Categories
WW2 German Panzer V

VK30.01(D) and VK30.02(M) – Panther Prototypes

Nazi Germany (1942)
Medium Tank Prototypes – 4 Built

“…I was quite startled, however, by an unusual event in connection with the tank in question. In the spring of 1941, Hitler had given his express permission that a Russian officer’s commission be permitted to visit our tank training schools and armor production facilities, and had ordered that the Russians be allowed to see everything. During this visit, the Russians, when shown our Panzer IV, simply refused to believe that this vehicle was our heaviest tank. They repeatedly claimed that we were keeping our newest design from them, which Hitler had promised to demonstrate. The commission’s insistence was so great that our manufacturers and officials in the Waffenamt finally concluded that the Russians had heavier and better types than we did…”

– General Heinz Guderian, Erinnerung eines Soldaten/Panzer Leader

This should have been the first warning sign to the Germans that the Soviet Red Army was not as far behind technologically as they had believed. In 1941, World War II was in full swing, Germany had swept through most of Europe, and with the Channel blocking their advance into England, the only way left to go was east, turning on their one-time ally, the Soviet Union.

As early as July of 1940, Hitler had been thinking about invading the Soviet Union; he was counting on their obsolete and disorganized military to quickly fall to the blitzkrieg as the rest of Europe already had. Although Germany and the Soviet Union had signed a non-aggression pact in 1939, both countries still held a distrust of one another. This would be validated on the Soviet’s part when the Germans invaded on June 22nd, 1941.

At the start of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Germany’s primary tanks were the Panzer III and the Panzer IV, both of which were mid-1930s designs. Even so, they were still seen as superior to anything the Russians could field. Indeed, the Panzer III’s 3.7 cm KwK 36 cannon would have no trouble at all punching through T-26s and BT tanks; but time had not stood still since the Germans were last allowed to examine the Soviet’s tanks. Whether through arrogance or ignorance, the Germans had failed to realize that Soviet tank development in 1941 had far outpaced their own. Only one day into Operation Barbarossa they would see this firsthand.

June 23rd, 1941, would see the combat debut of the T-34 and KV-1, the latter all but impregnable to German 3.7 cm and 5 cm anti-tank guns. The T-34 in particular was seen by the Germans as a massive leap forward in tank design, combining maneuverability, a powerful cannon, and good protection on account of its comprehensive use of sloped armor. The appearance of these new enemy tanks left the German army scrambling to find a solution to defeat them. The companies of Henschel and Porsche had been involved in work on a heavy breakthrough tank since early 1937 and late 1939 respectively, but this had not been seriously pursued up until this point. However, the appearance of the new Soviet tanks, and the promise of even better ones to come, led to much more focus being laid on the design that would eventually become the Tiger. Moreover, a new, more modern tank design was needed, incorporating the advantages of sloped armor but retaining the maneuverability that had made the Panzer III and IV so successful.

On July 18th, 1941, Rheinmetall-Borsig was contracted to develop a new tank cannon specifically to defeat the heavy Soviet armor encountered on the Eastern Front. It was to be capable of penetrating 140 mm (5.51 in) of armor at 1 kilometer (0.62 miles). They were also asked to develop a turret to house it. This gun and turret was to be mounted on the VK45.01(H2) [Tiger], but that project instead went with an 8.8 cm gun in a different turret, leaving the 7,5cm gun for what would become the Panther. For this purpose, the turret would be redesigned, becoming more squat and losing the side hatches and rear machine gun mount.

The 7.5 cm cannon was originally designed with a barrel length of L/60, or 60 calibers; this gave it a barrel length of 4,500 mm (177.2 inches). However, as the gun turned out to be slightly anemic, the barrel length was increased to L/70; resulting in a length of 5,250 mm (206.7 inches). This gun would be standardized as the 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70.

The Rheinmetall-Borsig turret and 7,5cm cannon, here still 60 calibers in length, mounted on the VK45.01(H2) wooden mockup. To the left of the VK45.01(H2) appears to be another Tiger hull mockup, with another version of the turret that more closely resembles the turret that would be used on the Panther. Source
Rear view of the Rheinmetall-Borsig turret and 7,5cm cannon mounted on the VK45.01(H2) wooden mockup. Source

Upon experiencing the shock of encountering the T-34 firsthand at the Battle of Mtsensk on October 6th, 1941, General Heinz Guderian, the commander of the 2nd Panzer Army, sent for a commission to come and study the T-34 tanks that had been knocked out, and to talk to the men that had been involved in fighting them to determine what advantages the Soviet tanks possessed over the German vehicles, and what could be incorporated into new German designs.

The Special Armor Investigation Committee was led by Oberst Sebastian Fichtner, head of Waffen Prüfämter (Weapons Testing Office) 6, or Wa. Prüf. 6, the German organization in charge of tank development. The team included Heinrich Ernst Kniepkamp (senior engineer at Wa. Prüf. 6), Major Ruden (also of Wa. Prüf. 6), Otto Wunderlich (representing Daimler-Benz), Erwin Aders (representing Henschel), Director Dorn (representing Krupp), Engineer Oswald (representing Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (M.A.N.)), Ferdinand Porsche (representing Porsche), Engineer Zimmer (representing Rheinmetall-Borsig), Oskar Hacker (representing Steyr), and Walter Rohland (representing Vereinigte Stahlwerke).

