Who designed the German Panther tank

Panther tank - Panther tank

German medium tank of World War II
This article is about the German tank from World War II. For the modern South Korean tank, see K2 Black Panther.
"Panzer V" forwards here. For the Rheinmetall PzKpfw NbFz V prototype tank see new construction vehicle.
Panzerkampfwagen V Panther
Panther Ausf. D-Panzer, 1943. The D-model can best be recognized by the drum-shaped dome and / or the "Letterbox" machine gun slot.
Art Medium tank
place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
In service
  • 1943–1945 (Nazi Germany)
  • 1944–1949 (France)
Used by Nazi Germany
France
Restricted use by other military personnel (see post-war and foreign use)
Wars Second World War
Production history
Designer MAN AG
Designed 1942
Manufacturer MAN, Daimler-Benz, MNH
Cost per unit 117,100 Reichsmarks (without weapons, optics or radio)
176,100 Reichsmarks (battle ready)
Produced 1943-1945 (1946-9 postwar period for the British Army)
No built about 6,000
variants Ausf. D, Ausf. A, Ausf. G, command tank (command memory), observation tank (artillery observer vehicle), Bergepanther (armored vehicle)
Specifications
Dimensions 44.8 tons (44.1 long tons; 49.4 short tons)
length 6.87 m (22 feet 6 in
Inch) 28 feet 5 inches (8.66 meters) gun forward
width 3.27 m (10 ft 9 in
Inches) 11 feet 3 inches (3.42 m) with skirts
height 2.99 m
crew 5 (driver, radio operator / trunk machine gunner, commander, gunner, loader)

armor 16-100 mm
engine V-12 gasoline Maybach HL230 P30
700 PS (690 PS, 515 kW)
Strength / weight 15.39 hp (11.5 kW) / ton (13.77 hp / ton)
transmission ZF AK 7-200. 7 forward 1 backward
suspension Double torsion bar, nested road wheel
Fuel capacity 720 liters (160 imp gal; 190 US gal)
Road: 200 km
Cross-country skiing: 100 km
Maximum speed 55 km / h (first models)
46 km / h (later models)

The Panther is a German medium tank while in use during the Second World War on the Eastern and Western fronts in Europe from mid-1943 to the end of the war in 1945. It had the explosive device inventory designation of Sd.Kfz. 171 . It was used until February 27, 1944 as a Armored car V Called panther when Hitler ordered the deletion of the Roman numeral "V". Contemporary English language reports sometimes refer to it as "Mark V" .

The Panther was intended to counteract the Soviet T-34 and replace the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Even so, it served alongside the Panzer IV and the heavier Tiger I until the end of the war. It is considered one of the best tanks of WWII for its excellent firepower and protection, although its reliability was less impressive.

The panther was a compromise. Although it had essentially the same Maybach V12 petrol engine (690 hp) as the Tiger I, it had more effective front hull armor, better weapon penetration, was lighter and faster, and could traverse rough terrain better than the Tiger I. The compromise was a weaker one Side armor making it vulnerable to flanking fire. The panther proved effective in the open country and on long-range missions.

The Panther was far cheaper to manufacture than the Tiger I and only slightly more expensive than the Panzer IV. Key elements of the Panther design such as armor, gearbox and final drive were simplifications to improve production rates and address raw material shortages. The overall design has been described by some as "overdeveloped". Despite numerous unsolved technical problems, the Panther was plunged into battle in the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943, resulting in high losses due to a mechanical defect. Most design flaws were fixed in late 1943 and early 1944, although the bombing of production facilities, the increasing shortage of high quality alloys for critical components, the lack of fuel and training room, and the declining quality of the crews made the tank less effective.

Although officially classified as a medium tank, its weight is more similar to that of a heavy tank, as it falls into roughly the same category as the American M26 Pershing (41.7 tons), the British Churchill (40, 7 tons) and the Soviet IS-2 (46 tons) tanks. The tank had a very high power-to-weight ratio, which made it very mobile regardless of its tonnage. His weight still caused logistical problems, such as the inability to cross certain bridges.

In contrast to most German tanks, the Panther production variants were not named in alphabetical order: On the original Panther variant "D" ( Ausf. D ) the variants "A" and "G" followed.

