To bridge the gap until the arrival of the PzKpfw III and PzKpfw IV tanks, a decision was made in 1934 to order an interim model which became known as the Panzerkampfwagen II. Development contracts were awarded to Henschel, Krupp and MAN under the designation Industrial Tractor 100 (LaS 100) to conceal its true role. After evaluation of these prototypes the MAN model was selected for further development, MAN being responsible for the chassis and Daimler-Benz for the superstructure. Production was eventually undertaken also by Famo, MIAO and Wegmann, and the tank formed the backbone of the German armoured divisions during the invasion of France, about 1,000 being in front line service. The tank was also used in the invasion of the USSR in the following year although by that time it was obsolete, had inadequate armour protection and lacked firepower. It was in fact intended primarily as a training machine rather than for actual combat. Despite being intended as a training machine, the PzKpfw II provided the majority of German Panzer strength during the invasions of Poland and France.
The first production PzKpfw II Ausf A vehicles were delivered in 1935, and were armed with a 20-mm cannon and 7.92-mm (0.31-in) co-axial machinegun. There was a three-man crew, and combat weight was 7,2 tonnes. Tests with the early production models showed that the vehicle was underpowered with its 130-hp (97-kW) engine, so the PzKpfw II Ausf B was introduced with a 140-hp (104-kW) engine and other improvements (notably thicker frontal armour) which pushed up its weight to just under 8 tonnes, The PzKpfw II Ausf C was introduced in 1937, and had better armour protection. Additionally, the small bogie wheels were replaced by five independently-sprung bogies with leaf springs on each side, and this was to remain the basic suspension for all remaining production vehicles. In 1938 the PzKpfw II Ausf D and PzKpfw II Ausf E were introduced, with new torsion-bar suspensison which gave them a much increased road speed of 55 km/h (34 mph), although crosscountry speed was slower than that of the earlier models. The final production model of the series was the PzKpfw II Ausf F, which appeared in 1940-1 and which was uparmoured to 35 mm (1.38 in) on the front and 20 mm (0.79 in) on the sides, this pushing up the total weight to just under 10 tonnes and consequently reducing the speed of the vehicle, which was felt to be acceptable because of the greater protection provided.
The hull and turret of the PzKpfw II was of welded steel construction, with the driver at the front, two-man turret in the centre offset to the left, and the engine at the rear. Armament consisted of a 20-mm cannon (for which 180 rounds were provided) on the left side of the turret, and a 7.92-mm (0.31m) machine-gun (for which 1,425 rounds were carried) on the right of the turret.
The PzKpfw II was also used as the basis for a number of fast reconnaissance tanks called the Luchs (this name was subsequently adopted by the new West German Army in the 1970s for its 8x8 reconnaissance vehicle) but these and similar vehicles were not built in large numbers.
One of the more interesting vehicles was the special amphibious model developed for the invasion of England in 1940. This model was propelled in the water at a speed of 10 km/h (6 mph) by a propeller run off the main engine. A model with two flamethrowers was also produced as the Flammpanzer II; 100 of these were in service by 1942. When the basic tank was obsolete the chassis was quickly adopted for many other roles.
One of the first of these was a self-propelled anti-tank gun using captured Soviet 76.2-mm (3in) guns and called the Marder I. This was followed by a model called the Marder II with a 7.5-cm (2,95-m) German anti-tank gun, and some 1,200 of these were converted or built, The Wespe was a self-propelled gun fitted with a 10.5-cm howitzer and was produced in Poland until 1944.
Specification PzKpfw II Ausf F Crew: 3 Weight: 10000 kg (22,046 lb) Dimensions: length 4.64 m (15 ft 3 in); width2.30 m (7 ft 6.5 in); height 2.02 m (6 ft 7.5 in) Powerplant: one Maybach sixcylinder petrol engine developing 140hp(104kW) Performance: maximum road speed 55 km/h (34 mph); maximum road range 200 km (125 miles); fording 0.85 m (2 ft 10 in); gradient 50 per cent; vertical obstacle 0.42 m (1 ft 5 in).