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SdKfz 171 Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (PzKpfW V) / Panzer 5

Medium Tank Tracked Combat Vehicle

SdKfz 171 Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (PzKpfW V) / Panzer 5

Medium Tank Tracked Combat Vehicle

OVERVIEW
SPECIFICATIONS
ARMAMENT
VARIANTS
HISTORY
MEDIA
OVERVIEW



The Panther ultimately became the best German tank in service during World War 2.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: Nazi Germany
YEAR: 1943
MANUFACTURER(S): MAN / Daimler-Benz / Henschel / MNH - Nazi Germany
PRODUCTION: 6,334
OPERATORS: Bulgaria; France; Hungary; Nazi Germany; Romania; Soviet Union
SPECIFICATIONS



Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the SdKfz 171 Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (PzKpfW V) / Panzer 5 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
CREW: 5
LENGTH: 29.07 feet (8.86 meters)
WIDTH: 11.25 feet (3.43 meters)
HEIGHT: 10.17 feet (3.1 meters)
WEIGHT: 50 Tons (45,500 kilograms; 100,310 pounds)
ENGINE: 1 x Maybach HL 230 P30 12-cylinder diesel engine developing 700 horsepower at 3,000rpm.
SPEED: 29 miles-per-hour (46 kilometers-per-hour)
RANGE: 110 miles (177 kilometers)




ARMAMENT



1 x 75mm KwK 42 L/70 main gun
1 x 7.92mm coaxial machine gun
1 x 7.92mm bow-mounted machine gun
1 x Grenade Launcher Close Defense Weapon (later models)

Ammunition:
79 to 120 x 75mm projectiles
3,000 to 9,000 x 7.92mm ammunition
NBC PROTECTION: None.
NIGHTVISION: None.
VARIANTS



Series Model Variants
• VK 3002(MAN) - Initial Submitted Model Form Designation; 2 examples produced - one sans turret.
• PzKpfW V ("Panther") (SdKfz 171) - Initial Base Series Designation.
• Panther Ausf. D - Initial Preproduction / Production Model Designation based on MAN proposal; 842 examples produced.
• Panther Ausf A - Appearing in late 1943; new turret; same chassis as Ausf. D model; new commander's cupola of cast armor with seven periscopes; machine gun ring for cupola MG34; sans radio operator periscope; revised bow-machine gun mount; introduction of close-defense grenade launcher in turret roof; sans turret pistol ports; 2,192 examples produced.
• Panther Ausf G - Appearing in March of 1944; wider new chassis; Ausf. A model turret; revised 29-degree, single-piece tapered side armor; strengthened suspension system; sans driver's visor; reduced frontal armor protection to save weight; later models featured revised gun mantlet with squared-off chin; 2,953 examples produced.
• Bergepanther ARV - Armored Recovery Vehicle; 347 examples produced.
• Befehlspanzer Panther - Specialized Command Vehicle Variant; reduced ammunition stowage; increased communications equipment; additional antenna; 329 examples produced.
• Beobachtungspanzer Panther - Observation Post Vehicle; 41 examples produced.
• Jagdpanther - Dedicated Tank Destroyer based on Panther hull.


HISTORY



Detailing the development and operational history of the SdKfz 171 Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (PzKpfW V) / Panzer 5 Medium Tank Tracked Combat Vehicle.  Entry last updated on 3/20/2018. Authored by Dan Alex. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Though initially mechanically unreliable at her inception, the Panther medium tank of the German Army went on to become one of the finest battle tanks in all of World War 2. She brought together the perfect blend of mobility, firepower and armor protection that her to earning the fear (and respect) of enemy tankers and infantry alike throughout the latter stages of the war. In some circles, the Panther in considered the best tank of the war, surpassing the overall capabilities of even the war-winning Soviet T-34 - a tank whose appearance on the battlefield directly affected the development of the Panther herself. The Panther's main gun was a proven commodity and could engage enemy targets at distances outside of the range of her enemies and render enemy tanks useless from thousands of yards away with extreme accuracy.

