Between the world wars the new Czechoslovak nation maintained an advanced defence industry with a production capability extending to light and medium tanks produced for both domestic and export market. Skoda Works at Pilsen dates back to 1859 and was one of major arms producers for the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Design work on the new tank started in 1934 and in 1935/36, Skoda’s LT(Light Tank) vz.(vzor-model) 35 entered service in small numbers and by 1937 it was the main tank of the Czechoslovak Army. LT-35 was comparable to other European tanks in service at the time, such as: Polish 7TP, British Vickers 6 ton, Soviet T-26, Italian Carro Armato M 11/39 and M13/40 and German PzKpfw III tanks. LT-35 equipped four fast divisions of the Czech Army as of 1938. During its service with the Czech Army, LT-35 gained the reputation of an unreliable vehicle and considered it to be a "interim solution" before LT-38 – PzKpfw 38(t) will be fully developed and ready for production. LT-35’s reputation of being unreliable was due to its untested advanced technical design, but in 1938, its problems were solved and overall LT-35 proved to be a good tank. LT-35s were produced in different variants and were also known under different designations such as R-2 and T-11. Before the war LT-35 was also sold to Romania (126 tanks were sold in 1936 and were designated by Romanian Army as R-2). In 1938, British company Alvis-Straussler Ltd. was interested license building LT-35 in the United Kingdom. In 1939, S-IIa and LT-35 were tested by the Soviet Union at Kubinka. Also unfulfilled order for 10 T-11 tanks was placed by Afghanistan in 1940, but instead tanks were sold to Bulgaria.
Romanian R-2 and T.A.C.A.M R-2 at the Military Museum in Bucharest
Romanian R-2 and T.A.C.A.M R-2 at the Military Museum in Bucharest.
Photo provided by Dragos Pusca.
The 1938/39, German take-over of the Czechoslovak state resulted that in March of 1939, 219 (to 244) of LT-35s were confiscated from the Czech Army and incorporated into the German Army.Some 79 remained in service with the Slovak Army’s 3rd Fast Division, which saw service alongside the Germans on the Eastern Front.In German service, LT vz.35s were designated as Panzerkampfwagen 35(t)(t for Tschechisch – Czech). LT-35 taken over by the Germans were fitted with FuG 5 (10-watt transmitter/receiver) and FuG 2 (receiver) radio equipment. Germans also added fourth crew member to act as a loader, increasing the rate of fire.LT-35 was comparable to German PzKpfw III and was an important addition to the Panzerwaffe. Despite a Czech decision to phase the LT-35 out of production after 1938, it was extended until 1939, under the German supervision at the CKD (Ceskomoravska Kolben Danek) Works in Prague and Skoda Works in Pilsen (after 1938 both became part of Reichswerke Hermann Goring). Overall 424 were produced between 1935 and 1939 by Skoda (approx. 340) and CKD (approx. 84).PzKpfw 35(t) formed the bulk of the 1st Leichte (Light) Division during the Polish Campaign and then of 6th Panzer Division (former 1st Leichte Division) during the French Campaign and the Invasion of Russia.
Light Tank Company 1939-41
11th Panzer Regiment, 6th Panzer Division
2 x PzKpfw 35(t)
5 x PzKpfw 35(t)
5 x PzKpfw 35(t)
5 x PzKpfw 35(t)
5 x PzKpfw II
PzKpfw 35(t) in action.
PzKpfw 35(t) from 6th Panzer Division,
Northern Sector of the Eastern Front, July of 1941.
PzKpfw 35(t)s took part in the Polish (1939) and French campaign (1940) and in the early stages of the Invasion of Russia (1941). During Operation Barbarossa, PzKpfw 35(t) was badly outclassed and was of little value under combat conditions. Under winter conditions, PzKpfw 35(t)’s mechanical components proved to be once again unreliable (e.g. clutch, brake and steering, all operated by compressed air). LT-35(t)’s construction was riveted and direct hit on its armor plate could torn rivet heads off and would kill or wound the crew.
In late 1941, Germans had better tanks in production and PzKpfw 35(t) was relocated to second line duties such as policing and antipartisan units. Some PzKpfw 35(t) were handed over (or sold) to the Slovak, Bulgarian (where they served until 1950s), Romanian, Hungarian and Italian armies or were used by the German Police and the anti-partisan units. According to the German report from July 18th of 1942, there only 178 PzKpfw 35(t) in service with the German Army.Few PzKpfw 35(t) still in service with the Slovak Army participated in the Slovak national uprising in August of 1944.
PzKpfw 35(t) / Aberdeen
Panzerkampfwagen 35(t) at Aberdeen, USA.
Picture provided by Jon Cuneo, New Hampshire.
