Panzerkampfwagen I


Panzerkampfwagen I
Sd. Kfz. 101

Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B
Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B

In 1931, Major-General Oswald Lutz was appointed the "Inspector of Motor Transport" in the German Army (Reichswehr) with Heinz Guderian as his Chief of Staff. Both realized the need for creation of German Armored Forces and light training tank to train future personnel of Panzer Divisions. In 1932, specifications for light (5-ton) tank were made and issued to Rheinmetall, Krupp, Henschel, MAN and Daimler Benz. The designers work was based on experiences from co-operation with Swedish Landsverk Company and previous "secret" projects.

In 1933, the Heereswaffenamt ordered the development of Kleintraktor – an armored vehicle between 4 and 7 tons in weight. It was designated La.S (Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper / LaS – agricultural tractor) to hide its true purpose from the Treaty of Versailles. Rheinmetall, Krupp, Henschel, MAN and Daimler Benz submitted their prototypes which were very similar to each other but Krupp’s design of Krupp-Traktor was selected.

It’s design was partially based on British Carden Loyd Mk.IV tankette chassis of which two were secretly purchased from Russia in 1932. In late 1920s and early 1930s, Germans closely co-operated with Russians in the development of armored vehicles at Kama, near Kazan in USSR. Russia purchased two Carden Loyd Mk.IV tankettes from Great Britain in 1929, and based on its design produced T-27 tankette. Krupp’s design was then once again modified and in the Summer of 1933, five LaS chassis produced were tested at Kummersdorf. It was then decided to mount Krupp’s chassis with Daimler-Benz’s superstructure and turret.

After further tests in February of 1934, improved LKA 1 (LaS) designated as PzKpfw I Ausf A entered production in April of 1934. Originally, Ausf A was known as MG Panzerwagen – Versuchkraftfahrzeug 617, before it entered production as Ausf A. In April, 15 PzKpfw I Ausf A were produced and all were presented to Adolf Hitler by Heinz Guderian.

Panzerkampfwagen I was produced in two main very similar variants Ausf A (1934) and Ausf B (1935), which had different suspensions and engines. Ausf A was produced from July of 1934 to June of 1936 , while Ausf B was produced from August of 1935 to June of 1937. Both were produced by Henschel, MAN, Krupp-Gruson and Daimler-Benz. Ausf A proved to be underpowered and its very loud 57hp Krupp engine overheated and Ausf B with its 100hp Maybach engine was an improved version of Ausf A. Both models had identical turret and superstructure but Ausf B was longer (additional roadwheel) and had new modified engine deck (new engine). Both variants were operated by two men crew – a driver and a commander/gunner. The main armament consisted of two 7.92mm MG13 Dreyse (medium) machine guns with rate of fire of 650 rounds per minute.

In 1935/36, Panzer I Ausf A was experimentally mounted with Krupp M601 diesel engine, but it could only produce 45hp of power, and the idea of diesel powered vehicle was rejected.

Krupp's L.K.A.1 (Leichte Kampfwagen Ausland) export light tank.
Krupp's L.K.A.1 (Leichte Kampfwagen Ausland) export light tank.

In 1935, Krupp started work on Leichte Kampfwagen Ausland light tank destined for export following guidelines by Waffenamt. In 1936, Krupp designed Leichte Kampfwagen Ausland, which was modelled after Panzerkampfwagen I. Two versions were to be produced: L.K.A.1 – M.G.-Kampfwagen (also known as M.G. K.A. / L-10) and L.K.A.2 – 2 cm Kampfwagen (also known as 2 cm K.A. / L-20). Krupp also designed version of L.K.A.2 with heavier armor designated 2 cm K.A.v. but it was decided to base it on medium tank m.K.A. The devopment continued until 1940, including medium tank m.K.A. (also known as 4.5cm K.A.v. / M-10) armed with 45mm KwK L/50 gun. Entire program never reached a production stage and was ended.

In 1935/36, Krupp also produced Leichte Kampfwagen B (L.K.B.) light tank for Bulgaria, which was a modified Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B mounted with Krupp’s M 311 V-8 gasoline engine. Three modified versions – L.K.B. 1, 2 and 3 were produced along with 2 cm L.K.B. armed with 20mm automatic cannon. Just as the L.K.A program, no vehicles reached a production stage and entire program was ended.

Krupp's L.K.A.2 (Leichte Kampfwagen Ausland) export light tank
Krupp's L.K.A.2 (Leichte Kampfwagen Ausland) export light tank

Both Ausf A and Ausf B were also produced as turretless tanks used for training purposes (PzKpfw I Ausf A ohne Aufbau) and as maintenance vehicles (PzKpfw I Ausf B ohne Aufbau). Eventually both vehicles were used as training vehicles.