However, several major blemishes kept the Panther from becoming the war-winning design Hitler ultimately envisioned. Her mechanical reliability, at least early on, was suspect and some major issues were never fully ironed out throughout her fighting career. While her frontal armor was excellent, her side armor was no thicker than two inches. Her crew rode and fought in a cramped space when compared to her contemporaries and she needed to come to a complete stop to fire her gun. Range was limited when traversing off road and the engine service life was inherently short. Her overlapping road wheels wreaked havoc for Panther crews in the mud and snow of the Soviet winter.

Regardless, the Panther excelled as a fighting unit and was produced up until the war's end. She was, in fact, the best "overall" tank that Germany could field in any quantity - with two Panthers produced for every single Tiger heavy tank completed. In an ironic twist, the Panther was inducted into the French Army during the post-war years as France looked to rebuild her military might.

The German Army

Prior to mid-1941, the German Army was a seemingly unstoppable foe. While the airpower of the German Luftwaffe was shut out from invading the British mainland during the summer of 1940 (the Battle of Britain), the German divisions made their mark throughout Western Europe culminating in the conquering of hated neighbor France. The coordinated attacks of infantry, armor and aircraft German blitzkrieg took every opponent by surprise and, despite valiant efforts on the part of most defenders, Europe was now under the domain of Adolf Hitler and this Third Reich. One of the keys to this early success lay in the tactical use of German tanks - or Panzers - that spearheaded every ground advance. These began with the machine gun-wielding Panzer I light tank series and evolved into the cannon-armed Panzer II light tank. The next logical step became the development of the medium-class tank-killing Panzer III and the fire support escort Panzer IV, the latter developed specifically to benefit the I, II and III series in a given offensive. Both of these latter systems graduated to become much more than their intended roles with the Panzer IV even more so. Progressive installations of evermore powerful main guns and armor kits made the Panzer IV a truly lethal opponent for a time. Couple the technology with disciplined, well-trained crews and nothing, it seems, could stop the German onslaught.

Operation Barbarossa

The fate of Hitler's Third Reich was sealed in June of 1941 when he enacted Operation Barbarossa - the invasion of the Soviet Union. Up to this point, the Germans and Soviets were loose allies, having signed the economic/military German-Soviet Pact (Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact) of ten-year "non-aggression" against one another, and each went about his own business in conquering weaker neighbors - ultimately dividing Poland in two. The Soviets also committed to war with Finland and occupied Baltic states and Romanian provinces. Meanwhile, with France conquered, Germany secured alliances with Hungary, Romania and Slovakia before beginning its plan to take on the Soviet Union. The official German directive was signed by Hitler on December 18th, 1940. Barbarossa opened the playing field substantially and now involved large swathes of Soviet-held territory. A confident German Army steamrolled through much territory in the early days while the Red Army tried valiantly to stem the tide.

Light Tank Fever

After World War 1, many-an-army around the world elected to concentrate on light tank technology for their easy-to-produce, less-expensive qualities. The British had their Vickers 6-ton series while the French found success with their FT-17. The United States, Italy, Japan and the Soviet Union saw fit to purchase existing systems to add to their respective inventories. The Soviets, however, took to modifying base forms into Soviet-inspired mounts and developed all-new light tanks - several key pieces based on the designs of American engineer J. Walter Christie. Christie unsuccessfully attempted to sell his work to the US Army but found takers in Britain and the Soviet Union. His "Christie Suspension" system became world-renowned and was used in several famous tank designs of World War 2 including the Crusader, the Comet, the BT series fast tank and the T-34 medium tank. It seemed every army was built for mobility but all lacked any true tank-killing prowess with the exception of a few key heavy tanks. The arrival and subsequent successes of the Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs of the German Army quickly forced the hand of world powers to catch up with the growing trend of fielding medium and heavy class tanks.

The Arrival of the Soviet T-34 Medium Tank

In July of 1941, German troops ran across a new Soviet tank - the T-34 Medium Tank - and were relatively successful against them for they outnumbered the new type. However, all was not lost to the Germans on the significance of this new weapon system and word began spreading through various ranks about the new Soviet tank that outclassed existing German mounts. In October of 1941, the Russians played their card by unveiling their T-34s in numbers backed by heavy KV-1 tanks. This time, the Red Army showcased their T-34s through excellent mobility thanks to the use of large road wheels, a wide track base suitable for the Soviet terrain, sloped thick armor to combat incoming enemy projectiles and a capable 76.2mm main gun. The 26-ton system was crewed by four personnel and came complete with a pair of machine guns for self-defense. Like any tank, she was fitted to fire both HE and AP rounds. These T-34s successfully took on elements of the 4th Panzer Division and came as a nasty shock to the invading Germans. Their heavy frontal armor saw enemy shells literally bouncing off glacis plates to the horror of German tankers and the 76.2mm main gun penetrated with ease through the armor of attacking Panzer IIIs and IVs. The T-34 had arrived and sent a statement that reverberated back to Berlin.

