Germany's early collection of tanks in World War 2 (1939-1945) was made up of the Panzer I, Panzer II, Panzer III, and Panzer 4 series. The Panzer I became more of an infantry support vehicle and the Panzer II was developed to support this offering by providing improved armor protection and better armament. The Panzer III was to combat enemy tanks head-on and the Panzer 4 was to serve in the fire support role. Of course the war situation ultimately dictated true battlefield roles and, as such, many were evolved along various lines beyond their intended ones and a plethora of production variants soon emerged.
One of the more advanced evolutions of the Panzer II system became the SdKfz 123 Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf. L "Luchs" (meaning "Lynx") (VK 1303). It was also known as the "Panzerspahwagen II" for it was developed to serve the dedicated role of high-speed reconnaissance. By the end of its development phase, the Luchs showcased very few (if any) of the design lines seen in the original Panzer II light tank series - it fitted a true cannon-armed turret, overlapping road wheels (the only Panzer II to do so), and held a crew of four under protection - essentially an all-new tank.
The Luchs was developed as an improvement over the earlier Panzer II Ausf. M (VK 1301) which was itself intended to be paired with the Ausf. H model. The Ausf. M was planned to be outfitted with a 50cm KwK 39/I cannon as standard armament but in the end only tested with a 20cm KwK 38 L/55 main gun. The Luchs was evolved from this work with the intended program goal to squeeze additional speed out of the design as well as introduced inherently strong cross-country capabilities - something decidedly lacking in the original Panzer II. With these qualities, the Luchs could properly reconnoiter enemy positions under protection from any point just outside of the main German force sector of operation. A torsion bar suspension system would allow for the needed off-road quality and the large overlapping wheels would help displace weight about the ground. Radio fits would be standard and include the FuG12 and FuG Spr.Ger f sets. Overall dimensions became a 4.63 meter length, a 2.48 meter width, and a 2.2 meter height. Weight was 11.8 tons.
German authorities were sufficiently impressed with the modifications that an order for some 700 or 800 (sources vary) Luchs reconnaissance tanks. The first 100 of the line was to carry the 20mm cannon (330 rounds) while all future deliveries would see the tank fitted with a 50cm main gun. Both versions would have a 7.92mm MG34 machine gun as a coaxial fitting with 2,250 rounds carried. The larger turret design would provide considerably better firepower options when compared to the original Panzer II mark.
Drive power for the Luchs came from a Maybach HL66P 6-cylinder inline gasoline-fueled engine of 180 horsepower. This was mated to the ZF Aphon SSG48 six speed gearbox. Performance specifications showcased were road speeds of 37 miles per hour and operational ranges out to 161 miles (96 miles cross-country).
The MAN concern undertook serial production of the Luchs design and managed the first 100 vehicles from the period spanning September 1943 to January 1944. However, their reliability in-the-field soon came into question and the general outdated-ness of the Panzer II was clearly apparent. Such were issues with the line that the German order for the hundreds was now reduced to just the original batch of 100. This left the planned 50cm-armed variant abandoned.
The Luchs was primarily operated through two German Army companies while some of the stock was also distributed among smaller reconnaissance units as necessary. The series fought on to the war's final days before the it was forever discarded.