In 1934, single example of PzKpfw I Ausf A was sold to Hungary. In 1942, Hungary probably purchased few more for training purposes. The most exotic user of PzKpfw I was Chiang Kai-shek’s National Government China, which purchased 15 PzKpfw I Ausf As in late 1936 (along with other German equipment). Also, it is reported that small number was exported to Finland. Possibly, PzKpfw Is also equipped Croatian Army.

Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf A on display in Spain
Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf A on display in Spain

In the background, Italian Carro Veloce 33/35 tankette also used by Spain.
Photo provided by Dionisio Garcia Florez.

Its debut (combat test) was during Spanish Civil War (1936-38). First 32 PzKpfw I along with single Kleiner Panzer Befehlswagen I arrived in October of 1936. Only 106 tanks, (102 Ausf A, Ausf B and 4 Kleiner Panzer Befehlswagen I) saw service with "Condor Legion" (Major Ritter von Thoma’s Panzer Abteilung 88 also known as Abteilung Drohne) and General Franco’s "Nationalists". Pz.Abt.88 with its 3 companies was based at Cubas near Toledo, where German instructors trained future Spanish crews, while the unit was used for training duties and combat (e.g. assault on Madrid). Panzerkampfwagen I tanks proved to be outclassed by Soviet T-26 and BT-5 provided to "The Republicans".

Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B on display in Spain
Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B on display in Spain

Photo provided by Dionisio Garcia Florez.

Some Panzerkampfwagen I captured by "The Republicans" were rearmed with French Hotchkiss 25mm Model 1934 or 1937 anti-tank guns mounted in a modified turret (PzKpfw I Ausf. A mit 20mm Flak L/65 Breda Model 1935). During Spanish Civil War, PzKpfw I Ausf B was experimentally armed with Italian 20mm Breda Modello (model) 1935 light anti-aircraft gun mounted in a modified turret, in order to increase its combat potential. Some sources state that three tanks were converted that way.

PzKpfw I Ausf B armed with 20mm Breda gun Spanish Civil War
PzKpfw I Ausf B armed with 20mm Breda gun Spanish Civil War

 

PzKpfw Is equipped two Nationalist tank battalions (Agrupacion de Carros) – 1st and 2nd Tank Battalion. German High Command used the opportunity of the Spanish Civil War to test their new weapons and tactics of Blitzkrieg. Its very thin armor offered only protection against small firearms and its twin MGs were no match for anything other than infantry units and proved completly useless in combat especially against Soviet light tanks.

By September of 1939, Panzerkampfwagen I was an outdated light tank comparable to machine gun armed tankettes (Polish TK series, Italian L3 series or Soviet T-27), but outclassed by other light tanks – e.g. Polish 7TP, French R-35 or Russian T-26 or BT series. 

From 1942 to 1943, all existing PzKpfw I tanks in service were converted to load carriers mounted with a large steel box in place of an removed turret and superstructure, while some only had the turrets removed. They were used as ammunition carriers and designated as Munitionsschlepper Auf Panzerkampfwagen Ia und Ib (SdKfz.III). They remained in service even after 1943.

 

Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf F heavily armored infantry assault tank
Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf F heavily armored infantry assault tank

The vehicle was sometimes referred to as "Little Tiger".

 

Since late 1938, it was realized that Panzerkampfwagen I did not have any potential as a combat tank and further development of it into a fast reconnaissance and light infantry tank was started. Both Ausf C and Ausf F were completely new designs sharing only limited number of components with standard Panzer I Ausf B. PzKpfw I Ausf C – neuer Art (VK 601) was a fast light reconnaissance tank. It was produced by Krauss-Maffei and Daimler-Benz from late 1942 to early 1943 with only 40(46) being produced. Ausf D – neuer Art verstarkt (VK 602) was an up-armored and improved version of Ausf C produced in limited number. Panzer I Ausf F – neuer Art verstarkt (up-armored new model) (VK 1801) was a heavily armored infantry assault tank. It was produced by Daimler-Benz and Krauss-Maffei from April of 1942 to January of 1943 with only 30 being produced. In May of 1942, 5 Ausf F were issued to 1st Company of Pz.Abt.z.b.V.66 to be used originaly during invasion of Crete (Operation Herkules), but instead were sent to near Leningrad in Russia. In Russia, 1st Company of Pz.Abt.z.b.V.66 was attached to 29th Panzer Regiment of 12th Panzer Division, where they remained in small number till July of 1943. In May of 1943, 5 Ausf F were issued to 2nd Polizei Panzer Company (neu) from Vienna, which was transfered to the Eastern Front. All tanks were lost by August of 1944. In March of 1943, 2 Ausf C and 8 Ausf F were issued to 1st Panzer Regiment of 1st Panzer Division and saw service in Russia, Yugoslavia and Greece to the end of the year. Some 38 PzKpfw I Ausf C were assigned to reserve units of the LVIII Panzer Corps and ended up in Normandy, where they were lost in 1944. Ausf C/D/F never entered full production. Today, PzKpfw I Ausf F from 1st Panzer Division captured in 1943 can be seen in the Museum of Armored Forces in Kubinka (near Moscow) in Russia and second one at the Kalemagdan Fortress in Belgrade, Serbia.

