Panther tank
Overview
 
Panther is the common name of a medium tank
Medium tank
Medium tank was a classification of tanks; the medium being intermediate in size and weight and armament between heavy tanks and light tanks.The medium tank concept has been eclipsed by the main battle tank.-History:...

 fielded by Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 that served from mid-1943 to the end of the European war in 1945. It was intended as a counter to the T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

, and to replace the Panzer III
Panzer III
Panzer III was the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the 1930s by Germany and was used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen III translating as "armoured battle vehicle". It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and...

 and Panzer IV
Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV , commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz...

; while never replacing the latter, it served alongside it as well as the heavier Tiger tanks
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

 until the end of the war. The Panther's excellent combination of firepower, mobility, and protection served as a benchmark for other nations' late war and immediate post-war tank designs, and it is frequently regarded as one of the best tank designs of World War II.

The development of the Panther resulted from the Wehrmacht's unpleasant surprise encounter with the Soviet T-34 during Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, the German invasion of Russia in June 1941.
Encyclopedia
Panther is the common name of a medium tank
Medium tank
Medium tank was a classification of tanks; the medium being intermediate in size and weight and armament between heavy tanks and light tanks.The medium tank concept has been eclipsed by the main battle tank.-History:...

 fielded by Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 that served from mid-1943 to the end of the European war in 1945. It was intended as a counter to the T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

, and to replace the Panzer III
Panzer III
Panzer III was the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the 1930s by Germany and was used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen III translating as "armoured battle vehicle". It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and...

 and Panzer IV
Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV , commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz...

; while never replacing the latter, it served alongside it as well as the heavier Tiger tanks
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

 until the end of the war. The Panther's excellent combination of firepower, mobility, and protection served as a benchmark for other nations' late war and immediate post-war tank designs, and it is frequently regarded as one of the best tank designs of World War II.

The development of the Panther resulted from the Wehrmacht's unpleasant surprise encounter with the Soviet T-34 during Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, the German invasion of Russia in June 1941. During the first weeks of Barbarossa, the Panzertruppen repeatedly encountered the t34/76 medium tank. Although in short supply, the T-34 made a quick and lasting impression on the German armored forces through its combination of speed and mobility, rugged reliability, sloped armor protection and firepower. As a result of several encounters with the T-34, especially the mauling sustained by the 4th panzer division at Mtsensk on 4 October 1941, Colonel General Heinz Guderian, leading Panzergruppe 2 in Army Group Centre, requested the establishment of a commission of enquiry into the relative strengths of the tank armies on the Eastern Front.

Although Guderian suggested simply copying the T-34, the report of the enquiry recommended that the main attributes of the T-34 - armament, sloped armor and suspension - be incorporated into a new 30-ton German tank designated the VK30.02. Both Daimler-Benz and MAN (Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg) produced prototypes. Despite Hitler's preference for the VK30.02(DB), the Wehrmacht's Weapons Department recommended production of the MAN variant. The Wehrmacht issued a contract to MAN on 15 May 1942 to produce the first pre-production version of the new tank to be known as the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausfuhrung D, with the ordnance inventory designation
Sonderkraftfahrzeug
Sonderkraftfahrzeug was the ordnance inventory designation used by Nazi Germany during World War II for military vehicles; for example Sd.Kfz. 101 for the Panzer I....

 of Sd.Kfz. 171. The new tank's name was modified on 27 February 1944 when Hitler ordered that the Roman numeral V be deleted from the designation.

After a complex and difficult development program which included problems with the vehicle's transmission, steering, gun, turret and fuel pump, the Panther was readied for participation in the Wehrmacht's 1943 summer offensive in the East. Despite ongoing rebuilding and further teething troubles, the DEMAG factory entrusted with the rebuild programme managed to deliver 200 Panthers to the Eastern Front in time for its operational debut in Operation Zitadelle - the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

 - on 5 July 1943. The two battalions of Panthers - the 51st and 52nd Panzer Battalions - were attached to the Grossdeutschland Panzergrenadier Division on the southern flank of the Kursk salient. Inevitably, their troublesome gestation and the limited training of their crews severely hampered the Panthers' contribution to Zitadelle.

The lessons of Kursk, however, were quickly absorbed into the production lines and influenced the later Ausf (Model) Ds, as well as the improved Ausf A and the later Ausf G. Improvements included stronger, lower-profile commander's cupolas, rainguards on the gun mantlet, zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste and, on the Ausf G, a simplified and strengthened hull. Given the production difficulties and internal politics of german weapons manufacture, the Panther tank was inevitably a compromise of various requirements. While sharing essentially the same engine as the Tiger I
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

 tank, it had better frontal armor, better gun penetration, was lighter overall and thus faster, and could handle rough terrain better than the Tigers. The tradeoff was weaker side armor; the Panther proved to be deadly in open country and shooting from long range, but vulnerable to close-quarters combat. Also, the 75 mm gun fired a slightly smaller shell than the Tiger's 88 mm gun, providing less high explosive firepower against infantry, though it was still quite effective.

The Panther was also far cheaper to produce than the Tiger tanks, and only slightly more expensive than the Panzer IV
Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV , commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz...

, as its design came to fruition at the same time that the Reich Ministry of Armament and War Production was making great efforts to increase war production. Key elements of the Panther design, such as its armor, transmission and final drive, were compromises made specifically to improve production rates and address Germany's war shortages, whereas other elements such as its highly compact engine and its complex suspension system remained with their elegant but complicated engineering. The result was that Panther tank production was far higher than was possible for the Tiger tanks, but not much higher than had been accomplished with the Panzer IV. At the same time, the simplified final drive became the single major cause of breakdowns of the Panther tank, and was a problem that was never corrected.

Having arrived on the battlefield in 1943 at a crucial phase in World War II for Germany and been rushed into combat at Kursk before its teething problems were corrected, the Panther tank thereafter fought on outnumbered in Germany's steady retreat before the Allies for the remainder of World War II. Its success as a battlefield weapon was thus hampered by Germany's generally declining position in the war, with the loss of airpower protection by the Luftwaffe, the loss of fuel and training space, and the declining quality of tank crews. Nevertheless, the Panther tank was respected by the Allies as one of the best all-round tanks of the war, and its combat capabilities led directly to the introduction of heavier Allied tanks such as the Soviet IS-2 and the American M26 Pershing
M26 Pershing
The Heavy Tank M26 Pershing was an American heavy tank briefly used in World War II and in the Korean War. It was named after General John Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Force in Europe in World War I....

 into the war.

Design

The Panther was a direct response to the Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks. First encountered
German encounter of Soviet T-34 and KV tanks
Prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, the German armed forces were not aware of two new Soviet tanks, the T-34 and KV. As a result they were surprised when they met them in combat in June 1941. The Germans had great difficulty as their standard anti-tank weaponry proved...

 on 23 June 1941, the T-34 outclassed the existing Panzer III and IV. At the insistence of General Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

, a special Panzerkommision was dispatched to the Eastern Front to assess the T-34. Among the features of the Soviet tank considered most significant were the sloping armor, which gave much improved shot deflection and also increased the effective armor thickness against penetration, the wide track, which improved mobility over soft ground, and the 76.2 mm gun, which had good armor penetration and fired an effective high explosive round. Daimler-Benz
Daimler-Benz
Daimler-Benz AG was a German manufacturer of automobiles, motor vehicles, and internal combustion engines; founded in 1926. An Agreement of Mutual Interest - which was valid until year 2000 - was signed on 1 May 1924 between Karl Benz's Benz & Cie., and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, which had...

 (DB) and Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg AG (MAN) were given the task of designing a new 30- to 35-ton tank, designated VK30.02, by April 1942 (apparently in time to be shown to Hitler for his birthday).

The DB design was a direct homage to the T-34. It resembled the T-34 hull
Chassis
A chassis consists of an internal framework that supports a man-made object. It is analogous to an animal's skeleton. An example of a chassis is the underpart of a motor vehicle, consisting of the frame with the wheels and machinery.- Vehicles :In the case of vehicles, the term chassis means the...

 and turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

 form. DB's design used a leaf spring suspension whereas the T-34 used Christie suspension
Christie suspension
The Christie suspension is a suspension system developed by American engineer Walter Christie for his tank designs. It allowed considerably longer movement than conventional leaf spring systems then in common use, which allowed his tanks to have considerably greater cross-country speed and a lower...

. The DB turret was smaller than that of the MAN design and had a smaller turret ring, which was the result of the narrower hull required by the leaf spring suspension which lay outside of hull. The main advantages of the leaf springs over a torsion bar suspension were a lower hull silhouette and a simpler shock damping design. Like the T-34, the DB design had a rear drive sprocket. Unlike the T-34, the DB design had a three-man turret crew: commander, gunner, and loader. But as the planned L/70 75 mm gun was much longer and heavier than the T-34's, mounting it in the Daimler-Benz turret was difficult. Plans to reduce the turret crew to two men to address this problem were eventually dropped.

The MAN design embodied more conventional German thinking with the transmission and drive sprocket in the front and a turret placed centrally on the hull. It had a gasoline
Gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

 engine and eight torsion-bar suspension axles per side. Because of the torsion bar suspension and the drive shaft running under the turret basket, the MAN Panther was higher and had a wider hull than the DB design. The slightly earlier, Henschel designed Tiger I
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

 heavy tank's use of a "slack-track" Christie-style pattern of large road wheels with no return rollers for the upper run of track, and with the main road wheels being overlapping and interleaved in layout, were design concepts broadly repeated with the MAN design for the Panther.

The two designs were reviewed over a period from January through March 1942. Reichminister Todt
Fritz Todt
Fritz Todt was a German engineer and senior Nazi figure, the founder of Organisation Todt. He died in a plane crash during World War II.- Life :Todt was born in Pforzheim to a father who owned a small factory...

, and later, his replacement Albert Speer
Albert Speer
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

, both recommended the DB design to Hitler because of its several advantages over the initial MAN design. However, at the final submission, MAN improved their design, having learned from the DB proposal, and a review by a special commission appointed by Hitler in May 1942 ended up selecting the MAN design. Hitler approved this decision after reviewing it overnight. One of the principal reasons given for this decision was that the MAN design used an existing turret designed by Rheinmetall-Borsig
Rheinmetall
Rheinmetall AG is a German automotive and defence company with factories in Düsseldorf, Kassel and Unterlüß. The company has a long tradition of making guns and artillery pieces...

