The decision to create the first flamethrower tank was taken by the German command at the beginning of 1939. In late February, the army demanded that industry develop a modification of the existing light tank Pz.Kpfw.II with flame-throwing weapons. The task of creating such a machine was given to the firms MAN and Daimler-Benz, by which time they had mastered the serial construction of the base machine. The initial plans included the assembly of the prototype with its subsequent tests, as well as the construction of the installation series of 90 machines.
The Pz.Kpfw.II tank Ausf.D. was selected as the basis for the new combat vehicle. To install the new weapons, it was necessary to slightly modify the body of the base machine, as well as change the composition of the main units. In particular, the installation of a new turret with small arms and some rearrangement of the fighting compartment were required. In this case, the bulk of components and assemblies could be used without any changes, which was to ensure the relative simplicity and low cost of mass production.
Flamethrower tank Pz.Kpfw.II (F). Photo of Chamberlain P., Doyle H. "Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War"
As part of the Pz.Kpfw.II project (F), it was decided to retain the existing armored hull of a serial light tank, although it was planned to make some noticeable changes to its design. The modifications should have touched individual parts of the front part and the internal volumes of the combat compartment. In addition, it was planned to install some additional parts on the outer surface of the machine.
The frontal part of the body was formed by several sheets of different sizes with a thickness of 30 mm. There was a lower leaf tilted forward, a middle sheet and a vertical upper sheet folded back. The latter provided hatches for monitoring the road. The central part of the body was finalized. The sides of the original hull were divided into two parts, and instead of the upper sheets, special boxes were now mounted. Due to this, on the sides of the fighting compartment appeared two fiddling niches intended for the installation of new equipment. The shape and size of the aft hull remained unchanged. The side and stern projection of the machine were to be covered with 20-mm sheets. The roof and the bottom got the thickness 10 mm.
The overall layout of the tank "Flamingo" did not differ from the base machine. In the frontal part of the body there was a compartment with transmission units, behind which there was a control compartment. The turret and the fighting compartment were located in the center of the hull, feed was allocated for the engine, fuel tanks, radiators, etc.
Side view of the car. Figure Aviarmor.net
As a development of the Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf.D, the flamethrower tank had to maintain the existing powerplant and transmission. The Maybach HL 62TRM carburetor engine with 140 horsepower should have been installed in the rear of the hull. or Maybach HL 66P horsepower 180 with water cooling system. With the help of a cardan shaft, the engine had to be connected to the front transmission compartment. Manual transmission transmitted torque to the front drive wheels. There was a choice of one of the seven forward gears and three rear.
The base tank Pz.Kpfw.II had a chassis on the basis of four double support rollers of large diameter on each side. The rollers were equipped with an individual torsion bar suspension. The drive wheels were located in the front of the hull, guides - in the stern. Within the framework of the “D” project, a new design of the truck was developed, on the basis of which the machine caterpillar was built.
During the development of the flamethrower tank, a list of modifications of the original machine was formed. Thus, the new project Flammpanzer II implied a rejection of the existing tower. Instead, on the pursuit of the hull roof, a combat module of a different design was to be mounted. A design was proposed with a narrow frontal sheet, two zygomatic sheets and two parts that were both sides and stern at the same time. In the front sheet provided for machine-gun installation, in other details - viewing devices. Above, the gunner had to hide behind a horizontal roof. The 30-mm armor defended the tower from the front, and the feed was 14,5 mm thick.
The turret of a new design, unlike the existing product, was supposed to carry only one MG 34 machine gun of 7,92 caliber mm. The customer and the authors of the project considered that such a reduction in machine-gun armament in comparison with the base machine is justified and can be compensated by the presence of a flamethrower system. In fact, the machine gun was considered as an auxiliary weapon for self-defense. Ammunition machine gun consisted of 1800 cartridges.
Release of fire mixture without ignition. Photo of Chamberlain P., Doyle H. "Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War"
In front of both fenders, special boxes with mounting systems for flamethrowers appeared. The latter were miniature towers of armored steel with the possibility of pointing horizontally and vertically. With the help of a remote control from the operator’s workplace, the air vents could be rotated within sectors of width 180 °. There was also the possibility of vertical guidance. Outlets were equipped with acetylene torches.
Inside the armored corps, in the fenced niches and other volumes of the fighting compartment, various elements of two flame-throwing systems were placed. The structure of such weapons included two tanks for fire mixture on 160 l each, as well as four cylinders for compressed nitrogen. As a "ammunition" it was proposed to use a mixture of gasoline and oil in a certain proportion. The release of fire mixture to the target was to be made by means of supplying compressed gas to the cylinder with it. Flying under the pressure of compressed gas from the outlet of the hose, the fire mixture should have been in contact with the acetylene torch and ignited. Burning drops of fire of various sizes reached the target.