Since the introduction of PzKpfw 35(t) into German service, it became a base forfew conversions.In September of 1940, Skoda produced the design for T-13 tank based on LT-35 but it never entered production.In 1941, tests were carried to convert PzKpfw 35(t) into a tropical version but those were never concluded. Also From March of 1942 to 1943, 49 PzKpfw 35(t)s were converted into Morser Zugmittel / Artillerie Schlepper 35(t) – artillery tractors by removing the turret and upper part of the hull and fitting a canvas cover in their place. Some were also mounted with 12000kg towing hook in the rear. Some of them saw service with coastal batteries (e.g. Denmark). In 1939/40, designers tried to utilize LT-35′s chassis as base for Panzerjager 35(t) / 4,7cm Sfl auf PzKpfw 35(t), armed with Skoda 47mm Pak 36(t) L/43 (Skoda 47mm A5 gun) gun. This design never entered production and only two prototypes based on Morser Zugmittel 35(t) were produced and were in service until late 1943. Also some 20 were converted to Befehlswagen 35(t) – command tanks fitted with additional radio equipment. Also few other support or auxiliary vehicles were based on LT-35′s chassis and were produced in limited numbers. Many of the PzKpfw 35(t)’s turrets were used for fixed fortifications on the Danish coast and in Corsica.
T.A.C.A.M (tun anticar pe afet mobil – self-propelled anti-tank gun) Skoda R-2In mid 1943, team directed by Lt.Col. Constantin Ghiulai designed for Romanian Army a self-propelled anti-tank gun designated "T.A.C.A.M Skoda R-2". Prototype was produced from July to September of 1943.Prototype was ready on October 24th of 1943 and was tested at testing grounds at Suditi.On February 12th of 1944, series of 40 vehicles was ordered. Due to technical difficulties only small series (of 20 and 1 prototype) was produced at Leonida & Company factory in Bucharest.
It was armed with captured Soviet ZIS-3 and F-22 UWS 76.2mm L/42 guns based on modified PzKpfw 35(t)/R-2′s design. The gun was mounted in an open (at the top and rear) lightly armored superstructure (made using armor plates from captured vehicles). Superstructure was mounted in the frontal part of the hull (in place of the turret), while other components and characteristics remained unchanged. Only 30 rounds were carried along with number of machine guns for local defence for the crew of three men. Vehicle weighted 11500kg, had a range of 190km on the road and maximum speed of 34km/h. Due to the difficulties with 76.2mm ammunition, Romanians produced their own ammunition "Constinescu" and gunsight I.O.R. The ammunition was effective against Soviet T-34/85 at ranges up to 600 meters.Overall design of T.A.C.A.M was similar to that of the German Marder series along with its high profile and light protection.
Also plans were made to utilize German 88mm Pak 43 L/70 or Romanian 75mm Resita model 1943 gun but those were never realized. In addition, to "T.A.C.A.M Skoda R-2", there was also variant based on captured Soviet T-60 light tank, designated "T.A.C.A.M T-60", of which some 35 were produced in 1943. T.A.C.A.M T-60 tank destroyers saw action against the Red Army in defence of Romania in 1944. Also test were carried to use captured Soviet T-26 and BT tanks.
T.A.C.A.M Skoda R-2 never saw service when Romania was Germany’s ally (before September 23rd of 1944) and only after against the Germansin Romania, Slovakia, Moravia and Austria. Today, one "T.A.C.A.M Skoda R-2" can be seen in the museum in Bucarest, Romania.
In 1940, Hungary purchased two examples and licence from Skoda to produce S-IIc (T-22) medium tank – an improved model of LT-35 light tank.From 1942 to 1944, Hungarians produced Turan I (40M) medium tank, which was a modified version of T-22.It was then followed by Turan II (41M) produced from 1943 to 1944 and prototype of Turan III in 1944.In addition, Zrinyi (40/43M) assault guns based on Turan were produced in 1943.Turan I was armed with 40mm L/51 gun, Turan II with 75mm L/25 gun and Zrinyi with 105mm L/20.5 howitzer. Prototype of Turan III was armed with 75mm L/43 gun, while there were also plans to arm Zrinyi with the same gun. All design were used by the Hungarian Army – Honved.
Hungarian Zrinyi (40/43M) assault gun, 1943.
Overall, Panzerkampfwagen 35(t)s were reliable vehicles and served Panzertruppe very well in the time of need and expansion – 1938-1941. Today, Panzerkampfwagen 35(t)s can be seen in the museums in Belgrade (Serbia), Bucarest (Romania), Sofia (Bulgaria), Aberdeen (USA), while LT vz.35 can be seen in Slovakia.
PzKpfw 35(t) / PzKpfw IV Ausf D
PzKpfw 35(t) and PzKpfw IV Ausf D in France, 1940.
Skoda T 11 / 6-cylinder / 120hp
37mm KwK 34(t) L/40 (Skoda 37mm A3 vz.34)
2 x 7.92mm MG34 or MG35/37(t)
37mm – 72 to 90 rounds
7.92mm – 1800 to 2550 rounds
Front Turret: 25/10
Front Upper Hull: 25/17
Front Lower Hull: 25/30
Side Turret: 15/14
Side Upper Hull: 16/0
Side Lower Hull: 16/0
Rear Turret: 15/15
Rear Upper Hull: 15/60
Rear Lower Hull: 16/0
Turret Top / Bottom: 8/81
Upper Hull Top / Bottom: 8/85
Lower Hull Top / Bottom: 8/90
Gun Mantlet: 25/round
37mm KwK 34(t) L/40
Penetration of Armor Plate at 30 degrees from Vertical.
Pzgr.39 (APCBC) – Armor Piercing Composite Ballistic Cap