PzKpfw I Ausf F
PzKpfw I Ausf F

In 1939/40, 100 of PzKpfw I Ausf A/B were converted into Ladungsleger I (Ladungsleger auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf A or B / zerstorerpanzer) – 50kg explosive charge layer vehicle. Two variants existed and differed only in the equipment used for the delivery of the charge. They were especially designed for engineer units to provide them with the charge carrier for delayed action explosives and saw combat service during the Blitzkrieg in the West (e.g. with 7th Panzer Division) and then some in Russia.

Ladungsleger I from 7th Panzer Division
Ladungsleger I from 7th Panzer Division

The most interesting conversion based on modified PzKpfw I Ausf A was Flakpanzer I (Sd.Kfz.101) armed with 20mm Flak 38 L/112.5 gun. It was mostlikely based on modified Munitionsschlepper I Ausf A (Sd.Kfz.111) – light ammunition carrier. The gun was mounted on the floor in place of the original turret. The chassis was overloaded and engines were used up leading to poor performance. Approximately, 24 were produced in early 1941 by Alkett in Berlin and all equipped three batteries (each equipped with 8 vehicles) of 614th Flak Abteilung. In addition, each battery had 8 Munitionsschlepper I Ausf A (Sd.Kfz.111) ammunition carriers. Last of those interesting conversions was lost at Stalingrad in January of 1943. Along with Flakpanzer I, there was also PzKpfw I modified and mounted with 15mm MG 151/15 Drilling heavy machine gun. It was captured on the Eastern Front in 1943.  Another similar vehicle mounted with triple 15mm MG/15 set-up was captured in May of 1945 in Germany.

Flakpanzer I, 614th Flak Abteilung, January 1942, Ukraine
Flakpanzer I, 614th Flak Abteilung, January 1942, Ukraine

Panzer I was extensively used in pre-war maneuvers and propaganda events (e.g. Nuremberg Rallies) and then during Polish, Western European and African Campaigns. PzKpfw I was the main tank of the German army during the Polish Campaign and some 1445 were in service (approx. 50% of all tanks in service). PzKpfw Is which were sent to Africa were equipped with larger filters and were equipped with improved ventilation system.

During African campaign, small number of Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf As was converted in the field by Africa Korps (5th Light Division) during Battle of Tobruk in 1941 into Flammenwerfer auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf A (a similar conversion was done to Ausf Bs during Spanish Civil War). It was armed with light portable infantry Flammenwerfer (flamethrower model) 40 and MG (in place of right hand machine gun). Some 10 to 12 bursts could be fired with a range of 25m.

 



Variants of Panzerkampfwagen I (Sd.Kfz.101)
Ausf A
(July 1934 – June 1936)
  • 2 x MG13 Dreyse (7.92mm),
  • 57hp Krupp M305 (Boxer) engine,
  • 4 road wheels & 3 return rollers.

Ausf B
(August 1935 – June 1937)

  • 2 x MG13 Dreyse (7.92mm),
  • 100hp Maybach NL 38 TR engine,
  • 5 road wheels & 4 return rollers.
  • lengthened and redesigned rear hull.

Ausf A/B
(1935-1937)
Befehlswagen/Command Tank

  • 1 x MG13 Dreyse or MG34 (7.92mm),
  • 57hp Krupp M305 (Boxer) engine – Ausf A,
  • 100hp Maybach NL 38 TR engine – Ausf B,
  • 4 road wheels & 3 return rollers – Ausf A,
  • 5 road wheels & 4 return rollers – Ausf B.

Ausf C (nA)
(July 1942 – December 1942)

  • 20mm EW141 gun / MG34 (7.92mm)
  • 150hp Maybach HL 45 P engine,
  • fast reconnaissance tank,
  • airborne tank (Messerschmitt ME 321 Gigant).