German authorities sent word to their armaments industry and meetings convened to deliberate the future of German armor if success for the Reich were to continue. While the arms industry had been toying with heavier medium tank designs for some time, the unfolding situation along the East Front rapidly adjusted the requirement. A successor for the Panzer IV had being planned as soon as 1937 but requirements volleyed to and fro and slowed development down. A solution against the T-34 was sought for the Soviet tank began to elicit much fear with German tanker crews who were more-or-less ill-equipped to counter the new enemy - a position they had not felt for years up to now. Hitler stepped in and ordered engineers to begin design of a "counter" tank to shore up the existing stable of Panzers. Evaluations of T-34s in November of 1941 were made possible only after the capture of several intact specimens and their true engineering genius finally shown through. Even German engineers could not help but pay their respects to the forward-thinking Soviets in this respect.

The Panzer VI versus The T-34

Unlike the Panzer IV, which fielded straight armor panels, the T-34 utilized sloped surfaces of thick armor wherever possible. This served well to deflect or retard incoming enemy projectiles. The use of large road wheels was key over Soviet terrain, their size and spacing eliminating the danger of snow and mud buildup over open spaces. In the cold Eastern temperatures, such elements could further freeze overnight and make a tank immobile the following morning. Wide tracks as found on the T-34 also helped displace the tanks weight across more ground surface and enabled the design to be heavier - by fielding both a more powerful gun and carrying tons of armor protection. The Panzer series - up to this point - lacked in all these key features and showcased the shortcomings of the current state of the German armored corps for the time being.

The German Response

The German Armaments Ministry - coming together to form the "Panther Commission" - responded with their proposed heavy tank requirement - essentially encompassing the excellent qualities of the enemy T-34. She would be based around a 30- to 35-ton weight limit and armament would center around a 75mm KwK L/70 main gun in a traversing turret. Wherever possible, sloped armor would be utilized to help with ballistics protection. Furthermore, armor protection would range from 40mm to 60mm in thickness. A top speed of 35 miles per hour was envisioned.

Henschel and Porsche became two early contenders for the new tank requirement. Each delivered prototypes under the project designations of VK3001(H) and VK3001(P) respectively. Neither was formally accepted but the Henschel design eventually evolved to become the Tiger heavy tank series (VK4501).

In late 1941, the German Armaments Ministry commissioned both Daimler-Benz and MAN (Machinenfabrik Augsburg-Nurnberg) to provide hard proposals for hull designs in response to the government requirement while Rheinmetall was selected to head up design and development of a 75mm gun-capable turret. Collectively, the product would fall under the designation of "VK3002". Delivery of first production vehicles was slated to begin by December of 1942.

Daimler-Benz's design followed closely to that of the Soviet T-34. A diesel engine was fitted to the rear and a traversing turret was mounted forward of amidships with a noticeable barrel overhang. The transmission system was positioned close to the engine and the suspension system (similar to the Christie design of the T-34) was utilized. In many ways, the Daimler-Benz submission was more or less a copy of the Soviet tank and moved away from traditional German tank design practices - something that inevitably worked against the company in this instance. The prototype VK3002(DB) was made ready in March of 1942.

MAN elected to stay close to what made previous Panzer forms successful for the German Army. The engine was still fitted to a rear compartment but was gasoline powered in nature. The transmission system was fitted to the front hull and allowed the turret to be seated in its ring at the middle of the design. The fitting of the turret in this respect provided for less barrel overhang, something German tankers appreciated. Sloped armor was used throughout and wider tracks wrapped around overlapping road wheels improved ground handling over that of previous Panzer marks. The suspension system was a more German traditional layout utilizing torsion bars. The prototype VK3002(MAN) was made ready in May of 1942.