, while the DB design would have required a brand new turret to be designed and produced, substantially delaying the commencement of production.

Albert Speer recounts in his autobiography Inside the Third Reich

Production

The MAN design also had better fording ability, easier gun servicing and higher mobility due to better suspension, wider tracks, and a bigger fuel tank. A mild steel prototype
Prototype
A prototype is an early sample or model built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from.The word prototype derives from the Greek πρωτότυπον , "primitive form", neutral of πρωτότυπος , "original, primitive", from πρῶτος , "first" and τύπος ,...

 was produced by September 1942 and, after testing at Kummersdorf
Kummersdorf
Kummersdorf is the name of an estate near Luckenwalde at , around 25km south of Berlin, in the Brandenburg region of Germany. Until 1945 Kummersdorf hosted the weapon office of the German Army which ran a development centre for future weapons as well as an artillery range.In 1929 the Army Weapons...

, was officially accepted. It was put into immediate production. The start of production was delayed, however, mainly because there were too few specialized machine tools needed for the machining of the hull. Finished tanks were produced in December and suffered from reliability problems as a result of this haste. The demand for this tank was so high that the manufacturing was soon expanded beyond MAN to include Daimler-Benz, Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen-Hannover (MNH) and Henschel & Sohn in Kassel.

The initial production target was 250 tanks per month at MAN. This was increased to 600 per month in January 1943. Despite determined efforts, this figure was never reached due to disruption by Allied bombing, manufacturing bottlenecks, and other difficulties. Production in 1943 averaged 148 per month. In 1944, it averaged 315 a month (3,777 having been built that year), peaking with 380 in July and ending around the end of March 1945, with at least 6,000 built in total. Front-line combat strength peaked on 1 September 1944 at 2,304 tanks, but that same month a record number of 692 tanks were reported lost.

Allied bombing was first directed at the common chokepoint for both Panther and Tiger production, the Maybach engine plant. This was bombed the night of 27/28 April 1944 and production was shut down for five months. A second plant had already been planned, the Auto-Union plant at Siegmar, and this came online in May 1944. Targeting of Panther factories began with a bombing raid on the DB plant on 6 August 1944, and again on the night of 23/24 August. MAN was struck on 10 September, 3 October and 19 October 1944, and then again on 3 January and 20/21 February 1945. MNH was not attacked until 14 and 28 March 1945.

In addition to interfering with tank production goals, the bombing forced a steep drop in the production of spare parts. Spare parts as a percentage of tank production dropped from 25–30 percent in 1943, to 8 percent in the fall of 1944. This only compounded the problems with reliability and numbers of operational Panthers, as tanks in the field had to be cannibalized for parts.

Production figures

The Panther was the third most produced German armored fighting vehicle
German armored fighting vehicle production during World War II
This article lists production figures for German armored fighting vehicles during the World War II era. Vehicles include tanks, self-propelled artillery, assault guns and tank destroyers....

.
style="font-size: normal; text-align: left;" | Production by type
Model Number Date Notes
Prototype 2 11/42 Designated V1 and V2
Ausf. D 842 1/43 to 9/43
Ausf. A 2,192 8/43 to 6/44 Sometimes called Ausf. A2
Ausf. G 2,953 3/44 to 4/45
Befehlspanzer Panther 329 5/43 to 2/45 Converted
Beobachtungspanzer Panther 41 44 to 45 Converted
Bergepanther 347 43 to 45

style="text-align: left;" | Panther production in 1944 by manufacturer
Manufacturer % of total
Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (M.A.N.) 35%
Daimler-Benz 31%
Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen-Hannover 31%
Other 3%

Cost

One source has cited the cost of a Panther tank as 117,100 Reichmarks (RM). This compared with 82,500 RM for the StuG III, 96,163 RM for the Panzer III
Panzer III
Panzer III was the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the 1930s by Germany and was used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen III translating as "armoured battle vehicle". It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and...

, 103,462 RM for the Panzer IV
Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV , commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz...

, and 250,800 RM for the Tiger I
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

. These figures did not include the cost of the armament and radio. In terms of Reichmarks per ton, therefore, the Panther tank was one of the most cost-effective of the German AFV's of World War II. However, these cost figures should be understood in the context of the time period in which the various AFVs were first designed, as the Germans increasingly strove for designs and production methods that would allow for higher production rates, and thus steadily reduced the cost of their AFVs. For example, another source has cited the total cost of the early production Tiger I
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

 in 1942–1943 to be as high as 800,000 RM.

The process of streamlining the production of German AFVs first began after Speer became Reichminister in early 1942, and steadily accelerated through 1944; production of the Panther tank thus coincided with this period of increased manufacturing efficiency. German AFV manufacturers at the start of World War II utilized only heavily labor-intensive and costly manufacturing methods unsuitable for the needs of mass production; even with streamlined production methods, Germany never approached the efficiency of Allied manufacturing during World War II.

Design characteristics

The weight of the production model was increased to 45 metric tons from the original plans for a 35 ton tank. Hitler had personally reviewed the final designs and insisted on an increase in the thickness of the frontal armor - the front glacis plate was increased from 60 mm (2.4 in) to 80 mm (3.1 in) and the turret front plate was increased from 80mm to 100 mm (3.9 in).

The Panther was rushed into combat before all of its teething problems were corrected. Reliability was considerably improved over time, and the Panther did prove to be a very effective fighting vehicle; however, some design flaws, such as its weak final drive units, were never corrected due to various shortages in German war production.

The crew was made up of five members: driver, radio operator (who also fired the bow machine gun), gunner, loader, and commander.

Engine

The first 250 Panthers were powered by a Maybach HL 210 P30 engine, V-12 gasoline engine which delivered 650 metric hp at 3,000 rpm and had three simple air filters. Starting in May 1943, the Panthers were built using the 700 PS (690 hp, 515 kW)/3000 rpm, 23.1 litre Maybach
Maybach
Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH is a German luxury car manufacturer. It was founded in 1909 by Wilhelm Maybach and his son. The company was originally a subsidiary of Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH and was itself known as Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau GmbH until 1912.Today, the ultra-luxury car brand is owned by...

 HL 230 P30
Maybach HL230
The Maybach HL230 is a water-cooled 60° 23 liter V12 gasoline engine designed by Maybach. It was used during World War II in heavy German tanks, namely the Panther, Jagdpanther, Tiger II, Jagdtiger , and later versions of the Tiger I and Sturmtiger...

 V-12 gasoline engine. The light alloy block used in the HL 210 was replaced by a cast iron block to save aluminum. Two multistage "cyclone" air filters were used to automate some of the dust removal process. In practice the engine power output was reduced due to the use of low quality gasoline. With a capacity of 190 US gallons of fuel, a Panther could operate 60–80 mi (96.6–128.7 km) on roads and 40–50 mi (64.4–80.5 km) cross country

The HL 230 P30 engine was a very compact design, which kept the space between the cylinder walls to a minimum. The crankshaft was composed of seven discs, each with an outer race of roller bearings, and a crankshaft pin between each disc. To reduce the length of the engine further, by one half a cylinder diameter, the two banks of 6 cylinders of the V-12 were not offset - the center points of the connecting rods of each cylinder pair in the "V" where they joined the crankshaft pin were thus at the same spot rather than offset; to accommodate this arrangement, one connecting rod in the pair of cylinders was forked and fit around the other "solid" connecting rod at the crankshaft pin. (A more typical "V" engine would have had offset cylinder banks and each pair of connecting rods would have fit simply side by side on the crankshaft pin). This compact arrangement with the connecting rods was the source of considerable teething problems early on. Blown head gaskets were another problem, which was corrected with improved seals in September 1943. Improved bearings were introduced in November 1943 to replace the faulty ones that had failed frequently. An engine governor was also added in November 1943 that reduced the maximum engine speed to 2500 rpm. An eighth crankshaft bearing was added beginning in January 1944 to help reduce motor failures.

The engine compartment space was designed to be watertight so that the Panther could be submerged and cross waterways. The result was that the engine compartment was poorly ventilated and prone to overheating. The fuel connectors in the early models were non-insulated, leading to leakage of fuel fumes into the engine compartment. This led to many engine fires in the early Panthers. Additional ventilation was added to draw off these gasses, which mitigated but did not completely solve the problem of engine fires. Other measures taken to reduce this problem included improving the coolant circulation inside the motor and adding a reinforced membrane spring to the fuel pump. The Panther had a solid firewall separating the engine compartment and the fighting compartment to keep engine fires from spreading.

The engine became more reliable over time. A French assessment of their stock of captured Panthers in 1947 concluded that the engine had an average life of 1000 km (621.4 mi) and maximum life of 1500 km (932.1 mi).

Suspension

The suspension consisted of front drive sprockets, rear idlers and eight double-interleaved rubber-rimmed steel road wheels on each side, suspended on a dual torsion bar suspension. The dual torsion bar system, designed by Professor Ernst Lehr, allowed for a wide travel stroke and rapid oscillations with high reliability, thus allowing for relatively high speed travel by this heavy tank over undulating terrain. However, the extra space required for the bars running across the length of the bottom of the hull, below the turret basket, increased the overall height of the tank and also prevented an escape hatch in the hull bottom. When damaged by mines, the torsion bars often required a welding torch for removal.

The Panther's suspension was complicated to manufacture and the interleaved system made replacing inner road wheels time consuming. The interleaved wheels also had a tendency to become clogged with mud, rocks and ice, and could freeze solid overnight in the harsh winter weather of the Eastern Front. Shell damage could also cause the road wheels to jam together and become extremely difficult to separate. Interleaved wheels had long been standard on all German half-track
Half-track
A half-track is a civilian or military vehicle with regular wheels on the front for steering, and caterpillar tracks on the back to propel the vehicle and carry most of the load. The purpose of this combination is to produce a vehicle with the cross-country capabilities of a tank and the handling...

s. The extra wheels did provide better flotation and stability, and also provided more armor protection for the thin hull sides than smaller wheels or non-interleaved wheel systems, but the complexity meant that no other country ever adopted this design for their tanks. In September 1944, and again in March/April 1945, M.A.N. built a limited number of Panther tanks with steel roadwheels originally designed for the Tiger II and late series Tiger I tanks. Steel roadwheels were introduced from chassis number 121052 due to raw material constraints.

