In the post-World War 1 world, a rebuilding Germany pursued a variety of paths to circumvent the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles imposed upon it by the victors after the global conflict. Its rise to prominence in the field of track-and-wheel combat tanks was made possible by secret programs undertaken by the country, resulting in designs being built under the guise of "traktors" ("tractors").
Once such development of the interwar period was the Leichttraktor ("Light Tractor") Vs.Kfz.31 of 1931 which underwent work in the latter half of the 1920s and emerged in 1930, serving through the war years until 1945. Design work spanned from 1929 until 1933 before it was formally finalized and building of several prototypes was handled by competing firms in Krupp and Rheinmetall of Germany. Just four were built in 1930 but the experience in design, development, and production of such a system for the modern battlefield proved priceless for Hitler's Germany - whose fighting forces would end up ravaging most of Europe before the end. Both builders and tankers alike benefitted from the little machines.
The Vs.Kfz.31 mimicked many qualities found on interwar tank designs, utilizing an continuous track-and-link arrangement set around roadwheels. The glacis plate was well-sloped for basic ballistics protection and a fully-traversing turret was sat over the rear of the hull. The powerpack was installed at the bow, this being a Daimler-Benz M36 six-cylinder, liquid-cooled, gasoline-fueled unit of 100 horsepower. Amazingly, the compact tank was able to house a total crew of four involving a driver, vehicle commander, radioman, and loader.
Depending on the manufacturer, the chassis was suspended atop a coil spring (Krupp) system or leaf spring (Rheinmetall) arrangement for some crew comfort. The manufacturers also built the tank to slightly different standards, leading to varying dimensions of two vehicle types: The Krupp-based for was 14.3 feet long, 7.8 feet wide, and 7.8 feet tall; the Rheinmetall model reached 13.9 feet long, 7.4 feet wide, and 7.4 feet tall.
As designed, the vehicle could manage road speeds of up to 19 miles per hour and range out to 85 miles on internal fuel stores.
Primary armament, fitted to the aforementioned turret emplacement over the rear of the hull roof, as a 3.7cm (37mm) KwK L/45 anti-tank gun giving good value against light-armored and unarmored targets of the day. Beyond this as a 7.92mm Mauser MG13 machine gun as an anti-infantry measure.
Armor protection reached 14mm at the upper frontal hull facing and 19mm along the bottom portion. The sides were up to 8mm thick and the rear was protected in 14mm of armor plate. Up to 14mm protected the all-important turret.
Rheinmetall received an order for some 289 of their tank back in 1928 but this came to naught as authorities eventually cancelled the order. The resulting prototypes were used in testing by the Germans on allied Soviet soil to, once again, circumvent the Versailles Treaty which also helped the Soviets glean experience from the German approach to tank-making. The testing took place at the Kama Tank School - "Kama" being an amalgamation of the nearby Soviet city Kazan and German Oberstleutenant Malbrandt's surname, Malbrandt choosing originally choosing the testing site.
For their time in World War 2 (1939-1945), the Vs.Kfz.31 was operated solely in the training role and never saw direct combat for the Germans.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Support allied ground forces through weapons, inherent capabilities, and / or onboard systems.
Engage armored vehicles of similar form and function.
Special purpose design developed to accomplish an equally-special battlefield role or roles.
14.3 ft 4.35 m
7.8 ft 2.37 m
7.7 ft 2.35 m
19,180 lb 8,700 kg
9.6 tons LIGHT
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Vs.Kfz.31 (Krupp) production variant. Length typically includes main gun in forward position if applicable to the design)
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