Nazi Germany (1934)
Light tank – 1856 built

The main German light tank of WW2

Both the Panzer I and II were considered as stopgaps before the arrival of more advanced models, namely the Panzer III and IV. Despite of this, the Panzer II remained in service throughout the war, being the main light tank in German service and being used as a scout, although many wheeled vehicles preformed this specialized task far better. In this particular role, the Panzer II lacked both speed and range. It was gradually improved and produced until 1943, as no satisfactory replacement was ready in time.

The origins of this model date back to 1934, when it became apparent to the Waffenamt (military ordnance bureau) that delays in the production of the Panzer III and IV led to the need of a new design to quickly replace the Panzer I. The specifications required a 10 ton tank with a 20 mm (0.79 in) autocannon. Krupp, AG, Daimler-Benz, MAN, Henschel, Sohn AG were contacted, and submitted their designs to the Waffenamt in 1935. The Krupp design was rejected, and a marriage of the Daimer-Benz hull and MAN chassis was chosen instead. This led to ten prototypes during late 1935, initially named LaS 100. Production was approved the same year.

Panzer II general features

Basically, the accepted design was an enlarged Panzer I with a turret bearing the new Rheinmetall KwK30 L55 20 mm (0.79 in) quick firing gun. The armament was derived from the 2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft gun, capable of a firing rate of 600 rpm. The purpose of such a gun was to have good armor-piercing capabilities, due to its high velocity and high rate of fire, being especially effective at short range against most light and medium tanks of the time. The KwK 30 was aimed through a TZF4 gun sight. Normal provision was 180 rounds (armor-piercing and high explosive) and 2250 for the coaxial 7.92 mm (0.31 in) Rheinmetall-Borsig model 34 machine-gun. Elevation/depression for the gun mount was +20/-9.5°. As the Spanish Civil War showed, a dramatic increase in armor was urgently needed, and the first designs incorporated integral 14 mm (0.55 in) homogeneous steel armor (10 mm/0.39 in top and bottom), which was sufficient against shrapnel and bullets. However, it was not immune to many high velocity 37 mm (1.46 in) AT weapons of the time, or the French 25 and 47 mm (0.98-1.85 in) and Soviet 45 mm (1.77 in) towed antitank guns.

The engine of nearly the entire series was the gasoline 6-cylinder Maybach HL62 TRM providing 140 hp, coupled with a ZF transmission with 6 gears plus reverse. It was reliable, although it limited any major increases in armor and armament, due to significant losses both in speed and range. The first pre-series vehicles were fitted with small wheels sprung in pairs under three bogies, a system very similar to the Panzer I suspension. However, for reliability and mass production, a new system of five individually sprung, larger wheels was chosen. The upper part of the track was supported by three return rollers, increased to four on the production version. The crew-size of three was a progress over the Panzer I, but the commander was also the main gunner, sitting on the turret seat. The driver sat at the front of the vehicle. The loader/radio operator was situated on the floor under the turret, operating a FuG5 USW receiver and 10-watt transmitter. The radio gave a clear advantage to the Panzer II over previous models and foreign opponents.

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.a/1 to a/3 (Sd.Kfz.121)

In January 1934 the German tank design office of the weapons testing ordnance department Waffen Prüfwesen 6 (Wa Prw 6) issued specifications of a new tank chassis they wanted built, code name La.S.100. Weapons manufacture Maschinenfabrik Augsburg Nürnberg AG, (M.A.N.) built a prototype La.S.100 tank chassis. They were in competition with two other German companies Fried.Krupp Abt.A.K. and Henschel. M.A.N. was awarded the contract to build the chassis of the new Panzer II light tank based on their prototype La.S.100 chassis. Daimler-Benz designed the superstructure and turret.

It is wrong to dismiss the Panzer II tank of 1936 as a poor design when comparing it with more heavily armed and armoured tanks of WW2. The tank’s armour could protect its crew from small arms fire and 7.92 mm S.M.K steel-cored armour-piercing machine gun bullets fired from a range of 30 m. It was designed to engage enemy machine gun nests and destroy them to enable the infantry to continue to advance, not to engage in tank on tank combat. The tank’s 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 gun could knock out Soviet T-26 and BT tanks but the crews were aware that the Panzer II tank’s armour would not stop a 3.7 cm or 4.5 cm anti-tank gun.

The high nickel-alloy, rolled homogeneous-hard armour plate ranged in thickness from 5 mm to 13 mm. It was welded together not riveted as seen on many other tanks of this time-period. This made it stronger and lighter.
The first Panzer II Ausfuehrung (model versions) were given the lower case letter ‘a’ then ‘b’ and ‘c’. Later versions were given capital letters ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’. This can be confusing. The Panzer II Ausf.a tanks was sub divided into Ausf.a/1, Ausf.a/2 and Ausf.a/3. Each version having minor mechanical changes.
Early versions of the Panzer II changed shape over time as they were upgraded during their operational life. Additional armour was added and features like cupolas were fitted. Panzer II tanks were not used in the Spanish Civil War. They first saw combat in Poland, 1 Sept 1939.

