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In the German Army, as every army, the infantry generals wanted tanks to support infantry attacks rather than fighting their own battles elsewhere. They were impressed by the small and cheap British Matilda and the French Renault 10-tonne infantry support tanks, and demanded a similar vehicle. The resulting VK1801 design was a machine-gun armed 21-tonne light tank with 80mm of armour, over twice the weight and with considerably more protection than the Allied equivalents.
Although based on the Panzer I, the VK1801 featured torsion bar suspension, interleaved road wheels, and an up-rated engine with 50% more power. The commander’s turret replaced the old MG13 machine-guns with the latest MG34 machine-guns and featured a cupola with five periscopes for all-round vision. All-in-all it was a magnificent piece of engineering, but it weighed as much as a medium tank and cost nearly as much to produce! In December 1939 the VK1801 was renamed the Panzer I F and 100 were ordered, but production was cancelled after thirty were produced. A second order for 100 was also cancelled.
Hypothetical Combat Service
Most of the thirty tanks produced were sent to 1. and 12. Panzer Divisions for combat testing in early 1943. The rest were given to several army schools for training and evaluation purposes. 12. Panzerdivision used its Panzer I F tanks in the fighting around Leningrad before taking the surviving three tanks into the Kursk battles around Orel in the middle of the year. 1. Panzerdivision undertook occupation duties and fought partisans in Greece and the Balkans until late 1943 when it returned to the Ukraine to face the Soviet summer offensive.
Panzer I F Specifications
Designation: Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf F
Crew: 2 (cdr/gnr, dvr)
Armament: 2x 7.92mm MG34 machine-gun
Armour Thickness: 25mm to 80mm
Engine: Maybach HL45P petrol, 285cu in/5 litre, 150hp
Transmission: Maybach double differential
Suspension: Transverse torsion bar
Maximum Speed: 16mph/25km/h
Road Radius: 93 miles/150km
Vertical Obstacle: 1’1”/0.33m
Trench Crossing: 4’11”/1.50m
The Panzer I F is a well-designed infantry support vehicle. Its armour protects it from any anti-tank weapon it is likely to face. The 20”/50cm wide tracks enable it to cross any terrain in its path, while a complex but efficient interleaved suspension distributes its weight evenly.
In Flames Of War
As a true product of German engineering, it would be hard to envisage a better design for a machine-gun-armed infantry support light tank! The Panzer I F is the ultimate infantry tank. Perfectly engineered to take any objective.
ROF 4; Anti-tank 2; Firepower 6
Front 8; Side 5; Top 2