A Panzerjäger I in North Africa
|Place of origin||Nazi Germany|
|Used by||Nazi Germany|
|Wars||World War II|
|Mass||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)|
|Elevation||-8° to +10°|
|4.7 cm (1.85 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 (11.7 kW) / tonne|
|Transmission||6 speed ZF F.G.31|
|Ground clearance||29.5 cm (1 ft 7 in)|
|Fuel capacity||146 l (39 US gal)|
|140 km (87 mi)|
|Speed||40 km/h (25 mph)|
The Panzerjäger I (English: 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 and served to extend the life of the obsolete Panzer I tank chassis. 202 Panzer I 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
The Panzer I 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. It normally carried 74 anti-tank and 10 HE shells. Alkett and contractors built 202 vehicles, the first series of 132 by Alkett 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. The formal name of the equipment was 4.7 cm PaK(t) (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I ohne Turm, translating as "4.7 cm anti-tank gun (Czech) (self-propelled) on turretless Pz.Kpfw. I".
|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)|
Panzerjäger Is were generally organized into nine-vehicle companies, with three companies per battalion. For the French Campaign (only) anti-tank battalion Panzerjäger-Abteilung 521 had only six vehicles per company. With two exceptions they were used only by independent anti-tank battalions during the war; 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.
Anti-tank Battalions 521, 616, 643 and 670 had 99 vehicles in the Battle of 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.
Twenty-seven Panzerjäger I's 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, the others being 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 from 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.
|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||XXXIX 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 I's. On 23 November 1941 it reported that it still had sixteen vehicles, although two were not operational. 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 I's through at least the fall of 1942.
- Anti-tank Battalion 643 25 July 1940
The 4.7 cm armor-piercing shells (Panzergranaten) were effective 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 was limited; the crew, with the exception of the driver, had to look over the gun shield to observe what is in front of the Panzerjäger I, resulting in the exposure of body parts to potential dangers; namely shots to the head (also known as Kopfschüsse in German). In effect the crew behind the gun shield were blind in Urban combat, suppressing fire and individual tanks.
- 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, namely near Mogilev and Rogachev, its rather tall superstructure presented a target for artillery and anti-tank guns. Thus the Panzerjäger is destroyed before it can get into action. When large shells explode close-by, shrapnel pierced the thin armor. Russian 4.5 cm (1.8 in) anti-tank guns already penetrate at 1,200 metres (1,300 yd) range. The 1st Kompanie lost 5 out of the 10 vehicles (Kampffahrzeuge) in such actions, of which only two could be repaired.
- Anti-tank Battalion 605 July 1942
The accuracy of this weapon was commented on; as it will usually hit its target with the first shot at ranges up to 1,000 metres (1,100 yd). However, its penetration qualities were far too low for the necessary combat ranges in the desert of North Africa. The chassis, engine and suspension were constantly in need of care due to the additional weight of the anti-tank gun. 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.
- Jentz, p. 46
- Jentz, p. 61
- Jentz, pp. 46, 56
- Jentz, p. 56
- Jentz, pp. 46, 52
- Jentz, p. 60
- Jentz, p. 58
- Jentz, p. 54
- 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
- Surviving Panzer I tanks - A PDF file presenting the Panzer I tanks (PzKpfw. I, VK1801, Panzerbefehlswagen, Panzerjäger I tanks) still existing in the world