Development and production

design

The Panther arose from a project started in 1938 to replace the Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks. The initial requirements of the VK 20 series required a full-chain vehicle weighing 20 tons, and design proposals from Krupp, Daimler Benz and MAN followed. Those designs were abandoned and Krupp dropped out of the competition entirely when the demands rose for a 30-ton vehicle, a direct response to encounters with the Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks and against the advice of Wa Pruef 6th The T-34 surpassed the existing models of the Panzer III and IV. At the urging of General Heinz Guderian, a special tank commission was set up to evaluate the T-34. Among the features of the Soviet tank that were considered to be the most significant included the sloping armor, which gave a significantly improved deflection of fire and also increased the effective armor thickness against penetration, the wide track, which improved mobility on soft ground, and the 76 .2 mm (3 in) weapon that had good armor penetration and fired an effective high explosive round. Daimler-Benz (DB), who designed the successful Panzer III and StuG III, and Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg AG (MAN) were given the task of producing a new 30- to 35-ton tank with the designation VK 30.02 by April 1942 design.

The design "VK 30.02 (DB)" was similar in hull and turret to the T-34 and should also be powered by a diesel engine. It was driven by the rear sprocket with the tower forward. The installation of a diesel engine promised a longer range, lower flammability and better use of oil reserves. Hitler himself considered a diesel engine to be essential for the new tank. In the DB proposal, in contrast to the MAN proposal for double torsion bars, an external leaf spring suspension was used. Wa Pruef 6's opinion was that the leaf spring suspension was a disadvantage and that the use of torsion bars would allow for greater internal hull width. It was also against rear-wheel drive because of the possibility of track contamination. Daimler Benz still preferred the leaf springs to a torsion bar suspension, as this led to an approximately 200 mm shorter silhouette and made complex shock absorbers superfluous. The use of rear-wheel drive provided additional space for the crew and also allowed for better inclination of the front fuselage, which was considered important to prevent the penetration of tank shells.

The MAN design embodied a more conventional configuration with the gearbox and drive sprocket up front and a centrally mounted tower. It had a gasoline engine and eight torsion bar suspension axles on each side. Due to the torsion bar suspension and the drive shaft running under the revolver basket, the MAN Panther was higher and had a wider hull than the DB design. The Henschel company's design concepts for the suspension / drive components of the Tiger I tank using the signature Box drive Format - large, overlapping, nested road wheels with a "slack track" with no return rollers for the upper run of the track - are also shared. Almost all German military half-track designs since the late 1930s - were repeated with the MAN design for the Panther. These several large steel wheels with rubber rims distribute the ground pressure more evenly on the track. The MAN proposal also supplemented the turret already designed by Rheinmetall, which was modified compared to that of the VK 45.01 (H), and used a practically identical Maybach V12 engine as the Maybach HL230 engine model of the Tiger I heavy tank.

The two designs were made between January and March 1942 checked . Reich Minister To be dead and later successor Albert Speer recommended the DB design to Hitler because of its advantages over the original MAN design. In the final submission, MAN refined its design after learning from the DB proposal, apparently through a leak from a former employee at Wa Pruef 6, the chief engineer Heinrich Ernst Kniepkamp and others. On March 5, 1942, Albert Speer reported that Hitler considered the Daimler-Benz design to be superior to the MAN design. A review by a special commission appointed by Hitler in May 1942 selected the MAN design. Hitler agreed to this decision after reviewing it overnight. One of the main reasons for this decision was that the MAN design used an existing tower designed by Rheinmetall-Borsig, while the DB design required a brand new tower and engine to be designed and manufactured, which delayed the start of production. This time-saving measure impaired the later development of the design.

Albert Speer tells in his autobiography Inside the Third Reich

Since the Tiger was originally designed for a weight of fifty tons, but had increased to fifty-seven tons due to Hitler's demands, we decided to develop a new 30-ton tank, the name Panther of which should mean greater maneuverability. Although it was light, its engine should be the same as that of the Tiger, which meant it could develop superior speed. But over the course of a year, Hitler again insisted on slapping so much armor and larger guns on it that it eventually reached forty-eight tons, the tiger's original weight.

production

Mild steel prototype of MAN design was produced by September 1942 and after Kummer was officially recognized. It was put into production immediately. The start of production was delayed mainly due to the lack of special machine tools needed to machine the hull. Finished tanks were made in December and suffered from reliability issues as a result. The demand for this tank was so high that production soon went beyond MAN to include Daimler-Benz (Berlin-Marienfelde, former DMG plant), the machine factory Lower Saxony Hanover (MNH, subsidiary Eisenwerk Wülfel / Hanomag) and the original designer of the Tiger I, Henschel & Sohn in Kassel.

The original production target was 250 tanks per month at the MAN plant in Nuremberg. That number was increased to 600 per month in January 1943. Despite determined efforts, this number was never reached due to disruption from Allied bombing, manufacturing and resource shortages. Production in 1943 averaged 148 per month. In 1944 the average was 315 per month (3,777 were built that year), with 380 in July and late March 1945, with a total of at least 6,000 built. Combat strength at the front peaked on September 1, 1944 with 2,304 tanks, but in the same month a record 692 tanks were reported as lost.