In some of the surviving photographs of the Flammpanzer II flamethrower tank, it can be seen that the vehicle could carry additional weapons in the form of smoke grenade launchers. These funds were located in three units on stationary inclined supports along the sides of the aft hull. Installations were fixed on the fences behind the expanded part of the armored hull.
Coloring option serial machine. Figure Achtungpanzer.com
The crew of the tank Pz.Kpfw.II (F) was to consist of three people. In front of the hull, in the department of management, were placed the workplaces of the driver (left) and the arrow-flamethrower (right). In the single tower there was a gunner. According to other data, a radio operator was to be next to the driver, and the flamethrowers were controlled from the crew compartment, from the workplace in the tower. For access to the inside of the car on the roof of the hull and in the roof of the tower there was a set of hatches. Observation of the situation was to be carried out through viewing instruments in the front hull plate and similar tower systems.
Improvements to the basic light tank did not lead to a change in size. The length of the flamethrower armored vehicle was 4,9 m, width 2,4 m, height - 1,85 m. At the same time, the combat weight increased to 12 t. One of the main reasons for increasing the weight of the car was the use of fire tanks and nitrogen cylinders that needed armor protection. Despite the increase in the mass of the machine, the power density remained at an acceptable level - up to 15 hp. per ton. This allowed the Pz.Kpfw.II (F) to reach a speed of up to 55 km / h on the highway.
The design of the first German flamethrower tank was completed in the early summer of the 1939 of the year. In July, an experimental machine was assembled at one of the factories, the body of which, for reasons of economy, was made of non-armored steel. Such a prototype Pz.Kpfw.II (F) was used in field tests, the purpose of which, first of all, was to check the new weapon.
During the tests, the characteristics of the flamethrowers used were confirmed. The design of the rotary hoses allowed attacking targets within the entire front hemisphere at distances up to 25 m. The 2 liter of mix for each of the two flamethrowers was spent on the shot, so a tank with full tanks could make 80 shots. In theory, this was enough for the effective destruction of manpower and some enemy fortifications.
Even before the end of the tests, in the spring of 1939, the MAN company received an order for the construction of the first batch of a new type of chassis for assembling flamethrower tanks. Early next year they were transferred to the Wegmann plant, where flamethrowers were installed. According to others, the assembly of serial equipment of the first batch began in May 1940-th. There is also information on the conversion of 30 serial tanks Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf.D / E from the Wehrmacht fleet. As part of the first order by October 40, 87 flamethrower tanks were supplied. Three more cars were handed over only at the beginning of the next year.
In the future, the production of equipment continued under the new contract, signed in the spring of 1940. Flamingo flamethrower production was carried out both from scratch and by reworking the corresponding model production tanks. The last batch of such equipment, according to some data, was transferred to the customer in the spring of 1942 of the year. By this time, 112 flamethrower tanks were built. Another 43 car rebuilt from light tanks.
Despite the relatively early start of design work, the Pz.Kpfw.II (F) tanks were able to get to the war only in the summer of 1941. By this time, armored vehicles with flamethrowers were reduced to battalions as part of larger tank formations and were to provide support to other troops. It was assumed that the flamethrowers could significantly improve the effectiveness of the actions of the attacking troops, but in practice the situation was different.
The light tank chassis had insufficient protection. 30-mm armor could be hit by artillery guns and, under certain conditions, even anti-tank guns. As a result, the anti-tank defense of the Red Army had the opportunity to hit the German Flamingo tanks long before they reached the effective fire range. In this case, the Flammpanzer II crews could only defend themselves with a single machine gun, and this sharply reduced their firepower and combat effectiveness.
Red Army soldiers are studying the trophy flamethrower tank. Photo of Chamberlain P., Doyle H. "Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War"
According to reports, similar features of the first German flamethrower tank led to unacceptably high losses. A successful shot of artillery or artillery shooters led to the ignition of the fire mixture from the internal tank, followed by the guaranteed destruction of the tank. In addition, left much to be desired and the chances of the crew to survive in this situation.
At the beginning of 1942, it was decided to abandon the further operation of Pz.Kpfw.II (F) due to the impossibility of effectively solving the set tasks without unacceptably high risk. All tanks remaining in the army were recalled to the rear for modernization. Most of the flamethrower tanks were converted into carriers of captured guns F-22. In this quality, in contrast to the original configuration, the machines were able to bring Germany some benefit.
For the beginning of the 1939 of the year, when the technical task for the project was being formed, 30-mm armor and firing range with a mixture of about 25-30 m were considered sufficient for promising technology. However, the situation soon changed. The flamethrower tank had to shoot farther and carry more powerful protection. In the future, the German experts made several other attempts to create a flamethrower tank, able to survive on the battlefield and complete the task.
Chamberlain P., Doyle H. Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War. - M .: AST: Astrel, 2008.