Panther tank


Germany-flagGerman medium battle tank Panzerkampfwagen V Panther.
History, development, service, specifications, statistics, pictures and 3D model.

Panther tank

Panther tank

Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (SdKfz 171).
Type: medium battle tank.

History:

The most powerful tank in service with the German Wehrmacht in 1941 was the PzKpfw IV. However, this medium tank was only able to deal with great difficulty vs the new Soviet T-34 tank, which appeared in increasing numbers on the Eastern front after the start of Operation Barbarossa.
Although the work on a successor for the PzKpfw IV had already begun in 1937, the progress was only slight, as the requirements were constantly changing.

In 1941 the companies Henschel and Porsche had each finished prototypes of a new tank in the 30 to 35 ton class, which were called VK 3001(H) or VK 3001(P). However, these vehicles were not taken over for production and their further development led to the Tiger tank (VK 4501).

On November 25, 1941, a specification was issued to Daimler-Benz and MAN by the Waffenamt (Weapons Office), which demanded a new medium main battle tank with the long 75 mm cannon, well flat armor for maximum protection like the Soviet T-34, a limited combat weight and larger wheels for improved mobility.
To meet these requirements, Daimler-Benz submitted the VK 3002(DB) design, while MAN submitted the VK 3002(MAN) design.

Daimler-Benz's Panther design

Daimler-Benz’s Panther design resembled the Soviet T-34.

The VK 3002(DB) was practically a copy of the Soviet T-34 transferred for German requirements, with the turret sitting at the front. The engine to be used was the Daimler-Benz MB507 diesel. Among other reasons the responsible persons in Germany probably did not want to be accused of copying a product of the ‘subhumans’ from the East and so – not surprisingly – the MAN design was accepted.

new Panther D

A new Panther D leaves the factory in before of a Tiger I.

The first prototypes of the new tank were called Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (SdKfz 171) and were completed in September 1942. Since Hitler insisted on the readiness of the new medium Panther tank for the coming summer offensive in 1943, series production was to start at MAN only two months later.
At the same time Daimler-Benz also began to prepare for the production of the MAN Panther and in 1943 Henschel followed, together with hundreds of subcontractors.
Actually it had been planned to produce 600 Panthers every month. But the Allied air raids led to the fact that the maximum number of 330 vehicles per month was never exceeded. By the beginning of 1945 only about 4,800 Panther tanks had been built.

New Panther D's leave the MAN plant

New Panther D’s leave the MAN plant for transport to the Eastern Front for their first action at Kursk.

The Panther tank was put into production without proper inspections and tests and so numerous problems quickly became apparent. In fact, from the first version, the PzKpfw V Panther Ausf D, more vehicles were lost due to technical breakdowns than due to combat action, which quickly diminished the crews’ confidence in their new tanks.
The Panther saw it’s first combat mission on the Eastern front at the Battle of Kursk and was then deployed in increasing numbers on all fronts.

 

Once the mechanical problems had been overcome, confidence in the new tank increased again and most experts consider the Panther tank as a whole to be the best main battle tank of the Second World War. Even after the end of the war, the tank was still used by the French armed forces and was built for them until sufficient modern vehicles were available.

Panther tank RAC Tank Museum

A Panther Ausf G tank between a Tiger I and a King Tiger tank at the RAC Tank Museum, Bovington Camp, Dorset (UK).

The first production model was the PzKpfw V Ausf A, which was no more than a pre-production model. The versions B and C were never put into production and so the first production model of the Panther was the PzKpfw V Ausf D.
For some peculiar reasons a further version A followed, the Pzkpfw V Ausf A, which was built from August 1943 and was used in Normandy in summer 1944.
Finally, the main version PzKpfw V Ausf G appeared from March 1944, which remained in production until the end of the war. The Panther was also to be built in Romania and Hungary under license for their armed forces, but the further course of the war prevented this. However, several tank units of the Red Army used captured Panther tanks during the war.

M10 converted Panther tank

A converted Panther tank which resembled the American M10 tank destroyer and was used during the Ardennes offensive.

Variants of the Panther tank included an observation tank, recovery tank, command tank, the tank destroyer Jagdpanther and a conversion to a similar look to the American M10 tank destroyer used by a special unit during the Battle of the Bulge. There was also a bunker with a reinforced Panther turret, called the ‘Ostwall Turm’ (Eastern wall turret). This very powerful defensive weapon was used in Italy in the Gustav and Goths lines, on the Atlantic wall and Siegfried line, as well as on the Eastern front.