The Allies directed the bombing raids on the common choke point for the Panther and Tiger production: the Maybach engine plant. This was bombed on the night of April 27th to 28th, 1944 and production was stopped for five months. A second factory was already planned, the Auto Union Siegmar factory (the former Wanderer car factory), which went into operation in May 1944. The target acquisition of the Panther factories began with a bomb attack on the DB plant on August 6, 1944 and again on the night of August 23 to 24. MAN was born on September 10, October 3 and October 19, 1944 and then again on January 3 and 20/21. Defeated February 1945. MNH was not attacked until March 14th and 28th, 1945.

In addition to interfering with tank production targets, the bombing resulted in a sharp drop in spare parts production, which fell as a percentage of tank production from 25 to 30 percent in 1943 to 8 percent in late 1944. This exacerbated the reliability and number of Panthers operational problems as tanks had to be cannibalized in the field for parts.

Production numbers

Panther tank production line

After the Sturmgeschütz III-Sturmgeschütz / Panzer-Destroyer with 9,408 units and the Panzer IV tank with 8,298 units, the Panther was the third most frequently produced German tank combat vehicle.

model number date Remarks
prototype 2 September 1942 Designated V1 and V2
Version D. 842 January 1943 to September 1943
Exec. ON 2.200 August 1943 to August 1944 Sometimes called Ausf. A2
Ausf. G ~ 2.961 March 1944 to April 1945
Command tank Panther 329 May 1943 to April 1945 Rebuilt on the production line
Observation tank Panther 1 1944 Transformed
Bergepanther 339 1943 to 1945 61 more rebuilt from rebuilt chassis
Manufacturer % of the total
Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (MAN) 35
Daimler Benz 31
Machine factory Lower Saxony-Hanover 31
Other 3

costs

The production of a Panther tank cost 117,100 Reichmarks (RM). This compares with 82,500 RM for the StuG III, 96,163 RM for the Panzer III, 103,462 RM for the Panzer IV and 250,800 RM for the Tiger I. These figures did not include the cost of armament and radio. The use of slave labor in the production lines reduced costs significantly, but also significantly increased the risk of sabotage. Studies by the French Army in 1947 revealed that many panthers had been sabotaged during production. The Germans increasingly sought production methods that would enable higher production rates and lower costs. For comparison: the total costs of the early production of the Tiger I in the years 1942 to 1943 were given as 800,000 RM.

The process of rationalizing the production of German armored combat vehicles first began after Speer in early 1942 Reich Minister became, and accelerated steadily until 1944; The production of the Panther tank coincided with the increase in production efficiency. At the beginning of the war, German manufacturers of armored combat vehicles had employed labor-intensive and costly manufacturing processes that were unsuitable for the needs of mass production. Even with optimized production methods, Germany never approached the efficiency of Allied production during World War II.

Design features

The crew of a panther poses for a photograph

The weight of the production model has been increased to 45 tons compared to the original plans for a 35-ton tank. In the report of the tank commission, Hitler was informed in detail by Guderian about the comparison between the drafts of MAN and DB. The armor protection appeared to be inadequate, while "the rear-mounted engine seemed correct". He agreed that "the key factor is the ability to get the tank into production quickly". On May 15, 1942, Colonel Fichtner informed MAN that Hitler had decided on the MAN Panther and had ordered series production. The upper glacis plate should be increased from 60 mm to 80 mm. Hitler demanded that an increase to 100 mm should be attempted and that at least all vertical surfaces should be 100 mm; The tower front plate was increased from 80 mm to 100 mm.

The panther was thrown into battle before all of its teething troubles were resolved. Reliability has improved significantly over time, and the Panther turned out to be a very effective combat vehicle, but with some design flaws such as: B. its weak final drive units were never fixed.

The crew consisted of five members: driver, radio operator (who also fired the machine gun), rifleman, loader and commander.

engine

The first 250 Panthers were powered by a Maybach HL 210 P30 V-12 petrol engine that developed 650 hp at 3,000 rpm and had three simple air filters. From May 1943 Panther with 700 PS (690 PS, 515 kW) at 3,000 rpm and a 23.1 liter Maybach HL 230 P30 V-12 petrol engine were built. In order to save aluminum, the light metal block used in the HL 210 was replaced by a cast iron block. Two multi-stage "cyclone" air filters were used to improve dust removal. The engine power was reduced due to the use of poor quality gasoline. With a capacity of 730 liters (160 imperial gallons; 190 US gallons) of fuel, the range of a fully fueled Panther was 200 km (120 miles) on paved roads and 100 km (62 miles) off-road.

