Panzer 38(t)

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Panzerkampfwagen 38(t)
Panzer 38(t) Ausf. S.jpg
Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) Ausf. S
Type Medium tank
Place of origin  Czechoslovakia
Service history
In service 1939–1945 (Nazi Germany)
Used by  Nazi Germany
 Romania
 Kingdom of Bulgaria
Hungary Hungary
Slovakia Slovak Republic
 Sweden
  Switzerland
 Peru
Iran
Wars World War II
Ecuadorian–Peruvian War
Production history
Designer ČKD
Manufacturer ČKD
Produced 1939–1942
Number built 1,414 (for Germany)
Specifications
Weight 9.725–9.85 tonnes (9.571–9.694 long tons; 10.720–10.858 short tons)
Length 4.61 metres (15.1 ft)
Width 2.135 metres (7.00 ft)
Height 2.252 metres (7.39 ft) (overall)
Crew 4

Armor 8–30 mm Ausf. A–D
8–50 mm Ausf. E–G
Main
armament
1x 3.7 cm KwK 38(t) L/47.8
Secondary
armament
2x 7.92 mm ZB-53 (MG 37(t)) machine gun
Engine Praga Typ TNHPS/II water-cooled, 6-cylinder gasoline
125 PS (123.3 hp, 91.9 kW)
Power/weight 13.15 PS/tonne
Transmission 5 + 1 Praga-Wilson Typ CV
Suspension leaf spring
Ground clearance 40 centimetres (16 in)
Fuel capacity 220 litres (58 US gal)
Operational
range
250 kilometres (160 mi) (road)
100 kilometres (62 mi) (cross-country)
Speed 42 km/h, 26.1 mph (road)
15 km/h (off-road)

The Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) was originally a Czech tank of pre-World War II design. After Czechoslovakia was taken over by Germany, it was adopted by the German Army, seeing service in the invasions of Poland, France and Russia. Production ended in 1942, when its armament was deemed inadequate. In all, over 1400 were manufactured. The chassis continued to be produced for Marder III (1942-1944) and Hetzer (1944-1945) tank destroyers, turretless assault guns, anti-tank guns and anti-aircraft guns.

The (t) stands for tschechisch, the German word for Czech; the Czechoslovak military designation was LT vz. 38. Manufacturer's designations included TNH series, TNHPS, LTP and LTH. The special vehicle designation for the tank in Germany was Sd. Kfz. 140.

Description[edit]

The Panzer 38(t) was a conventional pre-World War II tank design, with riveted armour and rear engine. The riveted armour was mostly not sloped, and varied in thickness from 10 mm to 25 mm in most versions. Later models (Ausf. E on) increased this to 50 mm by bolting on an additional 25 mm armour to the front. Side armours received additional 15 mm armour from Ausf. E onward.

The two-man turret was centrally located, and housed the tank's main armament, a 37 mm Skoda A7 gun with 90 rounds stored on board. It was equipped with a 7.92 mm machine gun to the right of the main ordnance. This turret machine gun was in a separate ball mount rather than a fixed coaxial mount. This meant the machine gun could be trained on targets independently. Alternatively, the commander/gunner could couple the machine gun internally to the main gun and use it as a coaxial machine gun. The driver was in the front right of the hull, with the bow machine-gunner seated to the left, manning the 7.92 mm machine gun. As with many 1930s tanks, the bow gunner was also the radio operator. The radio was mounted on the left of the bow gunner.

Minor adjustments, such as adjustable seats for the driver and firmer footing for the commander/gunner and loader, were provided in German service. A total of 2,550 rounds were carried for the bow and turret machine guns. The driver could also fire the hull machine gun with a trigger fitted on the left tiller bar.

In German service, a loader position was added to the turret by reducing ammunition capacity by 18 rounds. All future Panzer 38(t) tanks were rebuilt according to this specification and those already in service were modified accordingly. The commander had to aim and fire the main gun.

The engine was mounted in the rear of the hull and drove the tank through a transmission with five forward gears and one reverse gear to forward drive sprockets. The track ran under four rubber-tired road wheels and back over a rear idler and two track return rollers. The wheels were mounted on a leaf-spring double-bogie mounted on two axles. Despite the large wheel size, the tank did not use a Christie suspension.