Panzer II Ausf.a/1, a/2 and a/3 specifications

Dimensions 4.38 m x 2.14 m x 1.94 m
Weight 7.6 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5 mm – 15 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 57 TR 6-cyl water-cooled 130 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Max Range 190 km (118 miles)
Total production Ausf a/1 25
Total production Ausf a/2 25
Total production Ausf a/3 25

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.b (Sd.Kfz.121)

The thickness of armour on the Panzer II Ausf.b tank’s chassis, superstructure and turret was increased from the Ausf.a tank’s 13 mm to 14.5 mm. The gun mantle increased from 15 mm to 16 mm. To reduce the reliance on obtaining nickel, the armour was changed to rolled homogeneous nickel-free armour steel. It had the same resistance to 7.92 mm S.M.K steel-cored armour-piercing machine gun bullets fired from a range of 30 m as the Ausf.a but it had to be thicker to achieve this. This increased the weight of the tank by 500 kg but it did not decrease its speed.

The shape and thickness of the crew’s vision ports were changed to give added protection. A different style of large drive wheel was bolted on to the final drive at the front of the tank. The rear engine deck was redesigned. Armoured louvers were added to the rear right of the tank. The road wheels and the track return rollers were widened. The return rollers were reduced in diameter. Wider tracks, increasing from 260 mm to 285 mm, were introduced. Lengthened, foldable track guards were fitted to the rear of the tank.

The 2 cm Kw.K.30 gun could fire three different shells. When fired against armour plate laid back at 30° from the vertical. The PzGr.39 (Armour Piercing) shell could penetrate 23 mm of armour at 100 meters and 14 mm of armour at 500 meters. The PzGr.40 (Armour Piercing Composite Rigid) shell could go through 40 mm of armour at 100 meters and 20 mm of armour at 500 meters. It could also fire 2 cm Sprgr. 39 (High Explosive) shells.

Early versions of the Panzer II changed shape over time as they were upgraded during their operational life. Additional armour was added and features like cupolas were fitted. Panzer II tanks were not used in the Spanish Civil War. They first saw combat in Poland, 1 Sept 1939.

Panzer II Ausf.b specifications

Dimensions 4.75 m x 2.14 m x 1.95 m
Weight 7.9 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5 mm – 16 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 57 TR 6-cyl water-cooled 130 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Max Range 190 km (118 miles)
Total production 100

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.c (Sd.Kfz.121)

The suspension on the Ausf.c was visually very different from that used on previous models. Five larger 55 cm diameter road wheels replaced the six small road wheels. The suspension was now a leaf spring, crank arm system. The long metal beam that ran along the road wheels was no longer needed and was removed. The new version of the front drive wheel first introduced on the Ausf.b was kept. An additional track return roller was added bringing the total to four. The front track guard extension was now held together with a by clips.

This increased the total weight from 7.9 tons to 8.9 tons. This did not affect the tank’s top speed as the engine was upgraded as well. It was fitted with a more powerful Maybach HL 62 TR 6-cylinder water cooled 140 hp petrol engine.

The 2 cm Kw.K.30 gun could fire three different shells. When fired against armour plate laid back at 30° from the vertical. The PzGr.39 (Armour Piercing) shell could penetrate 23 mm of armour at 100 meters and 14 mm of armour at 500 meters. The PzGr.40 (Armour Piercing Composite Rigid) shell could go through 40 mm of armour at 100 meters and 20 mm of armour at 500 meters. It could also fire 2 cm Sprgr. 39 (High Explosive) shells.

Early versions of the Panzer II changed shape over time as they were upgraded during their operational life. Additional armour was added and features like cupolas were fitted. The bullet ricochet ‘splash’ plate and the dummy cone shaped periscope in front of the commander’s hatch were removed. The additional armour added to the front hull glacis plates changed the look from a curved frontal armoured hull to an angular shape. Panzer II tanks were not used in the Spanish Civil War. They first saw combat in Poland, 1 Sept 1939.

Panzer II Ausf.c specifications

Dimensions 4.81 m x 2.22 m x 1.99 m
Weight 8.9 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5 mm – 16 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 62 TR 6-cyl water-cooled 140 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Max Range 190 km (118 miles)
Total production 75

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.A (Sd.Kfz.121)

The Panzer II Ausf.A was the final standardised version ready for mass production. The previous versions Ausf.a/1, a/2, a/3, b and c were all trial series developed to test new design elements. This is why a capital letter ‘A’ was used to denote the tank version. Only minor internal changes were made. A new gear box was fitted. The fuel pump, oil filter and cooler were relocated on the engine. The tank’s electrical system was supressed to try and stop it interfering with the AM radio reception and transmission.