The commission arrived at the front on November 18th, 1941, and stayed until the 21st. During this time they heard the experiences of officers of the engineering corps, as well as suggestions from a tank repair company on how best to improve air filters to deal with the dusty conditions of the Russian summer. They examined a recent battlefield and met with repair and recovery personnel of the XXIV Panzer Korps.

While at the front, the commission examined several knocked out T-34s. They quickly determined three design advantages the T-34 possessed over the Panzer III. The first, which has been pointed out already, was the sloped armor, which afforded greater protection than flat armor of the same thickness. The second was the suspension; the T-34 had five large roadwheels and no return rollers, giving a smoother ride and greater suspension travel. In addition, its wide tracks gave low ground pressure, ensuring that it did not bog down on soft terrain. The third promising feature of the T-34 was the long gun barrel overhanging the front of the tank. This had previously been avoided by German tank designers as it could complicate maneuvering in forests and cities. A longer barrel affords more time for the shell to accelerate before leaving the cannon, resulting in better muzzle velocity and thus better armor penetration.

General Guderian laid out for them the issues experienced so far and requested the following:

  • Current tanks should be up-gunned.
  • New tanks must be made with wider tracks and lower ground pressure to deal with the Rasputitsa mud. Tanks must be able to drive cross-country and on unimproved trails in all seasons.
  • The new tank must have heavier armament, improved armor protection, and higher tactical mobility compared to previous designs. It should also have a more powerful motor and maintain a high power-to-weight ratio.

With their work done, the commission returned to Germany to distribute their findings.

Sebastian Fichtner was opposed to starting development on an entirely new tank, as the VK24.01, the fruit of the previous VK20 project to replace the Panzers III and IV, was nearly completed. However, the Reich Minister for Armaments and Ammunition, Fritz Todt, disregarded Fichtner’s concerns and gave the go-ahead to start work on a new tank.

Wa. Prüf. 6 therefore put forth a design competition on November 25th, 1941, issuing contracts to the firms of Daimler-Benz and M.A.N. to develop a new tank with the following parameters:

  • Combat weight of 30 to 35 metric tonnes
  • Maximum width of 3,150 mm (10’4’’)
  • Maximum height of 2,990 mm (9’9.7’’)
  • Minimum ground clearance of 500 mm (19.7 inches)
  • 60 mm (2.36 inch) thick frontal armor, sloped at 35° from the horizontal
  • 40 mm (1.57 inch) thick side armor, sloped at 50° from the horizontal
  • 16 mm (0.63 inch) thick floor and roof armor
  • Main armament was to be Rheinmetall’s 7,5cm cannon
  • Engine expected to be between 650 and 700 metric horsepower
  • Steering mechanism was expected to be the L 600 C unit
  • Speeds of between 4 kph (2.5 mph) in lowest gear and 55 kph (34.2 mph) in top gear
  • Cooling system capable of operating in temperatures up to 42° C (107.6° F)
  • Capable of running for 5 consecutive hours

The design was expected to be ready by Spring of 1942.

Remarkably, on the very same day the new design competition was ordered, M.A.N. had drafted a new version of their VK20.02 incorporating sloped armor (Drawing No. Tu 13947). This design strongly resembles M.A.N.’s later design for the VK30.02 [Panther], and even more so the little brother of this design, the Gefechtsaufklärer Leopard. Assuredly this is no coincidence, as both M.A.N. and Daimler-Benz used experience gained with the VK20 series of tanks in creating their VK30 designs. Source: Panzer Tracts 5-1

Development of the M.A.N. Design


Illustration of the M.A.N. design by Andrei Kirushkin

In response to a postwar inquiry as to what inspired the Panther design, M.A.N. stated that, “Previous steps were design studies conducted under the names VK20.01, VK24.01, and VK30.01. Based on requirements established by Wa. Prüf. 6, they were reworked to slope the walls like the Russian design [T-34].” No other mention of VK24.01 or of a VK30.01(M) have been found. If they existed at all, they have been lost to time.

M.A.N.’s design team, led by Paul Max Wiebicke, utilized the turret developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig for mounting the 7.5 cm cannon. The turret was placed in the center of the tank as far back as possible to reduce the length of the barrel overhanging the front of the tank. Secondary armament consisted of two 7.92 mm (0.31 inch) MG 34 machine guns. One was mounted coaxially to the right of the main cannon, and the other was given to the radio operator to fire through a bow position.

Crew layout was typical for German tanks, driver and radio operator/machine gunner in the hull, with the driver on the left and the machine gunner on the right; gunner, commander, and loader in the turret, with the gunner and commander on the left and loader on the right of the gun. Hatches were placed in the roof above the driver and radio operator; this provided an easier means to evacuate wounded crew members than the side hatches the Daimler-Benz design used. An escape hatch for the turret crew was placed on the rear of the turret.

Frontal hull armor was 60 mm (2.36 inches) thick, sloped back by 55° from the vertical (both upper and lower glacis). Side hull armor was 40 mm (1.57 inch) thick, vertical behind the tracks and sloped back by 40° above them. The rear of the hull was 40 mm (1.57 inch) thick with a 30° reverse slope. The hull roof and belly were both 16 mm (0.63 inch) thick at 0°; as was the turret roof, although the forward section was slightly angled, at 85° from the vertical. The front of the turret was 80 mm (3.15 inches) thick, sloped at 12°; the sides and rear were 45 mm (1.77 inch) sloped at 25°. The overall dimensions of the design were 6.839 meters (22’5.3’’) long excluding gun barrel, or 8.625 meters (28’3.6’’) including the barrel; 3.270 meters (10’8.7’’) wide, and 2.885 meters (9’5.6’’) tall including the turret, or 2.314 meters (7’7.1’’) tall excluding the turret.

