It should be noted complete история two projects became known relatively recently. For several decades, it was believed that the LKA tank was one of the first options for the future Panzerkampfwagen I. Nevertheless, in the future, historians were able to find documents that reveal the true purpose of the project. It was found that the LKA project was created on the basis of early modifications of Pz.Kpfw.I and was not intended to re-equip its own army. Similar equipment should have been received by foreign countries.
No later than spring 1936, the German military industry proposed the creation of a promising light tank that could be sold to foreign countries. It could be based on the design of the existing technology, but it should have had some differences. The proposal was approved by the command, after which the design work started. The new development received the symbol LKA - Leichter Kampfwagen Ausland ("Light combat vehicle - foreign countries").
The only prototype of the tank LKA Photo Achtungpanzer.com
The development of the LKA tank was undertaken by the Krupp design office, which had already created the Pz.Kpfw.I. In order to speed up the work and simplify the simultaneous production of several models of new armored vehicles, it was decided to take the latest design for its own troops as a basis for the export tank. At the same time, a number of major changes should be made to the design of the existing machine, aimed at adjusting the basic characteristics. It was planned to recycle the body, power plant, chassis, etc.
The requirements for the new project included a reduction in the combat mass to 4,5 t (early modifications of Pz.Kpfw.I weighed at least 5,4 t) and the preservation of protection at the level of the base machine. To carry out this task was planned through the use of less heavy components and assemblies, as well as using a more dense layout and reduced armor corps. Thus, while maintaining the overall architecture of the base tank, the new LKA should have been slightly smaller.
The export light tank received a new armor hull based on the Pz.Kpfw.I. It differed from the basic structure in smaller sizes, but the contours and the overall structure remained the same. As before, the design was used with several inclined front sheets, vertical sides and a small cabin, forming a combined habitable compartment. On the roof of the cabin was proposed to install a tower with weapons. The layout of the body, despite its reduction, remained the same. In front of the unit were placed transmissions, in the center - the department of management and the fighting compartment, and the food was given under the engine, fuel tanks, cooling system, etc.
Light tank Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.A, which became to some extent the prototype of LKA Photo Wikimedia Commons
In accordance with the requirements for the level of protection, the hull of the LKA tank was assembled from armor plates of the same thickness as that of the Pz.Kpfw.I, however, the linear dimensions of the parts were slightly smaller. The frontal part of the hull consisted of sheets 8 and 13 mm thick, the beads were 13 mm thick. The case was protected from above and below by sheets 6 and 5 mm thick, respectively. The turntable was to be assembled from sheets of thickness from 8 mm (roof) to 15 mm (forehead).
It was proposed to install a Krupp M311 carburetor engine with 85 horsepower in the aft hull compartment. By increasing the engine power and reducing the combat weight, it was planned to significantly increase mobility in comparison with Pz.Kpfw.I. The tanks of the new tank had a total volume of 114 l. With the help of a cardan shaft, passing under a habitable compartment, the engine was associated with a mechanical transmission. The latter ensured the rotation of the front drive wheels.
It was decided to seriously rework the undercarriage. The LKA tank was to receive four track rollers on each side. The rollers interlocked in pairs and received a spring suspension. Also in the undercarriage were front-wheel drive wheels, raised above the support rollers, and guide wheels mounted with a slight excess over the support surface. The upper branch of the caterpillar was supported by two rollers of small diameter.
LKA is on trial. Photo Aviarmor.net
The tower with weapons without any changes was borrowed from the tank Pz.Kpfw.I. A mobile unit with two MG 13 MG machine guns of 7,92 mm caliber was placed in an armored unit. Machine-gun ammunition consisted of 2250 cartridges in stores. Inside the fighting compartment there were several shelves for storing ammunition. For guidance weapons It was proposed to use an optical sight like TZF2.
The crew of the new export tank was to consist of two people: the driver and the commander-gunner. The first was located in front of the case, behind the transmission. The driver had to get into his place through a hatch in the roof of the hull, and hatches in the frontal and cheekbone sheets were intended to observe the road. The commander responsible for the use of weapons was placed in a rotating turret. A hatch in the roof of the tower and a set of viewing devices were intended for it.
The resulting combat vehicle had a length slightly more than 3 m, width 1,9 m and height 1,69 m. The combat weight was determined at the level of 4,5 t, as required by the technical task. Specific power at the level of 19 HP per ton allowed the car to reach speeds up to 50 km / h. Power reserve was 100 km.
Until the end of 1936, Krupp managed to complete the design, but the construction and testing of the prototype of the new machine was delayed. Despite the lack of a prototype, the military gave the developer a preliminary permission to sell the LKA tank to third countries. A full permit to open the way for export deliveries, the Arms Administration planned to issue after completion of the preparation of design documentation.
LKA at the site. Photo Aviarmor.net
According to different sources, the first prototype of the LKA export armored car was built no later than February-March 1937. The machine came to the test and confirmed the design characteristics. Inspection in the conditions of the landfill showed that the tank of the new model may be of interest to foreign customers. In addition, he could find a place in the tank units of Germany. According to the test results in March, the 1937-th project LKA received an export permit. Now Krupp could sign contracts with foreign customers and build equipment for export deliveries.
At the end of 1936, the development of a version of the LKA tank with enhanced armament was launched. A promising LKA2 armored vehicle was to receive an enlarged turret in which an 7,92-mm machine gun and an automatic 20 caliber mm gun were to be installed. In addition, this version of the export tank was proposed to equip slightly modified chassis Pz.Kpfw.I. Other structural elements were to comply with the LKA project.