The man visual difference between the Ausf.c and the Ausf.A was the introduction of a new driver’s visor at the front of the tank. The large flat rectangular armoured vision port cover was now replaced with a V shaped armoured visor that had a slit built into it. The two side visors used by the driver and radio operator were now of the same type. The first modification fitted to the Ausf.A was a turret ring guard bolted on to the superstructure at the front and rear of the turret ring, to help deflect incoming enemy armour piercing bullets and shell shrapnel.

The 2 cm Kw.K.30 gun could fire three different shells. When fired against armour plate laid back at 30° from the vertical. The PzGr.39 (Armour Piercing) shell could penetrate 23 mm of armour at 100 meters and 14 mm of armour at 500 meters. The PzGr.40 (Armour Piercing Composite Rigid) shell could go through 40 mm of armour at 100 meters and 20 mm of armour at 500 meters. It could also fire 2 cm Sprgr. 39 (High Explosive) shells.

Early versions of the Panzer II changed shape over time as they were upgraded during their operational life. Additional armour was added and features like cupolas were fitted. The bullet ricochet ‘splash’ plate and the dummy cone shaped periscope in front of the commander’s hatch were removed. The additional armour added to the front hull glacis plates changed the look from a curved frontal armoured hull to an angular shape. Panzer II tanks were not used in the Spanish Civil War. They first saw combat in Poland, 1 Sept 1939.

Panzer II Ausf.A specifications

Dimensions 4.81 m x 2.22 m x 1.99 m
Weight 8.9 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5 mm – 16 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 62 TR 6-cyl water-cooled 140 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Max Range 190 km (118 miles)
Total production 422

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.B (Sd.Kfz.121)

There were no major changes between the Panzer Ausf.A and the Ausf.B. There was a delay in finalising the design of the Panzer III tank to enable it to be mass produced. To fill this gap more Panzer II tanks were ordered but with a few minor alterations like vertical bullet deflectors welded to the sides of the superstructure in front of the vision ports. 50 mm thick bullet proof glass were bolted behind the vison slit. During the production run strengthening reinforcing rods were added to the hull and angle irons were welded inside the engine compartment.

The 2 cm Kw.K.30 gun could fire three different shells. When fired against armour plate laid back at 30° from the vertical. The PzGr.39 (Armour Piercing) shell could penetrate 23 mm of armour at 100 meters and 14 mm of armour at 500 meters. The PzGr.40 (Armour Piercing Composite Rigid) shell could go through 40 mm of armour at 100 meters and 20 mm of armour at 500 meters. It could also fire 2 cm Sprgr. 39 (High Explosive) shells.

Early versions of the Panzer II changed shape over time as they were upgraded during their operational life. Additional armour was added and features like cupolas were fitted. The bullet ricochet ‘splash’ plate and the dummy cone shaped periscope in front of the commander’s hatch were removed. The additional armour added to the front hull glacis plates changed the look from a curved frontal armoured hull to an angular shape. Some were fitted with a smoke grenade rack on the battlefield.

The Panzer II Ausf.B tanks sent to North Africa had extra armoured plate bolted onto the gun mantel in addition to the extra hull armour. A large stowage bin was fixed over the right track guard. Panzer II tanks were not used in the Spanish Civil War. They first saw combat in Poland, 1 Sept 1939.

Panzer II Ausf.B specifications

Dimensions 4.81 m x 2.22 m x 1.99 m
Weight 8.9 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5 mm – 16 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 62 TR 6-cyl water-cooled 140 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Max Range 190 km (118 miles)
Total production 627

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.C (Sd.Kfz.121)

The Ausf.C was ordered to keep the factories busy until the Panzer III tank was ready for mass production. The only visible difference is a new type of improved vision port. It had two conical beaded bolts of the face plate and two large bolts above and below it to keep the 50 mm bullet proof glass in place. It was still armed with a 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 main gun that could fire armour piercing AP shells and high explosive HE Shells. The turret was also fitted with a 7.92 mm MG34 machine gun.

Early versions of the Panzer II changed shape over time as they were upgraded during their operational life. Additional armour was added to the front of the tank’s hull and turret in 1940. When the commander’s cupola was fitted in 1941 the bullet ricochet ‘splash’ plate and the dummy cone shaped periscope that used to be in front of the commander’s hatch were removed. The additional armour added to the front hull glacis plates changed the look from a curved frontal armoured hull to an angular shape.

The Pz.Kpfw Il light tanks were first issued to Panzer units in the spring of 1936. Panzer II tanks were not used in the Spanish Civil War. They first saw combat in Poland, 1 Sept 1939. They were used as main combat tanks in Poland but on 10 May 1940 they were relegated to reconnaissance roles during the invasion of Belgium, Holland and France. During the invasion of Russia, Operation Barbarossa, 22 June 1941 most Panzer units had a platoon of Panzer II tanks for scouting reconnaissance missions. The platoons were withdrawn in 1942 and tanks were phased out from panzer regiments in 1943. They were still used for internal security work until the end of the war.