The powerplant was originally suggested to be a 650 hp liquid-cooled two-stroke V8 diesel engine being developed at M.A.N.’s Augsburg plant. Despite the fact this engine had been in development since 1940, originally being designed for 450 hp output, Fichtner urged M.A.N. to push for 700 hp. Development of this engine was slow and it became too large and heavy, eventually being abandoned. Instead, M.A.N. went with Maybach’s HL 210 engine; bringing in Maybach to do the work of mounting the engine and designing the cooling system and other accessories. Air for the engine was sucked in from under two protective domes mounted in the middle of the engine deck, while two fans, one on either side of the engine block, circulated air through the radiators. Interestingly, the fans were driven by bevel gears and shafts, as opposed to fan belts. The Maybach engine would power a driveshaft passing through a 250×250 mm (9.8 inch) square shroud under the fighting compartment, and into a front-mounted transmission, as was common for German tanks. The transmission was an AK 7/200 unit of the standard mechanical type. It was coupled to an L 600 C hydraulic, controlled differential, regenerative steering mechanism that was also used on the VK45.01(H) [Tiger]. M.A.N. had originally wanted to use solid disk brakes for steering but was told that these would cause issues with heat from friction.

The VK30.02(M)’s suspension consisted of three rows of 860 mm (33.9 inch) diameter roadwheels, mounted on double torsion bar suspension. With tracks that had two rows of guide horns, one row of wheels ran on the outside of either row of guide horns, and the center row of wheels ran between them. The roadwheels of the center row were double units, resembling two normal roadwheels bolted together. The leading axle carried a central double wheel. The second axle carried a pair of single wheels flanking the first roadwheel on either side; this was repeated four times down the length of the suspension. This design was described as an ‘interleaved eight wheel setup’, as there were eight axles, even though each axle carried more than one wheel. Hemscheidt HT 90 shock absorbers were mounted to the second and sixth axles. Suspension bumpers had to be placed under the first, second, and seventh roadwheel arms to keep the roadwheels from traveling too far, overloading, and breaking the torsion bars. This limited suspension travel to a still impressive 510 mm (20.1 inches).

This complicated suspension system, combined with a wide track (660 mm (26 inch)) gave the tank a smooth ride and a consistent, low ground pressure of 0.68 kg/cm2 (9.67 psi). Although this type of suspension was already being used on half-tracks and on the Tiger tank, there was still trepidation from some regarding its use over more traditional designs. Equally, there were people who felt it was the way forward, such as Sebastian Fichtner and Heinrich Kniepkamp.

The VK30.02(M) carried 750 liters (198.1 gallons) of fuel, giving it an impressive projected on-road range of 270 km (167.7 miles) and an off-road range of 195 km (121.2 miles)*. Top speed was 55.8 kph (34.7 mph) and sustained road cruising speed was 40 kph (24.9 mph). The design was capable of a vertical step of 826 mm (32.5 inches) and a gradeability of 35°. Ground clearance was 500 mm (19.7 inches). The floor space of the fighting compartment was calculated as 7.26 square meters (78.1 square feet), but this did not include the steering mechanism, transmission, and other components, which if factored in would reduce the overall fighting space dramatically.

Shortly after work started on the VK30, M.A.N. was also tasked with creating a light scout version of the tank; this would become the VK16.02. The VK16.02 generally resembled a smaller version of the VK30.02(M), and very strongly resembled the VK20.02. In January 1942, Wa. Prüf. 6 transferred development responsibility for the VK16.02 to MIAG, to allow M.A.N. to focus on the VK30.02. In theory, Daimler-Benz also would have been developing a version of the VK16.02 based on their own tank, however no documentation regarding this survives.

On January 22nd, 1942, Paul Max Wiebicke and Otto Meyer (the General Manager of M.A.N.) met with Fichtner, Kniepkamp, Oberst Joachim von Wilcke, and a Major Crohn (the latter two also being members of Wa. Prüf. 6, although their roles are unclear) to discuss their VK30 design. The M.A.N. representatives reported that although they had settled on 32.5 metric tons as the weight of their design on December 9th, 1941, changes to the design had increased the projected weight to 36 metric tons. Wa. Prüf. 6 had apparently already been informed of the change, and constructed the scale model of the M.A.N. design so to reflect this. Wiebicke and Meyer were also shown the scale model of the Daimler-Benz design at this time, remarking that it was “very attractive”. The two tank models were to be shown to Hitler at a meeting at his headquarters the next day, on January 23rd. During the meeting on the 23rd, Fritz Todt decided that another meeting between the two companies should be held, so that the two designs could be standardized against each other. The date for this was set as February 2nd, 1942.

The scale model of the M.A.N. design. Source

While the steering mechanism for the VK30 was intended to be the L 600 C, M.A.N. had been developing simplified alternative designs, claiming that only by using their simplified steering mechanism could they build their tank with a pointed front hull. Wa. Prüf. 6 agreed to this, as long as the steering mechanism was ready before August 1942.

