Aufklärungspanzer 38(t)

german ww2 tanks Germany (1939)- c70 built

The Czech-built recce tank

The Czech Lt.Vz 38 was considered one of the best tank in the wehrmacht arsenal when launching the 1940 invasion of France and the low countries. After the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and acquisition of Skoda works, the qualities of the medium tank were recoignised. The Lt.Vz.38 was a very reliable, well made and balanced model, later reclassed as light tank and incorporated as the Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) as production was expanded under German control.

The chassis was so good it was declined during the war in a multitude of variantsn the most famous being the late war Hezter tank hunter. However alongside these, other variants were far more obscure or just saw limited production. One of these was the Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) (lit. "reconnaissance tank"). 38 were based on the initial model year of introduction (1938) an the "T" meant "Tschechisch" or "Czech". There were several recce tank projects in the inventory, most being small production late variants of the Panzer I and II, and the most prolific being the Panzer II Ausf L "Luchs". However it was obvious that if of one hand wheeled reconaissance vehicles such as the Sd.Kfz.234 were faster, tracked vehicles might be more useful on other terrains and situations.

The need for mobility

The Aufklärung Abteilung’s (reconnaissance battalions) mixed tracked and wheeled vehicle, down to simple unarmured side cars and light cars such s the Schwimmwagen or Kübelwagen. The composition of thes batallions varied greatly and among these, the Grossdeutschland Regiment had a four battalion Infantry Regiment, including one armoured reconnaissance battalion (HQ, 5 Recce Companies, 1 Supply Company). No.1 was a heavier Panzerspähkompanie whereas No.2, 3, 4 were lighter Aufkläerungskompanie (No.5 was an assault pioneer/close support/mortar troop). No.1 Company needed light tank, but had instead half-tracks (mostly Sd.Kfz. 250/251 types) the three others had normally wheeled vehicles.

Thus, the need to replace these half-tracks not at ease on the eastern front, led to design an all-tracked recce vehicle, still lightly armed (no heavy gun armed turret). The Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) was developed to answer this, from old stocks of Panzer 38(t) tanks. In 1943 indeed, it had been withdrawn from the front line as obsolete, and conversions started in multiple uses.

Design of the Aufklärungspanzer 38(t)

The turret was removed, replaced by the light open topped, all welded "Hangelafette turret" housing a 2 cm (0.79 in) KwK 38 gun coaxial with a single 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 42 machine gun. The gun had an high angle and could be used as AA as well. This turret was already well proven on reconnaissance vehicles like the Sd.Kfz.222 and Sd.Kfz.234/1 or Sd.Kfz.250/9. It had a 360° traverse and was manually turned on a "free pivot". Anti-grenade mesh covered the top.

The conversion went further than a simple turret swap: The whole hull superstructure was removed and replaced by a tailoed, new lighter boxed upper structure fitting the Hangelafette turret. As this programme competed with the Jagdpanzer 38(t) Tank Destroyer only a few were converted in late 1943 and along 1944.

The Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) in action

-25 were allocated to the 2.PanzerAufklärung GD/PzGr-Div. Grossdeutschland, 27th April 1944.
-1 went to the Ersatz-Brigade Grossdeutschland, 30th April 1944.
-1 went to the 2.PanzerAufklärung GD/PzGr-Div. Grossdeutschland, 27th June 1944, +7 in December.
-25 to the 1.PanzerAufklärung. 3.Abteilung (3rd Battalion), 3.Panzer Division, 1st September 1944, +6 in October.
Seeing action with the Grossdeutschland division, many were lost around Lake Balaton and in the fighting for Budapest.

Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) specifications

Dimensions4.61m x 2.15m x 2.40m
Total weight9.7-9.8 tons
Crew4 (commander, gunner, driver, co-driver)
PropulsionPraga Typ TNHPS/II 6-cylinder gasoline, 125 bhp (92 kW)
SuspensionLeaf spring type
Maximum speed42/15 km/h (26/9 mph)
Range250/100 km (160/62 mi)
Armament2 cm (0.79 in) KwK 38 gun, 7.92 mm MG 42
ArmorFront 50 mm (1.97 in), Sides 10-30 mm (0.39-1.18 in)
Total production64 deployed (70 produced)

Main article on Tank Encyclopedia

Aufklärungspanzers 38(t dark sand, fresh from factory early 1944.

Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) mit 2cm KwK 38, Eastern Front, 1944-45

Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) mit 2cm KwK 38, Western Front, 1944-45


Presented at CKD (Ceskomoravska Kolben-Danek) works

Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) has a three colour camouflage pattern.

Additional spare tracks bolted to the front for added protection

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