 

Planned new models were the PzKpfw V Ausf F and the Panther II. However, since the PzKpfw V Ausf G was still superior to most Allied tanks in 1945 and larger numbers were preferred to even more modern main battle tanks in Germany at that time, only prototypes were build.
In addition, the Coelian anti-aircraft tank on Panther chassis with 3.7 cm twin-Flak and a Panther self-propelled carriage for the sFH18/4 artillery piece, were still in preparation.


The main armament of the Panther was the long 7.5-cm-KwK 42 L/70 cannon, for which 79 rounds of ammunition could be carried. Coaxial to the main armament was a 7.92 mm MG34 mounted, with an identical weapon at the front in the hull and an anti-aircraft machine gun on the turret roof.

User: Germany, Romania (captured vehicles with Red Army, also used by France after end of war).


PzKpfw V Ausf D

PzKpfw V Panther Ausf D

PzKpfw V Panther Ausf D

After a study of the Russian T-34 had been conducted, Hitler ordered the development of a similar vehicle in the 30-ton class. MAN and Daimler-Benz were commissioned to develop the chassis, while the turret was developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig.
After reviewing the preliminary drawings, Hitler ordered preparations to build a pre-series of the Daimler-Benz Panther and placed an order with the company to build 200 units. He assumed that Daimler-Benz’s design – which was very similar to the T-34 – was better than MAN’s and therefore released it for production.

 

However, on 14 May 1942, after comparing the plans and statistics of MAN’s and Daimler-Benz’s designs, Hitler decided that the MAN version was superior and should go into production instead, because under no circumstances should two different designs be produced simultaneously. Production was to begin in December 1942, so that 250 units could be completed by May 12, 1943, in time for the summer offensive planned for that year.

The Panther’s suspension consisted of eight pairs of large road wheels suspended on torsion bars, a rear idler pulley and a front sprocket. The armor plates that made up the hull were well angled to increase protection. The only vertical armor plate was the lower hull side plate.
The direct view for the driver was made possible by an armored driver flap. When this was closed, the driver had to use the two periscopes mounted above the hull. No machine gun mount was supplied in the bow. In the front of the hull there was a narrow opening which was covered by a flap through which the loose hull machine gun could be fired.

In autumn 1942 it was decided to increase the thickness of the upper hull front plate from 60 mm to 80 mm, but the first 20 Panthers produced by MAN still had 60 mm frontal armor on the upper side of the front hull.
The long 7.5cm KwK42 L/70 was mounted in an external curved gun mantlet, together with a coaxial machine gun. Pistol ports were made on both sides of the turret and in the rear of the turret. Access to the turret was via a hatch at the rear of the turret and through the cupola hatch. Additionally, there was a small round hatch in the original turret design on the left side of the turret.

Production of the Ausf D began in January 1943 and the first vehicles were delivered the following month. In April 1943, all deliveries were stopped and the previously issued vehicles were recalled for major modifications. In May 1943, the 51st and 52nd Panzerabteilungen (tank detachments) finally received the new Panther tanks, which were the first to go into action at Kursk in July 1943.
Most of the vehicles of the version D went to these two independent units, as well as the 23rd and 26th independent tank regiments and the tank regiments of 2nd SS-Panzer-Division Das Reich and 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte-SS-Adolf Hitler.

Animated 3D model of Panther tank Ausf D

Here to the second model PzKpfw V Panther Ausf A.


PzKpfw V Ausf G

PzKpfw V Ausf G

PzKpfw V Ausf G with the 1944 modifications to the gun mantlet, with new vision devices and with steel-rimmed wheels.

The G version was the third series of the Panther. Many constructional changes were made to this model, which can be traced back to recommendations of the troops in the field by the crews of the versions D and A.

 

The main external difference between the Panther Ausf G and the former Ausf A and Ausf D was the newly designed hull. The side armoring was made stronger on the upper hull side and the side plate was now one-piece.

The driver’s view opening has been removed from the front hull to increase its resistance. The visibility was now ensured by a rotating periscope and the driver’s seat could be raised and the controls extended so that he could lift his head out of the hatch and drive. The pivoting hatches above the driver and radio operator were replaced by hinged versions.
The suspension remained largely unchanged, but the rear damper was removed from late production vehicles. In a trial series in September 1944, the steel rimmed ‘silent bloc’ wheels were introduced, which were intended for the F version of the Panther in 1945.