The HL 230 P30 engine was a very compact tunnel crankcase and kept the distance between the cylinder walls to a minimum. The crankshaft consisted of seven "discs" or main journals, each with an outer ring of roller bearings and a crankshaft pin between each disc. To reduce the length of the engine by about an inch and reduce the unbalanced rocking torque caused by a normal offset V-engine, the V-12's two rows of 6 cylinders were not offset - the "big ends" of the connecting rods of each pair of cylinders in the "V" where they mate with the crankpin were thus in the same location and not offset with respect to the length of the engine block; This required a "fork and blade" matched pair of connecting rods for each transversely aligned cylinder pair. In V-shaped engines, the "big ends" of the transversely paired cylinders "connecting rods" are simply placed side by side on the crank pin, with the transverse cylinder pairs being slightly offset so that the large ends of the connecting rods can be attached side by side while they are still in the The center line of the cylinder bore. This compact arrangement with the connecting rods was initially the source of significant problems. Blown head gaskets were another problem that was addressed in September 1943 with improved gaskets. Improved bearings were introduced in November 1943. An engine governor was also added in November 1943, reducing the maximum engine speed to 2,500 rpm. An eighth crankshaft bearing was added from January 1944 to reduce engine breakdowns.

The engine compartment was designed to be watertight so that the Panther could challenge water hazards. As a result, however, the engine compartment was poorly ventilated and tended to overheat. The fuel connections in early Panthers were not insulated, which resulted in fuel vapors leaking into the engine compartment, resulting in engine fires. Additional ventilation was added to evacuate these gases, only partially solving the problem of engine fires. Other measures taken to reduce this problem have included improving the coolant circulation in the engine and adding a reinforced diaphragm spring to the fuel pump. Despite the risk of fire, the fighting compartment was relatively safe due to a solid firewall separating it from the engine compartment.

The engine's reliability improved over time. A French assessment of their stock of captured Normandie Panther A tanks in 1947 found the engine to have an average life of 1,000 km and a maximum life of 1,500 km.

suspension

Box drive nested wheels on a panther

The suspension consisted of chain wheels at the front, rear pulleys and eight double-nested road wheels made of steel with a rubber rim on each side - in the so-called Box drive Design suspended from a double torsion bar suspension. The double torsion bar system designed by Professor Ernst Lehr enabled a wide stroke and rapid vibrations with high reliability and thus enabled relatively fast travel over undulating terrain. The additional space required for the poles that run the length of the hull floor underneath the tower cage increased the overall height of the tank. If damaged by mines, the torsion bars often required a welding torch to remove.

The suspension of the Panther has been redesigned, and the nested road bike system Box drive made replacing the inner road wheels time consuming (although it could be operated with missing or broken wheels). The nested wheels also had a tendency to become clogged with mud, stones, and ice, and could not do so in the harsh winter weather that looked like the fall Rasputitsa- Mud season on the Eastern Front followed, freezing solid overnight. Shell damage can cause road wheels to jam and be difficult to separate. Interleaved wheels were standard on all German half-tracks for a long time. The additional wheels provided better flotation and stability, and also provided more protection for the thin hull sides than smaller wheels or non-nested wheel systems. However, the complexity meant that no other country ever adopted this design for its tanks.

The inspector general of the armored forces reported in May 1944:

Stretch and suspension:

After a mileage between 1500 km and 1800 km, the routes are heavily worn. In many cases, the guide horns of the rails bend outward or break. In 4 cases the rails had to be replaced when a number of reinforcement guide horns broke.

Reasons: The guide horns are probably too weak because they bend easily.

Due to the constant operation and the lack of spare parts, the storage system could not be properly maintained and repaired. Because of this, the storage system in the available tanks is in very poor condition and has sometimes resulted in chain / suspension failures.

In September 1944 and again in March / April 1945 MAN built a limited number of Panthers with overlapping, non-interleaved road wheels with a diameter of 80 cm, which were originally developed for Henschel's Tiger II and the later Tiger I Ausf series. E tanks. These steel-rimmed road bikes were introduced from chassis number 121052 due to a shortage of raw materials.

From November 1944 to February 1945 a rebuilding process began to use plain bearings in the Panther tank due to the lack of ball bearings. The plain bearings were mainly used in the chassis; It was also planned to convert the gearbox to plain bearings, but this was not done due to the discontinuation of Panther production.

