Why did Germany build Panzer I and Panzer II light tanks?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by davebender, Oct 8, 2011.

  1. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Historical timeline.
    1933 to 1935. Sd.Kfz.11 3/4 track prototypes. Size was 6 to 7 tons.
    1933. Heer orders development of Panzer I. Target size was 4 to 7 tons.
    July 1934. Heer orders development of Panzer II.
    Jul 34 to Jun 36. 818 Panzer I ausf A produced. ~38,000 RM each.
    1935. First Sd.Kfz.11 3/4 track production model. ~20,000 RM each.
    1935. Heer are so pleased with the Sd.Kfz.11 that they order an APC variant. This becomes the Sd.Kfz.251.
    1937 to 1940. 1,113 Panzer II ausf C produced. ~50,000 RM each.
    1938. Development of Sd.Kfz.11 and Sd.Kfz.251 3/4 tracks taken over by Hanomag.
    .....From this point the program advances more rapidly.
    1939. First Sd.Kfz.251 3/4 track production model. 22,560 RM.
    1940. 337 Sd.Kfz.251 3/4 tracks produced.
    1941. 424 Sd.Kfz.251 3/4 tracks produced.
    1942. 1,200 Sd.Kfz.251 3/4 tracks produced.

    Sd.Kfz.251 3/4 Track.
    Crew of 2. Plus an infantry squad or other payload.
    ~7 tons empty. ~8.5 tons loaded. Depends on variant.
    Frontal armor 8mm to 15mm. Armor was increased based on combat experience.
    8mm armor on sides and rear.
    .....All armor is nicely sloped.
    Tracks have torsion bar suspension and run most of the vehicle length. Hence the term "3/4 Track" rather then half track.
    .....Relatively low ground pressure and good suspension makes for exceptional cross country mobility.
    .....Tracks can steer vehicle even if front tires are shot out. This increases survivability in combat.

    - The Sd.Kfz.251 3/4 track can easily carry weapons more powerful then Panzer I and Panzer II main guns.
    - With 15mm frontal amor the Sd.Kfz.251 is arguably better protected then early war Panzer I and Panzer II.
    - Sd.Kfz.251 suspension is superior to Panzer I and Panzer II suspension. Better ride and superior off road mobility.
    - The Sd.Kfz.251 is less expensive then a Panzer I and less then half the price of a Panzer II.
    - Overhead protection can be added if desired just as Czechoslovakia did with the OT-810 variant.

    So why did Germany build Panzer I and Panzer II light tanks? Give the Sd.Kfz.251 program additional resources and I think they will be rolling off assembly lines in large numbers from 1936 onward. The Sd.Kfz.251/9 should be the initial production version. This carries a 7.5cm/24 main gun with 52 rounds of ammunition. It cannot fight medium tanks but should work fine vs light tanks and for infantry support.

    Meanwhile Panzer III and/or Panzer IV programs proceed as they did historically. When larger tanks are available in numbers the Sd.Kfz.251 reverts to being an APC, weapons carrier and tractor for towing the 10.5cm howitzer.
     
  2. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Maybe the Nazi's wanted machines to cover all eventualities and possible campaigns?
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    What eventualities can the Panzer I and Panzer II cover that the Sd.Kfz.251/9 cannot for half the production cost?


    http://www.sdkfz251.com/images/armour_II_015.jpg
    armour_II_015.jpg

    If mid 1930s Germany wants a full track light tank why not just add another pair of road wheels to the Sd.Kfz.251 track system? That's about all it would take to extend the tracks over the entire vehicle length. The system for steering with the vehicle tracks was already in place.
     
  4. razor1uk

    razor1uk Well-Known Member

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    #4 razor1uk, Oct 9, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2011
    Panzer I II were to my knowledge, mainly for learning, teaching and developing tank... tactics, industrial skills/knowledge, crews, maintainance operational army details/orders/specs etc.
    The Brits had done much work on tankettes like Vickers for instance - one of the universal/internationally exported tanks, used by most other nations post mid 30's as a jumping off point for their own more modern (non WW1 styled) tankettes/tanks.

    Before the end of WW1, Germans only had a few captured tanks Mothers and Fathers, Whippets and an odd Renault FT17's and their own abysmal A7, and to develope the Panzer 3's and onwards, they had to start from somewhere... considering they came practically from scratch with tech knowhow pooled in from UK, Sweden, Switzerland, USSR etc, hence the Panzer 1's 2's.
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    #5 davebender, Oct 9, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2011
    Learning what? What will armored vehicle crew and mechanics learn from the Panzer II that cannot be learned from the Sd.Kfz.251?

    - Sd.Kfz.251 had a superior track system.
    - Sd.Kfz.251 had a superior armor arrangement that was nicely sloped all around.
    - Sd.Kfz.251 was probably more reliable.
    - Sd.Kfz.251 was ready for mass production as soon as the Panzer II but at less then half the cost. With a higher program priority it could probably have been in mass production even earlier.

    Want a light tank with a 2cm autocannon in a revolving turret? Nothing prevents a turret from being mounted on the chassis ILO the troop compartment. Historically there were about two dozen Sd.Kfz.11 / Sd.Kfz.251 variants. This would be just one more built on a common chassis.