Development[edit]

In 1935, the Czechoslovak tank manufacturer ČKD was looking for a replacement for the LT-35 tank they were jointly producing with Škoda Works. The LT-35 was complex and had shortcomings, and ČKD felt there would be orders both from the expanding Czechoslovak army and for export.

ČKD decided to use a suspension with four large wheels for their new tank. It resembled the Christie suspension outwardly, but was actually a conventional leaf spring unit. The resulting vehicle was reliable, and an export success: 50 were exported to Iran, 24 each to Peru and Switzerland. Lithuania also ordered some. The British Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) had one trial model delivered on March 23, 1939 to Gunnery School at Lulworth. A report stated, the "(bow) gunner could not sit back comfortably as the wireless set was in the way of his left shoulder." The report also stated that due to the shudder while the vehicle was on the move, it was impossible to lay the gun. Even at the speed of 5 mph accuracy was poor. As a result, the RAC did not purchase the Panzer 38(t) and the trial model was returned.

On July 1, 1938, Czechoslovakia ordered 150 of the TNHPS model, although none had entered service by the time of the German occupation. After the German takeover, Germany ordered continued production of the model, as it was considered an excellent tank, especially compared to the Panzer I and Panzer II tanks that were the Panzerwaffe's main tanks. It was first introduced into German service under the name LTM 38; this was changed on 16 January 1940 to Panzerkampfwagen 38(t). Production of tanks for Germany continued into 1942, and amounted to more than 1,400 examples. Examples were also sold to a number of German allies, including Hungary (102), Slovakia (69), Romania (50), and Bulgaria (10). In German service the 38(t) was used as a substitute for the Panzer III.

The main advantages of the Panzer 38(t), compared to other tanks of the day, were a very high reliability and sustained mobility. In one documented case a regiment was supplied with tanks driven straight from the factory in 2.5 days instead of the anticipated week, without any mechanical breakdowns (in: History of the 25 Panzer Regiment of the 7 Panzerdivision). In the opinion of the crews, the drive components of the 38(t), engine, gear, steering, suspension, wheels and tracks were perfectly in tune with each other. The 38(t) was also considered to be very easy to maintain and repair.[1]

The Panzer 38(t) was manufactured until June 1942. The small turret was incapable of taking a weapon big enough to destroy late-war tanks such as T-34, and manufacturing of the tank version ceased. However, the chassis were used for Marder III tank destroyer from 1942-1944. About 1500 Marder III models were produced, which is more than 1400 Panzer 38(t) produced. After Marder III, Jagdpanzer 38(t) was produced based on altered Panzer 38(t) chassis with approximately 2800 produced. Chassis for Panzer 38(t) was the basis for small number of anti-aircraft guns as well.

The Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) - Sd.Kfz.141/1 was a reconnaissance version fitted with a "Hängelafette" turret (20 mm KwK 38 L/55 gun and a coaxial MG 42 - adapted from Sd. Kfz. 222 armoured car) or armed with 75 mm KwK 37 L/24 (and MG 42) gun mounted in the modified superstructure. Seventy Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) with 20 mm gun were built in February and March 1944 and only 2 Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) with 75 mm gun were built in 1944.

Swedish production[edit]

Stridsvagn m/41 SII

Since the 90 PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf. S built for Sweden to be delivered in March 1940 was confiscated with the invasion of Czechoslovakia, negotiations with Böhmisch-Mährische-Maschinenfabrik for the blue-prints needed for license production commenced and an agreement was reached in end of 1940 including the upgrades for the TNHP-S. The riveted construction was seen as a drawback, but since redrawing the blueprints for a welded construction was estimated delay production by almost a year,[2] so no changes were made to the 116 m/41 ordered from Scania-Vabis in June 1941. Deliveries started December 1942 and were completed August 1943, no less than three years behind the original plan. While clearly outdated, the need for a 10-ton light tank was so pressing another order was placed in mid 1942. Since Scania-Vabis had reached the production ceiling, the 122 tanks had to be complemented by some 80 strv m/40. The second batch had the frontal armour upgraded to 50 mm bringing the weight to 11 tonnes, and to deal with the increased weight the 145 hp Scania-Vabis typ 1664 was replaced by a stronger 160 hp Scania-Vabis typ 603. Due to the larger size, the hull had to be made 65 mm longer causing a wider gap between the second and third roadwheel. This enabled the fueltanks to be upgraded from 190 litres to 230 litres. Only 104 got delivered when production ended in March 1944, as the last 18 chassis were built as assault gun sav m/43 instead. Another 18 sav m/43 was purpose built. In the end of the 1950s, a total of 220 SI & SII were converted to armoured personnel carriers and the turrets[3] used for airbase defences.[4]

