The German army, during 1940 and 1941, stressed interest in a smooth and steadily increased
rate of tank production. Immediately after the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the decision
was taken to continue production of the light tank Panzerkampfwagen 38/T, manufactured
by the C.K.D. (Ceskomoravska Kolben-Danek) metal-works factory in Prague.
In projecting the possibilities for future use of the 38/T tank (German military
marking PzKw 38/T) for amphibian operation, certain new improvements over the older
model were to be incorporated into the later type. For example, the Prague manufacturers
were told that these tanks must be made waterproof, and provision made for mounting the
tank on a floating device to enable the vehicle to surmount waves as high as 13 feet. The
maximum seagoing speed was to be 8 miles per hour at least and the tank must be capable of
running at this speed for 10 hours. Furthermore, it was to be required that, even while
navigating the gun (in a revolving turret) should be able to fire.
Ability to climb twenty-degree beach slopes was another specification to be met. There was
also the question of finding a way to discard the floating mechanism upon reaching land so
that the crew need not dismount. The floating device was to consist of two floats made of
balsa wood. The drive afloat was to be provided by two propellers driven by the tank
motor through the medium of the track drive sprocket.
A prototype of this amphibian tank, delivered in January 1941, had the following characteristics:
|Weight|| ||5.5 tons (approx.)|
|Maximum land speed||25 - 30 m.p.h.|
|Speed in still water||7 - 9 m.p.h.|
|Angle of climb (land)||45° slope.|
|Angle of climb (beach)||30° slope.|
|Crossing ditch||5 ft. 4 in. wide, 60° - 80° slope on far side.|
|Armor thickness||0.3 - 0.6 in.|
|Armament||one 7.92-mm. m.g. in revolving turret.|
|Power||one 4-cylinder Flatwine motor 135 h.p., rear drive.|
There have also been reports that the Germans have been experimenting with a tank capable of
crossing the bed of a river. One version is that rubber covers for the turret and guns are
fitted for water-tightness, air is supplied to the engine from oxygen bottles, and the crew
is provided with oxygen breathing apparatus.
Another version is that the tanks, while under water, obtain their air supply through inlet
and outlet tubes connected to a float which is towed by the tank.
Both these methods may be practicable for short river crossings. To travel long distances
under water the problem might be solved as in a submarine, but practical difficulties of
construction would be considerable if the tanks were required to withstand pressure at
more than moderate depths. Also, batteries necessary for long under-water endurance
would be very cumbersome and heavy.