Panzer II Ausf.C specifications

Dimensions 4.81 m x 2.22 m x 1.99 m
Weight 8.9 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5 mm – 16 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 62 TR 6-cyl water-cooled 140 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Max Range 190 km (118 miles)
Total production 635

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.F (Sd.Kfz.121)

The Panzer II Ausf.F was built with the thicker 30 mm armour on the front of the tank hull and 30 mm armour of the front of the turret. It was not added on later as in previous earlier models. The Commander had a cupola with a periscope on the top of the turret rather than a split hatch. The side vision ports had vertical bullet splash guards in front of them and had two conical bolts above and below the visor to hold in place the 50 mm bulletproof glass behind it.
 
The turret dummy periscope and commander’s hatch bullet splash guard were not fitted. The turret ring was protected from bullet and shrapnel damage by a triangular shaped guard welded to the top of the superstructure at the front and back. The turret was fitted with a rear stowage bin.
 
A fake armoured visor, made from aluminium alloy, was bolted onto the front of the hull to the right of the driver’s vision port. This was done to distract enemy fire away from the driver. Most other parts used to build the tank were unchanged from previous models. It was still armed with a 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 gun and 7.92 mm MG34 machine gun.
 
The first seven Panzer II Ausf.F light tanks were completed in March 1941. Production stopped at the end of July 1942. A total of 1,004 received chassis numbers and entered service.
 
They were used mainly on the Eastern Front as a reconnaissance tank but some Panzer II Ausf.F light tanks were sent to Libya as replacements. In the desert, they were issued to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, 21st Division (II.Abt/Pz.Rgt.5). These tanks had the size of the cooling air intake and exhaust holes increased and the radiator fan changed for a high-performance version so it could cope better with the hot desert temperatures. Late production tanks built in 1942 had four posts fitted around the turret cupola to be used as a base for a Fla-M.G anti-aircraft machine gun. The rear turret stowage bin does not seem to be fitted.

Panzer II Ausf.F specifications

Dimensions 4.75 m x 2.28 m x 2.15 m
Weight 9.5 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5 mm – 30 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 62 TR 6-cyl water-cooled 140 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Max Range 190 km (118 miles)
Total production 1,004

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.D & Ausf.E (Sd.Kfz.121)

The leaf spring suspension on the Panzer II Ausf.c and Ausf.A-C tanks were found to have a limited life span of 1,500 – 2,500 km before they needed changing. A new torsion bar suspension system with larger road wheels and a different drive and idler wheel were introduced on the Panzer II Ausf.D and E. It was designed by Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (MAN). No track return rollers were used. The seven Ausf.E chassis had different wheels. They were used for trials, never as combat tanks as no turret or superstructure was fitted to them.

A new Maybach HL 62 TRM engine and a new Maybach Variorex VG 102128 7-speed gearbox enabled this heavier Panzer II Ausf.D tank to reach top speeds of 55 km/h. Fuel tanks were moved into the engine compartment. The rear engine deck was completely changed. The armoured deck now covered the width of the tank and had two large split hatches in it.

One of the major differences was that the radio operator now has his own armoured forward vision port and hatch at the front of the tank. The triangular aerial support on the left of the tank was removed and the aerial positioned on the right side of the vehicle. There are no vertical bullet splash shields in front of the side late version vision ports. There are conical shaped bolts above and below the armoured side vision ports to hold in place the 50 mm thick bullet proof glass.

The front hull armour was now 30 mm thick and of an angular rather than a curved design. The turret armour was still 14.5 mm. It had a split hatch and dummy periscope cone and bullet splash guard in front of the hatch. All Panzer II Ausf.D tanks that survived Poland and the invasion of France were converted into 7.62 cm Pak 36(r) Marder II (Sd.Kfz.132) tank hunters following an order issued 20 December 1941.

Panzer II Ausf.D and Ausf.E specifications

Dimensions 4.75 m x 2.14 m x 2.02 m
Weight 11 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.30 L/55 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5 mm – 30 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 62 TRM 6-cyl water-cooled 140 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 55 km/h (34 mph)
Max Range 200 km (124 miles)
Total production Ausf.D 85
Total production Ausf.E 7

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.G (Sd.Kfz.121)

The Panzer II Ausf.G was fitted with a new more powerful engine, the Maybach HL 45 water cooled 150 hp petrol engine. It increased the tank’s top road speed from the normal 40 km/h of older versions to 65 km/h. The 2cm automatic main gun was upgraded to the 2 cm Kw.K.38 L/55 gun. A 7.92 mm MG 34 was also mounted in the turret. Both guns were stabilised, for the first time, to help increase accuracy when they were fired on the move.

The new overlapping torsion bar suspension system’s five large road wheels are the most identifiable feature of this tank. No track return rollers were fitted. This enabled only a short length of track to be in contact with the ground which resulted in exceptional manoeuvrability as it had a small turning circle. The first and last torsion bars on each side of the tank had shock absorbers attached to dampen down the impact of bumps at speed. During driving trials, a number of different transmission gearboxes were tested.

