Aufk.-Panzer 38 is a German Recon unit in Steel Division II.
Originally designed as a replacement for the flawed LT-35 tank, the 38 was a joint creation of Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk (ČKD) and Škoda Works, intended for domestic use and export. Designed in 1935, the LT-38 was initially an export success. As TNH, it was sold to Iran, Peru, Switzerland, and initial orders were made by Lithuania. In 1937, ČKD and Škoda submitted their proven design in response to the Czechoslovak military contest for a new medium tank. TNH won and the first order of 150 tanks was submitted on July 1, 1938. None entered service by the time of the Nazi occupation, however, Panzerwaffe procurement offices were impressed by the tank and ordered production to continue, under the designation LTM 38, later changed to Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) (tschechisch or Czech). It was a balanced design superior to the Panzer I and Panzer II models that dominated in the Panzerwaffee in 1939, and became an essential element of German armored units.
The tank was a conventional design with riveted armor, limited thickness capped at 25mm from the front (later increased with applique armor bolted on), and a 37mm Skoda A7 gun. The suspension was a standard leaf spring model, and the tank was crewed by three tankers (initially): A driver, radio operator/bow gunner, and the commander/gunner. In German service, a loader was added to the crew complement and a slew of minor adjustments. Its key advantage was the reliability of the chassis and engine, excellent mobility, and ease of repair that would lengthen its lifespan far beyond the original tank's expiration date.
By 1941, the 38(t) was outclassed by Soviet tanks and anti-tank weapons. Czech steel used for its manufacture proved brittle and dangerous to the crew due to spalling, resulting in the tank being pulled from frontline service, with spare models sent to Romanian armored divisions or retasked with anti-partisan or reconnaissance duties. The reliability of the engine and chassis was remembered, however, and many more units were rebuilt as tank destroyers (Marder III and eventually the Jagdpanzer 38(t)), self-propelled gun (Grille) and anti-aircraft gun (sometimes incorrectly called the Gepard).
There were just 1 414 tanks produced for Nazi purposes, with an additional 231 sold to Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria and 226 produced by Sweden after licensing the design. However, the 38(t) chassis proved exceptional and derived designs were produced in much higher numbers: 1 500 Marders, 2 800 Jagdpanzers, and 141 Flakpanzers, for a total of nearly 4 500 vehicles.
The Aufklarungspanzer 38(t) was an utterly pragmatic attempt to replace the broad variety of armored cars and light tanks used as recon vehicles, using surplus 38(t) tanks. With its industry under constant siege, Nazi engineers experimented with cutting off the top of the tank and replacing the turret with a Hangelafette mount equipped with a 2 cm KwK 38 gun and an MG 42 machine gun side by side. The weapons were intended for self-defense, as the tank's role was to move ahead of armored divisions, seek out targets, gather intelligence, and return home. As a result, the speed, reliability, and range of the base tank were considered more important and outweighed the continued, borderline suicidal use of riveted armor in 1944.
Owing to ever more limited industrial capacity, only about 70 Aufklarungpanzers were produced and sent to the Grossdeutschland division. The project was quickly cancelled and production refocused on the Jagdpanzer.
25 were sent to Panzergrenadier "Großdeutschland"'s reconnaissance battalion's 2nd company