In 1940, during the Battle of France, it was apparent that the main tank of the German forces, the Panzer II, was unsuitable as a tank; though mechanically sound, it was both under-gunned and under-armoured. Thus, when the need arose for a self-propelled artillery vehicle, the Panzer II was a natural choice, removing the vehicles from front line service and extending their usable lifespan.
The design for the Wespe was produced by Alkett, and was based on the Panzer II Ausf. F chassis. Amongst other modifications the engine was moved forward and the chassis was slightly lengthened to gain sufficient space for the rear-mounted 10.5 cm leFH 18 howitzer. The lighly armored superstructure (10 mm armor) was open to the top and rear. Production of the vehicles was carried out at various plants, mainly in occupied Poland, Specifically Warsaw's FAMO factory.
The Wespe was very popular with the crew of Afrika Korps and Panzer Divisions because of its high maneuverability.
The Wespe first saw combat in 1943 on the Eastern Front, and proved so successful that Hitler ordered all Panzer II production to be reserved for the Wespe alone, dropping other projects such as the Marder II self-propelled anti-tank gun. They were allocated to the armored artillery battalions (Panzerartillerie Abteilungen) of Panzer divisions along with heavier Hummel self-propelled guns. The Wespe had major success because of its ability to fit in with the German plan of Blitzkrieg by having a great mobility along with firepower.
The Wespe stayed in production from February 1943 until mid-1944. By that time, 682 had been produced, with an additional 158 built as weaponless ammunition carriers.