Suunnitelma kevyestä viiden tonnin vaunusta tilattiin jo vuosi 1932 Rheinmetallilta, Kruppilta, Henschelilta, MANilta ja Daimler-Benziltä.
Prototyypit tilattiin 1933 ja Kruppin suunnitelma hyväksyttiin. Vaunu sai huomiota herättämättömän nimen Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper, maataloustraktori. Piirustukset perustuivat brittiläiseen Carden-Lloyd Mk. IV:iin, joita oli salaa ostettu kaksi Neuvostoliitosta. Kruppin malliin lisättiin vielä Daimler-Benzin torni.
Panzerkampfwagen IA -mallissa oli 57 hevosvoiman Kruppin M305 4-sylinterinen moottori, joka antoi huippunopeudeksi 37 km/h hyvässä maastossa ja 145 km toimintasäteen. IB-mallissa oli 100 hevosvoiman kuusisylinterinen Maybach NL38TR. Kuten kaikissa saksalaispanssareissa, moottorit olivat bensiinikäyttöisiä. Panzerkampfwagen IA (Sd.Kfz. 101) painoi 5,3 tonnia ja siinä oli 15 mm panssarointi. Aseistuksena oli ainoastaan kaksi 7,92 mm konekivääriä.
Huhtikuussa 1934 valmistettiin 15 vaunua, jotka esiteltiin Hitlerille. Varsinainen tuotanto alkoi heinäkuussa 1934. Parannetun mallin valmistus jatkui elokuussa 1935.
Panzer I toimi esikuvana Panzerkampfwagen II -vaunulle ja alustana monenlaisilla panssarihaupitseille ja ilmatorjunta-ajoneuvoille. Niitä rakennettiin yli 1 500 ennen kuin tuotanto päättyi 1941.
Panzer I:tä kokeiltiin taistelutilanteessa Espanjan sisällissodassa 1936, jossa 106 vaunua palveli Condor-legioonassa. Vaunu osoittautui tehottomaksi ja sen aseistus kehnoksi ja tasavaltaisten neuvostoliittolaisia T-26- ja BT-5-vaunuja huonommaksi. Viimeistään 1938 kävi selväksi, ettei vaunusta olisi taistelukäyttöön, minkä jälkeen siitä aiottiin vaunua jalkaväen tukeen ja tiedusteluun.
Panzer I oli vielä käytössä toisen maailmansodan alkaessa. Vaunu oli tarkoitus korvata Panzerkampfwagen III -vaunulla, mutta tuotannon viivytysten vuoksi Panzer I oli vielä pääkalustona Itävallan ja Tšekkoslovakian miehityksissä. Sitä käytettiin myös Ranskan valtauksessa. Myöhemmin vaunuja käytettiin partiointiin ja koulutukseen. Vuonna 1940 kaikki muunnettiin aseettomiksi ammuskuljetusvaunuiksi.
Unkari käytti myös muutamia vaunuja koulutustarkoituksiin. Kiinan kansalliset joukot ostivat 15 Panzer IA -vaunua, joita käytettiin Kiinan sisällissodassa.
Type: Light tank
Place of origin: Germany
Service history: In service 1934–1945 (Nazi Germany)
Used by: Nazi Germany, Bulgaria, Republic of China, Hungary, Spain
Wars: Spanish Civil War, Second World War, Second Sino-Japanese War
Production history: Designed 1934
Manufacturer: Henschel, MAN, Krupp, Daimler
Number built: 1493
Weight: 5.4 tonnes (6.0 short tons)
Length: 4.02 m (13.2 ft)
Width: 2.06 m (6.8 ft)
Height: 1.72 m (5.6 ft)
Crew: 2, commander and driver
Armor: 7–13 mm
Armament: 2 × 7.92 mm MG13 machine guns
Engine: Krupp M 305 four-cylinder air-cooled gasoline engine 60 PS (59 hp, 44 kW)
Power/weight : 11.1 PS/t
Suspension: Quarter-elliptical leaf spring suspension.
Range: 200 km (120 mi) on-road; 175 km (109 mi) off-road.
Speed: 50 km/h (31 mph) on-road; 37 km/h (23 mph) off-road.
|T-26||Panzer-I||CV-33 + CV33|
|9.4 t||5.4 t||3.15 t||2.3 t|
|45 mm cannon|
1x 7,62mm mg
|2× 7.92 mm|
|6.5 mm or 8 mm|
|8 mm Breda|
|122 rounds||2,250 rounds||3,200 8 mm or|
3,800 6.5 mm
|175 km||200 km||125 km||125 km|
|7–16 mm||7–13 mm||5–15 mm||5–13.5 mm|
Machine guns were known to be largely useless against even the lightest tank armor of the time, restricting the Panzer I to a training and anti-infantry role by design.