Steering and transmission

Repairing the transmission of a panther

The steering was carried out by a seven-speed synchromesh gearbox AK 7-200 designed by Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen (ZF) and a MAN steering system with a radius that was operated by steering levers. Each aisle had a fixed turning radius ranging from 5 m (16 ft) for 1st gear to 80 m (260 ft) for 7th gear. The driver was expected to assess the sharpness of a corner in advance and shift into the appropriate gear to turn the tank. The driver could also apply the brakes on one side to force a sharper turn. This manual steering was greatly simplified compared to the ingenious, hydraulically controlled steering system with two radii of the Tiger tanks.

The AK 7-200 gearbox was also capable of turning, but tests showed that this was only possible if the ground resistance was the same on both tracks. This high torque torque method can cause final drive failure.

The overloaded transmission system meant that the third gear was stripped prematurely in its service life. This problem was exacerbated by alloy deficiencies that made gears more brittle and more prone to failure. This led to the complicated task of accessing the gearbox, which was completely enclosed by the Panther's frontal armor. In order to be able to access the final drive, the entire driver's compartment and the transmission had to be dismantled and lifted out. This is in sharp contrast to access to the Sherman gearbox, which only required the front armor cover to be loosened.

The Panther's main weakness was its final drive unit. The problems were due to several factors. The original MAN proposal had called for the Panther to have a planetary gear (planetary) system in the final drive, similar to that used in the Tiger I. Germany suffered from a shortage of gear cutting machine tools and, unlike the Tiger, the Panther was supposed to be mass produced. In order to achieve the goal of higher production rates, numerous simplifications have been made to the design and manufacture. This process was initiated by the chief director for armaments and war production, Karl-Otto Saur (who was under Reich Minister Speer worked and later succeeded), sometimes pushed aggressively against the will of designers and army officers. As a result, the axle drive was converted to a double spur system. Although the twin spur gears were much easier to manufacture, they inherently had higher internal shock and loading loads, making them prone to failure under the high torque requirements of the heavy Panther tank.

armor

Initial Production Panthers had a face-hardened glacis plate (the main piece of armor on the front fuselage), but became standard in all armies as armor-piercing, capped cartridges (defeating the benefits of face-hardening, causing uncapped cartridges to burst ). This requirement was deleted in March 1943. Until August 1943, Panthers were only built with a homogeneous steel glacis plate. The front fuselage had 80 mm (3.1 in) armor that was angled at 55 degrees from the vertical. It was welded but also locked to the side and bottom panels for strength. The combination of moderately thick and well-sloped armor meant that heavy Allied weapons such as the Soviet 122mm A-19, 100mm BS-3, and US 90mm M3 were needed to ensure upper glacis penetration into all combat areas.

The armor for the side hull and superstructure (the side spons) was much thinner (40–50 mm). The thinner side armor was necessary to reduce weight, but made the Panther vulnerable to hits from all Allied anti-tank and anti-tank guns from the side. The German tactical doctrine for the use of the panther emphasized the importance of flank protection. 5 mm (0.20 in) thick spaced armor, as is known Aprons Gunfire, which was used to provide protection for the lower side of the hull from Soviet tanks, was attached to the side of the hull. The carpentry Coating against magnetic mines was applied from the factory on late Ausf D models in the factory from September 1943. In November 1943 an order for field units was issued, Zimmerit apply to older versions of the Panther. In September 1944 the order was issued, the entire application of Zimmerit stop based on false rumors that hit on the Zimmerit Caused vehicle fires.

Panthers with track segments that hung from the sides of the tower to reinforce the armor.

Panther crews were aware of the weak side armor and reinforced it by hanging track links or spare road wheels on the turret and / or the sides of the fuselage. The rear upper fuselage armor was only 16 mm thick and had two cooling fans and four air intake louvers above the engine compartment, which were susceptible to being bombarded by aircraft.

As the war progressed, Germany was forced to reduce or eliminate critical alloy metals in the manufacture of armor plates such as nickel, tungsten, and molybdenum. This resulted in a lower impact resistance compared to previous armor. In 1943, Allied bombers struck the Norwegian boys mine and severely damaged it, removing an important source of molybdenum. Deliveries from Finland and Japan have also ceased. The loss of molybdenum and its replacement with other substitutes to maintain hardness, as well as a general loss of quality control, led to increased brittleness of the German armor plate, which tended to break when hit with a shell. Tests by US Army officers in Isigny, France in August 1944 showed catastrophic cracks in the armor plate of two out of three Panthers examined.

armor

Main armament: 75 mm KwK 42 (L / 70)