    Hanomag had plenty of experience building tracked vehicles.
    http://www.farmphoto.com/thread.aspx?mid=299280
    image.jpg
    The Hanomag WD Z 25 was the first Hanomag crawler tractor which went in production. After a prototype WD Z 20 in 1919 went the WD Z 25 in 1920 in production. A few years later they also introduced the 50 HP WD Z 50 crawler.
     
  6. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    OK, no matter what reason anybody gives, you're going to shoot it down.

    We're all dieing to know what do you think the reason is ???
     
  7. razor1uk

    razor1uk Well-Known Member

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    #7 razor1uk, Oct 9, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2011
    I give up dave, you understand so much more, are always so friendly and approachable, and always willing to listen with measured responses..

    The Hanomag has a few whippet features - the mud trough and roughly equal for aft track angles (for climbing over obstacles), front mounted engine (itself; the engine, was the only more modern part of the design) within the Hanomag..

    ok heres an anology you might understand.
    You begin to train a American Football team, teaching them how to move around in their equipment, what tactics they could use which ones not to, they train endlessly for months, getting all the things they've come up with together well learned, as 2nd nature to them - confident and beleiving in their abilities.
    But come the play time of the season, they have to play Ozzy Rules and ditch all the Amefto equip... they ain't gonna do so well, even if they can use some of the same stratergies.

    So the Panzer arm of the army is going to develope, learn teach; manouvers, tactics, maintainance, combat theory develope them/those towards blitzkrieg, with only just the half tracks rather than full tracked vehicles and their particular mobility pro's con's, while creating Panzer arm ethos, confidence and esprit d'corps...
     
  8. psteel

    psteel Member

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    #8 psteel, Oct 9, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011
    Germany tried to purchase/build 287 tanks at the start of the 1930s, but the funding for the Panzerschiffe gobbled up the funding. The German Defense programme of the day, allowed violation of the Treaty of Versailles’s, provided they it could be concealed or disguised . This tank contract would have been for the Grosstraktor and Leichtertraktor which began their development in 1927 as "Armeewagen 20". The Neubaufahrzeug 12 followed this in 1932. The second rearmament drive had authorized the development of Panzer Kompanies within 5 years [1933] and during this time 150 training tanks were ordered since these would be difficult for the allied commission to detect. This in turn became the Kleintraktor, which became the Panzer I. This whole process took something like 7 years to reach fruition, while the initial discussions for a APC began in 1935 , the funding and agreement didn't materialize until much later. The SPW prototype development didn't begin until 1937 and production didn't begin until 1939.


    Pretty sure the prices previously quoted are war time costs not prewar costs. From what I remember, the prewar tanks cost about 150,000 Rm each.

    Something else. Most tanks had rear-mounted engines with forward drive and transmissions. This is supposed to give good balance when a centrally mounted turret is installed. The SPW has front mounted engined drive and transmission, which could create heavy ware problems on the front suspension and ware. Does any one know the ground pressure of the SPW vs Pz-I? That indicates growth potential.

    From what I can determine SPW ground pressure was 0.8kg/cm², while the Pz I was 0.4 kg/cm². Even if you can stretch the SPW 251 from 3/4 to full, this would likely just drop the ground pressure to 0.6kg/cm². So the Pz I has greater growth potential. Another point would be steering. Tanks steer by tracks rotating in opposite direction, while Half-tracks steer by the front wheel steering.
     
  9. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Well dave, what is your considered opinion?
     
  10. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    A few "minor" considerations here.

    1. a rather confused time line. Pz I was ordered into production when they were still futzing about with the half track prototypes. which means MK I prototypes and tests were already completed. Waiting for hal tracks would dealy the training program by several years.

    2. The same only not so bad for the MK II.

    3. the MK II tank had 15mm armor (or close to it) all the way around not just on the front. Changing 8mm armor to 15mm armor costs about 11lbs per sq ft of armor and there are a lot of square feet on one of those half tracks. The Half track is a much larger target.

    4. Part of the reason people use tanks is cross country ability and obstacle crossing, What height vertical wall can the MK II handle vs the half track? IS there a difference in hill climbing even at walking speeds? which can turn in a smaller area? There is a lot more to "cross country" than just ground pressure and ride speed across a field.

    5. Rotating turrets and turret rings are expensive. Wasn't a Stug supposed to be 30% cheaper than a tank?

    6. The Sd.Kfz.251/9 was a self propelled gun. It's gun had limited traverse, great fire support, not so good for being in the thick of an attack. Many Sd.Kfz.251/9 were armed with guns taken from MK IVs as they were up gunned, earlier production of the Sd.Kfz.251/9 involves the prodcution of more 75mm/24 guns sooner at what cost? they are no longer "free".

    7. speaking of cost, does the cost of the MK II tank include the cost of the 2cm gun or not? How about radios?
     
  11. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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  12. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Panzer I production ended during 1937. Panzer I neuer Art prototypes produced during 1938 to 1943 were new designs for all practical purposes and none were mass produced. That doesn't strike me as growth potential.