With most people of influence preferring the Daimler-Benz proposal, M.A.N. decided they needed to do something to make their design more appealing. What they came up with was sealing the engine compartment with a rubber lining to allow deep wading. With the engine compartment watertight, it would be able to operate underwater so long as the air intake on the top of the engine deck wasn’t submerged. The radiators, which were mounted vertically on either side of the engine, were not encompassed by this watertight compartment; instead they were exposed to the water whereby they could radiate heat. Because the cooling system was designed to flood whenever the tank entered water, all parts involved had to be impervious to water damage. All that had to be done to ready the tank for deep wading was shutting off the engine fans, which could be done from the driver’s position, and closing open ports, such as the air intake covers. Unfortunately, as would be discovered later, the rubber that kept the water out was also very good at keeping heat in. Heat buildup in the engine, from a wading system that was never even requested, would lead to many breakdowns and issues before it was fixed.

On February 2nd**, Paul Wiebicke, as well as Friedrich Reif (another worker from M.A.N.), went to the Heereswaffenamt building in Berlin to meet with Fichtner, Kniepkamp, von Wilcke, Crohn, and the design team from Daimler-Benz. When they arrived, they were informed that the meeting with Daimler-Benz had been cancelled, as Wilhelm Kissel (head of the Daimler-Benz board of directors) had managed to convince Reichsminister Todt to end the collaboration between M.A.N. and Daimler-Benz, and to allow Daimler to start work on building their prototypes. Regardless, the M.A.N. team had a constructive meeting regarding their tank design, and Sebastian Fichtner reassured them that Daimler was only being given permission to construct prototypes, not that they had been declared the winner of the competition. However, only a few days later, on the evening of February 10th, Fichtner again spoke to the M.A.N. representatives and informed them that after further discussion, Todt had approved the Daimler-Benz design for mass production.

**Germany’s Panther Tank gives this date as February 3rd, while it is in agreement with other sources that the meeting was supposed to take place on February 2nd. This could be a typo, but it is also possible the meeting had been postponed a day, before being cancelled.

The trip to Berlin had not been a total loss however, as M.A.N. was able to submit their final design to Wa. Prüf. 6, only one day after Daimler-Benz had done the same. Even though it was their ‘final’ design which they submitted as their entry, they were still making changes to it, some details of which were discussed at this meeting. The previous requirement that the M.A.N. design needed to be able to use the Daimler-Benz diesel engine was dropped, on account of the fact that cooperation between the companies was ended. Wiebicke and Meyer knew that Daimler wanted to deliver their first prototype by May of 1942, so they declared M.A.N. would also make this promise. Minor changes to the design suggested by Wa. Prüf. 6 had been incorporated or clarified by February 20th. The winner of the VK30 competition would be chosen following a presentation of the two designs in Berlin on March 3rd.

Development of the Daimler-Benz Design


Illustration of the Daimler-Benz Design by Andrei Kirushkin

Daimler-Benz’s VK30 design was a much closer copy of the T-34 than M.A.N.’s design. It retained the all-round sloping armor, forward mounted turret, and rear-mounted transmission – a feature uncommon in German tanks. The VK30.01(D) was armed with the Rheinmetall 7.5 cm cannon as per Wa. Prüf. 6’s design requirements, however Daimler opted to go with their own turret design instead of using the one developed by Rheinmetall. Secondary armament was identical to the M.A.N. design, two 7.92 mm (0.31 inch) MG 34 machine guns, one mounted coaxially to the right of the main gun, and another fired by the radio operator through a slot in the hull. Daimler-Benz’s turret had a turret ring diameter of 1600 mm (63 inches), 50 mm (2 inches) less than that of the Rheinmetall turret used on M.A.N.’s design; this would be its downfall.

Frontal hull armor was 60 mm (2.36 inches) thick, sloped back by 55° from the vertical (both upper and lower glacis). Side hull armor was 40 mm (1.57 inches) thick, vertical behind the tracks and sloped back by 40° above them. The rear of the hull was thicker than the sides, 50 mm (1.97 inches) sloped at 25°. The turret roof, hull roof, and belly were all 16 mm (0.63 inch) thick. The turret was sloped 30° all around, with frontal thickness of 80 mm (3.15 inches) and sides and rear of 45 mm (1.77 inches). The overall dimensions of the design were: 9.015 meters (29’6.9’’) long (including gun barrel), 3.280 meters (10’9.1’’) wide, and 2.690 meters (8’9.9’’) tall.

The VK30.01(D)’s suspension was similar to the suspension of the M.A.N. design in that it consisted of four sets of interleaved roadwheels, arranged in three rows. These roadwheels were 900 mm (35.4 inches) in diameter. The roadwheels of the center layer were built differently to the inner and outer layer wheels. Rather than being two single wheels joined together, as in the M.A.N. design, they had a groove down the middle, to accommodate the single row of guide horns on the tracks. Each set of roadwheels, meaning the leading central wheel, and the single wheels that flanked it on either side, was supported on its own U-shaped rocker bar. There were four such units on each side of the tank, each unit being connected to the hull by a suspension arm, the end of which opposite the rocker bar rested in a square bracket bolted to the side of the hull. Two of these brackets existed per side, with the forward one supporting the front two suspension units, and the rearward one supporting the rear two suspension units.

The suspension itself was leaf springs; three bundles per side. The first suspension unit was sprung on a small leaf spring bundle, bolted to the hull forward of the first square support bracket. The central two suspension units were each sprung on one side of a large central leaf spring bundle, mounted between the two support brackets. Finally, the rear suspension unit mirrored the first, and was sprung on another small leaf spring bundle, rearward of the second support bracket. The leaf spring suspension had the advantages of being easy to repair and maintain, and was already familiar to tank crews.

