Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (SdKfz 171).
Type: medium battle tank.
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 7.5 cm KwK42 L/70 was mounted in an external curved gun mantle, 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
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 mantle, 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)
|Specification||Ausf D||Ausf G|
|Engine||Maybach HL 230 P30 gasoline engine with 700 hp||=|
|Gearbox||7 forward, 1 reverse||=|
|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||=|
|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 °||=|
|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||=|
|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° armor plates of 7.5 cm 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|
|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:
|1945||1,982 (1.1.)||459 (Jan-Mar)||237 (Jan)|
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|
|Panzer V Panther||2.55||1.9|
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.
References and literature
Operation Barbarossa: the Complete Organisational and Statistical Analysis, and Military Simulation, Volume I – IIIB (Nigel Askey)
The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II (Chris Bishop)
Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer der Reichswehr, Wehrmacht und Bundeswehr (Werner Oswald)
Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two (P.Chamberlain, H.L.Doyle)
Fire and Movement (RAC Tank Museum)
Panzer und andere Kampffahrzeuge von 1916 bis heute (Christopher F. Foss, John F. Milsom, Colonel John Stafford Weeks, Captain Georffrey Tillotson, Richard M. Ogorkiewicz)
Panzerkampfwagen des 1. und 2. Weltkrieges (Andrew Kershaw)
Krieg der Panzer (Piekalkiewicz)