Ausf D (nA verst)
(1942-1943)

  • 20mm EW141 gun / MG34 (7.92mm)
  • 180hp Maybach HL 66 P engine,
  • up-armored fast reconnaissance / infantry support tank.

Ausf F (nA verst)
(April 1942 – January 1943)

  • 2 x MG34 (7.92mm)
  • 150hp Maybach HL 45 P engine,
  • up-armored fast reconnaissance / infantry support / assault tank.

 


 

Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf C
Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf C

Panzerkampfwagen I was a little tank that was designed as light training tank for the pre-war Panzer Divisions never intended to be be used in combat conditions but was used as a light combat tank until 1942. It was cheap, fast and maneuverable but its armor and armament were both very weak, because of its original design capabilities. It was Germany’s first mass produced armored fighting vehicle. In the early 1942, Panzerkampfwagen Is were taken out of service and were handed over to the Police and Anti-partisan units. Panzer Is without superstructures were handed over to para-military organizations such as NSKK (National Socialist Motor Corps) for training purposes. 511 of PzKpfw I turrets were used in fortifications of Atlantic Wall, Pomeranian Wall and in the Kostrzyn area.

PzKpfw I was also a propaganda tool being everywhere from military parade through NSDAP rally to celebration of any kind. It was a show piece of the Third Reich and its military might in the years leading to beginning of WWII.

Lesson learned from Panzerkampfwagen I provided the German designers and manufacturers with valuable experience in designing and producing next generation of new panzers that were soon to come. Although, Panzerkampfwagen I was not truly valuable combat tank, it proved to be an excellent training tank and most of the panzer crews were trained on Panzerkampfwagen I until the end of the war or operated it in combat as their first armoured vehicle.

 

Model: Production Period: Number of PzKpfw I Produced:
Ausf A 1934-1936
818
Ausf B 1935-1937
675
Ausf C (VK 601) 1942-1943
40
Ausf D (VK 602) 1942-1943
prototype stage
Ausf F (VK 1801) 1942-1943
30




Panzer-Befehlswagen I Ausf B
Panzer-Befehlswagen I Ausf B

Kleiner Panzer Befehlswagen I (Sd.Kfz.265)

This small/light command vehicle was conceived in 1935 by Krupp and was based on Panzer I Ausf B chassis (only 6 were based on Panzer I Ausf A chassis / 1 Kl A / and differed from those based on Ausf B – e.g. lack of armament) and components. From 1935 to 1937 by Daimler-Benz with total number of 190 produced. Two slightly different versions based on Ausf B were produced – 2 Kl B and 3 Kl B, both mounted with two radios – Fu2 and Fu6. They were operated by three men crews. Versions based on Ausf B were later fitted with commander’s cupolas – two types early and late. After the Polish Campaign of 1939, some number was converted to Sanitatskraftwagen I (Sd.Kfz.265) – armoured ambulance, which served in the French Campaign of 1940. Also after the Polish Campaign overall armor protection was increased. Kleiner Panzer Befehlswagen I remained in service until 1941/42, when it was replaced by other command vehicles. Some were also used as radio control vehicles for Minenraeum-Wagen BI/BII (Sd.Kfz.300). Small number was also exported to Hungary. Today, Kleiner Panzer Befehlswagen I can be seen in The Tank Museum in Bovington, UK.

Panzer-Befehlswagen I Ausf B – Gallery



Panzerjager I (Sd.Kfz.101)(4.7cm PaK(t) (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B)
Panzerjager I (Sd.Kfz.101)(4.7cm PaK(t) (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B)

It was armed with Czech 47mm Pak(t) 36 L/43.4 (Skoda 47mm A-5 P.U.V vz.36 gun), operated by the crew of three and build on PzKpfw I Ausf B’s chassis. Crew was protected only by a gun shield, open at the top and rear. The gun had limited traverse of 15 degrees. 86 rounds of ammunition were carried. Originally, it was intended to use 50mm Pak 38 gun but it was not yet ready for production. From March 1940 to February 1941, 202 were converted by Daimler-Benz, Skoda and Alkett. 132 were produced in three series (40, 50 and 42) from March to May of 1940 by Alkett, followed by 70 produced by February of 1941 by Skoda. Two versions can be distinguished by the number of sides of the gun shield. Those produced by Skoda had seven sides and by Alkett five sides. Small number was also armed with 37mm Pak 35/36 L/45 (with original gun shield) guns mounted directly on the hull in place of a removed turret. They proved inefective and rapidly disappeared because of their inadequate fire power, although some remained in service as late as 1943. Panzerjager I saw service in the West, North Africa and Russia with Panzerjager Abteilungs (e.g. 521st, 605th, 616th, 643rd and 670th Panzerjaeger Abteilung in France, 1940). It is reported that few were armed with 50mm PaK 38 L/60 guns after 1940, but it is not confirmed. It was the first of many self-propelled anti-tank vehicles produced during the war.