Relatively narrow tracks (540 mm (21.3 inches)) gave the 35 metric ton tank a ground pressure of 0.83 kg/cm2 (11.8 psi). The design was capable of a vertical step of 730 mm (28.7 inches) and a 40° grade, 5° better than the M.A.N. design. Ground clearance was 530 mm (20.9 inches).

VK30.01(D) suspension models, made by Tanks Encyclopedia’s own C. Ryan

Power would be provided by a Daimler-Benz MB 507 water-cooled V12 diesel engine, working through a rear-mounted KSG 8/200 hydraulic-assist transmission with an L 600 C hydraulic, controlled differential, regenerative steering mechanism. This transmission, developed jointly between Daimler-Benz and Ortlinghaus, incorporated a hydraulic multi-plate clutch, which afforded smooth gear changes and was easy to use. This choice of transmission was influenced by Daimler-Benz’s previous experience with the VK20.01(D). However, the hydraulic system had downsides as well; it was rather long compared to similar mechanical transmissions, and was not widely used. The only experience German heavy industry had with this type of transmission at the time was in small diesel switcher locomotives. To keep the tank compact, the engine was offset to the starboard side, with the output facing forward, from whence the powertrain was turned around and went through the transmission, which was mounted beside the engine.

VK30.01(D) engine-transmission layout blueprint. Source

The VK30.01(D) could carry 550 liters (145.3 gallons) of fuel, giving it a projected on-road range of 195 km (121.2 miles) and an off-road range of 140 km (87 miles)*. It also carried additional fuel tanks on the rear of the hull that could be jettisoned before going into battle. These auxiliary fuel tanks were likely intended to offset the fact that the M.A.N. design had a 200 liter (52.8 gallon) internal fuel capacity advantage over the Daimler-Benz design. Top speed was 56 kph (34.8 mph) and sustained road cruising speed was 40 kph (24.9 mph).

Cooling was provided by air sucked in through the tops of the protrusions on either side of the hull behind the turret. The air was passed over laterally-mounted radiators on either side of the engine and exhausted out the back. Four fans circulated air to the engine, one powered directly by the engine and the other three via V-belts. For deep wading, all hatches were sealed and air inlets and outlets would be closed off from the outside by valves. This would leave the engine running uncooled, giving a running time of a mere ten minutes before damage started to occur.

Crew was to consist of five men, as usual for German tanks; driver, radio operator/machine gunner, gunner, loader, and commander. Two convenient side hatches were provided in both the hull and turret to allow the crew to escape should the tank be knocked out. Because the turret was mounted so far forward, it was considered moving the driver into the turret with the rest of the crew, but after the initial design study this idea was not pursued. The area of the fighting compartment, from the engine firewall forward, was calculated as 6.43 square meters (69.2 square feet).

The scale model of the Daimler-Benz design. Source: Peter Chamberlain

On the 28th and 29th of January, 1942, Wilhelm Kissel and Richard Oberländer (technical manager of Daimler-Benz Werke 40, the main Berlin-Marienfelde plant) met with Reichsminister Todt and Sebastian Fichtner to discuss their proposed tank design. Fichtner pointed out that Daimler’s design had narrower tracks than M.A.N.’s; he also stated that he believed torsion bar suspension was superior to leaf spring suspension, as torsion bars allow greater internal width of the hull. The Daimer representatives disagreed with him on the superiority of torsion bars, as leaf springs allowed their design to be 200 mm (7.9 inches) lower than if it had used torsion bars, and leaf springs did not require the complicated shock absorbers that torsion bars did. Daimler believed that because their track had longer length in contact with the ground their design still had better ground pressure than the M.A.N. design, despite having narrower tracks. However, in actuality the track length in contact with the ground for both the VK30.01(D) and VK30.02(M) was the same, 3,920 mm (154.3 inches).

When recounting this meeting after the fact, Daimler representatives said that, “When compared to the competition, our tank with the longer suspension has improved performance when rolling over uneven terrain, crossing trenches, and climbing obstacles.” One interpretation of this statement is that the Daimler representatives were speaking of the aforementioned belief their tank had a longer track run than the M.A.N. design; however, another interpretation is that this statement seems to imply that Daimler had multiple suspension designs. It is possible that this is the explanation for why the unfinished chassis seen at the end of the war has return rollers, while no other depiction of the VK30.01(D) is shown to have them. The author puts forward the theory that the VK30.01(D), as it is most commonly depicted with no return rollers, is the “standard model”, while the unfinished chassis was to be built with the aforementioned “long suspension”, which must have necessitated return rollers by placing the roadwheels further from the drive sprocket.

During this meeting, the rear-mounted transmission was discussed at length; Fichtner was opposed to this feature as it could lead to tracks being thrown. (All the way back in 1928, the Germans had experienced this problem with the original Leichttraktor. They found that the rear-mounted transmission would cause the track to be “thrown”, or unseat itself from the drive sprocket. To correct this they instead went to front-mounted transmissions and stuck with them until the end of the war.) Daimler felt that wherever the transmission was mounted, there was no difference in the reliability and handling of the tank, as shown by Russian tanks. On this topic, Daimler-Benz representatives said, “Employment of the rear drive provides additional crew space and also a better slope to the hull front armor, which is especially important in preventing penetration of armor-piercing shells. If no option is possible for the choice of motor, our design also allows the installation of the Maybach [HL 210] motor. However, in basic principle, only our MB 507 and MB 503 motors will be proposed.”