The main weapon was a Rheinmetall-Borsig 7.5 cm KwK 42 (L / 70) with semi-automatic grenade ejection and a supply of 79 cartridges (82 on Ausf. G). The main weapon used three different types of ammunition: APCBC- HE ( Pzgr. 39/42 ), HE ( Sprgr. 42 ) and APCR ( Pzgr. 40/42 ), the last of which was usually in short supply. While the Panther cannon was of a caliber common to Allied tanks, it was the most powerful WWII Allied tank artillery due to its large propellant charge and long barrel, which gave it very high muzzle velocity and excellent armor piercing properties Kalibers did not have an equivalent muzzle energy. Only the 17 pounder Ordnance QF of the British Sherman Firefly conversion with a caliber of 76.2 mm (3 inches) and a barrel with a caliber of 55 (L / 55) and an availability for firing APDS shots had had a higher potential perforation force of the armor, but was significantly less accurate due to interference caused by the separation of the shot and sabot and at the cost of less severe damage within the target after the armor was perforated. The flat trajectory and accuracy of the full bore ammunition also made it much easier to hit targets, as the accuracy was less sensitive to errors in range estimation and increased the likelihood of hitting a moving target. The Panther's 75mm cannon had greater penetration than the main weapon on the Tiger I heavy tank, the 8.8cm KwK 36 L / 56, although the larger 88mm projectile would potentially do more damage if it did would invade. The 75mm HE cartridge was inferior to the 88mm HE cartridge used to support infantry but was inferior to most of the other 75mm HE cartridges used by other tanks and assault guns. equal.

The tank typically had two MG 34 machine guns with armored combat vehicles with an armored barrel. An MG 34 machine gun was located on the rifle casing, coaxial with the main rifle. An identical MG 34 was on the glacis plate and was fired by the radio operator. Initial Ausf. D and Early Ausf. One model used a "mailbox" hatch that enclosed the thin, vertical, arrow-slit opening below through which the machine gun was fired. In the later version A and all versions of the G models (from late November to early December 1943) a ball mount was installed in the glacis plate with a KZF2 machine gun sight for the rump machine gun.

Initial Ausf. D were equipped with the smoke thrower with the later Ausf. A and Ausf. G Receipt of the close-range defense weapon.

tower

Panther with a regularly rounded coat
Panther with a flattened chin mantle

The front of the tower was curved armored armor, 100 mm thick. Due to its transverse cylindrical shape, it was more likely to deflect grenades, but a shot trap was created in the lower area. If a non-piercing blow ricochets down from its lower portion, it can penetrate the thin front hull roof armor and plunge into the front hull compartment. Penetrations of this kind could have catastrophic consequences, as the driver and radio operator were housed in the compartment, who sat on either side of the massive gearbox and steering unit. There were also four magazines of main weapon ammunition between the driver's / radio operator's seats and the turret directly under the gun casing when the turret was facing forward.

From September 1944, Panther Ausf G-Modelle was fitted with a slightly revised coat with a flattened and much thicker lower "chin" design, the chin being intended to prevent such deflections. The switch to the "chin" design was gradual, and Panthers continued to be manufactured with the rounded cannon mantle until the end of the war.

The Ausf A model introduced a new dome for cast armaments commanders that replaced the forged dome. It was fitted with a steel bracket to which a third MG 34 or either the coaxial or nose machine gun could be mounted for use in the anti-aircraft role.

The first Panther (Ausf D) had a hydraulic motor that could traverse the tower at a maximum speed of one full revolution per minute, regardless of the engine speed. This has been improved on the Ausf A model with a hydraulic crossbeam driven by the engine. A full revolution took 46 seconds at an engine speed of 1,000 rpm, but only 15 seconds when the engine was running at 3,000 rpm. This arrangement was a weakness, as quickly traversing the Panther's tower towards a target required close coordination between the gunner and the driver, who had to run the engine at top speed. In comparison, the electrically or electrohydraulically traversed turret of the M4 Sherman rotated up to 360 degrees in 15 seconds and was independent of the engine speed, which gave it an advantage over the Panther in close combat. A cross-hand wheel was provided for the panther shooter to fine-tune his aim.

Ammunition depot

Ammunition storage for the main weapon was a weak point. All ammunition for the main armament was stored in the hull, with a significant amount being stored in the sponsors. On the Ausf D and A models, 18 cartridges were stored on each side next to the tower, making a total of 36 cartridges. In the Ausf G, which had deeper sponsors, 24 laps were saved on each side of the tower for a total of 48 laps. In all models, four laps were also saved in the left sponsor between the driver and the tower. Another 36 cartridges were stored in the hull of the Ausf D and A models - 27 in the front hull compartment directly under the jacket. In Ausf G, the ammunition store of the hull was reduced to a total of 27 cartridges, with 18 cartridges in the front part of the hull. In all models, three cartridges were kept under the turntable of the tower. Stowing 52 rounds of ammunition in the side spons made this area the most vulnerable point on the Panther, as intrusion here usually led to catastrophic ammunition fires.