The front hull and front turret armour were now 30 mm thick. The front of the tank was angled rather than curved. The side armour of the hull and turret was 14.5 mm thick. The side vision ports were of the new style with two conical bolts above and below the port to hold the 50 mm bulletproof glass in position behind it but no vertical bullet splash guard was fitted in front of the visor port. The front vision ports now had a protective armour plate that ran the width of the superstructure, divided into three. The central one was fake to confuse enemy snipers. The armoured pipe in front of it was a steering brake fume exhaust.

A straight rather than curved turret ring bullet and shrapnel triangular splash guard was welded in front of the drivers and radio operators hatches. One was not fitted behind the turret. Stowage boxes were not fitted to the rear of the turret at the factory. The engine deck covered the whole width of the tank. Photographs show them being used on the Eastern Front.

Panzer II Ausf.G specifications

Dimensions 4.24 m x 2.38 m x 2.05 m
Weight 10.5 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.38 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34(P) machine-gun
Armor thickness 5.5 mm – 30 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 44 P 6-cyl water-cooled 150 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 65 km/h (40 mph)
Max Range 200 km (124 miles)
Total production 75

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.H & Ausf.M (Sd.Kfz.121)

The Panzer II Ausf.H and Ausf.M only reached the prototype stage. They did not enter mass production or see active service. They would have 30 mm thick armour on the front of the hull and turret but the side and rear armour was going to be increased from 14.5 mm on previous Ausf.G models to 20 mm thick. The company MAN was contracted to design and build the chassis whilst Daimler-Benz manufactured the superstructure and turret. To cope with the weight of the armour a more powerful Maybach HL 66 P 200 hp engine was fitted to the prototypes.

They both had the same overlapping torsion bar suspension system with five large road wheels as first introduced on the Panzer II Ausf.G light tank. No track return rollers were fitted. The overlapping road wheels enabled only a short length of track to be in contact with the ground which resulted in exceptional manoeuvrability as it had a small turning circle. The first and last torsion bars on each side of the tank had shock absorbers attached to dampen down the impact of bumps at speed.

The Panzer II Ausf.H was initially intended for the tank to be armed with the standard Panzer II 2 cm KwK 38 gun but documents show that it was intended to fit a 2.8 cm KwK 42 self-loading gun. No further documents have been found that show this happened.

The Panzer II Ausf.M prototype design used the Panzer II Ausf.G light tank chassis suspension with overlapping torsion bar suspension system with five large road wheels but it was to be fitted with the wider turret of the Panzer II. Ausf.L. This would enable a fourth crew member, a gunner, to work in the turret.
On 27th March 1942 the decision was made to stop any further work on the Panzer II Ausf.H and Ausf.M designs in preference to the preferred Panzer II. Ausf.L Luchs (Lynx).

Panzer II Ausf.H and Ausf.M specifications

Dimensions 4.24 m x 2.38 m x 2.05 m
Weight 10.5 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.38 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34(P) machine-gun
Armor thickness 5.5 mm – 30 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 66 P 6-cyl water-cooled 200 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 65 km/h (40 mph)
Max Range 200 km (124 miles)
Total production Ausf.D Project cancelled
Total production Ausf.E Project cancelled

2 cm Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.J

Instructions were given to MAN and Daimler-Benz to build a strengthened Panzer II tank. The frontal armour on the hull and turret was increased from 30 mm to 80 mm thick. The sides and rear of the turret and hull were increased from 14.5 mm to 50 mm thick. It was armed with a 2 cm Kw.K.38 gun and a 7.92 mm MG34 machine gun in the turret. The commander had a cupola on top of the turret.

The weight of the Panzer II was increased to 17.4 tons. It was powered by a Maybach HL 45 150 hp petrol engine and because of the weight only had a top road speed of 31 km/h. This badly effected its ability to act as a scout car as speed was essential although its survivability prospects had increased.

It had the same overlapping torsion bar suspension system as used on the Panzer II Ausf.G with five large road wheels and no track return rollers. The most identifying feature of this design was the central gap in the track guard on both sides of the tank to enable access to the crew’s new round entrance and escape hatch. They had to be repositioned to this location as there was no longer any room above the heads of the driver and radio operator because of the increase in the thickness of the frontal armoured plate. Both sides also had a circular armoured cover around the side hull vision port. There was no turret ring protection shield at the rear of the turret but there was one welded to the top of the hull in front of the turret.

By the end of December 1942 a total of twenty-two Panzer II Ausf.J strengthened tanks had been built. They saw combat on the Eastern and Western Front.

