Panzerjäger I

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Panzerjäger I
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-782-0041-31, Nordafrika, Panzerjäger 1.jpg
A Panzerjäger I in North Africa
Type Tank destroyer
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
In service 1940—43
Used by  Nazi Germany
Wars World War II
Production history
Designer Alkett
Designed 1939—40
Produced 1940—41
Number built 202
Specifications
Weight 6.4 tonnes (14,109 lbs)
Length 4.42 m (14 ft 6 in)
Width 2.06 m (6 ft 9 in)
Height 2.14 m (7 ft)
Crew 3

Elevation -8° to +10°
Traverse 35°

Armor 6-14.5 mm
Main
armament
4.7 cm (1.9 in) PaK(t)
Engine 3.8 litre (230 cu in) 6-cylinder, water-cooled Maybach NL 38 Tr
100 horsepower (75 kW)
Power/weight 15.6 hp/ton
Transmission 6 speed ZF F.G.31
Suspension leaf-spring
Ground clearance 29.5 cm (1 ft 7 in)
Fuel capacity 146 l (39 US gal)
Operational
range
140 km (87 mi)
Speed 40 km/h (25 mph)

The Panzerjäger I (German "Tank Hunter 1") was the first of the German tank destroyers to see service in the Second World War. It mounted a Czech Škoda 4.7 cm (1.9 in) cm PaK (t) anti-tank gun on a converted Panzer I Ausf. B chassis. It was intended to counter heavy French tanks like the Char B1 that were beyond the capabilities of the 3.7 cm PaK 36 anti-tank gun then in service and served to extend the usable lifetime of otherwise obsolete Panzer I tanks.[1] 202 Panzer Is were converted to the Panzerjäger I in 1940 and 1941. They were employed in the Battle of France, in the North Africa Campaign and on the Eastern Front.

Design and production[edit]

The Panzer I's turret was removed and a fixed gun shield added to protect the armament and crew. The anti-tank gun was mounted on a pedestal in the fighting compartment with the wheels, axle and trails removed; it retained its original gun shield.[1] It normally carried 74 anti-tank and 10 HE shells.[2]

Total production was 202 vehicles. Alkett produced the first series of 132 in 1940. Ten of the second series of 70 were assembled by Alkett while the remainder were assembled by Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz in 1940 and 1941. Vehicles in the second series are recognizable by their seven-sided gun shield while the first series had a five-sided shield.[3]

The vehicle's formal name was 4.7 cm PaK(t) (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I ohne Turm, translating as "4.7 cm anti-tank gun (Czech) on turretless Pz.Kpfw. I".

Armor: thickness/slope from vertical
Front Side Rear Top/Bottom
Gun Shield 14.5 mm (0.57 in)/27° 14.5 mm (0.57 in)/27° none none
Superstructure 13 mm (0.51 in)/22° 13 mm (0.51 in)/12° 13 mm (0.51 in)/0° 6 mm (0.24 in)
Hull 13 mm (0.51 in)/27° 13 mm (0.51 in)/0° 13 mm (0.51 in)/17° 6 mm (0.24 in)

Organization[edit]

The Panzerjäger Is were generally organized into nine-vehicle companies, with three companies per battalion.[1] For the French Campaign (only) Anti-tank Battalion (Panzerjäger-Abteilung) 521 had only six vehicles per company.[1] With two exceptions they were only used by independent anti-tank battalions during the war. However, after the Balkan Campaign, one company was assigned to the SS-Brigade Leibstandarte der SS Adolf Hitler and another to Panzerjäger-Abteilung 900 of Lehr-Brigade (mot.) 900 ("900th Motorized Training Brigade") in preparation for Operation Barbarossa.[4]

Combat history[edit]

Ninety-nine vehicles equipped Anti-tank Battalions 521, 616, 643 and 670 in the battle for France. Only Anti-tank Battalion 521 participated in the campaign from the beginning as the other three were still training until a few days after the campaign began, but they were sent to the front as they finished their training.[5]

Twenty-seven Panzerjäger Is equipped Anti-tank Battalion 605 in North Africa. It arrived in Tripoli, Libya between 18 and 21 March 1941. Five replacements were sent in September 1941, but only three arrived on 2 October as the others had been sunk on board the freighter Castellon. At the start of the British Operation Crusader the battalion was at full strength, but lost thirteen vehicles during the battles. Four more replacements were sent in January 1942 so that it mustered seventeen at the beginning of the Battle of Gazala. Despite the shipment of another three vehicles in September/October 1942 the battalion only had eleven by the beginning of the Second Battle of El Alamein. The last two replacements received by the battalion were in November 1942.[6]