The turret Daimler used was also discussed, with Daimler insisting on using the “OKH-Einheitsturm” (Oberkommando des Heeres Standard Turret), which reportedly Fritz Todt was in support of. It is never clarified exactly what the OKH-Einheitsturm is. Some sources seem to have assumed this meant the Panzer IV turret and associated 7.5 cm KwK 40, however this is certainly false, as from the start, the VK30 project was to use Rheinmetall’s 7.5 cm cannon. The Oberkommando des Heeres, or German Army High Command was not a designing office and would not have its name applied to anything other than for the purpose of official endorsement.

Further confounding this, the only other reference to the “Einheitsturm” is in Germany’s Panther Tank by Thomas Jentz, which indicates that it was to have been used on Krupp’s VK20.02(K) in late 1941/early 1942, mounting a “7.5 cm KwK 44”. Two 7.5 cm cannons used the designation “KwK 44”, and both came much later in the war. The first was the KwK 44 L/70, an improvement on the KwK 42 L/70 that would have been used in the Panther Ausf.F; the second was the KwK 44 L/36.5, the cannon that was mounted coaxially in the Maus. Although the latter would be the more reasonably sized given the context, neither gun is of the correct time period.

Einheitsturm may very well be the name for the turret designed by Daimler-Benz for the VK30.01(D), but the question of whether this turret design was approved by the OKH as a future standardized turret, as the name suggests, why it was chosen, how it came to be, and why no record of it exists apart from two off handed mentions, remains unanswered.

During the January 28/29th meeting, the Daimler representatives inquired as to the allowed weight of the vehicle, which Fichter told them was still 32 to 35 metric tons (even though M.A.N. had already exceeded this). Wilhelm Kissel also took this time to talk to Fritz Todt about the cooperation between M.A.N. and Daimler-Benz on their projects, which he felt was no longer beneficial. He emphasised that, “everything that is expected in meeting the design requirements derived from experience on the Eastern Front, is being met by the Daimler-Benz design.” Implying that involving M.A.N. in development was only holding Daimler back. Kissel also said that, should the Daimler design win the VK30 competition, Daimler-Benz was prepared to finish the design at their own expense. Fritz Todt agreed that the cooperation between M.A.N. and Daimler-Benz had outlived its usefulness and would allow the two firms to develop their designs separately. Following this, the February 2nd meeting between M.A.N. and Daimler was canceled.

Kissel had managed to convince Todt to allow the VK30.01(D) to go forward, and on February 2nd, Daimler’s design was finalized and deemed ready for mass production without change, much to Kniepkamp and Fichtner’s dismay. Daimler-Benz was approved to construct five prototypes, one with an MB 507 diesel engine, one with an MB 503 gasoline engine, and three with Maybach HL 210 engines. The first of these was projected to be completed in June of 1942. This is not to say that Daimler’s design had been chosen at this point, but Fritz Todt had allowed Daimler-Benz to go ahead with further development on their design without making radical changes.

The same day, February 2nd, Wilhelm Kissel wrote to Jakob Werlin (head of Daimler-Benz Munich) about his success, “Assuredly, you will greatly enjoy hearing that it was possible for me to convince the Reichsminister that a decision in favor of our new proposed tank is the correct one. When this decision is reached, the gentlemen from both the Heereswaffenamt [Wa. Prüf. 6] and M.A.N. will indeed be astonished.” A day later, M.A.N. would submit their finalized design as well. The winner of the competition would be chosen following a presentation of the two designs in Berlin on March 3rd.

On February 8th, Fritz Todt was killed in a plane crash; whatever plans he had for the VK30.01(D) went with him. However, much to Daimler-Benz’s fortune, the new Reich Minister for Armaments and Ammunition, Albert Speer, was also a proponent of their design.

On March 5th, 1942, Hitler, acting on the recommendation of Albert Speer, ordered Daimler-Benz to prepare for production of their design, giving them an order for 200 units. Hitler felt that the Daimler design was superior in almost every way, and particularly liked the fact that it used a diesel engine; he felt this was the way forward in tank design. Whether these views were entirely Hitler’s, or were seeded by Speer, is up for debate. At this time, the order for prototypes from Daimler-Benz seems to have been reduced to just two.

*These figures are rounded to the nearest fifth. They were found using the following formulae determined by the Kraftfahrt Versuchsstelle (driving test center) at Kummersdorf.
On-road fuel consumption: 8 liters per vehicle ton per 100 km
Off-road (moderate) fuel consumption: 11 liters per vehicle ton per 100 km
Calculations assumed the vehicle in question was running on 74 octane gasoline, however the Daimler-Benz design ran on diesel; meaning it would have been 15 to 20% more efficient than calculated.

Judgement

The results of the scheduled presentation of the VK30 designs in Berlin on March 3rd, 1942, have not been recorded by any available sources. Whether it occurred at all is unknown.

The scale model of the M.A.N. (left) and Daimler-Benz design (right), shown to Hitler on January 23rd. Source

As design work on the VK30 machines was finished and a winner needed to be chosen as soon as possible, Hitler had a special committee put together to weigh the advantages of both designs and suggest which should go into production. In charge of this committee was Oberst Wolfgang Thomale (OKH Inspector of the tank corps) and Robert Eberan von Eberhorst (professor at Dresden Technical University). The committee first met on May 1st, 1942, in the Bendlerblock building in Berlin, the headquarters of the OKH. Four meetings in total would be held, the subsequent three occurring on May 5th, 6th, and 7th.