Panzer II Ausf.J specifications

Dimensions 4.24 m x 2.38 m x 2.05 m
Weight 17.4 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.38 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5.5 mm – 30 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 44 6-cyl water-cooled 150 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 31 km/h (19 mph)
Max Range 175 km (108 miles)
Total production 22

Panzerspähwagen II (2 cm Kw.K.38) Luchs – Lynx (Sd.Kfz.123)

In 1938, the German company Maschinenfabrik Augsburg Nürnberg (MAN) and Daimler-Benz were awarded the contract to design a new version of the Panzer II light tank for reconnaissance missions. They had already produced a three man Panzer II: MAN worked on the chassis and Daimler-Benz constructed the superstructure and turret. They then moved on to develop a four-man version that would become the Panzerspähwagen II (2 cm Kw.K.38)(Sd.Kfz.123) also known as the Panzer II Ausf.L ‘Luchs’ (Lynx). Panzerspähwagen and Panzerspaehwagen in English means armoured car.

The first prototype chassis was completed in July 1941. In June 1942 it was tested against two Czech built light tanks the Skoda T 15 and 38(t) n.a. tank. The Luchs was found to be the better design, with a larger turret and better ground clearance. During the trials the engine, clutch and transmission functioned without problems over different terrains.

The Maybach 180hp HL 66 P water-cooled petrol engine had enough power to enable the tank to have a top road speed of 60 km/h.

The front armour on the turret and chassis was 30 mm thick. The side and rear armour was 20 mm thick. The turret was armed with a centrally mounted 2 cm KwK 38 main gun with a 1.3 m long anti-aircraft gun barrel and a coaxial 7.92 mm MG34(P) machine gun which had an armoured sleeve to protect the gun barrel. The gunner sat on the right of the turret which was a different layout to most German turrets. The Maybach HL 66 P water-cooled 180 hp petrol engine produced enough power to give the tank a top road speed of 60 km/h. Production of 2 cm Luchs began in September 1942 and finished on 7 January 1944: only 100 were built. They were used on the Eastern Front and the Western Front in Normandy.

Panzerspähwagen II ‘Luchs’ specifications

Dimensions 4.63 m x 2.48 m x 2.21 m
Weight 11.8 tons
Crew 4
Armament 2 cm Kw.K.38 auto-cannon
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5.5 mm – 30 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 66 P 6-cyl water-cooled 180 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 601 km/h (37 mph)
Max Range 260 km (161 miles)
Total production 100
Panzer II Ausf.a3
The Sd.Kfz.121, also known at first as the VK 6.22, was a new stopgap tank design. Here is one of the pre-series Ausf.a3, with a longer hull and other improvements over the Ausf.a. They were involved in the large training exercises in 1937, then deployed during the Austrian and Czechoslovakian annexations. They fought in Poland, Norway and France, and then were phased out as training machines.
Panzer II Ausf. b, Norway, April 1940.
Here is an Ausf.b operating with the 36th Panzer Regiment, based at Putloss in Schelwig-Hosltein, part of the German expeditionary force, Operation Weserübung, March 1940. The following Ausf.c was the most accomplished version of the entire pre-series, with twenty-five being built. The mass-produced A, B and C versions were closely based on it.
Panzer II Ausf.C
The Panzer II Ausf.C had five larger independently sprung road wheels rather than the six smaller road wheels of the earlier versions.
Panzer II Ausf.C, 1940
An Ausf.C during the campaign of France, belonging to the famous 1st Panzerdivision, part of Guderian’s XIXth corps, which made the breakthrough in the Ardennes, May 1940.
Beobachtungpanzer II, 1942
Panzer II Ausf.C Beobachtung (command tank), Russia, Group army center, April 1942.
Panzer II Ausf.C, Afrika Korps
An Afrika Korps Panzer II Ausf.C, attached to the famous XXI Panzerdivision. Along with the XVth Panzerdivision, these units were brilliantly led by Rommel from Libya to Egypt. These Panzer II Ausf.Cs were “tropicalized”. This included better ventilation slits for the crew and the engine, and extra fixations for storage of any kind (spare parts, water and gasoline jerrycans).
Panzer II Ausf.C, Russia, summer 1941
Ausf.C in Russia, operation Barbarossa, 7th Panzerdivision, July-August 1941.
Panzer II Ausf.C, Russia, winter 1941
An Ausf.C in plain white paint winter livery, Heeresgruppe Süd (Army group south, General Gerd Von Runstedt), 13th Panzer Division (Sixth army, IIIrd Panzer Corps) under General Fretter Pico’s command, Caucasus, December 1941.
Panzer II Ausf.F, June 1942
Panzer II Ausf.F, XVth Panzerdivision, El Alamein, June 1942.
Panzer II Ausf.F, Tunisia, December 1942
Panzer II Ausf.F, Xth Panzerdivision, Djedeida, Tunisia, December 1942. Camouflage patterns became commonplace in this new landscape.
Panzer II Ausf.F, Kharkov, 1943
Panzer II Ausf.F, unknown unit, Kharkov, 1943.
Panzer II Ausf.D, Poland, 1939
A Panzer II Ausf.D of an unknown unit, Poland, September 1939. The Ausf.D and E only differed by minor details in their drivetrain. This Christie-inspired transmission system proved so unsatisfactory off-road that the next Ausf.F reverted back to the standard Panzer II suspension.
Flamingo, Stalingrad, December 1942
The Panzer II(F), better known as Flamingo, official designation Sd.Kfz.122, was a conversion of existing Ausf.D/E into flame-thrower tanks. They were almost exclusively used on the Eastern front. Here is a Flamingo in white livery, at Stalingrad, December 1942.
Panzer II Ausf.L, Normandy, 1944
The Panzer II Ausf.L or “Luchs” (Lynx), the most famous reconnaissance tank of the Wehrmacht and the final version of the Panzer II. Its new hull, new drivetrain and engine, new tracks and interleaved wheels, new suspensions, better armor, radio and internal equipment, made this model well suited for the task.
Panzer II Ausf G
The Panzer II Ausf.G was an attempt to produce a heavily armored scout tank. New tracks and interleaved wheels, new welded hull, helped this model to reach the specifications. The entire project was cancelled due to other priorities in 1942, after twelve had been built in three sub-variants. The Ausf.H was very similar, simplified for mass-production. There were plans to equip them with a special KwK 42 2.8 cm (1.1 in) taper-bore antitank rifle, with a muzzle brake. It was derived from the earlier 2.8 cm sPzB 41, or PanzerBüsche-41.
Panzer II Ausf.J
The Ausf.J (22 built by MAN in early 1943), was a heavily armored version of the Panzer II, which had nothing in common but the name. They were dubbed “little tigers” by the Russians and the Germans.
Vk 1602 Leopard
Here is a prospective view of the Vk 16.02 Leopard, as it would have been in regular units by the fall of 1943. But, compared to the cost and use of the Sd.Kfz.234 “Puma”, the project was doomed.

Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Main variants

Many Panzer II chassis, particularly those of early versions (Ausf.A to C) were used for special versions. And the production line, which stopped producing the Panzer II, kept churning chassis for the production of new variants.

Panzerkampfwagen II (Flammenwerferwagen) (Sd.Kfz.122)

On 21 January 1939 the Waffenamt, (weapons department of the German military) suggested that flame thrower tanks be built using the Panzer II Ausf.D tank chassis. Between April and August 1939 forty-six new Panzer II Ausf.D tank chassis were diverted from the main tank production line and converted into a Flammenwerfer (flame thrower). An order dated 8 March 1940 resulted in an additional forty three Panzer II Ausf.D tanks, that had been issued to front line Divisions, being recalled and converted in to Flame thrower tanks.

Confusingly these Ausf.D tank chassis were renamed Panzerkampfwagen II (Flammenwerferwagen) Ausf.A. They did not use the Panzer II Ausf.A suspension. It had the new Panzer II Ausf.D torsion bar suspension system with larger road wheels and a different drive and idler wheel. It did not use any track return rollers.

The tank was armed with two flame guns housed in separate armoured towers built over the front left and right track guard. The tank commander operated the right flamethrower and machine gun. The radio operator controlled the left flamethrower. The gun’s fuel was kept in external armoured tanks mounted on each track guard behind it. The turret was redesigned. It was now only armed with a single 7.92 mm MG34 machine gun in a central ball mount flanked either side by two armoured vision ports.

A few Panzer II (F) Ausf.A flamethrower conversions used the Panzer II Ausf.E tank chassis that was similar to the Ausf.D but had different wheels and tracks. A new contract for more flamethrower tanks was reported as having been issued 1 March 1941. These were known as Panzer II (F) Ausf.B. They still used the Panzer II Ausf.D tank chassis but had different idler and front drive sprocket wheels.

They were not enough built in time for the invasion of France and the Low Countries 10 May 1940. There are photographs showing them practicing getting on and off invasion barges in the English channel during the summer of 1940 for Operation Sealion. They first saw combat on the Eastern Front during Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, 22 June 1941. Total build was 92 Ausf.A version and 250 Ausf.B.

Panzer II (F) specifications

Dimensions 4.30 m x 2.124 m x 1.85 m
Weight 12 tons
Crew 3
Armament 2x Flammenwerfer
Additional weapon 7.92 mm Coaxial M.G.34 machine-gun
Armor thickness 5 mm – 30 mm
Propulsion Maybach HL 62 TRM 6-cyl water-cooled 140 hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 55 km/h (34 mph)
Max Range 250 km (155 miles)
Total production Ausf.A 92
Total production Ausf.B 250

Marder II

The most famous derivative was this successful tank hunter, using captured Soviet 76 mm (3 in) AT guns (Sd.Kfz.132) or the regular German Pak 40 (Sd.Kfz.131). 744 of both versions were built or converted until 1944, and they served well until 1944.

