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Panzer I was one of the earliest tank designs created by the resurgent Germany.

Background[]

The Panzer I was a stop-gap design introduced in 1934 for training tank crews. As the tank was developed while Germany still officially adhered to the Versailles Treaty, it was initially covertly developed as Kleintraktor and then Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper. The LaS eventually became the Panzer I. Its designed borrowed from the British Carden Loyd tankette and was intended as a training platform for industry and Panzertruppen alike. As a result, it was undergunned, with just a pair of 7.92mm MG 13 machine guns in a rotating turret, and underarmored, with a steel plate 13 mm at its thickest. Despite the intention to use it as a training tank, Panzer I was deployed in direct combat, first with the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and then during World War II (1939–1941), contributing to the early victories of Nazi Germany.

Models[]

Ausf. B[]

Ausfuhrung B was the second major variant of the tank, with a water-cooled Maybach NL 38 TR engine producing 100 HP, a more reliable gearbox, and upgraded suspension. 399 regular Panzer IBs were produced, with another 159 built as command tanks, 295 as turetless training variants, and 147 as a convertible chassis. The ones in service at Paris were used as training vehicles, but pressed into combat as the Nazis prepared to throw everything they had at the advancing Allies in Panzer-kompanie Paris along with captured French Tanks.

Ausf. C[]

Except for the name, Ausfuhrung C had nothing in common with the original Panzer I. Instead, it was a joint project of Krauss-Maffei and Daimler-Benz, to create a fast, well armed and armored reconnaissance light tank. It use a new chassis and turret, a modern torsion bar suspension with five interleaved roadwheels, double the armor of Ausf. A and B, with a 7.92mm EW 141 semi-autocannon equipped with armor-piercing shells. Forty tanks were produced on top of six prototypes, with 38 assigned to the LVIII Panzer Reserve Corps during the Normandy landings.

VK 18.01 (Ausf. F)[]

By 1943, the Panzers were obviously obsolete. However, a number of attempts to keep them competitive were made. The VK 18.01 was barely related to the original and represented a tentative Ausf. F variant, with 80mm of frontal armor, a revised turret with paired MG 34s, and weighing over 18 tons, powered by a 150 HP Maybach HL45 Otto engine. Stretching the definition of a light tank, the VK was supposed to be a light infantry support tank. Out of the thirty built, eight were assigned to the 1. Panzer division and lost during the battle of Kursk, while the remainder was distributed among units and used for a variety of purposes, from training to police duties.

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