From November 1944 through February 1945, a conversion process began to use sleeve bearings in the Panther tank, as there was a shortage of ball bearings. The sleeve bearings were primarily used in the running gear; plans were made also to convert the transmission to sleeve bearings, but were not carried out as production of Panther tanks came to an end.

Steering and transmission

Steering was accomplished through a seven-speed AK 7-200 synchromesh gearbox, designed by Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen, and a MAN single radius steering system, operated by steering levers. Each gear had a fixed radius of turning, ranging from five meters for 1st gear up to 80 meters for 7th gear. The driver was expected to judge the sharpness of a turn ahead of time and shift into the appropriate gear to turn the tank. The driver could also engage the brakes on one side to force a sharper turn. This manual steering was a much simplified design, compared to the more sophisticated dual-radius hydraulically controlled steering system of the Tiger tanks.

The AK 7-200 transmission was also capable of pivot turns, but this method of turning could accelerate failures of the final drive.

Throughout its career, the weakest parts were its final drive units. The problems were from a combination of factors. The original MAN proposal had called for the Panther to have an epicyclic gearing
Epicyclic gearing
Epicyclic gearing or planetary gearing is a gear system consisting of one or more outer gears, or planet gears, revolving about a central, or sun gear. Typically, the planet gears are mounted on a movable arm or carrier which itself may rotate relative to the sun gear...

 (hollow spur) system in the final drive, similar to that used in the Tiger I
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

. However, Germany at the time suffered from a shortage of gear-cutting machine tools and, unlike the Tiger tanks, the Panther was intended to be produced in large numbers. To achieve the goal of higher production rates, numerous simplifications were made to the design and its manufacture. This process was aggressively pushed forward, sometimes against the wishes of designers and army officers, by the Chief Director of Armament and War Production, Karl-Otto Saur (who worked under, and later succeeded, Reichminister Speer). Consequently, the final drive was changed to a double spur system. Although much simpler to produce, the double spur gears had inherently higher internal impact and stress loads, making them prone to failure under the high torque requirements of the heavy Panther tank. Furthermore, high quality steel intended for double spur system was not available for mass production, and was replaced by 37MnSi5 tempered steel, which was unsuitable for high-stress gear. In contrast, both the Tiger II
Tiger II
Tiger II is the common name of a German heavy tank of the Second World War. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B,Panzerkampfwagen – abbr: Pz. or Pz.Kfw. Ausführung – abbr: Ausf. .The full titles Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf...

 and the US M4 Sherman
M4 Sherman
The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United States during World War II. Thousands were also distributed to the Allies, including the British Commonwealth and Soviet armies, via lend-lease...

 tank had double helical (herringbone gear
Herringbone gear
A herringbone gear, also known as a double helical gear, is a special type of gear which is a side to side combination of two helical gears of opposite hands. Unlike helical gears they can sustain axial load smoothly...

s) in their final drives, a system that reduced internal stress loads and was less complex than epicyclic gears.

Compounding these problems was the fact that the final drive's housing and gear mountings were too weak because of the type of steel used and/or the tight space allotted for the final drive. The final gear mountings deformed easily under the high torque and stress loads, pushing the gears out of alignment and resulting in failure. Due to the weakness of the final drives their average fatigue life was only 150 km. In Normandy, about half of the abandoned Panthers were found by the French to have broken final drives. However, at least the final gear housing was eventually replaced with stronger one, while final gear problem was never solved.

Plans were made to replace the final drive, either with a version of the original epicyclic gears planned by MAN, or with the final drive of the Tiger II. These plans were intertwined with the planning for the Panther II, which never came to fruition because Panzer Commission deemed that temporary drop in production of Panther due to merger of Tiger II and Panther II was unacceptable. It was estimated that building the epicyclic gear final drive would have required 2.2 times more machining work than double spur gears, and this would have affected manufacturing output.

Most of the shortcomings were considered acceptable once design flaws were rectified. Due to the mechanical unreliability of final gear Panther must be driven with care, a characteristic shared with the Tiger tanks as well as Jagdtigers. Long road marches would result in a significant number of losses due to breakdowns, and so the German Army had to ship the tanks by rail as close to the battlefield as possible.

Armor

Initial production Panthers had a face-hardened glacis plate (the main front hull armor piece), but as armor-piercing capped rounds became the standard in all armies (thus defeating the benefits of face-hardening, which caused uncapped rounds to shatter), this requirement was deleted on March 30, 1943. By August 1943, Panthers were being built only with a homogeneous steel glacis plate. The front hull had 80 mm of armor sloped back at 55 degrees from the vertical, welded but also interlocked for strength. The combination of a steep slope and thick armor meant that few Allied or Soviet weapons could penetrate this part of the tank.

The armor for the side hull and superstructure (the side sponsons) was much thinner (40–50 mm). The thinner side armor was necessary to keep the overall weight within reasonable bounds, but it made the Panther vulnerable to attacks from the side by most Allied and Soviet tank and anti-tank guns. German tactical doctrine for the use of the Panther thus emphasized the importance of flank protection. Five millimeter thick skirt armor, known as Schürzen, intended to provide protection for the lower side hull from Soviet anti-tank rifle fire was fitted on the hull side. Zimmerit
Zimmerit
Zimmerit was a coating produced for German armored fighting vehicles during World War II for the purpose of combating magnetically attached anti-tank mines, although Germany was the only country to use magnetic mines against tanks in large scale numbers...

coating against magnetic mines started to be applied at the factory on late Ausf D models beginning in September 1943; an order for field units to apply Zimmerit to older versions of the Panther was issued in November 1943. In September 1944, orders to stop all application of Zimmerit were issued, based on rumors that hits on the Zimmerit had caused vehicle fires.
Panther crews were aware of the weak side armor and made unauthorized augmentations by hanging track links or spare roadwheels onto the turret and/or the hull sides. The rear hull top armor was only 16 mm thick, and had two radiator fans and four air intake louvres over the engine compartment that were vulnerable to strafing by aircraft.

As the war progressed, Germany was forced to reduce or no longer use certain critical alloy materials in the production of armor plate, such as nickel, tungsten, molybdenum, and manganese; this did result in lower impact resistance levels compared to earlier armor. Manganese from mines in the Ukraine ceased when the German Army lost control of this territory in February 1944. Allied bombers struck the Knabe mine in Norway and stopped a key source of molybdenum; other supplies from Finland and Japan were also cut off. The loss of molybdenum, and its replacement with other substitutes to maintain hardness, as well as a general loss of quality control resulted in an increased brittleness in German armor plate, which developed a tendency to fracture when struck with a shell. Testing by U.S. Army officers in August 1944 in Isigny, France showed catastrophic cracking of the armor plate on two out of three Panthers examined.

Armament

The main gun was a 7.5 cm Rheinmetall-Borsig
Rheinmetall
Rheinmetall AG is a German automotive and defence company with factories in Düsseldorf, Kassel and Unterlüß. The company has a long tradition of making guns and artillery pieces...

 KwK 42 (L/70) with semi-automatic shell ejection and a supply of 79 rounds (82 on Ausf. G). The main gun used three different types of ammunition: APCBC
APCBC
The armour-piercing capped ballistic cap is a type of armor-piercing shell introduced in the 1930s.-Development:The APCBC munition type was an evolutionary development of the early war armour-piercing capped shell, itself an evolution of the more basic AP and APHE shell types...

-HE (Pzgr. 39/42), HE (Sprgr. 42) and APCR (Pzgr. 40/42), the last of which was usually in short supply. While it was of only average caliber for its time, the Panther's gun was one of the most powerful tank guns of World War II, due to the large propellant charge and the long barrel, which gave it a very high muzzle velocity
Muzzle velocity
Muzzle velocity is the speed a projectile has at the moment it leaves the muzzle of the gun. Muzzle velocities range from approximately to in black powder muskets , to more than in modern rifles with high-performance cartridges such as the .220 Swift and .204 Ruger, all the way to for tank guns...

 and excellent armor-piercing qualities. The flat trajectory
Trajectory
A trajectory is the path that a moving object follows through space as a function of time. The object might be a projectile or a satellite, for example. It thus includes the meaning of orbit—the path of a planet, an asteroid or a comet as it travels around a central mass...

 also made hitting targets much easier, since accuracy was less sensitive to range. The Panther's 75 mm gun had more penetrating power than the main gun of the Tiger I
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

 heavy tank, the 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56, although the larger 88 mm projectile might inflict more damage if it did penetrate.

The tank typically had two MG 34
MG 34
The Maschinengewehr 34, or MG 34, is a German air-cooled machine gun that was first produced and accepted into service in 1934, and first issued to units in 1935. It accepts the 8x57mm IS cartridge....

 machine guns of a specific version designed for use in armored combat vehicles featuring an armored barrel sleeve. An MG 34 machine gun was located co-axially with the main gun on the gun mantlet; an identical MG 34 was located on the glacis plate and fired by the radio operator. Initial Ausf. D and early Ausf. A models used a "letterbox" flap opening, through which the machine gun was fired. In later Ausf A and all Ausf G models (starting in late November-early December 1943), a ball mount in the glacis plate with a K.Z.F.2 machine gun sight was installed for the hull machine gun.

Turret

The front of the turret was a curved 100 mm thick cast armor mantlet. Its transverse-cylindrical shape meant that it was more likely to deflect shells, but the lower section created a shot trap. If a non-penetrating hit bounced downwards off its lower section, it could penetrate the thin forward hull roof armor, and plunge down into the front hull compartment. Penetrations of this nature could have catastrophic results, since the compartment housed the driver and radio operator sitting along both sides of the massive gearbox and steering unit; more importantly, four magazines containing main gun ammunition were located between the driver/radio operator seats and the turret, directly underneath the gun mantlet when the turret was facing forward.

From September 1944, a slightly redesigned mantlet with a flattened and much thicker lower "chin" design started to be fitted to Panther Ausf G models, the chin being intended to prevent such deflections. Conversion to the "chin" design was gradual, and Panthers continued to be produced to the end of the war with the rounded gun mantlet.