Wespe

The Wespe (Wasp) was a frontline self-propelled howitzer motor carriage, officially named “Leichte Feldhaubitze 18 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II”. 682 were built by Alkett from 1942 to 1943. They served with various Panzerartillerie Abteilungen on the Eastern front and North Africa, alongside heavier SPGs like the Hummel and Bison. Some were later converted as ammunition supply tanks (Munitions Selbstfahrlafette auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II).

15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)

Another, heavily modified version officially named “15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)”. This was another attempt to self-carry the gargantuan 150 mm (5.9 in) sIG field howitzer. The Panzer I Ausf.B served as the first basis for such a conversion, but it was soon found to be overloaded. A new, lengthened and reinforced chassis with extra wheels was designed, based on a regular Panzer II Ausf. B chassis. This led to the final Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II. However, only 12 were completed by December 1941, and sent to the Afrika Korps.

Brükenleger II

A Bridge layer based upon an Panzerkampfwagen II tank chassis was requested by the Waffeamt in early 1939. Four were manufactured by Krupp and M.A.N. The bridge could be extended up to 12 meters and withstand 8 tons. Although some sources say they were used in Poland and France because of the White identification cross on the front of the tanks in this picture. Panzer II Ausf B to Ausf F didn’t start production until March 1941. None would have available for the Polish or French campaign

They were in the Engineers section of 7th Panzer. What looks like a white cross in the photo is a Yellow cross bordered in white. They were painted on the vehicles to prevention ‘friendly’ fire incidents due to the unusual silhouette of the Brükenleger II.
panzer II bridge layer
Three Bruckenleger II Bridge layesr based upon an Panzerkampfwagen II tank chassis

Wartime operations: The Panzer II in action

From 1936 to 1939, as the production gradually increased, the Panzer II were used for the drilling of the Panzertruppen. Many of the officers involved became unit commanders afterwards. Some seem to have been sent in Spain, for testing purposes with Panzer Abteilung 88 of Legion Condor, but this is unconfirmed. The first war operation came with the Czechoslovakian annexation, almost without a fight. More serious actions took place during the Polish campaign, in September 1939. The Panzer II was, at that time, the most numerous model in the Werhmacht, with 1223 units. War operations showed that, while it was efficient against most lightly protected tankettes, many were destroyed by the Polish infantry AT rifles and the modern 7TP light tanks. 83 in all were destroyed, including 32 at the battle of Warsaw. Soon enough, there were concerns that they should be withdrawn as frontline combat tanks. Others were sent in Norway, were they played their part without serious opposition from the Allies. The French had landed there two independent tanks battalions, 30 Hotchkiss H35/39s in all, but they never encountered any German tanks. At peak deployment, the Germans had 63 tanks in Norway, mostly including Panzer Is, IIs and only three heavy Neubaufahrzeug. Two Panzer IIs were lost to enemy AT guns.

At the start of the campaign of France, all available Panzer IIs (920) were gathered. The crews were concerned by their opponents’ armor and weaponry. However, the speed, range and flexibility of these light units, all equipped with radios, led to refined tactics, and these tanks were deployed in efficient screening-scouting duties. They performed well, despite heavy losses. In 1941, they took part in operation Marita (the Balkans campaign) and the invasion of Greece. Many were sent to the Afrika Korps, were their speed was seen as an advantage on this particular barren landscape. Variants of the Panzer II (the Wespe and Marder II) were also shipped to Africa. Some survived, despite losses and few replacements, until the Axis surrendered in Tunisia.

When the Russian invasion took place in the summer of 1941, 782 Panzer IIs were involved, now organised in scout units. But the lack of armor proved to be a serious issue. Many Ausf.Cs were up-armored and retrofitted with extra plates. The Ausf.F was a largely rebuilt variant with overall added protection. Ammunition was mixed with more and more AP shells, notably tungsten-core rounds. But most Russian tanks proved immune to them, and only some T-26s and various light tanks could be disabled at short range, by experienced crews. When they could, the Panzer II tankers avoided tank-to-tank combat. In 1942, most of the survivors were removed from the frontline, or given to allied nations, like the Slovaks and Bulgarians. Some were converted, others led to various unsuccessful prototype conversions. Notable among these are the recovery Bergenpanzer II and the Flak 38 version. Production turned towards the Wespe and Marder II. In 1943-44, only the Luchs was active, in limited numbers, alongside survivors of the previous campaigns (386 by October 1944). There are records of 145 Panzer II still active by March 1945.

Sources

Panzer Tracts No.2-1, No.2-2 and No.2-3 by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle
The Panzer II on Wikipedia
A list of surviving vehicles
The Panzerkampfwagen II on Achtung Panzer

Panzerkampfwagen 38(t)
Panzer I
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4 Responses to Panzer II

  1. Mark Nash says:

    Of the 22 IIJs only 7 were issued to the 12th Panzer Division.

  2. Blockio says:

    Link to the VK Leo is broken :/

  3. TheTankie says:

    It is spelled Brückenleger, not Brükenleger.

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