynx retained the standard Panzer II armament—a 20-mm main gun and a coaxial 7.92-mm machine gun. A few of the 111 units built had a 50-mm gun fitted. Production of the Lynx ended in January 1944.
The Panzerjaeger variants of the Panzer II Ausf А, В, C, and F were fitted with a limited-traverse 75-mm gun. A three-sided thin armored superstructure, open at the top and rear, protected the three-man gun crew. In this configuration, the vehicle was commonly known as the Marder II. German industry constructed 201 examples of the vehicle between April 1942 and June 1943. The Marder II would remain in use with the German military until Germany's surrender.
Selected Foreign Light Tanks in German Service
Prior to the armed German takeover of Poland in September 1939, Hitler managed the peaceful takeovers of Austria and Czechoslovakia. With his possession of Czechoslovakia, Hitler acquired a thriving and capable arms industry. Among the many items of military hardware designed and produced by the Czech factories were a couple of fairly advanced light tanks, both of which were quickly introduced into German military service. The importance of these foreign-made vehicles is clearly evident in the fact that, of the 17 German panzer divisions involved in the initial invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, six were equipped mainly with Czech-made tanks.
The Czech light tanks that entered German service were the LTvz. 35 and the LTvz. 38. Both weighed about 10 tons and were powered by gasoline engines. Armament on both vehicles consisted of a 37-mm high-velocity antitank gun and two 7.92-mm machine guns. Armor protection on the vehicles ranged from 8-mm to 25-mm steel plates. Unlike the more advanced welded steel armor construction of German tanks, the Czech tanks used bolts to attach armor plates to a separate steel structural frame.
The LTvz. 35 first entered Czech army service in 1937. With their takeover of Czechoslovakia, the Germans acquired 244 LTvz. 35 light tanks. As the Panzer 35(t), it took part in the German invasions of France in May 1940 and the Soviet Union in June 1941. In 1942, the Germans pulled the vehicle from front-line use, unhappy with some of its design features. Thereafter, only a few turretless vehicles would be employed as towing vehicles.
The LTvz. 38 had been the winner of a competition for a new light tank for the Czech army in 1938. Only 10 of the vehicles had been completed when the German army took control of the country. They were soon placed into German army service with the designation Panzer 38(t).
The Panzer 38(t) suspension system consisted of eight large bogie wheels, four on either side of the hull. As with its German light tank counterparts, the drive sprockets were at the front of the vehicle with the idler wheels at the rear.
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