Drawing No. Tu 16901 of the VK30.02(M), dated May 2nd, 1942, submitted along with M.A.N.’s proposal to the Panther Committee. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank by Thomas L. Jentz

There were two main considerations regarding which design would be selected. First was that a large number of the tank would need to be operational by the summer of 1943, and to facilitate this, production should start in December 1942. This requirement was felt to outweigh all others. The December 1942 deadline was supposedly set by Karl-Otto Saur (Albert Speer’s deputy) in a bid to win favor with Hitler by getting the new tank into production faster. The second consideration was that, in order to combat the numerical superiority of the enemy, the German machine needed to be of higher quality.

Both designs were capable of a top speed of over 55 kph (34 mph) and an on-road cruising speed of 40 kph (25 mph). Both designs carried the specified 7,5cm KwK 42 L/70 cannon with the same number of shells (79 rounds), and both designs incorporated the requested sloped 60 mm thick frontal hull armor. In fact, the armor of both tanks was nearly identical, besides differing angles of sloping the only difference was the M.A.N. design’s 40 mm (1.57 inches) of rear hull armor compared to the Daimler’s 50 mm (1.97 inch).

Comparison of the M.A.N. and Daimler-Benz designs by their stats on paper. While the Daimler-Benz design has a small advantage in armor, the M.A.N. design has a larger advantage in automotive capabilities. Table produced by Author.

Particular attention was paid to the advantages and disadvantages of transmission placement. The advantages of the forward-mounted transmission in the M.A.N. design were seen as:

  • Direct operation of the gearbox and steering (The Daimler-Benz design had to have a complicated series of linkages to allow the driver to control the transmission.)
  • The steering brakes could be adjusted from inside the vehicle
  • Less mud would be jammed up in the drive sprocket, as it would have more time to be shaken from the tracks on their return trip

Advantages of the rear-mounted transmission of the Daimler-Benz design were:

  • The heat, smell, and noise from the transmission would be as far away from the crew as possible
  • The driver and radio operator had more room
  • Space inside the fighting compartment was used more efficiently
  • The whole vehicle was lower (The hull of the Daimler-Benz design was 52 mm (2 inches) shorter than the M.A.N. design.)

Both designs would take nearly the same amount of time to construct once in production; the amount of work that would go into making one tank was projected as 1,063 man-hours for the Daimler-Benz design, and 1,078.5 for the M.A.N. design. Of these numbers, 351.5 man-hours would be required for assembly of the hull for the Daimler-Benz design, and 327 for the M.A.N. design. The M.A.N. design would require a special type of drill press to manufacture the hull.

Unfortunately, because Daimler-Benz had designed their own turret instead of using the one designed by Rheinmetall, as M.A.N. had done, they would not be able to have the turret in production by the December deadline. Additionally, the machine gun mount and optics of Daimler’s turret design were seen as vulnerable areas compared to the Rheinmetall turret. However, the final nail in the coffin for the Daimler-Benz design was the smaller turret ring. Because Daimler’s turret ring was 50 mm smaller in diameter than Rheinmetall’s, the latter turret would not fit onto the Daimler-Benz hull without significant redesign to widen the whole tank. Furthermore, the Daimler-Benz design was felt to too strongly resemble the T-34, which could lead to incidents of friendly fire. The forward-mounted turret was also seen as an issue, as the greater gun overhang increased the likelihood of impaling the gun barrel in the ground when going down hill, or catching it on trees or buildings. The M.A.N. design minimized this issue by putting the turret in the center of the vehicle. Finally, the M.A.N. design had greater operational range, provided a better firing platform on account of its suspension, used an engine that was already in production, and was more suitable for deep wading due to its sealed engine compartment. For these reasons, the “Panther Committee”, as it was known, unanimously chose the M.A.N. design.

Their decision was handed down to the chairman of the Panzerkommission, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, on May 11th. This was also the date on which the name “Panther” was first recorded in regard to the project. The origin of the name is unknown, though Albert Speer later recalls in his book, Inside the Third Reich, that this was chosen to signify the new tank’s agility in comparison with the Tiger.

Hitler was informed of the Panther Committee’s findings in detail on the 13th of May. He felt that the rear-mounted transmission of the Daimler-Benz design was still superior, and that the 60 mm (2.36 inches) of armor on both designs was insufficient. He did concede, however, that getting the tank into production as fast as possible was the deciding factor, and that producing both tanks alongside each other would hinder this. Hitler stated that he would study the commission’s findings overnight and give his decision through his adjutant, Gerhard Engel, the next day.

Engel relayed to Porsche on the 14th that Hitler was in agreement with the committee’s findings, and that the M.A.N. design was to go ahead instead of the Daimler-Benz design. However, Hitler had stipulated that the frontal armor needed to be increased to 80 mm (3.15 inches). On May 15th, 1942, Fichtner placed a phone call to M.A.N. to inform them that they had won the contract, and of the increase in armor required by Hitler. It was also suggested that they consider Dr. Porsche’s suggestion of using a Kolben-Danek (ČKD) steering system, like the kind used in the Panzer 38(t).

