The German Panzer II aka Panzerkampfwagen II aka “PzKpfw II” Light Tank

The German Panzer II aka Panzerkampfwagen II aka “PzKpfw II” Light Tank

The German Panzer II aka Panzerkampfwagen II aka “PzKpfw II” Light Tank entered German service as a reconissance tank, but often found itself as a combat support vehicle in the early days of World War 2. The vehicle entered production in 1935 in limited numbers in 3 models, which had the same designations as the full scale production models. A total of 1,113 examples of Ausf. c, A, B, and C tanks were built from March 1937 through April 1940 by Alkett, FAMO, Daimler-Benz, Henschel, MAN, MIAG, and Wegmann.

Full scale production models –

Panzer II Ausf. A (aka the PzKpfw IIA) This was the first production model, entering production in July 1937. A included an armour upgrade to 14.5 mm on all sides, as well as a 14.5 mm floor plate, and an improved transmission.

Panzer II Ausf. B (aka the PzKpfw IIB) had only minimal changes to the Ausf. A and superseded its production from December 1937 onwards.

The German Panzer II aka Panzerkampfwagen II aka “PzKpfw II” Light Tank

Panzer II Ausf. C (aka the PzKpfw IIC) which became the standard production model from June 1938 through April 1940.

This was the most widespread tank version of the Panzer II and performed the majority of the tank’s service in the Panzer units during the war.

Earlier versions of Ausf. C have rounded hull front, but many vehicles of Ausf. C were up-armoured to fight in France. These have extra armours bolted on the turret front and super structure front. Also up-armoured versions have angled front hull like that of Ausf.F. Some were also retro-fitted with commander’s cupolas.

Panzer II Ausf. F (aka the PzKpfw IIF) The superstructure front was made from a single piece armour plate with a redesigned visor. The hull was redesigned with a flat 35mm plate on its front, and armour of the superstructure and turret were built up to 30 mm on the front with 15mm to the sides and rear. There was some minor alteration of the suspension and a new commander’s cupola as well. Weight was increased to 9.5 tonnes. 524 were built from March 1941 to December 1942 as the final major tank version of the Panzer II series.

Panzer II Ausf. D (aka the PzKpfw IID) had a completely new Christie suspension with four road wheels. Only the turret was the same as the Ausf. C model, with a new hull and superstructure design for the Maybach HL62TRM engine and seven-gear transmission (plus reverse). The design was shorter (4.65 m) but wider (2.3 m) and taller (2.06 m) than the Ausf. C. Speed was increased to 55 km/h. A total of 143 Ausf. D and Ausf. E tanks were built from May 1938 through August 1939 by MAN, and they served in Poland. They were withdrawn in March 1940 for conversion to other types after proving to have poor offroad performance.

Panzer II Ausf. E (aka the PzKpfw IIE) Similar to the Ausf. D, the Ausf. E improved some small items of the suspension, but was otherwise similar and served alongside the Ausf. D.

Panzer II Ausf. J (aka the PzKpfw IIJ) Continued development of the reconnaissance tank concept led to the much up-armoured Ausf. J, which used the same concept as the PzKpfw IF of the same period, under the experimental designation VK1601. Heavier armour was added, bringing protection up to 80mm on the front and 50mm to the sides and rear, with 25mm roof and floor plates, increasing the total weight to 18 tonnes.

Equipped with the same Maybach HL45P as the PzKpfw IF, top speed was reduced to 31 km/h. Primary armament was the 2 cm KwK 38 L/55 gun. 22 were produced by MAN between April and December 1942.

Panzerkampfwagen II ohne AufbauOne use for obsolete Panzer II tanks which had their turrets removed for use in fortifications was as utility carriers. A number of chassis not used for conversion to self-propelled guns were instead handed over to the Engineers for use as personnel and equipment carriers.

Panzer II FlammBased (aka the Flamingo) used a new turret mounting a single MG34 machine gun, and two remotely controlled flamethrowers mounted in small turrets at each front corner of the vehicle. Each flamethrower could cover the front 180° arc, while the turret traversed 360°.

The flamethrowers were supplied with 320 litres of fuel and four tanks of compressed nitrogen. The nitrogen tanks were built into armoured boxes along each side of the superstructure. Armour was 30mm to the front and 14.5mm to the side and rear, although the turret was increased to 20 mm at the sides and rear.

One hundred and fifty-five Flamm vehicles were built from January 1940 through March 1942. These were mostly on new chassis but 43 were on used Ausf. D and Ausf. E chassis. The Flamm was deployed in the USSR.

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