In most cases the Panther's gun mantlet could not be penetrated by the M4
M4 Sherman
The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United States during World War II. Thousands were also distributed to the Allies, including the British Commonwealth and Soviet armies, via lend-lease...

s 75 mm gun, the T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

s 76.2 mm gun, or the T-34-85s 85 mm gun. But it could be penetrated by well-aimed shots at 100 m by the 76mm M1A1 gun used on certain models of the M4, at 500 m by the Soviet A-19 122 mm gun on the IS-2 and at over 2500 yards (2286 m) by the British Ordnance QF 17 pounder
Ordnance QF 17 pounder
The Ordnance Quick-Firing 17 pounder was a 76.2 mm gun developed by the United Kingdom during World War II. It was used as an anti-tank gun on its own carriage, as well as equipping a number of British tanks. It was the most effective Allied anti-tank gun of the war...

 using APDS ammunition
Armour-piercing discarding sabot
Armour-piercing discarding sabot is a type of kinetic energy projectile fired from a gun to attack armoured targets. APDS rounds are sabot rounds and were commonly used in large calibre tank guns, but have now been superseded by armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot projectiles in such...

. The side turret armor of 45 mm (1.8 in) was vulnerable to penetration at long range by almost all Allied tank guns, including the M4's 75 mm gun which could penetrate it at 1500 m (0.93205910497471 mi). These were the main reasons for continued work on a redesigned Panther turret, the Schmalturm.

The Ausf A model introduced a new cast armor commander's cupola, replacing the more difficult to manufacture forged cupola. It featured a steel hoop to which a third MG 34 or either the coaxial or the bow machine gun could be mounted for use in the anti-aircraft role, though it was rare for this to be used in actual combat situations.

The first Panthers (Ausf D) had a hydraulic motor that could traverse the turret at a maximum rate of one complete revolution in one minute, independent of engine speed. This slow speed was improved in the Ausf A model with a hydraulic traverse that varied with engine speed; one full turn taking 46 seconds at an engine speed of 1,000 rpm but only 15 seconds if the engine was running at 3,000 rpm. This arrangement was a slight weakness, as traversing the Panther's turret rapidly onto a target required close coordination between the gunner and driver who had to run the engine to maximum speed. By comparison, the turret of the M4 Sherman turret traversed at up to 360 degrees in 15 seconds and was independent of engine speed, which gave it an advantage over the Panther in close-quarters combat. As usual for tanks of the period, a hand traverse wheel was provided for the Panther gunner to make fine adjustment of his aim.

Ammunition storage

Ammunition storage for the main gun was a weak point. All the ammunition for the main armament was stored in the hull, with a significant amount stored in the sponsons. In the Ausf D and A models, 18 rounds were stored next to the turret on each side, for a total of 36 rounds. In the Ausf G, which had deeper sponsons, 24 rounds were stored on each side of the turret, for a total of 48 rounds. In all models, 4 rounds were also stored in the left sponson between the driver and the turret. An additional 36 rounds were stored inside the hull of the Ausf D and A models - 27 in the forward hull compartment directly underneath the mantlet. In the Ausf G, the hull ammunition storage was reduced to 27 rounds total, with 18 rounds in the forward hull compartment. For all models, 3 rounds were kept under the turntable of the turret. The thin side armor could be penetrated at combat ranges by many Allied tank guns, and this meant that the Panther was vulnerable to catastrophic ammunition fires ("brewing up") if hit from the sides.

The loader was stationed in the right side of the turret. With the turret facing forward, he had access only to the right sponson and hull ammunition, and so these served as the main ready-ammunition bins.

Combat use

Panthers were supplied to form Panzer Abteilung 51 (Tank Battalion 51) on 9 January, and then Pz.Abt. 52 on 6 February 1943.

The first production Panther tanks were plagued with 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
Carburetor
A carburetor , carburettor, or carburetter is a device that blends air and fuel for an internal combustion engine. It is sometimes shortened to carb in North America and the United Kingdom....

, as well as motor oil leaks from gaskets easily produced fires in the engine compartment; several were destroyed in such fires. Transmission and final drive breakdowns were the most common and difficult to repair. A large list of other problems were detected in these early Panthers, and so from April through May 1943 all Panthers were shipped to Falkensee and Nuernburg for a major rebuilding program. This did not correct all of the problems, so a second program was started at Grafenwoehr and Erlangen in June 1943.

Eastern Front

The Panther tank was seen as a necessary component of the upcoming Operation Zitadelle, and the attack was delayed several times because of their mechanical problems, with the eventual start date of the battle only six days after the last Panthers had been delivered to the front. This resulted in major problems in Panther units during the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

, as tactical training at the unit level, coordination by radio, and driver training were all seriously deficient.

It was not until June 23–29, 1943, that a total of 200 rebuilt Panthers were finally issued to Panther Regiment von Lauchert, of the XLVIII Panzer Corps (4 Panzer Army). Two were immediately lost due to motor fires upon disembarking from the trains. By July 5, when the Battle of Kursk started, there were only 184 operational Panthers. Within two days, this had dropped to 40. On July 17, 1943 after Hitler had ordered a stop to the German offensive, Gen. Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

 sent in the following preliminary assessment of the Panthers:

During Zitadelle the Panthers claimed 267 destroyed tanks.
A later report on July 20, 1943 showed 41 Panthers as operational, 85 as repairable, 16 severely damaged and needing repair in Germany, 56 burnt out (due to enemy action), and 2 that had been destroyed by motor fires.

However, before the Germans ended their offensive at Kursk, the Soviets began their counteroffensive, and succeeded in pushing the Germans back into a steady retreat. Thus, a report on August 11, 1943 showed that the numbers of total writeoffs in Panthers swelled to 156, with only 9 operational. The German Army was forced into a fighting retreat and increasingly lost Panthers in combat as well as from abandoning and destroying damaged vehicles.

The Panther demonstrated its capacity to destroy any Soviet AFV from long distance during the Battle of Kursk, and had a very high overall kill ratio. However, it comprised less than seven percent of the estimated 2,400–2,700 total AFVs deployed by the Germans in this battle, and its effectiveness was limited by its mechanical problems and the in-depth layered defense system of the Soviets at Kursk. Its greatest historical role in the battle may have been a highly negative one—its contribution to the decisions to delay the original start of Operation Zitadelle for a total of two months, time which the Soviets used to build up an enormous concentration of minefields, anti-tank guns, trenches and artillery defenses.
After the losses of the Battle of Kursk, the German Army went into a permanent state of retreat against the Red Army. The numbers of Panthers were slowly re-built on the Eastern Front, and the operational percentage increased as its reliability was improved. In March 1944, Guderian reported: "Almost all the bugs have been worked out," although many units continued to report significant mechanical problems, especially with the final drive. The greatly outnumbered Panthers came to be used as mobile reserves to fight off major attacks.

The highest total number of operational Panthers on the Eastern Front was achieved in September 1944, when some 522 were listed as operational out of a total of 728. Throughout the rest of the war, Germany continued to keep the great majority of Panther forces on the Eastern Front, where the situation progressively worsened for the Germans. The last recorded status, on March 15, 1945, listed 740 on the Eastern Front with 361 operational. By this time the Red Army had entered East Prussia and was advancing through Poland.

In August 1944 Panthers were deployed in Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 during the uprising
Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army , to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces...

 as a mobile artillery and troops support. At least two of them were captured in the early days of the conflict and used in actions against Germans, including the liberation of Gęsiówka
Gesiówka
Gęsiówka , was a Nazi concentration camp in Warsaw, Poland.- History of Gęsiówka :Before the war, Gęsiówka was a military prison of the Polish Army on Gęsia Street . Beginning in 1939, after the German occupation of Poland, it became a re-education camp of the German security police...

 concentration camp on August 5, when the soldiers of "Wacek
Wacław Micuta
Wacław Micuta, also known as Wacek was a Polish economist, functionary of the United Nations and a soldier – participant in the Polish September Campaign and a commander of one of two Polish tanks in the Warsaw Uprising with the rank of first lieutenant.-Life:Micuta was born to a...

" platoon used the captured Panther (named "Magda") to destroy the bunkers and watchtowers of the camp. Most of the Germans in the camp were killed; insurgents had lost two people and liberated almost 350 people. After several days they were immobilized due to the lack of fuel and batteries and were set ablaze to prevent them from being re-captured by the German forces.

Western Front - France

At the time of the invasion of Normandy, there were initially only two Panther-equipped Panzer regiments in the Western Front, with a total of 156 Panthers between them. From June through August 1944, an additional seven Panther regiments were sent into France, reaching a maximum strength of 432 in a status report dated July 30, 1944.

The majority of German panzer forces in Normandy – six and a half divisions, were stationed around the vital town of Caen facing the Anglo-Canadian forces of the 21st Army Group; and the numerous battles to secure the town became collectively known as the Battle of Caen. While there were sectors of heavy bocage
Bocage
Bocage is a Norman word which has entered both the French and English languages. It may refer to a small forest, a decorative element of leaves, a terrain of mixed woodland and pasture, or a type of rubble-work, comparable with the English use of 'rustic' in relation to garden...

 around Caen, there were also many open fields which Allied armor had to attack across, allowing for the Panther to engage the attacking enemy armor at long range. Conversely, by the time of the Normandy Campaign, British Divisional Anti-tank Regiments were well equipped with the excellent 17 pounder gun (the 17pdr also replaced the US gun
17pdr SP Achilles
The 17 pounder, Self Propelled, Achilles was a British variant of the American M10 Tank destroyer armed with the powerful British Ordnance QF 17 pounder anti-tank gun in place of the standard 3" Gun M7...

 on some M10 Tank Destroyers in British service), making it equally as perilous for Panthers to attack across these same fields. The British had begun converting regular M4 Shermans to carry the 17 pounder gun (nicknamed Firefly
Sherman Firefly
The Sherman Firefly was a World War II British variant of the American Sherman tank, fitted with the powerful British 17 pounder anti-tank gun as its main weapon...