Rheinmetall began work on a new turret and delivered a cast-steel hexagonal design with 125mm armor thickness. The forward facing was flat and held the cylindrical 75mm armament. A plain mantlet protected the gun mount and was curved forward for ballistics protection. The sides of the turret were angled inwards (sloped) 25-degrees toward the roof line for maximum ballistics protection and curved at the rear corners while the rear turret facing was squared off and angled inwards toward the roof line. The turret roof was flat and sported access hatches with a cupola for the commander. The long barrel would overhang across the bow but the turret's centralized placement would make for a stable gunnery platform.

Hitler Meddles

With both prototypes completed and evaluation of each still ongoing, the program brought about Hitler's personal interest during a review. Between the two designs, he favored the T-34-style Daimler-Benz prototype over that of the MAN. Despite testing still continuing, Hitler ordered the Daimler-Benz prototype into production with a delivery to total 200 initial units in March of 1942. It was not until May of 1942 that the Ordnance Department completed their lengthy evaluations and the decision was made to select the MAN proposal as the winner. The major deciding factor between the two became the Daimler-Benz chassis - the committee finding the design unsuitable for the Rheinmetall turret despite Daimler-Benz protests. Furthermore, the Daimler-Benz prototype mimicked too much of what made the Soviet T-34 such an identifiable profile on the battlefield - this could easily lead German tankers into attacking one another during a heated gun exchange. After convincing Hitler of their undisputed choice, the 200-strong Daimler-Benz production order fell to history, moving MAN into the winner's circle.

The first pre-production models were ordered on May 15th, 1942 under the new designation of PzKpfW V (Panzerkampfwagen V) and the German Army inventory identifier of "SdKfz 171". The nickname of "Panther" was held over from the original "Panther Commission" name. The initial models were, therefore, formally designated as PzKpfW V "Panther" Ausf. D (SdKfz 171). However, the tank would soon be plainly known as the "Panther" to the Germans as the PzKpfW V prefix was dropped after February 1944 under the orders of Hitler himself.

The Panther is Born

Despite only two vehicles being delivered for evaluations in late 1942, German Army authorities were quick to request the tank be placed into serial production for November of 1942 and deliver 250 examples by May of 1943. This target month was brought about for it worked into Hitler's large planned June offensive, codenamed "Operation Citadel" (which became the "Battle of Kursk"), an attempt to shatter the Red Army. However, The design was not fully tested under combat environments and applicable stresses. Mechanical failures were even prevalent during some of these initial tests but these did not stem the German Army need to field the new, promising tank along the frontlines in the quickest amount of time possible. As such, MAN commenced with series production and was joined in the effort by rival Daimler-Benz, Mashinenfabrik Niedersachsen-Hannover (MNH) and Henschel.

Once production ramped up, some final changes to the original design were enacted. Armor was beefed up to range 60mm to 80mm in thickness though this worked directly to increase operating weights upwards to 43 tons. Considering the original design was intended to be fielded closer to the 30- to 35-ton range, and thusly all mechanical components were stressed to that weight limit, the 43 ton operating weight surpassed all design specifications concerning the powerpack and drivetrain. A move to increase armor protection even further had to be shelved because of the critical weight gain already inherited by the base design.

By the time of May 1943, German factories had fallen short of the lofty 250-example delivery mark. Instead, only 200 Panthers were available in time for Operation Citadel. On the contrary, the Soviet T34 series, proving easier and cheaper to build, would be available in hundreds more to outmatch the German Army tank-for-tank. Panthers were shipped to the front by any means possible which included railcars. In contrast, the equally-new and formidable heavy Tiger series proved too large for travel by rail.

It was ultimately envisioned that a full battalion of Panther tanks would staff a single Panzer division and some 600 Panthers were optimistically expected to be rolling out of factories to appease Army requirements. However, 330 Panther tanks would become the peak monthly output during the rest of the war.




