Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2cm) Sd.Kfz 222

The Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2cm) Sd.Kfz 222 was the second in a family of similar armoured cars based on the same Horch chassis, and was armed with a 20mm cannon alongside the machine gun carried on the earlier Sd.Kfz 221.

Sd Kfz 222 Armoured Car, Tripoli, 1941
Sd Kfz 222 Armoured Car, Tripoli, 1941

The Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2cm) Sd.Kfz 222 was built around the Horch 801/ EG I bogie, which had been developed in the mid 1930s as the lightest of a series of three bogies that were going to be the basis of a new family of four wheel drive vehicles for the German army. It was a technically advanced design, with four wheel drive, individual suspension, and four wheel steering, which gave all of the vehicles based on in good off road capabilities. However it was also rather too complex and not terribly reliable, needing expensive maintenance, so the entire programme never quite lived up to expectations.

The Leichter Panzerspahwagen (MG) Sd.Kfz 221 was the first armoured car to be based on this chassis. It carried a crew of two, had a superstructure with sloped sides and was armed with a single 7.92mm MG 34 carried in a seven sided hand operated open topped turret. It entered service in 1936, and was much more mobile than the earlier Maschinengewehrkraftwagn (Kfz 13) and Funkkraftwagen (Kfz 14), but was no better armed than the earlier vehicles.

The Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2cm) Sd.Kfz 222 was the first attempt to solve that problem, and entered service in 1938. It was based around the same Horch 801 chassis, and had a similar superstructure with sloped sides and an open topped turret. There was either a step or seat fitted behind the crew compartment. It was the same length and width as the earlier vehicle, but 20cm taller. The turret was significantly larger, and ten sided. It had a folding cover to protect against hand grenades.

The key improvement was that the Sd.Kfz 222 was armed with one 20mm cannon and one 7.92mm MG 34. The cannon was either the 2cm KwK 30 or the improved 2cm KwK 38, with 18 ten round magazines for a total of 180 rounds. Both guns could be elevated up to 80 degrees for use as anti-aircraft guns. The Sd.Kfz 222 carried a crew of three – the drive in the forward superstructure and the commander and gunner in the somewhat cramped turret.

The bogie was built at the Auto-Union works at Zwichau. The superstructure was built by Eisenwerke Weserhutte at Bad Oeynhausen. The vehicles were assembled by three engineering firms – MNH (Maschinenfabrik Niedeersachsen-Hannover), Schichau/ Elbing and Bussing NAG.

The Sd.Kfz 222 was built in two versions. From 1938-1940 it was built on the Horsh 801/ EG 1 bogie, which was powered by a 3.5l V-8 providing 75hp and had the same armour as the Sd.Kfz 221 – 14.5mm at the front and 5-8mm elsewhere.

From 1941 onwards the stronger Horsh 801/v bogie was used. This version was powered by a 90hp 3.8l V-8 engine, which provided a speed boost and also allowed the frontal armour to be increased to 30mm. By the time production ended in 1942 a total of 989 vehicles had been built.

Turret of Sd.Kfz 222
Turret of Sd.Kfz 222

The majority of these vehicles were used by the German army, but 12 were exported to China in 1938, and a number went to Bulgaria during the war. In German service they were used by the Panzerspahwagen squadrons in Aufklarungs battalions, providing some fire support for the more lightly armed radio cars.

The Sd.Kfz 222 performed well in Poland in 1939 and in Western Europe in 1940. However it didn’t cope as well with the more difficult terrain of North Africa or the Eastern Front. In both areas the vehicle’s tires proved to be too narrow, producing high ground pressure, and there wasn’t enough ground clearance, making it rather too easy to ground the vehicle. It struggled in snow or mud, greatly limiting its usefulness on the Eastern Front. As a result it was declared to be of limited battle worthiness on the Eastern Front, but it remained in use elsewhere to the end of the war. The Sd.Kfz 222 also became the basis of a radio car variant, the Sd.Kfz 223


Production: 989
Hull Length: 4800mm
Hull Width: 1950mm
Height: 2m
Weight: 4800kg
Engine: 75hp or 90hp Horch/ Auto-Union 8-cylinder V-petrol engine
Max Speed: 80km/ hr or 90km/hr
Max Range: 300km (road), 200km (terrain)
Armament: One 2cm KwK 30/38 L/55 and one 7.92mm MG 34
Armour: 5-14.5mm, later increased to 30mm

German Half-Tracks and Wheeled Vehicles 1939-1945, Alexander Lüdeke. Looks at the armoured cars and half-tracks used by the German Army before and during the Second World War, focusing on the development and technical descriptions of each type and its major variants. Each type gets one or two pages, supported by photos of the vehicle. A useful short reference book on these essential vehicles, covering both the many types developed in Germany and the smaller number of captured vehicles pressed into service. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (6 February 2023), Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2cm) Sd.Kfz 222 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_leichter_panzerspahwagen_2cm_sdkfz_222.html

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