) prior to the D-day landings, and while limited numbers meant that during Normandy not more than one Sherman in four were of the Firefly variant, the lethality of its gun against German armor made them priority targets for German gunners.
US forces in the meantime, facing one and a half German panzer divisions, mainly the Panzer Lehr Division, struggled in the heavy, low-lying bocage terrain west of Caen. Against the M4 Shermans of the Allied tank forces during this time, the Panther tank proved to be most effective when fighting in open country and shooting at long range—its combination of superior armor and firepower allowed it to engage at distances from which the Shermans could not respond. However, the Panther struggled in the bocage country of Normandy, and was vulnerable to side and close-in attacks in the built-up areas of cities and small towns. The commander of the Panzer Lehr Division, Gen. Fritz Bayerlein
Fritz Bayerlein
Fritz Bayerlein was a German panzer general during the Second World War.Fritz Bayerlein was born in Würzburg, Franconia, Germany. During the First World War, Bayerlein was drafted into the 9th Bavarian Infantry in 1917 and fought on the Western front. He was wounded and received an Iron Cross when...

, reported the weaknesses of the Panther tank in the fighting in Normandy:
Through September and October, a series of new Panzerbrigades equipped with Panther tanks were sent into France to try to stop the Allied advance with counterattacks. This culminated in the Battle of Arracourt
Battle of Arracourt
The Battle of Arracourt was a battle between U.S. and German armored forces during World War II near the town of Arracourt, Lorraine, France, from 18-29 September 1944. As part of a counteroffensive against recent U.S. advances in France, the German 5th Panzer Army had as its objective the...

 (September 18–29, 1944), in which the mostly Panther-equipped German forces suffered heavy losses fighting against the 4th Armored Division of Patton's 3rd Army, which were still primarily equipped with 75 mm M4 Sherman tanks and yet came away from the battle with only a few losses. The Panther units were newly formed, poorly trained, and tactically disorganized; most units ended up stumbling into ambush situations against seasoned U.S. tank crews.

Western Front - Ardennes Offensive

A status report on December 15, 1944 listed an all time high of 471 Panthers assigned to the Western Front, with 336 operational (71 percent). This was one day before the start of the Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive , launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name , and France and...

; 400 of the tanks assigned to the Western Front were in units sent into the offensive.

The Panther once again demonstrated its prowess in open country, where it could shoot its victims at long range with near-impunity, and its vulnerability in the close-in fighting of the small towns of the Ardennes, where there were heavy losses. A status report on January 15, 1945 showed only 97 operational Panthers left in the units involved in the operation, out of 282 still in their possession. Total write-offs were listed as 198.
The Operation Greif
Operation Greif
Operation Greif was a special false flag operation commanded by Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny during the Battle of the Bulge. The operation was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, and its purpose was to capture one or more of the bridges over the Meuse river before they could be destroyed...

 commando mission included five Panthers assigned to Panzerbrigade 150, disguised to look like M10 Tank Destroyers by welding on additional plates, applying US-style camouflage paint and markings. This was carried out as part of a larger operation that involved soldiers disguised as Americans and other activities. The disguised Panthers were detected and destroyed.

In February 1945, eight Panzer divisions with a total of 271 Panthers were transferred from the West to the Eastern Front. Only five Panther battalions remained in the west.

One of the top German Panther commanders was SS-Oberscharführer Ernst Barkmann
Ernst Barkmann
Ernst Barkmann was a German Waffen-SS soldier and panzer ace. Barkmann fought and rose to fame during World War II for his actions in command of Panther tanks.-Early life:...

 of the 2nd SS-Panzer Regiment "Das Reich". By the end of the war, he had some 80 tank kills claimed.

Fortification

From 1943, Panther turrets were mounted in fixed fortifications, some were normal production models, but most were made specifically for the task, with additional roof armor to withstand artillery. Two types of turret emplacements were used; (Pantherturm III - Betonsockel — concrete base) and (Pantherturm I - Stahluntersatz — steel sub-base). They housed ammunition storage and fighting compartment along with crew quarters. A total of 182 of these were installed in the fortifications of the Atlantic Wall
Atlantic Wall
The Atlantic Wall was an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944 along the western coast of Europe as a defense against an anticipated Allied invasion of the mainland continent from Great Britain.-History:On March 23, 1942 Führer Directive Number 40...

 and West Wall, 48 in the Gothic Line
Gothic Line
The Gothic Line formed Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's last major line of defence in the final stages of World War II along the summits of the Apennines during the fighting retreat of German forces in Italy against the Allied Armies in Italy commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander.Adolf Hitler...

 and Hitler Line
Hitler Line
The Hitler Line was a German defensive line in central Italy during the Second World War. The strong points of the line were at Aquino and Piedimonte. In May 1944, the line was re-named the Senger Line, after General von Senger und Etterlin, one of the generals commanding Axis forces in the area...

, 36 on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

, and 2 for training and experimentation, for a total of 268 installations by March 1945. They proved to be costly to attack, and difficult to destroy.

Battalion organization

From September 1943, one Panzer battalion with 96 Panthers comprised the Panzer regiment of a Panzer-Division 43
Panzer Division
A panzer division was an armored division in the army and air force branches of the Wehrmacht as well as the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany during World War II....

.
  • Battalion Command (composed of Communication and Reconnaissance platoons)
  • Communication Platoon - 3 × Befehlswagen Panther SdKfz.267/268
  • Reconnaissance Platoon - 5 × Panther
  • 1st Company - 22 × Panther
    • Company Command - 2 × Panther
      • 1st Platoon - 5 × Panther
      • 2nd Platoon - 5 × Panther
      • 3rd Platoon - 5 × Panther
      • 4th Platoon - 5 × Panther
  • 2nd Company - 22 × Panther (composed as 1st Company)
  • 3rd Company - 22 × Panther (composed as 1st Company)
  • 4th Company - 22 × Panther (composed as 1st Company)
  • Service Platoon - 2 × Bergepanther SdKfz.179


From 3 August 1944, the new Panzer-Division 44 organisation called for a Panzer division to consist of one Panzer regiment with two Panzer battalions – one of 96 Panzer IVs and one of 96 Panthers. Actual strengths tended to differ, and became far lower after losses.

Soviet

The importance of the tank on the Eastern Front led to an arms race between the Germans and Soviets to produce AFVs with ever greater armor and firepower. The Tiger I and Panther tanks were German responses to encountering the T-34 in 1941. Soviet firing tests against a captured Tiger in April 1943 showed that the T-34's 76 mm gun could not penetrate the front of the Tiger I at all, and the side only at very close range. An existing Soviet 85 mm antiaircraft gun, the 52-K, was found to be very effective against the frontal armor of the Tiger I, and so a derivative of the 52-K 85 mm gun (F-34 tank gun
F-34 tank gun
The 76 mm tank gun M1940 F-34 was a 76.2 mm Soviet tank gun used on the T-34/76 tank. A modified version of the gun, the 76 mm tank gun M1941 ZiS-5 was used on KV-1 tanks during World War II...

) was developed for the T-34. The Soviets thus had already embarked on the 85 mm gun upgrade path before encountering the Panther tank at the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

.

After much development work, the first T-34-85 tanks entered combat in March 1944. When tested by Wehrmacht, the production version of the T-34's new 85 mm F-34 gun proved to be ineffective against the Panther's frontal armor at the standard Panzerwaffe engagement range of 2,000m, meaning the Soviet tanks were out-ranged in open country, while the Panther's main gun could penetrate the T-34 frontal armour at this range from any angle. Although the T-34-85 tank was not quite the equal of the Panther, it was much better than the 76.2 mm-armed versions and made up for its quality shortcomings by being produced in greater quantities than the Panther. New self-propelled anti-tank vehicles based on the T-34 hull, such as the SU-85
SU-85
The SU-85 was a Soviet self-propelled gun used during World War II, based on the chassis of the T-34 medium tank. Earlier Soviet self-propelled guns were meant to serve as either assault guns, such as the SU-122, or as mobile anti-tank weapons; the SU-85 fell into the latter category...

 and SU-100
SU-100
The SU-100 was a Soviet tank destroyer. It was used extensively during the last year of World War II and saw service for many years afterwards with the armies of Soviet allies around the world.- Development :...

, were also developed. A German Army study dated October 5, 1944 showed that from a 30 degree side angle the Panther's gun could easily penetrate the turret of the T-34-85 from the front at ranges up to 2000 m, and the frontal hull armor at 300 m, whereas from the front, the T-34-85 could only penetrate the non-mantlet part of the Panther turret at 500 m. From the side, the two were nearly equivalent as both tanks could penetrate the other from long range. Soon into the T-34-85 production two replacement guns were used, the D-5T and ZiS-S-53, the later becoming a production standard for the rest of the war.

The Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

 convinced the Soviets of the need for even greater firepower. A Soviet analysis of the battle in August 1943 showed that a Corps artillery piece, the A-19 122 mm gun, had done well against the German AFVs in that battle, and so development work on the 122 mm equipped IS-2 began in late 1943. Soviet tests of the IS-2 versus the Panther included a claim of one shot that could penetrate the Panther from the front armor through the back armor. However, German testing showed that the 122 mm gun could not penetrate the glacis plate of the Panther at all, but it could penetrate the front turret/mantlet of the Panther at ranges up to 1500 m. At a 30 degree side angle the Panther's 75 mm gun could penetrate the front of the IS-2s turret at 800 m and the hull nose at 1000 m. From the side, the Panther was more vulnerable than the IS-2. Thus the two tanks, while nearly identical in weight, had quite different combat strengths and weaknesses. The Panther carried much more ammunition and had a faster firing cycle than the IS-2, which was a lower and more compact design; the IS-2s A-19 122 mm gun used a two piece ammunition which slowed its firing cycle.

American and British

The Western Allies' response was inconsistent. Although the western Allies were aware of the Panther and had access to technical details through the Soviets, the Panther was not employed against the western Allies until early 1944 at Anzio
Operation Shingle
Operation Shingle , during the Italian Campaign of World War II, was an Allied amphibious landing against Axis forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno, Italy. The operation was commanded by Major General John P. Lucas and was intended to outflank German forces of the Winter Line and enable an...

 in Italy, where Panthers were employed in small numbers. Until shortly before D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

, the Panther was thought to be another heavy tank that would not be built in large numbers. However, just before D-Day, Allied intelligence investigated Panther production, and using a statistical analysis
German tank problem
In the statistical theory of estimation, estimating the maximum of a uniform distribution is a common illustration of differences between estimation methods...

 of the road wheels on two captured tanks, estimated that Panther production for February 1944 was 270, thus indicating that it would be found in much larger numbers than had previously been anticipated. In the planning for the Battle of Normandy
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

, the US Army expected to face a handful of German heavy tanks alongside large numbers of Panzer IVs, and thus had little time to prepare to face the Panther. Instead, 38% of the German tanks in Normandy were Panthers, whose frontal armor could not be penetrated by the 75 mm guns of the US M4 Sherman
M4 Sherman
The M4 Sherman, formally Medium Tank, M4, was the primary tank used by the United States during World War II. Thousands were also distributed to the Allies, including the British Commonwealth and Soviet armies, via lend-lease...