The LKA2 project was completed at the beginning of 1937. The Armaments Office has reviewed it, but has not issued an export permit. Krupp also planned to offer this car to a domestic customer, but the command chose a different product from a competing company. As a result of the production and sale of the tank LKA2 decided to refuse. Due to the failure of the military, the light tank with the 20-mm cannon remained on paper. The prototype of such an armored vehicle was not built or tested.
Tests of the experimental machine. Photo Aviarmor.net
In parallel with the LKA and LKA2 projects, another version of the light tank for export deliveries, called LKB, was developed. A characteristic feature of this project was the maximum use of components of existing machines. As a basis for the LKB was proposed serial light tank Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.B. In fact, the export vehicle was supposed to represent the tank of this model with some new components and assemblies. This approach to design, in particular, has accelerated the development of the project. Due to this, the first prototype of the LKB tank was built by the beginning of the spring 1937 of the year.
As conceived by their creators, LKB was supposed to be a slightly modified modification of the Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.B tank, in connection with this, the car looked more like a base tank than the previous LKA. at the same time, the machine was to receive an enlarged turret with machine-gun armament.
In connection with the continuity of the projects, the LKB tank was supposed to resemble externally the previous LKA, but differed from it in large sizes. A body of a similar construction of the same structure was used, but larger, although not differing in the level of protection.
Estimated appearance of the tank LKA2. Figure Achtungpanzer.com
LKB tank was proposed to equip the 85-strong Krupp M311 carburetor engine, which could significantly improve the mobility of the car in comparison with the standard powerplant Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.B. Transmission remained unchanged. Chassis also borrowed from the serial machine. In its composition there were five road wheels on board. The rollers were mounted on carts with spring suspension. In front of the car, drive wheels remained, in the rear - guides. Unlike previous cars of the family, the guide wheels were significantly raised above the ground. Also included four supporting rollers on board. The undercarriage of the LKB tank has retained the characteristic feature of all the Panzerkampfwagen I family cars - the side beam connecting the track rollers and their suspension elements.
The armament of the LKB light tank should have been in accordance with the one proposed in the LKA2 project. In an enlarged turret, it was proposed to install an 20-mm cannon and a MG 13 machine gun. As before, the tank commander had to control the armament. According to some data, the possibility of maintaining a turret with two machine guns, similar to that used on LKA and serial equipment, was considered.
The LKB project was based on slightly modified units of the Pz.Kpfw.I tank, which affected the weight and dimensions of the vehicle. The length of the tank slightly exceeded 4 m, the width was 2,06 m, the height was 1,72 m. / h, and the power reserve was 5,6 km.
In the spring of 1937, the first prototype of the LKB export machine came out for testing. It is interesting that this tank was built on the basis of the serial Pz.Kpfw, I Ausf.I, and therefore had some differences from the original project. By the beginning of 1938, two more experimental tanks were assembled, the basis for which was the Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.B. All this technique participated in various ground tests.
Even before the start of inspections, the LKB project received an export permit. The corresponding document was issued by the Armaments Department at the beginning of March 1937. Thus, the Krupp company received the right to conclude export contracts for the supply of two types of armored vehicles, differing from each other in various features, primarily dimensions, weight and weaponry.
Some sources claim that already in 1936-37, German tank builders offered their products to foreign countries. Afghanistan could acquire ten tanks, a contract with Bulgaria could imply the supply of 60 machines, and the Turkish military could get a hundred LKA. Representatives of Switzerland and Siam also got acquainted with the car. The cost of one serial tank at that time was approximately 86,5 thousand Reichsmarks. Further negotiations were conducted with Sweden, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay. By 1938, the cost of one export armored car dropped to 82,6 thousand Reichsmarks.
Negotiations on the possible supply of special export tanks lasted for several years. However, for one reason or another, contracts for the supply of LKA and LKB tanks were not signed. At the same time, at the end of the thirties, Germany sold a relatively large number of Pz.Kpfw.I tanks in versions “A” and “B” to several foreign countries. For example, more than a hundred of such machines were received by Spanish francs, and 15 tanks went to China.
One of the prototypes of the tank LKB Photo Aviarmor.net
It is known that in 1936-38, Krupp built three prototypes of promising light tanks for export deliveries. One LKA tank and three LKB vehicles assembled on the basis of different chassis left the assembly shop. At this, the production of equipment for export ceased. Not a single potential customer wanted to buy these tanks. All negotiations held with several countries ended in failure. The attempt made by the developer to offer new tanks to the German army was also unsuccessful. Serial construction of new cars did not start.
The further fate of the four experimental tanks is unknown. Some sources mention that one of the cars was handed over to Japan, but there is no evidence of this. Probably, as unnecessary, the experimental machines of the new project were dismantled for scrap or rebuilt in accordance with the existing projects of serial equipment. Anyway, until our time, none of the prototypes of the LKA and LKB tanks have been preserved.
The failure of the two projects of combat vehicles, intended for sale to third countries, did not lead to a complete stop in this direction. By the end of the thirties, using existing experience in the construction of tanks, the Krupp company developed a new medium tank, known as the MKA. This machine, like its predecessors, was based on new German armored vehicles and was intended for sale on the international market.
Chamberlain P., Doyle H. Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War. - M .: AST: Astrel, 2008.