Panzerkampfwagen 38(t)


Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) Sd.Kfz.140

PzKpfw 38(t)
PzKpfw 38(t)

LT vz.38 / Skoda 38(t) / Panzerkampfwagen III(t)

The LT(Light Tank) vz.(model) 38 was destined to become one of the most widely used Czechoslovak tanks, although not in Czechoslovak hands.

Ordered into production in 1938, the LT-38 drew on the experience from earlier LT-35 and became the most successful product of the Czechoslovak industry.  LT-38 was to be the replacement for the LT-35, which was produced by CKD together with Skoda.  CKD hoped that the LT-38 would be adopted by the Czechoslovak army as well as it could be exported to various countries.

LT-38 in different variants was exported to many countries and gained an excellent reputation among its foreign users such as Sweden (THN Sv), Iran / Persia (TNH), Peru (LTP), Switzerland (LTH – Pz39) and Lithuania (LTL).  As a result, LTP tanks assigned to the Army Tank Detachment were used in Ecuadorian-Peruvian War in July of 1941.

On March 23rd of 1939, CKD (Ceskomoravska Kolben Danek) delivered single LT-38 tanks to the Royal Armored Corps’ Gunnery School at Lulworth for demonstration with hopes of selling tanks to RAC. The demonstration was concluded with a report that stated the following "On the whole the machine is almost equivalent to our cruiser tanks, but little experience or experiment has gone into the design of the fighting compartment and performance has been obtained at the expense of the crew and general fight-ability." The report largely critisized LT-38 and RAC did not purchase any tanks from CKD.

PzKpfw 38(t)
PzKpfw 38(t)

PzKpfw 38(t) during training exercises.
Commander is wearing early panzer black beret – Schutzmutze, which in January of 1941 was replaced by normal black field cap – Feldmutze.

The 1938/39, German take-over of the Czechoslovak state resulted that in March of 1939, 150 of LT-38s in production were confiscated and CKD/Praga was ordered to complete them all. All of them were incorporated into the German Army as PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf A – Sd.Kfz.140. After the German take-over of the Czechoslovakia, the LT-38 became one of the most important tanks used by the Panzertruppe and was retained in production as a tank until June of 1942.   The addition of "free" tanks provided the Panzertruppe with badly needed additional equipment in the period shortly before and in the early stages of World War II.  Eventually, the proven LT-38, became base for various conversions including the Hetzer tank destroyer.  As the war progressed, the Czech industry proved to be a vital part of the German war economy. 

During the war, PzKpfw 38(t) were exported and saw service with German Allies including: Romania (50), Slovakia (90), Bulgaria (10) and Hungary (102).PzKpfw 38(t) also saw service with the Allies. Single tank was captured by British and French in May / June 1940, another example (turret number 543) was captured either during the Italian Campaign in 1943 or Normandy in 1944 and was tested in England.Numbers of PzKpfw 38(t)s were captured and pressed into service by the Red Army.Number of PzKpfw 38(t) in service with the Slovak Army participated in the Slovak national uprising in August of 1944.Finally, in May of 1945, PzKpfw 38(t) now known as LT-38/37 (37 standing for 37mm gun) was back in service with the Czechoslovak Army as a training tank until early 1950s.

PzKpfw 38(t)
PzKpfw 38(t)

PzKpfw 38(t)from 20th Panzer Division being
inspected by Soviet tankers near Smolensk in July of 1941.
Photo provided by Dmitry Pyatakhin.

Model: Production Period: Number Produced:
Ausf A May – November 1939 150
Ausf B/C/D January – November 1940 110/110/105
Ausf E/F November 1940 – October 1941 275/250
Ausf S May – December 1941 90
Ausf G October 1941 – June 1942 321

Note: Additional 179 Ausf G chassis were produced but were not completed as tanks.

PzKpfw 38(t)
PzKpfw 38(t)

Approximately 1400 PzKpfw 38(t)s were produced in 8 different variants (Ausf A/B/C/D/E/F/S/G) with various modifications, improved armor protection and armed with Czech made 37mm Skoda A7 vz.38 guns designated by the Germans as 37mm KwK 38(t) L/48 (L/47.8). It is interesting to point that Ausf S were vehicles purchased by Sweden but impounded by the Germans in Spring of 1940. Instead, Germans granted Scania-Vabis licence and production rights, who in turn produced Strv m/41. Early models’ construction was riveted (and direct hit on its armor plate could torn rivet heads off and kill or wound the crew), while later models’ construction was largely welded.Later on, earlier models were up-armored and few were possibly rearmed with German made 37mm KwK 35/36 L/46.5 guns but it is unconfirmed.