Anti-tank Battalions 521, 529, 616, 643 and 670 were equipped with one hundred thirty-five Panzerjäger Is for Operation Barbarossa. They were assigned as given below for the opening stages of the battle:[4]

Abteilung Corps Army Army Group
521 XXIV Corps 2nd Panzer Group Army Group Center
529 VII Corps 4th Army Army Group Center
616 4th Panzer Group Army Group North
643 XXXXIX Corps (mot.) 3rd Panzer Group Army Group Center
670 1st Panzer Group Army Group South

By 27 July 1941 Anti-tank Battalion 529 had lost four Panzerjäger Is. On 23 November 1941 it reported that it still had sixteen vehicles, although two were not operational.[7] Most do not appear to have survived the Winter of 1941/42 as Anti-tank Battalion 521 reported only five on hand on 5 May 1942. Anti-tank Battalion 529 had only two on strength when it was disbanded on 30 June 1942. Anti-tank Battalion 616 seems to have been an exception as it reported all three companies had Panzerjäger Is through at least the Fall of 1942.[6]

Combat assessments[edit]

Rear view of a Panzerjäger I from the second series.
1941 colour photograph of a Panzerjäger I in western Ukraine
Anti-tank Battalion 643 25 July 1940

"The 4.7 cm armor-piercing shells (Panzergranaten) are very good against 45 to 50 millimetres (1.8 to 2.0 in) thick armor at ranges up to 500 metres (550 yd) - sufficient to 600 metres (660 yd). Observation is very bad. You have to look over the shield to observe to the front, resulting in head shots (Kopfschüsse)! In effect the crew are blind when attacking in villages or against street barricades, M.G. nests and individual tanks".[8]

Anti-tank Battalion 521 July 1941

"The effective range of the 4.7 cm Pak(t) is 1,000 to 1,200 metres (1,100 to 1,300 yd) with a maximum range of 1,500 metres (1,600 yd). When attacking an enemy position equipped with anti-tank guns and artillery, as occurred near Mogilev and Rogachev, because of its high superstructure that presents a good target for artillery and anti-tank guns, the Panzerjäger is destroyed before it can get into action."

"When large shells explode close-by, fragments penetrate the thin armor, as occurred near Rogachev. Russian 4.5 cm (1.8 in) anti-tank guns already penetrate at 1,200 metres (1,300 yd) range. The 1. Kompanie lost 5 out of the 10 vehicles (Kampffahrzeuge) in such actions, of which only two could be repaired."[7]

"The good accuracy of this weapon was especially commented on. Usually a hit is obtained with the first shot at ranges up to 1,000 metres (1,100 yd). Penetration ability is too low for the necessary combat ranges in the desert. The chassis is too weak. The engine is overtaxed. Springs in the suspension are continuously breaking."

Anti-tank Battalion 605 July 1942

"The good accuracy of this weapon was especially commented on. Usually a hit is obtained with the first shot at ranges up to 1,000 metres (1,100 yd). Penetration ability is too low for the necessary combat ranges in the desert. The chassis is too weak. The engine is overtaxed. Springs in the suspension are continuously breaking."

"In one case, three Mk II (Matilda II infantry tanks) were penetrated at a range of 400 metres (440 yd) by 4.7 cm tungsten-core armor-piercing shell (Pz.Gr. 40). It usually penetrates 60 millimetres (2.4 in) of armor. Therefore, a small percentage of these rounds are desired. The 4.7 cm armor-piercing shell (Pz.Gr. 36(t)) will not penetrate a Mk.II at 600 to 800 metres (660 to 870 yd). But the crew will abandon the tank because fragments spall off the armor on the inside."[6]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Jentz, p. 46
  2. ^ Jentz, p. 61
  3. ^ Jentz, pp. 46, 56
  4. ^ a b Jentz, p. 56
  5. ^ Jentz, pp. 46, 52
  6. ^ a b c Jentz, p. 60
  7. ^ a b Jentz, p. 58
  8. ^ Jentz, p. 54

References[edit]

  • 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. Panzerjaeger (3.7 cm Tak to Pz.Sfl.Ic): Development and Employment from 1927 to 1941 (Panzer Tracts No. 7-1) Boyds, MD: Panzer Tracts, 2004. ISBN 0-9744862-3-X

External links[edit]