Variants[edit]

An LTH
  • TNHP Initial export version to Iran (50 ordered in 1935) (Iran was the first customer)
  • LTP export version to Peru
  • LTH export version to Switzerland (24 without weapons)
  • LTL export version to Lithuania (21 ordered)
  • LT vz. 38 Czechoslovak Army designation (none entered service)
  • PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf. A-D TNH tank in German manufacture
  • PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf. E-G Pz 38(t) with frontal armour increased to 50 mm by bolting on an additional 25 mm armour
  • PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf. S 90 TNH ordered by Sweden in February 1940 but seized by Germany
  • Stridsvagn m/41 S(eries)I, Swedish license-built TNH version as compensation for the seized Ausf. S tanks. 116 produced.
  • Stridsvagn m/41 S(eries)II, Strv m/41 with upgraded armour and stronger engine. 104 produced.

Designs based on chassis[edit]

  • SdKfz 138 Marder III carried German 75 mm gun in open-top superstructure
  • SdKfz 139 Marder III carried Soviet 76.2 mm gun in open-top superstructure
  • SdKfz 138/1 Grille carried German 150 mm infantry gun; also munition variant which carried ammunition
  • SdKfz 140 Flakpanzer 38(t) carried a 20 mm anti-aircraft gun
  • SdKfz 140/1Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) mit 2 cm KwK 38 reconnaissance tank with 20 mm turret from a SdKfz.222 armoured car (70 built)
  • SdKfz 140/1Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) mit 7.5 cm KwK37 L/24 75 mm gun mounted in a modified superstructure (only two built)
  • Jagdpanzer 38(t) (unofficially known as the Hetzer) a tank destroyer carrying a 75 mm L/48 anti-tank gun
  • G-13 Swiss designation for postwar-built Jagdpanzer 38(t) sold by Czechoslovakia
  • Nahkampfkanone 1 Swiss built tank destroyer, similar to Marder III, only one built.[5]
  • Pansarbandvagn 301, 220 Stridsvagn m/41 (SI and SII) rebuilt to armoured personnel carriers.
  • Stormartillerivagn m/43, assault gun based on the m/41 SII chassis. 36 produced.

Operational history[edit]

Germany[edit]

Panzer 38(t), France, June 1940

The Panzer 38(t) performed well in the Polish Campaign in 1939 and the Battle of France in 1940. It was better armed than the Panzer I and Panzer II tanks. It was on par with most light tank designs of the era, although it was unable to effectively engage the frontal armour of medium, heavy and infantry tank designs.

It was also used in the German invasion of the Soviet Union from 1941 onwards in German and Hungarian units, but was outclassed by Soviet tanks such as the T-34. Some ex-German units were issued to the Romanians in 1943, after the loss of many of the Romanian R-2 tanks. By then, it had become largely obsolete, though the chassis was adapted to a variety of different roles with success. Notable variations include the SdKfz 138 Marder III mobile anti-tank gun, the SdKfz 138/1 Grille mobile howitzer, Flakpanzer 38(t) and the Jagdpanzer 38(t) "Hetzer" tank destroyer. Small numbers were also used for reconnaissance, training and security duties, such as deployment on armoured trains.

