It is the first mass-produced tank of the German Army and was designed as a training vehicle for the next Panzers. It's early combat experiences revealed it's inability to engage in a tank-to-tank combat due to its armament of two machine guns. Nevertheless, it saw combat service from the early years of the war until 1941 and then for the rest of the war as a training vehicle.
First designed in 1934, the Panzer I entered service that same year, with the first production model of the Panzer I series designated the Ausf. A. The Panzer I was powered by a Krupp M305 engine, which gave it a top speed of 49.8 km/h. It was armed with two 7.92 mm MG 13 machine guns.
The Panzer I had a total weight of 6,000 kilograms, a total length of 4.4 meters, and armor protection that had a maximum thickness of 15 mm. It was piloted by only two men. The Panzer I Ausf. A like many a first model of any vehicle suffered from driving issues and being underpowered. The range of the Panzer I on a single load of fuel was 140 kilometers, and it could carry thousands of rounds of machine gun ammunition, as it had no heavier armament and no large shells to take up the limited space within the vehicle. The Panzer I also had a five speed forward, one speed reverse transmission system and a leaf spring suspension.
The first variant of the Panzer I series was the Ausf. B and its main change was a new Maybach 38 TR engine and a longer hull that was fitted with additional road wheels. The next variant in the series was the Ausf. C which had new 30 mm armor, a 20 mm autocannon that replaced one of the turret machine guns and a torsion bar suspension system. The variant that followed was the Ausf. F model which was the last variant that was meant to improve the tank itself.
The Ausf. F had its twin MG 13s returned and an 81 mm thick hull. Furthermore, the hull itself was modified with the turret centered and wider tracks. After the Ausf. F was produced, the Panzer I chassis was taken by designers and modified to suit a variety of needs. The first of these needs was as a command tank as seen in the SdKfz 265 Panzerbefehlwagen I.
In addition, some models were turned into Flammpanzers or flametanks while many were turned into tank killers, namely the Panzerjäger I but also with the sIG 33 Bison. Since the series was also mass-produced for the German army, models were often given battlefield conversions in semi-official variants such as Flakpanzers and engineer tanks.
The Panzer I was first developed in 1932 by Krupp in response to the need for a light tank that could lead the Wehrmacht into combat. The design was based heavily on earlier tankettes and at this stage in tank design, designers had not explored the possibility of using tanks in combat against other tanks and as such the armament of the Panzer I left it only capable of providing light support for infantry. In reality, it was about as effective as an infantryman with his machine gun. Still, when the Panzer I entered service in 1934, it was widely accepted into German tank divisions. The Panzer I is probably most well known for its highly influential role in the German conquest of Poland in 1939 and the later 1940. By 1944, all Panzer Is that were somehow not destroyed yet and still in German ranks were either sent back or destroyed. In total, about 1,500 models of the Panzer I were produced during the war.
- ↑ http://wwiivehicles.com/germany/tanks-light/pzkpfw-i.asp
- ↑ http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_panzer_I.html
- ↑ http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=244