Leichtläufer I Ausf A Full Story

With the relative success of the Läuferkorps by mid-1943, the German high command ordered the development of additional “supplemental” walker designs that could be produced alongside the proven Kampfläufer I units, preferably at a lower cost. The idea was to grant the Läuferkorps greater independence on the battlefield by lowering their reliance on the Panzerkorps for tasks such as reconnaissance, thus allowing the Läufers and Panzers to be deployed in separate operations and streamline logistical organization.

The first of these new designs became known as the Leichtläufer I Ausf. A, a prototype quadruped walker designed in late July 1943. While the Leichtläufer was visually a great departure from the Kampfläufer series, its cockpit was actually a derivative of the Kampfläufer’s, incorporating lessons learned from the deployment of the heavy bipedal models. The distinct cylindrical cockpit block shared some internal components while greatly enhancing the ergonomics of its interior, thereby increasing pilot comfort and ease of operability.

The Leichtläufer I had a similar arrangement to the Kampfläufer I in that its weapons were mounted in a remote turret directly above the cockpit chamber itself. Because the Leichtläufer I Ausf. A was a test machine, it was decided that an existing turret design would be simpler to mount, and as such the turret from the pre-war Leichttraktor experimental tank was chosen. Extensively modified, the turret now featured electric traverse as well as a new 3,7cm Kampfläuferkanone 36 L/45 (essentially an autoloading version of the common 3,7cm KwK 36 L/45 used in early Panzer III’s) along with a coaxial 7,92mm MG 13 carried over from the old Leichttraktor. Additionally, a roof-mounted cupola with 360-degree camera coverage as well as a rear-mounted radio were fitted to bring the turret up to the same standards as the Kampfläufer I’s turret.

The four legs of the Leichtläufer I Ausf. A were of an all-new design, featuring a unique skeletal structure with very obvious exposed hydraulic cylinders. The awkward and clearly unarmored configuration of the legs clearly indicated how ill-suited the walker would be for frontline combat. However, the new leg structure was considered excellent for an original, in-house design not derived from any documents retrieved during “Die Überquerung” (“The Crossing”) back in September 1941. These legs allowed the Leichtläufer I Ausf. A to move significantly more quickly than any walkers from the Kampfläufer series, and the Leichtläufer’s obstacle-traversing properties were also superior thanks to its quadruped design.

Overall, despite the Leichtläufer I Ausf. A not being anywhere near a combat-ready design, it marked an important stepping stone in walker development for its time. As the first four-legged walker to successfully undergo trials, it paved the way for the development of heavier quadrupeds that would further diversify the battlefield in the following years.

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