Panzer 38(t), Soviet Union, June 1941

The well-known German tank commander Otto Carius, who was credited with over 150 'kills' described the following action in a 38(t) in July 8, 1941:

It happened like greased lightning. A hit against our tank, a metallic crack, the scream of a comrade, and that was all there was! A large piece of armour plating had been penetrated next to the radio operator's seat. No one had to tell us to get out. Not until I had run my hand across my face while crawling in the ditch next to the road did I discover that they had also got me. Our radio operator had lost his left arm. We cursed the brittle and inelastic Czech steel that gave the Russian 47mm anti-tank gun so little trouble. The pieces of our own armour plating and assembly bolts caused considerably more damage than the shrapnel of the round itself.[6]

In contrast, these are his words about the German made armour:

"Again and again, we admired the quality of the steel on our tanks. It was hard without being brittle. Despite its hardness, it was also elastic. If an anti-tank round didn't hit the armour dead on, it slid off on its side and left behind a gouge as if you had run your finger over a soft piece of butter."

Above report highlights the reason why 38(t) was pulled out of front lines in favour of heavier Panzer III, IV and StuG IIIs. Panzer 38(t) continued to serve after 1941 as a reconnaissance vehicle and in anti-partisan units for some time. Several captured examples were refitted with Soviet DTM machineguns and employed by the Red Army.

Reliable running gears and chassis proved useful throughout the conflict. At the start of Operation Barbarossa, the Germans found Russian T-34 tanks to be superior, as the German 37mm Pak36 anti-tank gun proved incapable of penetrating the T-34's armour. To neutralize the Russian T-34, the Germans mounted a captured Russian 76.2mm field gun on the chassis of the 38(t) model as a stop-gap measure and called it the "Marder III". Initially, the Marder III was nothing more than a 38(t) with a Russian 76-mm divisional gun M1936 (F-22) in place of a turret, with the breech modified to take German ammunition. Because of this arrangement, crews of early Marder III models fought exposed on top of the 38(t)'s engine deck, behind where the turret used to be. Continuous efforts to provide Marder III crews with more protection eventually lead to the tank destroyer Hetzer which still used the same running gears on widened chassis and slightly widened track links to compensate for the extra weight of the armour. When Germany was being attacked from both West and East, the Hetzer served the German Army as one of the most common German AFVs in the last year of the war.[citation needed] Production of Hetzer continued for the Czechoslovak Army after the war. Switzerland purchased 158 examples. Swiss Hetzer served into the 1960s.[citation needed]

The removal of turrets from Panzer 38(t) tanks for conversion of the chassis to tank destroyer and other uses freed 351 turrets for use in fortifications in various locations.[citation needed]Almost half of these (150) were used in Southwest Europe, while 78 went to the Eastern Front, 75 to Norway, 25 in Italy, 20 in Denmark, and 9 in the Atlantic Wall. The small-bore armament and thin armour of the turrets made them insignificant as an anti-tank pillbox by the later stages of the war, but they were still useful in combating infantry attacks.

The SdKfz 140/1 Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) is a reconnaissance vehicle based on Panzer 38(t). It came about from a shortage of light reconnaissance tanks. Panzer I was outdated and the Panzer II Luchs was only just starting production. To fill this gap, Panzer 38(t) mounting smaller 20mm gun was built in small numbers. The basic construction was to remove the 38(t)'s turret, build up the hull superstructure and place an open turret from either a SdKfz 222 or SdKfz 234/1.[citation needed]

Campaigns

Peru[edit]

Preserved LTP

A Peruvian mission went to Europe in 1935 and looked at tanks from several major manufacturers before settling on the Czech LTL. Peru bought 24 of them, organizing them into two companies. This small armoured force was complemented by truck-mounted infantry and artillery pulled by tractors (the Czech CKD). Peruvian doctrine was influenced by the French military mission operating in Peru at the time, and emphasized the use of tanks to support infantry attacks rather than in independent mobile columns (as in the German Blitzkrieg).[8]

The Peruvian tank battalion played an important role in the 1941 Ecuadorian-Peruvian War, spearheading the attack across the Zaramilla River and at Arenillas. This was helped by the fact that the Ecuadorian Army had no modern anti-tank guns and their artillery was horse-drawn. "The LTL tanks performed extremely well in the 1941 war and remained in front-line service for more than 50 years."[9]

Sweden[edit]

All strv m/41 SI was sent to P 3 in Strängnäs, who were the only regiment who painted the road-wheels in the same camouflage pattern as the hull against regulations prescribing field-grey to be used.[2] Most of the m/41 SII went to P 4 in Skövde, with a small number allocated to P 2 in Hässleholm and the material reserve of P 3.[4] All tanks has been retired from active service in the mid 1950s and later rebuilt into APCs.