.

The British were more astute in their recognition of the increasing armor strength of German tanks, and by the time of the Normandy invasion their program that mounted the excellent 17-pounder anti-tank gun on some of their M4 Shermans had provided more than 300 of these Sherman Firefly
Sherman Firefly
The Sherman Firefly was a World War II British variant of the American Sherman tank, fitted with the powerful British 17 pounder anti-tank gun as its main weapon...

s. The British lobbied during the war to use American production lines for building many Fireflies but these demands were ignored due to suspicion of British tank designs after they had done poorly in North Africa. There were also 200 interim Challenger tanks
Cruiser Mk VIII Challenger
The Tank, Cruiser, Challenger was a British tank of World War II. It mounted the 17 Pounder gun on the Cromwell chassis to add heavier anti-tank firepower to the cruiser tank units....

 with the 17 pounder and improved tank designs under development. British and Commonwealth tank units in Normandy were initially equipped at the rate of one Firefly in a troop with three Shermans or Cromwells
Cromwell tank
Tank, Cruiser, Mk VIII, Cromwell ,The designation as the eighth Cruiser tank design, its name given for ease of reference and its General Staff specification number respectively and the related Centaur tank, were one of the most successful series of cruiser tanks fielded by Britain in the Second...

. This ratio increased until, by the end of the war, half of the British Shermans were Fireflies. The Comet
Comet tank
The Tank, Cruiser, Comet I was a British cruiser tank that first saw use near the end of World War II. It was designed to provide greater anti-tank capability to Cromwell tank squadrons. It was armed with a 77mm HV, a derivative of the 17 pounder, with the result it was one of the few British...

 with a similar gun to the 17 pdr had also replaced the 75 mm gun Sherman in some British units. The 17-pounder with APCBC shot was more or less equivalent in performance to the Panther's 75 mm gun, but superior with APDS shot.

The US armor doctrine at the time was dominated by the head of Army Ground Forces, Gen. Lesley McNair, an artilleryman by trade, who believed that tanks should concentrate on infantry support and exploitation roles, and avoid enemy tanks, leaving them to be dealt with by the tank destroyer
Tank destroyer
A tank destroyer is a type of armored fighting vehicle armed with a gun or missile launcher, and is designed specifically to engage enemy armored vehicles...

 force, which were a mix of towed anti-tank guns and lightly armored AFVs with open top turrets with 3-inch (M-10 tank destroyer), 76 mm (M18 Hellcat
M18 Hellcat
The 76 mm Gun Motor Carriage M18 was an American tank destroyer of World War II. The manufacturer, Buick, gave it the nickname "Hellcat" and it was the fastest tracked armored fighting vehicle during the war with a top speed up to 60 mph. Hellcat crews took advantage of the vehicle's...

) or later, 90 mm (M36 tank destroyer) guns. This doctrine led to a lack of urgency in the US Army to upgrade the armor and firepower of the M4 Sherman tank, which had previously done well against the most common German tanks - Panzer III
Panzer III
Panzer III was the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the 1930s by Germany and was used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen III translating as "armoured battle vehicle". It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and...

s and Panzer IV
Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV , commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz...

s - in Africa and Italy. As with the Soviets, the German adoption of thicker armor and the 7.5 cm KwK 40
7.5 cm KwK 40
The 7.5 cm KwK 40 was a German 7.5 cm Second World War era vehicle mounted gun, used as the primary anti-tank weapon of the German medium tank the SdKfz.161 Panzerkampfwagen IV and the SdKfz.142 Sturmgeschütz III assault guns ...

 in their standard AFVs prompted the U.S. Army to develop the more powerful 76 mm version of the M4 Sherman tank in April 1944. Development of a heavier tank, the M26 Pershing
M26 Pershing
The Heavy Tank M26 Pershing was an American heavy tank briefly used in World War II and in the Korean War. It was named after General John Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Force in Europe in World War I....

, was delayed mainly by McNair's insistence on "battle need" and emphasis on producing only reliable, well-tested weapons, a reflection of America's 3,000 mile supply line to Europe.

An AGF (Armored Ground Forces) policy statement of November 1943 concluded the following:
U.S. awareness of the inadequacies of their tanks grew only slowly. All U.S. M4 Shermans that landed in Normandy in June 1944 had the 75 mm gun. The 75 mm M4 gun could not penetrate the Panther from the front at all, although it could penetrate various parts of the Panther from the side at ranges from 400 to 2600 m (437.4 to 2,843.4 yd). The 76 mm gun could also not penetrate the front hull armor of the Panther, but could penetrate the Panther turret mantlet at very close range. In August 1944, the HVAP (high velocity armor-piercing) 76 mm round was introduced to improve the performance of the 76 mm M4 Shermans. With a tungsten core, this round could still not penetrate the Panther glacis plate, but could punch through the Panther mantlet at 800 yard, instead of the usual 100 yards for the normal 76 mm round. However, tungsten production shortages meant that this round was always in short supply, with only a few rounds available per tank, and some M4 Sherman units never received any.

Sherman tanks used a high flash powder, making it easier for German tankers to spot them. German tanks conversely used a low flash powder making it hard for Allied crews to spot them. Shermans also possessed cross country mobility that was inferior to Panthers on all surfaces. Meanwhile it is important to note that the Panther is around 15 tons heavier than the M4. Brig. Gen. J.H. Collier noted:
The 90 mm M36 tank destroyer was introduced in September 1944; the 90 mm round also proved to have difficulty penetrating the Panther's glacis plate, and it was not until an HVAP version of the round was developed that it could effectively penetrate it from combat range. It was very effective against the Panther's front turret and from the side, however.

The high U.S. tank losses in the Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive , launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name , and France and...

 against a force largely of Panther tanks brought about a clamor for better armor and firepower. At General Eisenhower's request, only 76 mm gun-armed M4 Shermans were shipped to Europe for the remainder of the war. Small numbers of the M26 Pershing were also rushed into combat in late February 1945. A dramatic newsreel film was recorded by a U.S. Signal Corps cameraman of an M26 successfully stalking and then knocking out a Panther in the city of Cologne, however only after the Panther had already knocked out two M4 Shermans.

Production of Panther tanks and other German tanks dropped off sharply after January 1945, and eight of the Panther regiments still on the Western Front were transferred to the Eastern Front in February 1945. The result was that for the rest of the war during 1945, the greatest threats to the tanks of the Western Allies were no longer German tanks, but infantry anti-tank weapons such as the 88 mm calibre Panzerschreck
Panzerschreck
Panzerschreck was the popular name for the Raketenpanzerbüchse , an 88 mm calibre reusable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by Nazi Germany in World War II. Another popular nickname was Ofenrohr ....

 (the German bazooka
Bazooka
Bazooka is the common name for a man-portable recoilless rocket antitank weapon, widely fielded by the U.S. Army. Also referred to as the "Stovepipe", the innovative bazooka was amongst the first-generation of rocket propelled anti-tank weapons used in infantry combat...

) and Panzerfaust
Panzerfaust
The Panzerfaust was an inexpensive, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high explosive anti-tank warhead, operated by a single soldier...

 anti-tank grenade launcher, and infantry anti-tank guns such as the ubiquitous 7.5 cm Pak 40, and mobile anti-tank guns such as the Marder
Marder
Marder may refer to :* Marder , German name for European Pine Marten * Marder , a tribal union in Prehistoric Armenia* a series of German tank destroyers from World War II:**Marder I**Marder II**Marder III...

, StuG III, StuG IV, and Jagdpanzer
Jagdpanzer
Jagdpanzer , German for "hunting tank", is a name given to German self-propelled anti-tank guns.It typically refers to anti-tank variants of existing tank chassis with a well-armoured casemate fixed superstructure, mounting an anti-tank gun with limited traverse in the front, and usually classed by...

. A German Army status report dated March 15, 1945 showed 117 Panthers left in the entire Western Front, of which only 49 were operational.

Panther II

The early impetus for upgrading the Panther came from the concern of Hitler and others that it lacked sufficient armor. Hitler had already insisted on an increase in its armor once, early in its design process in 1942. Discussions involving Hitler in January 1943 called for further increased armor; initially referred to as Panther 2 (it became the Panther II after April 1943). This upgrade increased the glacis plate to 100 mm (3.9 in), the side armor to 60 mm (2.4 in), and the top armor to 30 mm (1.2 in). Production of the Panther 2 was slated to begin in September 1943.

In a meeting on February 10, 1943, further design changes were proposed - including changes to the steering gears and final drives. Another meeting on February 17, 1943 focused on sharing and standardizing parts between the Tiger II
Tiger II
Tiger II is the common name of a German heavy tank of the Second World War. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B,Panzerkampfwagen – abbr: Pz. or Pz.Kfw. Ausführung – abbr: Ausf. .The full titles Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf...

 tank and the Panther 2, such as the transmission, all-steel roadwheels, and running gear. Additional meetings in February began to outline the various components, including use of the 88 mm L/71 KwK 43 gun. In March 1943, MAN indicated that the first prototype would be completed by August 1943. A number of engines were under consideration, among them the new Maybach HL 234 fuel-injected engine (900 hp operated by an 8-speed hydraulic transmission).

Thus, plans to replace the original Panther design with the Panther II were already underway before the first Panther had even seen combat. But from May to June 1943, work on the Panther II ceased as the focus was shifted to expanding production of the original Panther tank. It is not clear if there was ever an official cancellation - this may have been because the Panther II upgrade pathway was originally started at Hitler's insistence. The direction that the design was headed would not have been consistent with Germany's need for a mass-produced tank, which was the goal of the Reich Ministry of Armament and War Production.

