Leichter Panzerspähwagen

Leichter Panzerspähwagen

British soldiers inspect a captured SdKfz 222, North Africa, 1941
Type Armored car
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
Used by Nazi Germany
Wars World War II
Production history
Designer Eisenwerk Weserhütte
Manufacturer Auto Union, F. Schichau
Produced 1935 - 1944
Weight 4,000 kg
Length 4.8 m (15 ft 9 in)
Width 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in)
Height 1.7 m (5 ft 7 in)
Crew 3

Armor 5 - 14.5 mm
1 × Maschinengewehr 34 (for Sd.Kfz 221)
1 × 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon (for Sd.Kfz 222)
1 × Maschinengewehr 34 (for Sd.Kfz 222)
Engine Horch 3.8 V8 petrol
90 PS (66 kW; 89 hp)
Suspension 4x4
300 km (186 mi)
Speed road: 80 km (50 mi)
cross-country: 40 km (25 mi)
SdKfz. 222 in private collection.

The Leichter Panzerspähwagen (German: roughly "light armoured reconnaissance vehicle") was a series of light four-wheel drive armoured cars produced by Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1944.

Designed to meet operational requirements including reliability, run on a variety of grades of fuel, simple construction and good off-road performance the first such vehicle was the Sd Kfz 221 but this proved too small and too lightly armed, so in 1936-37 a heavier version was planned, using one of two standard chassis for four-wheel armoured cars, one with a front-mounted engine, the other rear mounted version, was used in the Sd Kfz 222, which became the standard light armoured car in German army service until the defeat of Nazi Germany.[1]

The vehicles were developed by Eisenwerk Weserhütte of Bad Oeynhausen by using the chassis of the type Horch 108 standard heavy off-road car with an angled armoured body and turret.

Chassis were built by Horch (Auto Union) in Zwickau and assembled by F. Schichau of Elbing and Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen in Hanover-Linden.

The rear-mounted petrol engine was originally a 3.5 Litre Horch V8 with 75 PS (55 kW; 74 hp) (Ausf. A chassis); from 1942, this was replaced by a 3.8 Litre with 90 PS (66 kW; 89 hp) (Ausf. B chassis), giving it a road speed of 80 km/h (50 mph) and a cross-country speed of 40 km/h (25 mph). It had a maximum range of 300 km (186 mi).

Used by the reconnaissance battalions (Aufklärungs-Abteilung) of the Panzer divisions, the type performed well enough in countries with good road networks, like those in Western Europe. However, on the Eastern Front and North Africa, this class of vehicle was hampered by its relatively poor off-road performance. In those theaters, it gradually found itself replaced in the reconnaissance role by the Sdkfz 250 half-track.

The Sd Kfz 222 was fitted with heavier armament and larger turret than the Sd Kfz 221 but it was still comparatively cramped and lacked top protection other than a wire screen designed to allow grenades to roll off, but this made using the main armament problematic. Co-axially mounted with the machine gun both weapons were pintle-mounted, and fitted with an elevation and traverse mechanism and floor-mounted firing mechanisms.

(In other words, the turret was rotated by the traversing weapons rather than the weapons being fixed to a traversing turret. There was thus no bearing-ring and no turret basket, just a fighting compartment largely obstructed by the breaches of the weapons.)

When the limitations of the vehicle were highlighted during the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 the Sd Kfz 222 was gradually replaced in the reconnaissance role by the Sdkfz 250 half-track, but the turret and armament of the Sd Kdz 222 was sometimes retained, despite its shortcomings (the Sd Kfz 250/9 variant was a Sdkfz 250 fitted with a top plate surmounted by the same turret used for the Sd Kfz 222 with the same pintle-mounted guns refitted to the half-track)[1] and captured Sd Kfz 222s were examined by Soviet designers before they created the similar BA-64 light armoured car.

Front and sides were made of 8 mm (0.3 in) RHA; thinner 5 mm (0.2 in) plates protected the top, rear, and bottom. Cast vision ports later replaced ports cut into the armour. The open-topped turret was fitted with wire mesh anti-grenade screens. Beginning in 1939, the front armour was increased to 14.5 mm (0.6 in). In 1942, the Ausf. B chassis was introduced; this had 30 mm of frontal armour, as well as a more powerful engine.


Sd. Kfz. 221

Base model and first production series of light armoured car built on a standardized chassis for military use. The Sdkfz. 221 was armed with a single 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 13 machine gun (from 1938 a Maschinengewehr 34), manned by a two-man crew, and had 4-wheel drive. Production ran from 1935 to 1940 with at least 339 vehicles produced for the army. Some Sd. Kfz 221 were rearmed with a 2.8 cm sPzB 41 "heavy anti-tank rifle" in a modified turret. Its full name was Leichter Panzerspähwagen (M.G.). It was only produced with Ausf. A chassis and a maximum frontal armour of 14.5 mm.

Sd. Kfz. 222

This version of the vehicle was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon and a 7.92 mm MG 13 machine gun. The crew was increased to three by the addition of a gunner, relieving the commander of that task. In 1938, the MG 13 was replaced by a Maschinengewehr 34, in 1942 the KwK 30 was replaced by the faster firing KwK 38 of the same calibre. Production ran from 1937 to late 1943, with at least 990 vehicles being produced for the army. Its full name was Leichter Panzerspähwagen (2 cm).

Sd. Kfz. 223

An armoured car with similar features to the Sd. Kfz. 221, but with the addition of a frame antenna and a 30-watt FuG 10 medium-range radio set. Later versions of the vehicle were equipped with an improved 80-watt FuG 12 radio set. It was originally armed with a 7.92 mm MG 13 machine gun, but in 1938 this was changed to a Maschinengewehr 34. The crew was increased to three by the addition of a radio operator. Production ran from 1936 to January 1944, with at least 567 vehicles being produced for the army. Its full name was Leichter Panzerspähwagen (Fu).

Kleiner Panzerfunkwagen Sd. Kfz 260/261

Unarmed radio car versions with long range radio equipment and a large "bed-frame" antenna over the vehicle. Generally used for signals use, three were used as armoured cars in Finland.[2] The Sd. Kfz 260 was equipped with radio sets to communicate with aircraft, the Sd. Kfz 261 with radio sets to communicate with other Heer units. By 1 September 1940, the manufacturers had orders for 36 Sd. Kfz 260 and 289 Sd. Kfz 261. Production ran from April 1941 to April 1943, with 483 vehicles of both types being produced.


Notes and references

  1. 1 2 Livesey, Jack (2007). Armoured Fighting Vehicles of World Wars I and II. Anness Publishing Ltd. p. 104. ISBN 1-84476-370-6.
  2. Panzers in Finland, Kari Kuusela, 2000
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