The Jagdpanther was something of the "missing link" to complete battlefield domination for the Germany Army during World War 2. Already having in its inventory the well-established Tiger II and Panther series of tanks, the Jagdpanther tank destroyer would have been a formidable addition to any tank group if estimated production totals during the war were met. As it was, the Jagdpanther was a lethal component in its own right and quite possibly the armored vehicle design of the war - done in only by the consistent day and night Allied bombing campaign that targeted crucial assembly facilities.
The Jagdpanther was noted for its use of the famous 88mm (8.8cm) tank-killing main gun which was fitted within a fixed hull superstructure. In this configuration, the Jagdpanther certainly looked the part of tank destroyer with its thick, heavily sloped frontal armor giving the machine a very stout form. Despite its armament and protective armor, the Jagdpanther was actually one of those rare armored vehicle creations where all the vital qualities came together to form the perfect blend of speed, mobility, firepower and protection - something akin to the war-winning T-34 Medium Tank for the Soviets. The selection of the 88mm main gun alone was powerful enough to defeat all allied armor at ranges greater than that of enemy guns. The vehicle was defensed by a single machine gun - either the 7.92mm MG34 or MG42 series weapons. There were five crew to include the driver (seated in the hull), the vehicle commander, gunner, loader and machine gunner. 57 rounds of 88mm projectiles were carried aboard for the main gun as well as 600 x 7.92mm rounds of ammunition for the machine gun. 88mm rounds were a mix of high-explosive and anti-tank types to deal with both soft and hard targets.
Outwardly, the Jagdpanther retained some of the general appearance of the Panther medium tank. The hull was decidedly Panther in its shape including the large road wheels and wide track links. The glacis plate was thick and well formed, leading up to the hull superstructure roof, which itself was flat. As there was no turret emplacement, the entire vehicle would have to be turned to face the target. The Jagdpanther was, more or less, a mobile pillbox to an extent. A large gun mantlet was fitted at the base of the barrel and the barrel was capped by a massive muzzle brake to content with the inherently violent recoil of the main gun. Unlike the American tank destroyers fielded in the war, the Germans made sure to full enclose the fighting compartment of their Jagdpanther to protect the gunnery from from shell splinters, artillery spray and adverse weather.
The Jagdpanther originated from a tried-and-true German war time formula that saw the existing tank chassis of a combat tank developed for the dedicated tank-killing role. This provided for something of make-shift combinations of main guns and hulls (as in the Panzer III, Panzer IV and Tiger II tanks before it). However, what made this new German creation unique was that the Jagdpanther was a purpose-built tank-killer so specifications for such a system were fully met from the outset of design. The vehicle was put on display for German leader Hitler himself in 1943 and its appearance and promised specifications impressed the dictator so much that the initial name of "Panzerjager Panther" was soon revised to the more recognizable "Jagdpanther". The vehicle would appear on frontlines in early 1944 with Hitler managing a personal stake in its development.
On the battlefield, the Jagdpanther certainly earned its keep - appearing in limited quantities but changing the tide of engagements nonetheless. Adequate armor protection across the various types of Allied tanks was already an issue in the fielded M4 Shermans, Matildas, Valentines and Cromwells and the major punch of the 88mm main gun of the Jagdpanther only exacerbated the issue. Along the East Front with the Soviet Union, the Soviets could at least counter the Jagdpanther with their new IS-2 heavy tanks and their 122mm main guns. Jagdpanthers themselves could engage armored targets some 500 yards away and penetrate these with lethal efficiency - an amazing quality to say the least.
However, as the war moved into 1945, only 382 Jagdpanthers were produced - well below expectations and so few in number that their imprint in the war was limited. As the Allies progressed along all fronts, closing in more and more on the vital German production facilities, the terror of the Jagdpanther on the battlefield became less and less. Those that were in service were certainly a force to be reckoned with and - had it met its production goals - the mobile weapons platform would have continued to give Allied commanders something more to think about.
By the end of the war, a proposed Jagdpanther variant mounting a 128mm main gun was developed into a mockup but no further.