SdKfz 171 Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (PzKpfW V) / Panzer 5 (Cont'd)

Medium Tank Tracked Combat Vehicle

SdKfz 171 Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (PzKpfW V) / Panzer 5 (Cont'd)

Medium Tank Tracked Combat Vehicle



Panthers in Combat: Opening Round

The initial Panther Ausf. D models received an underwhelming start to her now-respected combat career. In her earliest of forms, these at the Battle of Kursk, she fell not so much to enemy shells and anti-tank guns but to mechanical failures of the gearbox and running gear. Some that did manage to fight were destroyed by the massed Soviet forces utilizing tactical maneuvering and engagement of the thinner Panther sides. Such was the weakness in their side armor that German tankers were taught to always face the enemy with their thicker frontal armor for their own protection. This was not always put into practice at Kursk and Soviet tankers soon took advantage of the weakness. However, the front armor protection of Panthers was excellent and those German tankers that used this benefit to their advantage would live to fight another day. The frontal armor rendered 57mm anti-tank guns completely useless while 76mm cannons needed precise hits - though these were never a sure kill shot - to penetrate a Panther. On the contrary, the 75mm (7.5cm) KwK 42 L/70 long-barrel main gun of the Panther proved excellent, especially when coupled with an excellently trained crew and superior German optics. This combination allowed Panthers to engage and destroy Soviet T-34s as far out as 3,200 yards. Regardless, the combat debut of the Panther was a mixed bag - those that operated as designed were only as successful as their crews allowed them to be, others were felled either by Soviet tank crews, anti-tank guns or faulty engineering. One key mechanical failing of the Ausf. D was the steering system which went on to be a well-documented "Achilles Heel" of the Panther series throughout the war. All told, it is reported that of the 200 Panthers fielded by the German Army in the Kursk offensive, some 160 were rendered ineffective. After nine days of fighting, only 43 remained operational. In all, 842 Ausf. D models were produced.

The Panther Line Grows

Confusingly, the Ausf. D model was then followed on the production lines by the Ausf. A model (SdKfz 171). Production began at MNH, Daimler-Benz, Demag and MAN facilities in August-September of 1943 and more or less maintained the qualities and features of her forerunner. The Ausf. A was given a new turret yet utilized the same chassis as the Ausf. D. The turret of the Ausf. A introduced an all-new cupola for the commander's position which was now of cast armor fitted and with seven periscopes for viewing outside regions of the vehicle. This made the Ausf. A slightly taller than the Ausf. D before it. Additionally, the position could mount an 7.92mm MG34 machine gun for anti-aircraft defense. The original Ausf. D mounted a simpler cylindrical cupola with six vision blocks. The radio operator's periscope was removed and a sighting device was added directly to his bow-mounted machine gun. The letter-box opening of the bow machine gun was deleted and replaced with a ball mount. The turret pistol ports used for point defense against infantry assaults were replaced by an integrated grenade launcher (Nahverteidigungswaffe - Close Defense Weapon) meant to keep enemy infantry at bay. At the end of the Ausf. A production run in May of 1944, a further 2,192 Panthers had been produced.

The Ausf. G then followed the Ausf. A into service with production beginning in March of 1944. Again, MAN, MNH and Daimler-Benz all contributed to the numbers. Unlike the Ausf. A, the Ausf. G featured a revised wider chassis yet fitted the turret of the Ausf. A models. The new chassis was identified by its different 29-degree angled (from 40-degrees in earlier forms), single-piece, evenly tapered side armor hull plates and, internally, it was produced with thicker torsion bars along its suspension system to account for the tank's heavier-than-anticipated weight. The driver's visor was eliminated along the glacis plate and his outward vision was replaced by a periscope. To help keep the Panther's operating weight in check with the new changes, armor protection at the lower front hull was decreased from 60mm to 50mm. Likewise, the forward floor armor was decreased in protection from 30mm to 25mm. As combat actions throughout 1944 shown the superstructure roof ahead of the gun mount to be weaker than anticipated, armor was thickened in this region. Only later in September of 1944 was a redesigned curved cast gun mantlet with a squared off bottom "ledge" introduced to help deflect enemy projectiles away from the turret base and superstructure roof. In fact, American tank crews were taught to aim for the turret ring of Panthers if approaching them head-on to take advantage of this design weakness. A lucky shot under the mantlet could kill both the driver and the radio operator. 2,953 Ausf. G models were produced in whole.