One Panther II chassis was completed and eventually captured by the U.S.; it is now on display at the Patton Museum in Fort Knox. An Ausf G turret is mounted on this chassis.

Panther Ausf. F

After the Panther II project died, a more limited upgrade of the Panther was planned, centered around a re-designed turret. The Ausf F variant was slated for production in April 1945, but the war ended these plans.

The earliest known redesign of the turret was dated November 7, 1943 and featured a narrow gun mantlet behind a 120 mm (4.7 in) thick turret front plate. Another design drawing by Rheinmettall dated March 1, 1944 reduced the width of the turret front even further; this was the Turm-Panther (Schmale Blende) (Panther with narrow gun mantlet).

Several experimental Schmalturm (literally: "narrow turret") were built in 1944 with modified versions of the 75 mm KwK 42 L/70, which were given the designation of KwK 44/1. A few were captured and shipped back to the U.S. and Britain. One is on display at the Bovington Tank Museum
Bovington Tank Museum
The Tank Museum is a collection of armoured fighting vehicles in the United Kingdom that traces the history of the tank. With almost 300 vehicles on exhibition from 26 countries it is the second-largest collection of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles in the world.The Musée des Blindés in France...

.
The Schmalturm had a much narrower front face of 120 mm (4.7 in) armor sloped at 20 degrees; side turret armor was increased to 60 mm (2.4 in) from 45 mm (1.8 in); roof turret armor increased to 40 mm (1.6 in) from 16 mm (0.62992125984252 in); and a bell shaped gun mantlet similar to that of the Tiger II
Tiger II
Tiger II is the common name of a German heavy tank of the Second World War. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B,Panzerkampfwagen – abbr: Pz. or Pz.Kfw. Ausführung – abbr: Ausf. .The full titles Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf...

 was used. This increased armor protection also had a slight weight saving due to the overall smaller size of the turret.

The Panther Ausf F would have had the Schmalturm, with its better ballistic protection, and an extended front hull roof which was slightly thicker. The Ausf F's Schmalturm was to have a built-in stereoscopic rangefinder and lower weight than the original turrets. A number of Ausf F hulls were built at Daimler-Benz and Ruhrstahl-Hattingen steelworks; however there is no evidence that any completed Ausf F saw service before the end of the war.

Proposals to equip the Schmalturm with the 88mm KwK 43 L/71 were made from January through March 1945. These would have likely equipped future German tanks but none were built, as the war ended.

E-50

The E series
Entwicklung series
The Entwicklung series, more commonly known as the E- series, was a late-World War II attempt by Germany to produce a standardised series of tank designs. There were to be standard designs in six different weight classes, from which several specialised variants were to be developed...

 of tanks — E-10 E-25, E-50, E-75, E-100 (the numbers designated their weight class) - was proposed to further streamline production with an even greater sharing of common parts and simplification of design. In this scheme, the Panther tank would have evolved into the E-50. A conical spring system was proposed to replace the complex and costly dual torsion bar system. The Schmalturm would have been used, likely with a variant of the 88 mm L/71 gun.

Derived vehicles

  • Jagdpanther
    Jagdpanther
    The Jagdpanther was a tank destroyer built by Nazi Germany during World War II based on the chassis of the Panther tank. It entered service late in the war and saw service on the Eastern and Western fronts...

     - heavy tank destroyer with the 88 mm L/71
  • Befehlspanzer Panther - command tank with additional radio equipment
  • Beobachtungspanzer Panther - observation tank for artillery spotters; dummy gun; armed with only two MG 34
    MG 34
    The Maschinengewehr 34, or MG 34, is a German air-cooled machine gun that was first produced and accepted into service in 1934, and first issued to units in 1935. It accepts the 8x57mm IS cartridge....

  • Bergepanther - armored recovery vehicle
  • Flakpanzer Coelian
    Flakpanzer Coelian
    The German Flakpanzer Coelian was a prototype for an anti-aircraft tank built by the Rheinmetall company. It was intended to be armed principally with two 3.7 cm FlaK 43 gun in a fully enclosed, rotating turret on the hull of a Panther medium tank....

    - anti-aircraft tank project, planned to be armed with twin Flak 43 37 mm AA guns in an armored turret

Postwar and foreign use

Although a technologically sophisticated vehicle for its time, the Panther's design had only a very limited influence on postwar tank development. The French postwar AMX 50
AMX 50
The AMX 50 or AMX-50 was a French heavy tank designed in the immediate post Second World War period. It was proposed as, in succession, the French medium, heavy and main battle tank and incorporated many advanced features...

 tank prototype was directly and significantly influenced by it, but never entered series production. The French did produce a modified version of the Panther's 75 mm KwK 42 L/70 gun, as the 75 mm DEFA and CN75-50 gun. This equipped the first iteration of the AMX 13 light tank as well as the Panhard EBR
Panhard EBR
The Panhard EBR is a light armoured car designed by Panhard for the French Army and later used across the globe, notably by the French Army during the Algerian War and the Portuguese Army during the Portuguese Colonial War in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau.The EBR is an 8x8 wheeled...

 armored car, and was also used by the Israeli M50 Super Sherman
M50 Super Sherman
The Sherman M-50 and the Sherman M-51, both known abroad as the Super Sherman, were modified versions of the American M4 Sherman tank that served with the Israel Defense Forces from the mid-1950s to early 1980s. The M-51 was also referred to as the Isherman...

.
In his comparison of the Panther with the Russian T-34/76, military historian Steve Zaloga argued that it could perhaps be regarded as an early precursor to the modern main battle tank
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

; a class of AFV's that did not appear until some twenty years after the war.

The Panther itself also saw some limited use outside the German military, both before and after 1945.
During the war, the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 employed a number of captured Panthers. These were repainted with prominent Soviet emblems and tactical markings to avoid friendly fire
Friendly fire
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. A death resulting from a negligent discharge is not considered friendly fire...

 incidents. The Red Army still used a few Panthers as late as spring 1945.

During March–April 1945 Bulgaria received 15 Panthers of various makes (D. A and G's) from captured and overhauled Soviet stocks; they only saw limited (training) service use. They were dug down, with automotive components removed, as pillboxes along the Bulgarian-Turkish border as early as the late '40s. The final fate of these pillbox Panthers is unknown, but sources indicate that they were replaced and scrapped in the 1950s.
In May 1946, Romania
Kingdom of Romania
The Kingdom of Romania was the Romanian state based on a form of parliamentary monarchy between 13 March 1881 and 30 December 1947, specified by the first three Constitutions of Romania...

 received 13 PzKpfw V Panther tanks from the USSR. They were initially used by the 1st Armored Brigade, but in 1947 the equipment was ceded to the Soviet-organized "Tudor Vladimirescu Division
Tudor Vladimirescu Division
The Tudor Vladimirescu Division was a Soviet-organized division of Romanians that fought against Germany and Hungary during the final year of World War II.-Creation:...

" which was transformed from a volunteer infantry division into an armored one. The Panther tank was officially known as T-5 (or T-V) Pantera in the army inventory. Up to 21 tanks appear to have been delivered. These tanks were in poor shape and remained in service until about 1950, by which time the Romanian Army had received T34/85 tanks. All of the tanks were scrapped by 1954. The tanks were different models: Ausf A, Ausf D and Ausf G. They were shown to the public on the 1st of May 1948 parade in Bucharest painted with Romanian markings. The T-5 Pantera was the heaviest tank to have seen service with Romanian troops until 1950, though the Tudor Vladimirescu division was not actually part of the Romanian army until 1949.

One captured vehicle (named "Cuckoo") also saw service with the British Coldstream Guards
Coldstream Guards
Her Majesty's Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards, also known officially as the Coldstream Guards , is a regiment of the British Army, part of the Guards Division or Household Division....

 for some time.

Japan reportedly bought a single Panther Ausf. D for reverse engineering
Reverse engineering
Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device, object, or system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation...

 purposes in 1943. However the tank apparently never actually made it to Japan. The Panther's sloped armor and turret design nevertheless did influence the design of Japan's last wartime tank prototypes; the medium Type 4 Chi-To
Type 4 Chi-To
The was one of several new medium tanks developed by the Imperial Japanese Army towards the end of World War II. The Type 4 Chi-To was by far the most advanced Japanese wartime tank to reach the production phase...

 and heavy Type 5 Chi-Ri
Type 5 Chi-Ri
The was the penultimate medium tank developed by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. Intended to be a heavier, more powerful version of Japan's sophisticated Type 4 Chi-To medium tank, in performance it was designed to surpass the US M4 Sherman medium tanks being fielded by the Allied...

.

After the war, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 was able to recover enough operable vehicles and components to equip the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

's 503e Régiment de Chars de Combat with a force of fifty Panthers. These remained in service until about 1950, by which time they had all been replaced by French-built ARL 44
ARL 44
The ARL 44 was a French heavy tank produced just after World War II. Only sixty of these tanks were ever manufactured and the type was quickly phased out.-Development:...

 heavy tank
Heavy tank
A heavy tank was a subset of tank that filled the heavy direct-fire role of many armies.Heavy tanks have usually been deployed to breakthrough enemy lines, though in practice have been more useful in the defensive role than in the attack...

s.

In 1946, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 sent a delegation to France to examine surviving specimens of German military vehicles. During their visit, the delegates found a few surviving Panthers and had one shipped to Sweden for further testing and evaluation. Testing continued until 1961. The tank is currently on display in the Deutsches Panzermuseum
Deutsches Panzermuseum
The German Tank Museum is an armoured fighting vehicle museum in Munster, Germany, the location of the Munster Training Area camp. Its main aim is the documentation of the history of German armoured troops since 1917....

 in Munster
Munster, Lower Saxony
Munster, also called Munster , is a small town in the district of Heidekreis, in Lower Saxony, Germany almost equidistant from Hamburg and Hanover. The town is home to the German Army's largest garrison and is situated between the two training areas of Munster North and Munster South. It is also...

.

Surviving vehicles

In working order.
  • Military Vehicle Technology Foundation
    Military Vehicle Technology Foundation
    The Military Vehicle Technology Foundation is a large collection of military vehicles located in Portola Valley, California. It was founded by the late Jacques Littlefield, and now is under the direction of Bill Boller....

