Saturday, November 16, 2013

Panzer I

PzKpfw I Light Tank (Panzerkampfwagen)

PzKpfw 1A

PzKpfw IA
Country:                              Germany
Crew:                                   2
Armament:                         7.92mm MG 34 machine-guns (2) in rotating, hand-traversed turret
                Maximum -         0.51in (13mm)
                Minimum -          0.28in (7mm)
Ammunition:                     1,525 rounds
                Krupp M305 – 4 cylinder
                Horizontally opposed air-cooled gas engine
                60 hp at 2,500 rpm
                17.7 hp / ton
Weight:                                11,905lb (5,400kg)
                Length -               13ft 3in (4.03m)
                Width -                   6ft 9in (2.05m)
                Height -                  5ft 8in (1.72m)
                Speed, road -     23 mph (37 km/h)
                Range -                 125 miles (200 km) – road
                                                 85 miles (136 km) – cross country
                Obstacle -            1ft 2in (0.355m)
                Trench -               4ft 7in (1.4m)
                Fording -              2ft 10in (.85m)
                Gradient -           58 percent
Manufacturer:                     Krupp
Service Date:                     1935

PzKpfw IB
Engine:                                 Maybach 6 cylinder – 100 bhp
Speed:                                  31 mph (50 km/h)
Production:                          2,000+ produced
Theaters:                             Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) – 122 supplied
                                                Poland (1939)
                                                Low Countries (1940)
                                                Africa, Greece, Balkans, Russia (1941)

Panzer 1 in Norway

The PzKpfw I was Germany’s first mass produced tank.  When introduced in 1935 it was already inferior in firepower and armor to tanks being made in France, Britain and the Soviet Union.  It was always considered by its developers as little more than an interim solution – the initial basis for developing an armored force following Nazi Germany’s renunciation of restrictions applied to that country by the Versailles Treaty.  The German General Staff were determined to quickly get a vehicle in the hands of their panzer troops so they could begin training.  In time Germany would produce more powerful, better performing tanks to supply their growing panzer divisions.

Rounding up British POWs in Calais

122 Panzer 1s were provided the Nationalist forces of General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War during the mid-1930s.  Its survival was primarily due to the lack of anti-tank guns available at the time.  Once these weapons came into wide-spread use the Panzer I was doomed because of its thin armor.  Its role was limited to suppressing enemy infantry because its dual turret-mounted machine guns were virtually ineffective against opposing armor.  Germany’s military leaders would by 1941 replace the PzKpfw I on the front line with the PzKpfw II, a light tank that carried a 20mm cannon.  It also was inadequate for opposing the enemy’s heavy tanks.  By the time of the Battle of France in 1940 the Panzer Divisions also began to incorporate more powerful Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs into their ranks. 

Used as Command Vehicle in Russia

Ultimately, German battlefield successes were attributable to a doctrine of combined arms; the mobility and concentrated firepower of grouped tank formations along with close support from air artillery - the tactical use of Luftwaffe dive-bombers to eliminate enemy strongpoints.  This was all made possible because of Heinz Guderian’s exploitation of portable radio communications to keep the various units responding to a single command in real time.  Even so, the spectacular success of Blitzkrieg tactics in 1940 against equivalent Allied ground forces was in great part due to Germany’s dominance of the air.  Luftwaffe air superiority at critical points made Guderian’s combined arms tactics possible.

Related Topics:

Char B1 bis

M3 Stuart

Panzer III

Panzer IV

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