Panther Command Tanks and Others

The Panther was converted into 329 command tanks (known as "Befehlspanzer Panther") to help govern battlefields. This meant the loss of some ammunition to make room for additional communications equipment. The additional antenna identified this Panther type externally which did, however, maintain its inherent lethality. Other Panther forms included the 347 examples making up the fleet of "Bergepanther" battlefield Armored Recovery Vehicles (ARVs). As the new 40+ ton Panthers exceeded the towing power of traditional 20-ton movers of the German Army, these specialized Panther hulls served to tow damaged Panther combat tanks back for repair or off of key roadways. Forty-one examples of the Beobachtungspanzer Panther observation post vehicles were also converted from existing Panther tanks. The Panther hull served as the basis for the excellent Jagdpanther tank-killer.

Panther Walk-Around

Internally, the crew of five consisted of the driver and radio operator in the hull and the gunner, loader and commander in the turret. The driver maintained his position in the front left hull and operated the various steering levers and foot pedals while managing engine and performance functions through an instrument panel. The radio operator sat in the front right of the hull and managed electronic communications (something Soviet T34s lacked) while also being responsible for the operation of the 7.92mm bow-mounted machine gun. Both forward positions were cramped by Allied standards and featured padded seating while the transmission cover divided the two forward crew emplacements down the middle. The transmission was a ZF AK 7-200 series system with seven forward speeds and a single reverse gear.

The gunner sat in the front left of the turret with the commander immediately behind and above him. The gunner fired the main gun through an electrically induced action but also had a backup mechanism should the primary fail. The turret was powered traversed and a manual function was installed in the event of a systems failure. The manual traverse function was also utilized by the gunner for precise aiming and the coaxial machine gun was actuated by a foot pedal. The Panther could not fire on the move and required the vehicle to come to a complete stop before loosing a round against an enemy target. The commander was afforded a seat for commanding purposes but a fold down platform enabled him to raise his head, arms and shoulders out of the cupola turret when on march. The loader held a position in the right side of the turret. The main gun breech system divided the turret into two equal quadrants down the middle. Ammunition was stowed in horizontal racks along each hull side and in vertical racks front and rear of the turret ring. The gunner and the commander shared the same entry/exit hatch while the loader was given his own at the rear turret wall. The driver and radio operator each had flat access hatches above their respective positions.

A key external defining characteristic of the Panther series was its large front glacis plate which was relatively featureless and uninterrupted. The glacis plate was heavily sloped and tapered towards the center of the hull. The sides of the hull were equally sloped and tapered. The hull roof was flat and venting at the rear of the design helped to cool the engine while also doubling as a passenger platform. The rear face of the hull was noticeably angled outward at its top and slanted inwards towards the vehicle underside. Vertical exhaust stacks were fitted along this rear face between a pair of outboard storage containers. A tow line, personal field equipment and a gun barrel cleaning kit (housed in a horizontally-set tube) were mounted along the left side superstructure hull face.

The Panther utilized multiple rubber-tired (later steel-rimmed) road wheels in an overlapping fashion. While this served to displace more of the vehicle's weight across the track systems, this tended to wear the tracks out faster than a normal set of tank road wheels would. The overlapping nature of the road wheels also lent themselves poorly to cold weather actions where the frigid Soviet winters would freeze the packed mud and snow into place, rendering the Panther immobile if left alone for long periods. Once frozen, this required heavy work by the Panther crew to free the wheel systems - an issue not regularly encountered by the Soviet T34s. The wide track system ran about the hull sides with the drive sprocket located at the front of the hull and the track idler at the rear. Extra track link sections and road wheels could be stored about the hull as needed.

The drivetrain of the Panther was conventional by German tank standards. It consisted of the gearbox, steering brakes and steering gear at the front of the hull with the engine held at the rear along with the applicable radiator systems, internal fuel tanks (x4) and engine cooling fans.

The main gun consisted of the long-barrel 75mm (7.5cm) KwK 42 L/70 series. This instrument was a tapered cylinder with a double baffle fitted to the barrel muzzle (to help counter recoil) and measured in at over 19 feet in length. The base of the gun was protected by an armored mantlet. The weapon was manually fed by the loader and electrically actuated by the gunner and semi-automatic in operation. A bin at the base of the turret collected up to five spent shell casings though this compartment could also be used to hold ready-to-fire 75mm projectiles. Dangerous fumes were evacuated from the fighting compartment via a flexible hose attached to a roof-mounted fan system near the loader.