The loader was stationed on the right side of the tower. With the turret forward, he only had access to the correct sponsor and trunk ammunition, and so these served as the main ammunition container.

crew

The Panther had 5 crew members, the commander, the gunner, the loader, the driver and the radio operator. The commander, loader and gunner were in the turret, while the driver and radio operator were in the hull of the vehicle. The driver always sat in the front left of the tank and next to him stood the machine gunner of the tank, whose job it was to operate the radio.

Combat use

Panthers were delivered to the January 9th Panzer Division 51 (Panzerbataillon 51) and on February 6, 1943 the Panzer Division 52 form.

The first Panther tanks suffered from mechanical problems. The engine was dangerously prone to overheating and suffered from connecting rod or bearing failures. Gasoline leaks from the fuel pump or carburetor and engine oil leaks from the seals caused fires in the engine compartment. which resulted in the full write-off of three Panthers due to fires. Transmission and final drive failures were the most common and the most difficult to repair. A large list of other problems was identified with these early Panthers, and so from April to May 1943 all Panthers were shipped to Falkensee and Nuremberg for an extensive rebuilding program. This did not solve all problems, so that in June 1943 a second program was started in Grafenwoehr and Erlangen. Reliability improved with the Panther's Ausf. A and later G, with availability rates averaging 37% by late 1943 to an average of 54% in 1944. By mid-1944, the Panther was at its peak and was widely regarded as the most impressive tank on the battlefield.

Eastern Front

The Panther tank was seen as a necessary part of Operation Citadel, and the attack was delayed several times due to its mechanical problems and the addition of more Panthers, with the final start date of the battle just six days after the last Panthers were delivered to the front. This created major problems in Panther units during the Battle of Kursk, as unit-level tactical training, radio coordination, and driver training were all seriously inadequate.

It was not until June 23 and 29, 1943 that a total of 200 rebuilt Panthers were transferred to the Lauchert Panther Regiment of the XLVIII. Panzer Corps (4th Panzer Army) issued. Two were immediately lost to engine fires when getting off the trains. By July 5, when the Battle of Kursk began, there were only 184 operational Panthers. Within two days this value had dropped to 40. On July 17, 1943, after Hitler ordered the German offensive to be stopped, General Heinz Guderian sent in the following preliminary assessment of the Panthers:

Due to enemy actions and mechanical failures, the combat strength dropped rapidly in the first few days. On the evening of July 10th, there were only 10 operational Panthers on the front line. 25 Panthers were lost as write-offs (23 were hit and burned and two caught fire during the approach march). 100 Panthers were in need of repair (56 were damaged by hits and mines and 44 by mechanical collapse). 60 percent of the mechanical failures could be easily repaired. About 40 panthers had already been repaired and were on their way forward. About 25 had not yet been recovered by the repair service ... On the evening of July 11th, 38 Panthers were operational, 31 had been written off and 131 were in need of repair. A slow increase in combat strength can be observed. The large number of hits by hits (81 Panthers up to July 10th) testifies to the heavy fighting.

During the citadel the Panthers claimed 267 destroyed tanks.

Another account of panthers during citadel:

In the first few days, our armed forces were drastically reduced due to enemy actions and losses due to technical problems.

Status on October 7th, 1943 at dusk:

10 Panthers lost to enemy action. 25 panthers completely lost (23 by enemy fire and subsequent fire, 2 by fire during the march) 100 panthers in repair and maintenance service (J-services). Of these: 56 with damage from gunfire and mines and 44 with technical problems. Around 60% of the technical problems were minor failures. Repaired vehicles and back to the deployment area: approx. 40 Panthers. The rest, around 25 Panthers, have not yet been registered by the repair and maintenance services.


Status on 07/11/1943 at dusk:

Operation: 38 Panthers Total losses: 31 Panthers Under repair: 131 Panthers


A slow increase in fighting strength can be seen. The large number of panthers lost to enemy actions (81 panthers up to July 10th) are an indicator of the severity of the fighting. The very deeply structured and massively dismantled battlefield of the Russians inevitably had to lead to a large number of material losses through enemy fire and mines. Neither the Panzer IV nor the Tiger escaped this fate. The fact that the panther is being used on the battlefields for the first time has put it in the general spotlight. Comparisons with losses from other tank formations were not made. Because of this, the military commanders and troops quickly came to the hasty conclusion: the panther is useless! With that in mind, and finally, the following should be commented: The panther has worked successfully. It was to be expected that massive technical problems would arise at the beginning, since no extensive tests had been carried out with the troops beforehand. The level of operational vehicles increases. Once the problems with the fuel pumps and the engine have been resolved, losses due to technical problems will return to normal levels.