    , USA. Ausf. A
  • Musée des Blindés
    Musée des Blindés
    The Musée des Blindés or Musée Général Estienne is a tank museum located in the Loire Valley of France, in the city of Saumur. It is one of the world's largest tank museums....

    , France. Ausf. A
  • Deutsches Panzermuseum
    Deutsches Panzermuseum
    The German Tank Museum is an armoured fighting vehicle museum in Munster, Germany, the location of the Munster Training Area camp. Its main aim is the documentation of the history of German armoured troops since 1917....

    , Munster, Germany. Ausf. A Command Tank
  • Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung, Koblenz, Germany. Ausf. G. Completed after the war in the Panther factory under supervision by UK REME engineers, used for tests
  • Friedrich Christian Flick Private Collection, Germany. Ausf. G. Completed after the war in the Panther factory under supervision by UK REME engineers, used for tests
  • Kubinka Tank Museum
    Kubinka Tank Museum
    The Kubinka Tank Museum is a large museum of armoured fighting vehicles in Kubinka, just outside Moscow. It has many famous tanks from World War I, World War II and the Cold War. The museum also houses many unique vehicles, such as the Panzer VIII Maus, Troyanov super-heavy tank and a Karl-Gerät...

    , Russia. Ausf.G


Not running, more or less complete.
  • Wilhelmina park, Breda
    Breda
    Breda is a municipality and a city in the southern part of the Netherlands. The name Breda derived from brede Aa and refers to the confluence of the rivers Mark and Aa. As a fortified city, the city was of strategic military and political significance...

    , The Netherlands. The only known complete surviving Ausf. D. This tank was donated by the Polish 1st Armored Division after liberating Breda. It was restored in 2004–2005 for static display by Kevin Wheatcroft in exchange for automotive components.
  • Panzermuseum Thun, Thun
    Thun
    Thun is a municipality in the administrative district of Thun in the canton of Bern in Switzerland with about 42,136 inhabitants , as of 1 January 2006....

    , Switzerland. Advertised as an Ausf. D/G hybrid, with a D hull and G turret. There are many questions surrounding this vehicle. The turret has a replacement sheet metal mantlet, vaguely resembling a late Ausf. G mantlet, with no ports for gunners sight or coaxial MG. The pistol port on the turret rear indicates an Ausf. A or early Ausf G. The hull with the "letterbox" MG slot indicates an Ausf. D or early Ausf. A. The turret and hull numbers could help identify the correct model designation for the hybrid but neither of the numbers have been made public.
  • Kevin Wheatcroft, private collector, UK. One being restored. Early Ausf. A (DEMAG production). Two more to follow, one Ausf. A and one Ausf. A converted to a D.

  • Canadian War Museum
    Canadian War Museum
    The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history. Located in Ottawa, Ontario, the museum covers all facets of Canada’s military past, from the first recorded instances of death by armed violence in Canadian history several thousand years ago to the country’s most recent...

    . In January 2008 a partially restored Panther Ausf. A was put on display. It had been donated to the museum from CFB Borden
    CFB Borden
    Canadian Forces Base Borden is a Canadian Forces base located in Ontario.The historic birthplace of the Royal Canadian Air Force, CFB Borden is the largest training facility in the Canadian Forces...

    , which acquired it following V-E celebrations in May 1945. It had spent two years in restoration prior to being put on public display.
  • Rex & Rod Cadman Collection, UK. Ausf. A
  • US Army Ordnance Museum, Aberdeen, USA. Ausf. A
  • Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum
    Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum
    The Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim is a technology museum in Sinsheim, Germany. Opened in 1981, it is run by a registered association called "Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim e.V." which also runs the Technik Museum Speyer. , it has more than 3,000 exhibits and an exhibition area of more than 50,000 m²...

    , Sinsheim, Germany. Ausf. A
  • Musée des Blindés
    Musée des Blindés
    The Musée des Blindés or Musée Général Estienne is a tank museum located in the Loire Valley of France, in the city of Saumur. It is one of the world's largest tank museums....

    , Saumur, France. Ausf. A
  • Musée des Blindés, Saumur, France. Ausf. A
  • Mourmelon-le-Grand
    Mourmelon-le-Grand
    Mourmelon-le-Grand is a commune in the Marne department in north-eastern France.-Camp Châlons:'Camp Châlons' is a military camp of circa 10,000 hectares nearby Mourmelon-le-Grand...

    , France. Ausf. A
  • Musée des Blindés, Saumur, France. Ausf. G
  • Bovington Tank Museum
    Bovington Tank Museum
    The Tank Museum is a collection of armoured fighting vehicles in the United Kingdom that traces the history of the tank. With almost 300 vehicles on exhibition from 26 countries it is the second-largest collection of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles in the world.The Musée des Blindés in France...

    , UK. Ausf. G. Completed after the war in the Panther factory under supervision by UK REME engineers, used for tests.


  • Houffalize
    Houffalize
    Houffalize is a Walloon municipality of Belgium located in the province of Luxembourg.-History:On 1 January 2007 the municipality, which covers 166.58 km², had 4,802 inhabitants, giving a population density of 28.8 inhabitants per km²....

     in the Ardennes region of Belgium. A Panther Ausf. G can be found in the village. It fell into the river during the Battle of the Bulge
    Battle of the Bulge
    The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive , launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name , and France and...

     and was later retrieved as a memorial.
  • US Army Ordnance Museum, Aberdeen, USA. An Ausf. G with one of two surviving turrets with the flattened lower ('chin') mantlet
  • The National War and Resistance Museum
    Overloon War Museum
    The National War and Resistance Museum of the Netherlands is located at Overloon, municipality Boxmeer....

    , Overloon, in the Netherlands, has an Ausf. G that was knocked out by a PIAT
    PIAT
    The Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank was a British hand-held anti-tank weapon developed during the Second World War. The PIAT was designed in 1942 in response to the British Army's need for a more effective infantry anti-tank weapon, and entered service in 1943.The PIAT was based on the spigot...

     projectile during the battle of Overloon
    Battle of Overloon
    The Battle of Overloon was a Second World War battle between Allied forces and the German army which took place in and around the village of Overloon in the south-east of the Netherlands between 30 September and 18 October 1944. The battle, which resulted in an Allied victory, ensued after the...

    .
  • General George Patton Museum, Fort Knox, KY, USA. Ausf. G
  • General George Patton Museum, Fort Knox, KY, USA. Panther II chassis with a late Ausf. G turret, the second surviving turret with the flattened lower ('chin') mantlet. Restored with many components from the Ausf. G in the Museum collection.


Wrecks.
  • Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum
    Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum
    The Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim is a technology museum in Sinsheim, Germany. Opened in 1981, it is run by a registered association called "Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim e.V." which also runs the Technik Museum Speyer. , it has more than 3,000 exhibits and an exhibition area of more than 50,000 m²...

    , Sinsheim, Germany. Ausf. A
  • August 1944 Museum, Falaise, France. Ausf. A
  • Kevin Wheatcroft, private collector, UK. Ausf. A. Will be restored. All components needed are already sourced or remanufactured.
  • Kevin Wheatcroft, private collector, UK. Ausf. A. Will be restored to an Ausf. D. All components needed are already sourced or remanufactured.
  • Grandmenil, Belgium. Ausf. G
  • Celles, Houyet
    Celles, Houyet
    Celles is a village in the municipality of Houyet in the province of Namur, Belgium.It is a member of the heritage group Les Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonie ....

    , Belgium. Ausf. G

Detailed specifications

  • Crew: 5

Dimensions
  • Length
    • including gun: 8.66 m
    • hull only: 6.87 m
  • Width:
    • hull: 3.27 m,
    • with skirt plates: 3.42 m
  • Height: 2.99 m
  • Combat weight:
    • Ausf. D 43.0 t
    • Ausf. A 45.5 tonnes
    • Ausf. G 44.8 t (46.58 t with steel road wheels)


Performance
  • Road speed: 55 km/h at 3,000 rpm (46 km/h at 2,500 rpm)
  • Road range: 200 km

Obstacle crossing
  • Vertical obstacle: 0.9 m
  • Trench crossing : 1.9 m
  • Fording: 1.7 m


Suspension and tracks
  • type: dual torsion-bar
  • Shock absorbers: on 2nd and 7th swing arms on either side
  • Track type: Kgs 64/660/150 dual center guide
  • Track width: 660 mm
  • Ground contact length: 3.92 m
  • Track links: 86
  • Ground pressure: 0.88 kg/cm²

Engine and transmission
  • Maybach HL 230 P30 V-12, four-stroke internal combustion
  • Displacement: 23.095 litres
  • Compression ratio: 6.8:1
  • Fuel: gasoline
    Gasoline
    Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

    , 74 octane
  • Power: 700 PS at 3,000 rpm, 600 PS at 2,500 rpm
  • Fuel consumption (road): 3.5 l/km
  • Fuel capacity: 720 litres
  • Transmission: ZF AK 7-200 synchromesh manual
  • Gears: 7 forward, 1 reverse
  • Steering: MAN single-radius clutch-brake
  • Main clutch: Fichtel & Sachs LAG 3/70H
  • Steering ratio: 1:1.5

Armament
  • Main gun: 7.5 cm Kwk 42 L/70
    • Breech: semiautomatic
    • Traverse: 360°, 24°/second
    • Elevation: +18°/-8°
    • Rounds carried: 79; Ausf. G: 82
  • Primary gun sight: Leitz TZF 12; Ausf. A and G: TZF 12a
    • Magnification: 2.5×/5×
    • Field of view: 28°/14°
  • Radio equipment
    • Fu 5 transmitter/receiver
    • Fu 2 receiver

Armor:

  • Hull front, lower: 60 mm at 35°; upper: 80 mm at 35°
  • Hull side, lower: 40 mm at 90°; upper: 40 mm at 50°; Ausf. G: 50 mm at 60°
  • Hull rear: 40 mm at 60°
  • Turret front: 80 mm at 78°; Ausf. A: 110 mm at 78°; Ausf. G: 100 mm at 80°
  • Turret side: 45 mm at 65°
  • Turret rear: 45 mm at 65°
  • Turret, top: 15 mm at 5°; Ausf. G: 30 mm at 5°
  • Gun mantlet: 120 mm rounded


All angles from horizontal.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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