75mm ammunition arrived to Panther tanker crews in single-piece forms that included both the projectile warhead and charge. The Ausf. D and Ausf. A Panther production models were generally afforded 79 projectiles made up of HE and AP warhead types. Counts of each was left up to the crew though an even "50/50" split proportion was generally observed. The Ausf. G production model managed as many as 82 x 75mm projectiles.

While standard practice said 120 x 75mm projectiles and 3,500 x 7.92mm rounds of machine gun ammunition be carried, wartime availability dictated such actions. In one report, a Panther crew managed 9,000 x 7.62mm ammunition for their two machine guns.

The primary AP (Armor-Piercing) tank-killing round used by Panther tanks was the 31lb Panzergranate 39/42. The round, coupled with the main gun's throwing power, enabled the Panther to defeat up to 112mm of sloped armor out to 1,000 yards. Even at near-2,200 yards, the main gun could still count on defeating up to 88mm of sloped armor. The Panzergranate 40/42 was a specially developed AP round designed to defeat up to 150mm of sloped armor, suitable for engaging the later generations of Soviet heavy tanks such as the Josef Stalin "IS" series. The HE (High-Explosive) round of choice became the Sprenggranate 42. Where this projectile came in handy was in defeating enemy infantry concentrations and fortifications that out-distanced the coaxial machine gun.

The firepower of the Panther's 75mm main gun was such that the gunner needed not account for elevation until the target was outwards of 2,000 yards - the outgoing velocity, range and penetration power of the weapon ran primarily on a flat trajectory within this range. If there was a shortcoming in the design it was that the gun could not effectively be fired while the tank was on the move and the turret traversal function is said to have worked poorly if the tank was positioned along a slope.

All Panther production models were powered by a single Maybach HL 230 P30 V-12, liquid-cooled gasoline engine delivering 700 horsepower at 3,000rpm. Top speed was 34 miles per hour with a range out to 124 miles on road (62 miles otherwise). Lifespan of an individual engine was reportedly just 600 miles. Weight was listed at 44.8 tons. The communications suite (Fu 5 and Fu 2, Intercom) was a steady presence throughout all three major production variants.


End of the Line

Allies in the West first came across Panther tanks in Normandy in 1944, following the massive D-Day amphibious landings in June. Panthers proved stout defenders as their front armor was nearly impenetrable to the weapons of British, Canadian and American troops. Conversely, the 75mm main gun of the Panther could relatively easily engage the formations of Shermans coming their way. It was such that as many as four Shermans could be called upon to tackle a single Panther - two to draw its fire and a pair to engage the Panther along its 2-inch armored sides. Rear shots at the engine compartment were something of a rarity but highly effective if achieved. After Allied successes across most of Northern France, the Panther fell into the assaults making up the "Battle of the Bulge" in the Ardennes Forrest - essentially "Hitler's Last Gasp" in the West. During this battle, and to provide the Americans with further confusion, some Panthers were disguised to resemble Allied M10 tank destroyers.

Seeing the value of the Panther, especially once its many mechanical issues were rectified, the system was heralded as the lead battle tank of the Third Reich in early 1944. She was to spearhead any new offensives against the enemy and utilize her stellar qualities against a lesser foe. This meant that the target production goal was to provide the German Army with up to 400 Panther tanks a month to be churned out of German factories. However, the Allied bombing campaign, coupled with advances by army forces on the ground, led to a shortage of supplies and captured assembly lines.

As Germany fell further and further into ruin, more and more Panther-producing factories fell under Allied control in turn. The MNH facility at Hannover was one such locale and the British assumed control and forced the production of a few extra examples for evaluation back on the British mainland. Similarly, the Panther ended up on American test fields at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. To the British and the Americans, the Panther was known simply as the "Mark V".

The end of the Panther's reign effectively ended with Hitler's suicide, the Soviet capture of Berlin and the surrender of the German Army, the latter in May of 1945.

As production was split between the various major contractors across Germany, it was not uncommon got subtle nuances to appear between each model type. MAN was responsible for 35% of overall Panther production with Daimler-Benz and Mashinenfabrik Niedersachsen-Hannover each contributing 31%. Other firms rounded out total production output which ended with 6,334 tanks in circulation.




MEDIA