    The Sd.Kfz.11 / Sd.Kfz.251 was produced in over two dozen variants with new versions introduced right up to the last year of the war. That's serious growth potential from the mid 1930s onward.

    Rear engine tanks are more common but not necessarily superior. The front engine Merkava tank is arguably as good as the U.S. made M1A2 and German made Leopard II.
     
  13. CharlesBronson

    CharlesBronson Well-Known Member

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    The reason is simple, training, the Panzer I was never planned to be a frontline tank.
     
  14. psteel

    psteel Member

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    Dave the point I was trying to make about the drive system is that to make a SPW into a fully tracked AFV system you'd increase weight with roof and enlarging the suspension from ¾ to full track. This is likely to push mass up to 9-10 tons and ground pressure up to ~ 0.7kg/cm². Add a small 20mm gun turret and the mass is over 10 tons with the ground pressure up to ~ 0.8kg/m². Also I know you understand that unit costs are tied to production numbers. Had the Panzer I been produced in the numbers of the Zg 3 ton and SPW 251; it would have been cheaper, similar to a fully tracked SPW AFV.

    BTW the Pz I was in production into 1938 through the Instansetzungswagen model. According to the Osprey SPW 251 booklet the APC competition was between a all terrain truck a fully tracked AFV and the semi tracked vehicle based on the Zg tractors. However this book does indicate the SPW track system was similar to tank suspension systems and allowed the SPW pivot steering similar to a tank.

    Mind you a better comparison should be done between the Pz II and the SPW-251 [3 ton Zg tractor] . According to Jentz the Pz IIb model with 20mm gun turret [180 rounds plus MG] was 7.9 tons and had 14.5mm frontal armor, while the ground pressure was around 0.65 kg/cm². This design was upgraded to C model with 20mm added to the frontal armor increasing the mass to ~8.9 tons and ground pressure to 0.73 kg/cm². The down side was it reduced top speed, but only by 0.5 kph.

    Given the importance of tanks to the German doctrine I would have thought that industry devoted to the lighter Zg tractors should have been turned over to producing 9-10 ton tanks. These could include license production of the Pz 35/38t followed by wartime-massed conversion to Marder type SP ATguns, through out the war. Its clear from resent research papers that it was prolonged production of the same weapons systems, based on ‘fixed price contracting’, that was the essential element in Germany mass production boom of the later war years.
     
  15. vanir

    vanir Banned

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    If they were indeed following Guderian's doctrine then the Army had a requirement for a scout tank (PzII), an MBT (PzIII) and an assault/infantry tank (PzIV). In addition PzGr mobile-armoured infantry needed assault SPG and APC.

    The PzI was a training vehicle, it fitted Treaty restrictions so that military upscaling could be started before the Treaty was formally violated. The PzII/III/IV were illegal at that stage and produced in factories disguised as tractor and truck factories. When Swiss officials were paid to warn of treaty inspections and the tanks were covered up, the trucks moved into their places, took a few days to hide a tank factory.
    The PzI though, they could train with openly. Before it they used cardboard mockups on bicycles. I realise there were already treaty violations but it wasn't formally scrapped until the Czech debarcle.

    You saying they should've kepts the bicycles? PzGr formations needed APCs and SPG.
     
  16. psteel

    psteel Member

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    I think the point Dave was getting at is how much more could have been achieved had Germany channeled Pz I and II production into expanded SPW production and built that into a light tank instead.

    Most historians seem to gloss over the fact that, Hitler convinced his Generals [and Admirals] that German would not have to fight a major European war until they would be ready in the mid 1940s, so they still had plenty of time. Basic German risk theory always recognized that Germanys neighbors would not sit idly by and just let her rearm. So any rearmament programme had to be as secret as possible and built around an expectation of imminent war along the lines of WW-I.

    But Hitler ignored all this and gambled Germanys future away based on his misguided racial view that the war going to be a 'do or die' struggle between German/Europe and a Jewish led America/allied threat. He believed he could crush Russia and bully the UK into joining a grand alliance against America. After Munich he believed nothing could be gained by waiting and the major European powers were too weak to prevail against Germanys racial superiority.
     
  17. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Were half tracks illegal under the treaty restrictions?
     
  18. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    One point that I have not seen brought up is National Pride: i.e. We have REAL tanks just like everyone else, not just converted farm tractors/half-tracks. This was a German driving force throughout the war, the quest for the Super Weapon that would demonstrate German superiority to the entire world.
    Look at the latter war period. Why make the Tiger series? The Panthers were very serviceable tanks which could have done much better and perhaps been a deciding factor except the Germans turned more and more to the super heavies like the I and II and the Maus which drew money and resources into a futile effort while the US just kept churning out the inferior Shermans and refused to "play fair" and go 1 on 1 with the Tigers
     
  19. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Tiger I preceded Panther, and it was not until 1944 that Panthers were reliable.
    I do agree that Germans were giving their 45+ ton tanks too much attention resources, while neglecting the simpler lighter AFVs.
     
  20. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    The Pz I does not meet my definition of a real tank anymore then a SPW 251. Similiar weight, similiar armor and both armed with a 7.92mm MG.

    The Pz II is a different story.
     
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