Many other minor changes have been made to improve reliability during the production run, especially in the drive-train. A gearbox oil cooler was installed. For the first time, 3 mm thick armored ammunition bins were installed. Later production vehicles were equipped with a fighting compartment heater, which took warm air from a tower-like device, which was mounted above the left engine fan. Effective exhaust silencers, which also suppressed otherwise visible flames, were introduced.

At the end of 1944, a large part of the turrets supplied were equipped with a new gun mantlet, on which the under curve was eliminated by a forward angled projection, in order to prevent a downward deflection of a hit through the thin hull roof armoring.

Until the end of the war, the Ausf G Panther tanks were deployed on the eastern, southeastern and western fronts. At that time, they generally represented half the tank strength of the Panzer divisions and made themselves felt in the final offensives in East Prussia, Hungary and the Ardennes. About 450 Panther tanks were standing at the units of Army Group B when the Ardennes offensive began.

Animated 3D model of Panther tank Ausf G


Specifications for Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (SdKfz 171)

Specifications
Specification Ausf D Ausf G
Type medium tank =
Engine Maybach HL 230 P30 gasoline engine with 700 hp =
Gearbox 7 forward, 1 reverse =
Crew 5 =
Turret crew 3 (with 360° Commanders cupola) =
Length 29ft 0.75in (8.86m; without barrel 6.87m) =
Width 10.75ft (3.27 m) 11ft 3in (3.43 m)
Height 9.68 ft (2.95 m) 9.81 ft (2.99 m)
Weight 43 tons 45.5 tons
Maximum speed 29 mph (46 km/hr) =
Cross-country speed 15 mph (24 km/hr) =
Fuel consumption per 100 km 450 litres on road; 670 litres cross-country =
Fuel 730 litres =
Road radius 100-124 miles (160-200 km) =
Cross-country radius 60 miles (100 km) =
Vertical obstacle 2.95 ft (0.90 m) =
Trench crossing 6.23 ft (1.90 m) =
Fording depth 5ft 7in (1.70 m) =
Turning circle 32ft (10 m) =
Climbing power 35 ° =
Armour
mm (angle) Ausf D Ausf G
Turret front 100 (10°) 110 (11°)
Turret side 45 (25°) 45 (25°)
Turret rear 45 (25°) 45 (25°)
Turret top 16 (83-90°) 16 (84-90°)
Upper hull front 80 (55°) 80 (55°)
Upper hull side 40 (40°) 50 (30°)
Upper hull rear -
Hull top 16 (90°) 40 and 16 (90°)
Lower hull front 60 (55°) 60 (55°)
Lower hull side 40 (0°) 40 (0°)
Lower hull rear 40 (30°) 40 (30°)
Hull bottom 16-30 (90°) 16-30 (90°)
Gun mantlet 100 (round) 100 (round)
Armament and Equipment
Specification Ausf D Ausf G
Main armament 7.5 cm KwK42 L/70 =
Rounds 79 81
Traverse 360° (hydraulic) =
Elevation -8° to +18° =
Muzzle velocity Pzgr 3,035 ft/sec (925 m/sec) =
Muzzle velocity Pzgr40 (available only in limited numbers) 3,675 ft/sec (1,120 m/sec) =
Shell weight Pzgr 15 lb (6.80 kg) =
Shell weight Pzgr40 10.5 lb (4.75 kg) =
Secondary armament one 7.92mm MG34 coaxially to gun, one 7.92mm MG34 manual front from shooting embrasure loophole in front hull; together 5,100 rounds one 7.92mm MG34 coaxially to gun, one 7.92mm MG34 in front hull (traverse 5°left to 5°right, elevation -10° to +15°), one AA 7.92mm MG34 on commander's cupola, together 5,100 rounds
Radio FuG5 (2.5 milesrange) =
Telescopic sight TZF12 (2.5 miles aiming) TZF12a (2.5 miles aiming)
Penetration mm at 30° armour plates of 7.5cm KwK42 L/70
Range Pzgr Pzgr40 (just limited numbers)
Penetration 100 meters 138 mm 194 mm
Penetration 500 meters 124 mm 174 mm
Penetration 1,000 meters 111 mm 149 mm
Penetration 1,500 meters 99 mm 127 mm
Penetration 2,000 meters 89 mm 106 mm
Production
Figures Ausf D Ausf G
Production from January to September 1943 from March 1944 to April 1945
Combat delivery July 1943 (Kursk) immediately after production delivery
Price per tank RM 129,100 (early models) = ~$ 58,095 = ~£ 12,308 RM 130,000
Total production figure 850 3,126

Here to the second model PzKpfw V Panther Ausf A.