Sturmpanzer I Bison (Sd.Kfz.101)
Sturmpanzer I Bison (Sd.Kfz.101)

(15cm sIG33(Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B)

150mm sIG 33 L/11.4 heavy infantry gun (mortar) carrier was built on the unmodified chassis of PzKpfw I Ausf B. The vehicle was operated by the crew of five and only three rounds of high-explosive ammunition were carried. Only 3 crewmen rode in the vehicle, while the other two along with more ammunition rode in a halftrack. Crew was protected only by a large box-shaped gun shield (made up of three 10mm plates), open at the top and rear. Only 38 were converted in January/February of 1940 by Alkett in Berlin. The gun and superstructure overloaded the chassis leading to poor mobility. The idea behind this vehicle was to provide infantry with direct and mobile fire support unit. Sturmpanzer I saw service in the West, Balkans and Russia with 701-706 sIG(Sf) Kompanien – Heavy Infantry Gun Companies (each had 6 vehicles), originally attached to Panzer Divisions and then Panzer Corps. Last of them were taken out from service (with 704 Company of 5th Panzer Division) in late 1943. It was the first of many self-propelled support vehicles produced during the war.


Specifications

Model: Ausfuhrung A Ausfuhrung B
Weight: 5300kg 5900kg
Crew: 2 men 2 men
Engine: Krupp M305 (Boxer) / 4-cylinder / 57hp Maybach NL38TR / 6-cylinder / 100hp
Speed: 37km/h 40km/h
Range: Road: 145km / Cross-Country: 100km Road: 170km / Cross-Country: 115km
Fuel Capacity: 144 litres 146 litres
Lenght: 4.02m 4.42m
Width: 2.06m 2.06m
Height: 1.72m 1.72m
Armament: 2 x MG13 Dreyse (7.92mm) 2 x MG13 Dreyse (7.92mm)
Ammo: 2250 rounds 2250 rounds
Armor (mm/angle): Front Turret: 13/10
Front Upper Hull: 13/22
Front Lower Hull: 13/27
Side Turret: 13/22
Side Upper Hull: 13/22
Side Lower Hull: 13/0
Rear Turret: 13/22
Rear Upper Hull: 13/17
Rear Lower Hull: 13/15
Turret Top / Bottom: 8/82
Upper Hull Top / Bottom: 6/82
Lower Hull Top / Bottom: 6/90
Gun Mantlet: 13/round
Front Turret: 13/10
Front Upper Hull: 13/22
Front Lower Hull: 13/27
Side Turret: 13/22
Side Upper Hull: 13/22
Side Lower Hull: 13/0
Rear Turret: 13/22
Rear Upper Hull: 13/0
Rear Lower Hull: 13/19
Turret Top / Bottom: 8/82
Upper Hull Top / Bottom: 6/83
Lower Hull Top / Bottom: 6/90
Gun Mantlet: 13/round

 

Conversions

  • Munitionsschlepper I Ausf A (Sd.Kfz.111) – light ammunition carrier,
  • Munitionsschlepper I Ausf A/B – cargo/ammunition carrier,
  • Kleine Panzer Befehlswagen I (Sd.Kfz.265) – light command tank,
  • Sanitatskraftwagen I (Sd.Kfz.265) – armoured ambulance,
  • Pionier-Kampfwagen I – engineer tank,
  • Panzerjager I (Sd.Kfz.101) – 47mm Pak gun carrier,
  • Panzerjager I – 37mm Pak gun carrier,
  • Sturmpanzer I Bison (Sd.Kfz.101) – 150mm sIG 33 gun carrier,
  • Leichte Bergepanzer I – light recovery vehicle,
  • Instandsetzungstrupp I – troop carrier / recovery vehicle,
  • Fahreschulewagen / Schulfahrzeuge I – training tank,
  • Ladungsleger auf PzKpfw I Ausf A/B (zerstorerpanzer) – explosive charge layer,
  • Minenraumer I Ausf B – mine clearing vehicle (50 produced in 1938),
  • Brueckenleger I auf PzKpfw I Ausf A – light bridging vehicle (2 produced in 1939),
  • Flakpanzer I Ausf A (Sd.Kfz.101) – 20mm Flak 38 anti-aircraft tank,
  • Flammemwerfer auf PzKpfw I Ausf A – flamethrower tank,

     


     

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    George Parada
    Copyright@1996-2007


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