Number was also converted to flamerthrower tanks by replacing the hull machine gun with a flamethrower, while fuel was supplied from a towed single-axle trailer carrying 200 liters of fuel by a hose. There was also PzKpfw 38(t) swimming tank with a prototype AP-1 float but it never entered production.

Further production of PzKpfw 38(t)’s chassis continued with improved models of Ausf H/K/L/M, which were used as a base for various vehicles (such as Marder III Ausf H/M, Bison/Grille Ausf H/K/M and Hetzer). In addition, older models returned for repairs were often also used as a base for a conversion.

PzKpfw 38(t)s were built under German supervision and they saw extensive service in Poland (3rd Leichte Division), Norway (XXXI Armee Korps), France (6th, 7th and 8th Panzer Division), Balkans (8th Panzer Division) and Russia (6th, 7th, 8th, 12th, 19th and 20th Panzer Division). During the fighting in Russia, the need for heavier armour and armament made PzKpfw 38(t) inadequate and in 1942, it was relegated to other duties (e.g. reconnaissance and service in armored trains).

PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf E/F
PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf E/F

PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf E/F

In September of 1939, plans were laid for the development of a fast/light reconnaissance tank and in early 1942, 15 PzKpfw 38(t) nA (neuer Art) were produced by BMM (Praga/CKD) but its design was not accepted for production. In 1942, the usual German process of adapting the chassis for other purposes commenced such as Marder III and Flakpanzer 38(t). In 1942 and 1943, number of PzKpfw 38(t) had their turrets removed and were converted to driver training vehicle that late in the war were mounted with wood burning generators. Training vehicles based on turretless tanks were designated as PzKpfw 38(t) Schulfahrwanne and were used by school units of the Wehrmacht and NSKK.Some 351 PzKpfw 38(t)’s turrets were used for German fortification in Norway (75), Denmark (20), Western Atlantic shore (9), Italy (25), Southwest Europe (150) and Eastern Europe / Front (78).

Aufklärungspanzer 38(t)
Aufklärungspanzer 38(t)

Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) mit 2cm KwK38.

One of the most interesting conversions was Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) – Sd.Kfz.141/1. They were used as reconnaissance vehicles fitted with "Hangelafette" turret (20mm KwK 38 L/55 gun and MG42 – used in armored cars) or armed with 75mm KwK 37 L/24 (and MG42) gun mounted in the modified superstructure. Only 50 to 70 Aufklarungspanzer 38(t) armed with 20mm gun were built from late 1943 to early 1944 and only 2 Aufklarungspanzer 38(t) armed with 75mm gun were built in 1944.

Aufklärungspanzer 38(t)
Aufklärungspanzer 38(t)

Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) mit 7.5cm KwK37 L/24.
Photo provided by Dmitry Pyatakhin.

Interesting proposal was made by Krupp to mount Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) with Panzerkampfwagen IV‘s turret,but it proved to be impossible to carry out.German designers also started the development of their own improved version of Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) chassis designated PzKpfw 38(d) but only prototype stage was reached. German design had wider hull and was powered by 210hp Tatra 12-cylinder Diesel engine. It was to be used as a base for various vehicles including those of the E-Series.

Overall, the most successful design built on the base of PzKpfw 38(t) was Jagdpanzer 38 Hetzer (tank destroyer).

Flakpanzer 38(t) (Sd.Kfz. 140)
Flakpanzer 38(t) (Sd.Kfz. 140)

Flakpanzer 38(t) Ausf L Gepard / Sd.Kfz. 140
(Panzerkampfwagen 38 fur 2cm Flak 38)

On October 15th of 1943, Adolf Hitler agreed to produce Gepard, an "interim solution" Flakpanzer before the introduction of a real Flakpanzer based on PzKpfw IV‘s chassis. It was armed with single 20mm Flak 30 or 20mm Flak 38 L/112.5 gun (with 1040 rounds of ammo) and was build on PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf L/M’s proven chassis. Their armament and armor protection proved to be inadequate and from November of 1943 to February of 1944, only 141 were produced by BMM (Praga/CKD) from the original order for 150. First 87 Gepards reached frontline units in January of 1944 and were issued to Flugabwehrzug (AA platoons) units of Panzer and Panzer Grenadier Divisions (mainly Waffen SS – e.g. 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitlerjugend" in Normandy, 1944). Only nine Gepards were in service as of December 1st of 1944.

15cm Schweres Infanteriegeschuetz 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) Ausf H
(Sd.Kfz.138/1) / Grille

From February to April of 1943, BMM produced 91 15cm Schweres Infanteriegeschuetz 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) Ausf Hself-propelled heavy infantry guns on PzKpfw 38(t) chassis. Vehicles were issued to heavy infantry gun units of Panzergrenadier and Panzer Divisions. Six vehicles were in each gun detachment.