Service statistics of all Panzer V variants
Year Available Production Losses
before 1939
1939
1940
1941
1942
1943 1,768 525
1944 1,084 (1.1.) 3,749 2,297
1945 1,982 (1.1.) 459 (Jan-Mar) 237 (Jan)
Total 5,976 3,059

After WW2 the US Army calculated that it had cost five M4 Sherman to destroy one Panzer V Panther tank.

For comparison, average number of hits to knock out each type of tank:

Western Europe 1944-45
Tank Type Average number of hits Average number of penetrations
Tiger I 4.2 2.6
Panzer V Panther 2.55 1.9
M4 Sherman 1.63 1.55
Panzer IV 1.2 1.2

The better survivability of the Tiger tank had its cause in the very good all-round protection, while the Panther tank in contrast only has a good frontal armor and was easy to knock-out off from the side. Contrary to the popular opinion most tanks were knocked-out during the Second World War from the side or from behind, since they were usually well armored at the front.


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2 Comments

  1. I am not sure where the oft repeated myth about it taking five Shermans to destroy a single Panther (or in another version a Tiger I) but it is a complete lie. At Arracourt a company of Shermans defeated a new brigades worth of brand spanking new Panthers in a meeting engagement. By volley fire into the unsuspecting column of Panthers they destroyed four or five, the Germans withdrew, the Shermans raced after them on the other side of a ridge, set up another ambush and knocked out four or five more without loss. The total number of tanks lost in the two-day battle was decidedly lopsided in favor of the Americans. The model of Shermans engaged were the short barreled 75mm M4 version and not the slightly better 76mm versions.

    Most losses of Shermans were due to anti tank guns not tank on tank fire. There is a series of photos of a field from different angles after a Panther vs Sherman engagement and notably there are three destroyed Panthers in the photo and only one Sherman.

    Hitler botched up a fairly good tank design by insisting that the manufacturers add more frontal armor, about 9 tons worth, which compromised the drive train and suspension. What they ended up with was a very brittle and fragile tank prone to breakdowns. In the march to Normandy the Panzer Lehr Division suffered more than 40% mechanical breakdowns. Nearly 50% of all Panthers were dead lined at any given time due to mechanical failures. This situation only got worse as the war progressed. Shortage of strategic minerals such as tungsten and molybdenum led to brittle armor and gears in the transmissions. The latter combined with shortages of petrol for training led to poorly trained drivers which increased the number of stripped gears in the transmissions necessitating abandonment and destruction of otherwise undamaged tanks.

    • We have also other singe incidents. Here are two from 2nd SS Das Reich:
      SS-Oberscharführer Ernst Barkmann, commander of a single PzKpfw V Panther in Normandy, covered an intersection at Le Lorey when a long column of at least 14 enemy tanks with trucks came into sight. In the subsequent battle, Barkmann and his crew shot down eight Sherman tanks and destroyed several trucks, including tankers, although Allied fighter bombers intervened in the battle and damaged his tank. He did not retreat until his ammunition ran out.

      Battle of the Bulge: Tank ace Ernst Barkmann increased his impressive shooting record to date by adding 15 more Sherman tanks to this list. Nine of these tanks were simply abandoned by the American tank crews when his lonely Panther tank rolled towards them.

      More about statistics in the Amazon book on this page: Panther vs Sherman, Battle of the Bulge.
      ‘In head-to-head duel, the Panther G was clearly superior to the M4A3(76mm) … The outcome of tank.vs.tank fighting was more often determined by tactical situation than technical superior … For US study for Korea War tank battles concluded that the see-first/hit-first rule increased tank effectiveness by six times and that tanks on the defense were three times as effective against enemy tanks as when on the offensive …
      On occasion, small numbers of Panthers in the hand of battle-experienced crew inflicted disproportionate casualties on US tank units in small unit actions, but not often enough to have significant impact on the course of war …’

      So its simply a question of data collection – and unfortunately nobody has the full list of all engagements, where also other weapon systems have to be considered. Also, we have to consider that after summer 1944 the experience and training of a average German Panzer crew was clearly inferior to a US or British tank crew.

      But I guess, the average number of hits to knock out each type of tank (in relation to the available number of tanks/AT-guns on each side; here Western Front) is a good starting point for the success of it.

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