Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf A, B and C

The Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf A, Ausf B and Ausf C were the most common production versions of the Panzer II light tank. Close to 1,100 of them were produced between July 1937 and April 1940, and it was this version of the Panzer II that equipped the Panzer Divisions during the Polish campaign of 1939 and the invasion of the west in 1940.

The Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf A entered production in July 1937. It was generally very similar to the final development model, the ausf c, but with an improved transmission and slightly thicker armour (14.5mm instead of the 13mm used on all of the development models). The track design was the same as on the Ausf c, with five independently sprung road wheels and four return rollers. As in all German tanks of this period the engine was at the rear of the tank, while the drive wheels were at the front.

Panzer II in US Service
Panzer II in US Service

Originally the armour on the hull front of the Panzer II was rounded. During the Polish campaign the armour was found to be too thin and so additional 20mm thick armoured plates were added to the turret, superstructure and hull front. In some pictures this gives the impression that the original rounded hull had been replaced by a more angular version, but pictures from ground level show the rounded hull visible below these extra armoured plates.

The Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf B entered production in December 1937. It could be distinguished from earlier models by the addition of a low cupola on the turret, designed to improve the commander’s view.

The Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf C entered production in June 1938, and was very similar to the Ausf B, but with minor internal improvements. When production ended in the spring of 1940 it had been expected that the Ausf F would soon follow it onto the production lines, but this was delayed until March 1941.

The exact number of each type produced is unclear, but some conclusions can be drawn by looking at the overall production figures for each year. Just over 300 Panzer IIs had been completed by the end of 1937, of which at 100 were the Ausf a and b developmental versions, and at least 25 the Ausf c. Production of the Ausf A started in the middle of the year, with the Ausf B appearing in December, so it would seem likely that no more than 175 Ausf As were produced. Production of the Panzer II reached its peak in 1938, when 669 were produced. From January to June these were probably all Ausf Bs, while the Ausf C entered production in that month. If the pace of production was even throughout the war, then this would suggest that around 330 each of the Ausf B and Ausf C were produced during the year. Finally in 1939-1940 a total of 246 Panzer IIs were produced, probably all Ausf Cs. This would suggest tentative totals of 175 Ausf As, 330 Ausf Bs and 580 Ausf Cs (these figures assume that production of the earlier model ended when the new version entered production. If this was not the case then the number of As and Bs would probably be higher). Given that the differences between these three versions of the Panzer II were relatively minor, it is also possible that some individual tanks were begun as one version but completed as another.

At the start of the Polish campaign the Panzer II accounted for just over 40% of all German tanks, with the Panzer I close behind. During that short campaign over 250 Panzer IIs were knocked out of action, of which 89 were write-offs. The tank had proved to be vulnerable to the main Polish anti-tank rifle, forcing the rapid addition of extra armour.

The situation was little different in May 1940. At the start of the German campaign in the west, the Panzer II still made up 35% of the German tank forces. The Panzer I was still second, but by a much larger margin (it was now outnumbered by the combined total of Panzer III and IVs available).

Of the 920-950 Panzer IIs available on 10 May, a total of 241 had been destroyed by the end of the campaign in June (this figure probably refers to total losses). Only 45 of these were lost in the first ten days of the campaign, which ended on 20 May when the Germans reached the Somme estuary. The most costly period ran from 21-31 May, the period that saw the German trap begin to close around the northern Allied armies, and also saw the BEF retreat to the coast at Dunkirk. In this period 150 Panzer IIs were destroyed.

By the start of the Russian campaign in 1941 the Panzer II had been withdrawn as a battle tank, but most Panzer units still had a company of Panzer IIs for reconnaissance. This were withdrawn at company level in 1942 and at regiment level in 1943.  

Number produced

1113

Produced

March 1937-April 1940

Hull Length

4.81m

Hull Width

2.22m

Height

1.99m

Crew

3

Weight

8.9 tons

Engine

Maybach HL62TR

Horsepower

140hp

Max Speed

40 km/hr

Max Range

200km

Armament

One 2cm KwK30 L/55
One 7.92mm MG 34


Armour

Front

Side

Rear

Top/ Bottom

Turret

14.5mm 

14.5mm 

14.5mm 

10mm

Superstructure

14.5mm 

14.5mm 

14.5mm 

10mm 

Hull

14.5mm 

14.5mm 

14.5mm 

14.5mm 

Gun mantlet

160mm 

 

 

 

German Light Panzers, 1932-1942, Bryan Perrett. This is a well balanced book that combines a technical discussion of the various types of light tanks, a look at the Panzer divisions and their equipment and the battlefield tactics and experience of the German light tank forces. [see more]
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 February 2008), Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf A, B and C , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_panzer_II_ausf_A_B_C.html

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