A mass-produced version of the LKA was designed by a collaborative team from Daimler-Benz, Henschel, Krupp, MAN, and Rheinmetall, exchanging the casemate for a rotating turret. This version was accepted into service after testing in 1934.
Although these tanks were referred to as the La S and LKA well beyond the start of production, its official designation, assigned in 1938, was Panzerkampfwagen I Ausführung. A ('model A' or, more accurately, 'batch A').
The driver was positioned inside the chassis and used conventional steering levers to control the tank, while the commander was positioned in the turret where he also acted as gunner. The two crewmen could communicate by means of voice tube.
Machine gun ammunition was stowed in five bins, containing various numbers of 25-round magazines. Author Lucas Molina Franco suggests that 833 Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf. A tanks were built in total, while authors Bryan Perrett offers the number of 300 and Terry Gander 818 units.
Many of the problems in the Ausf. A were corrected with the introduction of the Ausf. B. The engine was replaced by the water-cooled, six-cylinder Maybach NL 38 TR, developing 98 horsepower (73 kW), and the gearbox was changed to a more reliable model.
The larger engine required the extension of the vehicle's chassis by 40 cm (16 in), and this allowed the improvement of the tank's suspension, adding an additional bogie wheel and raising the tensioner.
On 18 July 1936, war broke out on the Iberian peninsula as Spain dissolved into a state of civil war. After the chaos of the initial uprising, two sides coalesced and began to consolidate their position—the Popular front (the Republicans) and the Spanish Nationalist front. In an early example of a proxy war, both sides quickly received support from other countries, most notably the Soviet Union and Germany, who wanted to test their tactics and equipment.
This first shipment was followed by four more shipments of Panzer I Ausf. B's, with a total of 122 vehicles.
The Nationalist advance and the fall of the town of Illescas to Nationalist armies on 18 October 1936 caused the government of the Popular Front's Second Republic, including President Manuel Azaña, to flee to Barcelona and Valencia. In an attempt to stem the Nationalist tide and gain crucial time for Madrid's defence, Soviet armor was deployed south of the city under the command of Colonel Krivoshein before the end of October.
At this time, several T-26 tanks under the command of Captain Paul Arman were thrown into a Republican counterattack directed towards the town of Torrejon de Velasco in an attempt to cut off the Nationalist advance north. This was the first tank battle in the Spanish Civil War. Despite initial success, poor communication between the Soviet Republican armor and Spanish Republican infantry caused the isolation of Captain Arman's force and the subsequent destruction of a number of tanks. This battle also marked the first use of the molotov cocktail against tanks.
Ritter von Thoma's Panzer Is fought for the Nationalists only days later on 30 October, and immediately experienced problems. As the Nationalist armor advanced, it was engaged by the Commune de Paris battalion, equipped with Soviet BA-10 armored cars. The 45-millimeter gun in the BA-10 was more than sufficient to knock out the poorly armored Panzer I at ranges below 500 meters (550 yd).
Although the Panzer I was initially able to knock out the T-26 at close range—150 meters (165 yd) or less—using an armor-piercing 7.92 millimeter bullet, the Republican tanks began to engage at ranges where they were immune to the machine guns of the Panzer I.
The Panzer I was upgraded in order to increase its lethality. On 8 August 1937, Major General García Pallasar received a note from Generalísimo Francisco Franco which expressed the need for a Panzer I (or negrillo, as their Spanish crews called them) with a 20-millimeter gun. Ultimately, the piece chosen was the Breda Model 1935, due to the simplicity of the design over competitors such as the German Flak 30.
Furthermore, the 20 mm Breda was capable of perforating 40 millimeters of armor at 250 meters (1.57 in at 275 yd), which was more than sufficient to penetrate the frontal armor of the T-26. Although originally forty Italian CV.35 light tanks were ordered with the Breda in place of their original armament, this order was subsequently canceled after it was thought adaptation of the same gun to the Panzer I would yield better results.
The Breda modification was not particularly liked by German crews, as the unprotected gap in the turret, designed to allow the tank's commander to aim, was found to be a dangerous weak point.
In late 1938, another Panzer I was sent to the Armament Factory of Seville in order to mount a 45 mm gun, captured from a Soviet tank (a T-26 or BT-5). A second was sent sometime later in order to exchange the original armament for a 37-millimeter Maklen anti-tank gun, which had been deployed to Asturias in late 1936 on the Soviet ship A. Andreiev. It remains unknown to what extent these trials and adaptations were completed, although it is safe to assume neither adaptation was successful beyond the drawing board.