Technical Data[edit]

TNHP-S[edit]

  • General
    • Role: Light/medium tank
    • Manufacturer: ČKD
    • Crew: Commander, loader, driver, bow machine gunner-radio operator
  • Armament and armour
    • Main armament: 37.2 mm Skoda A7 gun
    • Coaxial armament: 7.92 mm machine gun
    • Bow armament: 7.92 mm machine gun
    • Ammunition: 90 rounds of 37.2 mm and 2,550 rounds of 7.92 mm
    • armour: 10 mm to 25 mm
  • Power and weight
    • Engine: Praga EPA six-cylinder inline water-cooled petrol
    • Transmission: 5 forward, 1 reverse
    • Power: 110,3 kW (148 hp)
    • Weight: 9,700 kg (21,400 lb)
    • Power/Weight: 11.5 kW/metric ton (14.0 hp/short ton)
  • Performance
    • Max road speed: 42 km/h
    • Max range: 200 km
    • Fording: 0.9 m
    • Gradient: 60%
    • Vertical obstacle: 0.8 m
    • Trench: 1.9 m
  • Dimensions
    • Length: 4.55 m
    • Width: 2.13 m
    • Height: 2.31 m

Panzer 38(t) Aus. A-C[edit]

  • General
    • Role: Medium tank
    • Crew: 4
  • Armament and armour
    • Main armament: 37.2 mm Skoda A7 (L/47.8) gun with 90 rounds
    • Secondary armament: 2 x 7.92 mm MG 37(t) (Model 37) machine gun with 2,550 rounds.
    • Armour: front 25 mm, side 15 mm
  • Power and weight
    • Engine: Praga EPA Model I inline six-cylinder, liquid-cooled, petrol
    • Bore: 110 mm (~ 4.331 in)
    • Stroke: 136 mm (~ 5.354 in)
    • Displacement: 7754,7 cc (~ 473.22 cu in)
    • Power: 91,9 kW (123.3 hp, 125 PS)
    • Transmission: 5 forward, 1 reverse
    • Weight: combat: 9.5 tonnes, dry: 8.5 tonnes
    • Power/Weight: 10 kW/metric ton (13.0 hp/short ton)
  • Performance
    • Speed: 56 km/h (35 mph)
    • Range: 200 km (120 mi)
  • Dimensions
    • Length: 4.61 m
    • Width: 2.14 m
    • Height: 2.40 m

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Bishop, Chris (ed.) 1998, The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Barnes & Noble, New York. ISBN 0-7607-1022-8.
  • Carius, Otto (2003). Tigers in the Mud. Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-2911-7. 
  • Chamberlain, Peter, and Hilary L. Doyle. Thomas L. Jentz (Technical Editor). Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two: A Complete Illustrated Directory of German Battle Tanks, Armoured Cars, Self-propelled Guns, and Semi-tracked Vehicles, 1933–1945. London: Arms and Armour Press, 1978 (revised edition 1993). ISBN 1-85409-214-6
  • Jentz, Thomas L. (2007). Panzerkampfwagen 38 (t) Ausf.A to G und S: Production, Modification, and Operational History from 1939 to 1942. Panzer Tracts. No. 18. Boyds, Maryland: Panzer Tracts. ISBN 0-9771643-6-5. 
  • Francev Vladimír, Kliment Charles, Praga LT vz.38 (PzKpfw 38 (t)), publisher Miroslav Bílý (MBI), ISBN 80-86524-01-9
  • Spielberger, Walter J. (1990). Die Panzer-Kampfwagen 35(t) und 38(t) und ihre Abarten (2nd ed.). Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-87943-708-4. 
  • (Spanish) Sigal Fogliani, Ricardo Jorge, Blindados Argentinos, de Uruguay y Paraguay, Ayer y Hoy Ediciones, Buenos Aires, 1997. ISBN 987-95832-7-2.

External links[edit]