15cm Schweres Infanteriegeschuetz 33/1 auf Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) Ausf K/M
Sd.Kfz.138/1 / Grille

282 15cm Schweres Infanteriegeschuetz 33/1 auf Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) Ausf K/M self-propelled heavy infantry guns on PzKpfw 38(t) chassiswere produced by BMM from April to June of 1943 and from October 1943 to September of 1944. They issued just asAusf H vehicles to heavy infantry gun units of Panzergrenadier and Panzer Divisions. From January to May of 1944, 102 ammunitioncarriers based on Ausf K/M were produced by BMM. They were simply unarmed self-propelled heavy infantry guns with ammunition racksinstead of the main gun. They could be simply converted into self-propelled heavy infantry guns if needed and were issued to Grille units.Ammunition carriers were designated as Munitionspanzer 38(t) (Sf) Ausf K/M (Sd. Kfz. 138).

Specifications

Model: Ausfuhrung A Ausfuhrung G
Weight: 9400kg 9850kg
Crew: 4 men 4 men
Engine: Praga EPA / 6-cylinder / 125hp Praga EPA / 6-cylinder / 125hp
Speed: Road 42km/h
Cross-Country 15km/h
Road 42km/h
Cross-Country 15km/h
Range: Road 250km
Cross-Country 160km
Road 250km
Cross-Country 160km
Lenght: 4.60m 4.61m
Width: 2.12m 2.14m
Height: 2.40m 2.40m
Armament: 37mm KwK 38(t) L/47.8
2 x 7.92mm MG37(t)
37mm KwK 38(t) L/47.8
2 x 7.92mm MG37(t)
Ammo: 37mm – 72 rounds
7.92mm – 2400 rounds
37mm – 42 rounds
7.92mm – 2400 rounds
Armor (mm/angle): Front Turret: 25/10
Front Upper Hull: 25/17
Front Lower Hull: 25/16
Side Turret: 15/10
Side Upper Hull: 15/0
Side Lower Hull: 15/0
Rear Turret: 15/10
Rear Upper Hull: 10/60
Rear Lower Hull: 15/12
Turret Top / Bottom: 10/90
Upper Hull Top / Bottom: 8/90
Lower Hull Top / Bottom: 8/90
Gun Mantlet: 25/round
Front Turret: 50/10
Front Upper Hull: 50/17
Front Lower Hull: 50/16
Side Turret: 30/10
Side Upper Hull: 15+15/0
Side Lower Hull: 15/0
Rear Turret: 22/10
Rear Upper Hull: 10/
Rear Lower Hull: 15/12
Turret Top / Bottom: 15/90
Upper Hull Top / Bottom: 8/90
Lower Hull Top / Bottom: 8/90
Gun Mantlet: 25/round

 

37mm KwK 38(t) L/47.8
Penetration of Armor Plate at 30 degrees from Vertical.
Ammunition: 100m 500m 1000m 1500m 2000m
Panzergranate 39 41mm 35mm 29mm 24mm 0mm
Panzergranate 40 64mm 34mm 0mm 0mm 0mm
 
 
Pzgr.39 (APCBC) – Armor Piercing Composite Ballistic Cap
Pzgr.40 (APCR) – Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (Tungsten Core)

Conversions

 

 

  • Grille Ausf. H/K/M – 15cm s.IG. (Sd. Kfz. 138/1),
  • Munitionspanzer 38(t) (Sf) Ausf K/M (Sd. Kfz. 138) – ammunition carrier,
  • Schutzenpanzerwagen 38(t) Ausf M – armored personnel carrier (planned),
  • Marder III (Sd. Kfz. 139) – 76.2mm Pak 36 (russian) gun,
  • Marder III Ausf. H/K/M (Sd. Kfz. 138) 75mm Pak 40 gun,
  • Befehlswagen 38(t) – command tank,
  • Munitionsschlepper 38(t) – ammo carrier,
  • Panzerjäger 38(t) / Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer,
  • PzKpfw 38(t) nA – fast/light reconnaissance tank,
  • Morsertrager 38(t) Ausf M – mortar/ammunition carrier (prototype),
  • Flakpanzer 38(t) Gepard – (Sd. Kfz. 140),
  • Bergepanzer 38(t) – light recovery vehicle,
  • Leichter Raupenschlepper Praga T-3 – light tractor / troop carrier,
  • Schwerer Raupenschlepper Praga T-9 – heavy tractor / troop carrier,
  • Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) – (Sd. Kfz. 140/1) reconnaissance vehicle,
  • Flammpanzer 38(t),
  •  


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