The disproportionate and high number of enemy victims per action reflects the severity of the fighting.

A later report from July 20, 1943 showed 41 Panthers as operational, 85 as repairable, 16 badly damaged and in need of repair in Germany, 56 burned out due to hostile actions and two destroyed by engine fires.

Before the Germans ended their offensive in Kursk, the Soviets began their counter-offensive and managed to push the Germans back into steady retreat. For example, a report dated August 11, 1943 showed that the total number of write-offs in Panthers rose to 156, with only 9 operational. The German army was forced to retreat and increasingly lost Panther in combat and by abandoning and destroying damaged vehicles.

The Panther demonstrated its ability to destroy any Soviet armored fighting vehicle from a long distance during the Battle of Kursk and had a very high overall kill rate. It made up less than seven percent of the estimated 2,400-2,700 armored combat vehicles used by the Germans in that battle, and its effectiveness was limited by its mechanical problems and the Soviets' deep-seated multilayered defense system at Kursk. His greatest historical role in the battle may have been a very negative one - his contribution to the decisions to delay the original start of Operation Citadel for a total of two months, time the Soviets used to build up an enormous concentration of minefields, anti -Tank guns, trenches and artillery defenses.

An early Panther Ausf. D supporting the infantry on the Eastern Front.

After the losses in the Battle of Kursk, the German army found itself in a permanent state of retreat of the Red Army. The number of panthers on the Eastern Front was slowly increasing again, and the percentage use increased with increasing reliability. In March 1944, Guderian reported, "Almost all bugs have been fixed," although many units continued to report significant mechanical problems, particularly with the final drive. The heavily outnumbered Panthers were used as mobile reserves to fend off major attacks.

The highest total number of operational Panthers on the Eastern Front was reached in September 1944, when 522 out of a total of 728 were classified as operational. Throughout the remainder of the war, Germany continued to hold the vast majority of the Panther forces on the Eastern Front, where the situation for them progressively deteriorated. The last recorded status on March 15, 1945 listed 740 on the Eastern Front, of which 361 were in service. By this time the Red Army had invaded East Prussia and was advancing through Poland.

In August 1944, panthers were used as mobile artillery and troop support during the Warsaw Uprising. At least two of them were captured in the early days of the conflict and used in actions against the Germans, including the liberation of the Gęsiówka concentration camp on August 5, when the soldiers of the "Wacek" train carried the captured panther (named "Magda" used ") to destroy the bunkers and watchtowers of the camp. Most of the Germans in the camp were killed; the insurgents had lost two people and liberated almost 350 people. After a few days, the captured tanks were shut down due to the lack of fuel and batteries and set on fire set to prevent them from being conquered again.

Eastern Front - Soviet Service

In February 1945, during the Lower Silesian offensive operation, a former German "Panther" tank with an experienced crew of the 4th Panzer Corps under the command of the Hero of the Soviet Union, Lt. NI Ageev, deployed on a reconnaissance mission. At dusk the tank passed the forest, attacked from the flank and destroyed three enemy "Panther" tanks. However, while retreating into Soviet positions, it was hit and damaged by enemy artillery. After the battle, the tank was written off due to lack of spare parts and maintenance problems.

Western Front - France

A Panther Ausf. A tank of the 12th SS Panzer Division in Paris shortly before the Allied invasion in June 1944

At the time of the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, there were initially only two tank regiments equipped with panthers with a total of 156 panthers on the western front. From June to August 1944, another seven Panther regiments were sent to France, which in a status report of July 30, 1944, reached a maximum strength of 432.

The majority of German armored forces in Normandy - six and a half divisions - were involved in the battle against the Anglo-Canadian forces of the 21st Army Group for the city of Caen. The numerous operations to secure the city came collectively known as the Battle of Caen. While there were areas of heavy wooded bocage around Caen, most of the terrain consisted of open fields where the panther could attack the attacking enemy armor from a long distance - its combination of superior armor and firepower enabled it to reach distances from which the Shermans couldn't answer. Conversely, at the time of the campaign in Normandy, the British anti-tank regiments were well equipped with the excellent 17 pounder cannon, and some US-supplied M10 tank destroyers had their 3-inch cannon replaced by the 17 Pdr cannon (which the 17-Pdr-SP revealed) Achilles), which makes it just as dangerous for panthers to attack over the same fields. Before the landings on D-Day, the British had started using regular M4 Shermans on the 17-pounder cannon (nicknamed Firefly