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire

With M.A.N.’s Panther design going forward with the utmost priority, Heinrich Kniepkamp took personal charge of development. The design received the name Panzerkampfwagen V “Panther” and the Sonderkraftfahrzeug nummer (special vehicle number) Sd.Kfz.171.

On or around May 4th, one week before their design for the VK30 was chosen, M.A.N. had a final meeting regarding their design where the major details were reviewed. In addition to what has already been covered, in this meeting it was specified that:

  • There were 86 track links per side, and the width of the tracks would not prohibit transport by rail.
  • The transmission used a Maybach OLVAR 0640 12 16 gear drive.
  • The final point worth mentioning the author has been unable to determine the meaning of, other than that it relates to the transmission. “Spur gear side transmission doubly geared down, with sprockets of module 9 and 11. The middle tooth group was not required to be ground since it made no contact.”

At this point, the steering system that was to be used in the tank was undecided. It was assumed that a traditional clutch-brake steering system would be used initially. The reason for this change was that the companies that would be involved in the manufacture of the Panther did not have the proper equipment, specifically slotting machines, to cut the gears for the controlled differential type transmission. A portion of the 29 gears that made up each controlled differential were “hollow” gears, that is, the teeth were on the inside of the wheel, rather than the outside. This type of gear was significantly harder to make.

The transmission housing would be cast with steel of a strength of 60 kg/mm². Converted to megapascals, the most common unit of pressure used in describing tensile strengths, this is 588 MPa. Compare this to high strength steels, which range in the area of 750 to 850 MPa, and armor plate which goes above 900 MPa. The reason why the steel used in the transmission was so weak, relatively speaking, was to allow more units to be made. The weak drivetrain, already propelling a tank several tons heavier than it was designed for, and now made of lower quality materials, would plague the Panther throughout its service life. Any shrink holes that formed in the transmission housing from the casting process would be welded over and the whole casing would be heated and allowed to gradually cool, a toughening process known as annealation.

A conference was held on May 19th, 1942, at the Reich Ministry for Armaments and War Production. In this meeting it was determined that a majority of the facilities involved in manufacturing parts for the Panther tank would be those captured in France.

A conference with Hitler was held on June 4th, 1942, in regard to the new Panther tank. Hitler felt that by the spring of 1943, even the increased frontal armor of 80 mm (3.15 inches) would not be enough. He demanded that it be attempted to increase all frontal armor of the tank to 100 mm (3.94 inch) thickness. The same day, another meeting was held (presumably back at the Reich Ministry for Armaments and War Production, if the meeting with Hitler had not been there in the first place) between representatives of the four companies selected to build the new tank; M.A.N. of Nürnberg, Daimler-Benz of Berlin, Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen-Hannover (M.N.H.) of Hannover, and Henschel of Kassel. It was determined that by the 12th of May, 1943, 250 Panther tanks must be available for combat. A model of the tank was displayed at the end of the meeting.

At some point during development, the L 600 C steering mechanism that was originally intended for the Panther had been dropped, in its place was the Einradienlenkgetriebe (single radius steering gear), also called the Maybach Double Differential. It is not known whether this steering mechanism is the same as the one insisted upon by M.A.N. that would allow for a pointed front hull, or if it was an entirely separate development. The Einradienlenkgetriebe is a steering mechanism completely unique to the Panther tank, having not been used on any other machine before or since. It combined two types of tank steering: the normal double differential and the controlled differential. “Single radius” refers to the fact that each gear has its own fixed turning radius (as opposed to other steering mechanisms, wherein the turning radius is variable depending on how much steering input is given). As there were seven forward gears, there were seven different turning radii, plus neutral steering.

A contract was awarded to Adler of Frankfurt am Main to deliver 50 Maybach OLVAR transmissions for testing in the Panther as an alternative to the Zahnradfabrik AK 7/200. In this configuration, the tank would have been known as Panther Model B, however the OLVAR transmissions were never installed.

In a meeting on the 13th of July, 1942, Paul Wiebicke insisted that the Einradienlenkgetriebe must be used from the start in all Panthers. When confronted with the possibility of this totally new and untested steering mechanism failing to work, he suggested that 60 clutch-brake steering systems should be built just in case, therefore they would be available to complete tanks if the Einradienlenkgetriebe turned out to not be ready.

The Panzerkommission met the next day, and again the Panther’s steering mechanism was discussed. They came to the conclusion that the first 100 tanks would have the interim clutch-brake steering system while production of the Einradienlenkgetriebe got underway. All tanks with clutch-brake steering were to be backfitted with Einradienlenkgetriebe by the end of April 1943.

M.A.N. hoped that trials of the new steering mechanism would be completed by mid-October 1942. Three different sets of gearing were put forward, the differences between them being the turning radius. The three setups would have given turning radiuses of 50, 80, and 115 meters (164, 262, and 337 feet) respectively, when in seventh gear. For speed and simplicity it was decided to only test the gearing that would give 80 and 115 meter turning radiuses. To test the two types against each other it was planned to make two interchangeable sets of gears for each of the first 20 to 30 steering units. In the final analysis, the 80 meter turning radius gearing was chosen.

M.A.N. had received a contract to complete an experimental VK30.02(M) chassis by August 1942, and a second, complete prototype by September. Both prototypes were made out of mild steel. The exact date these prototypes were finished is unknown; sources are divided as to whether the first was completed in late August or early September, but the latter seems more likely. Panther & Its Variants claims it was delivered at the end of September.

On August 3rd, Krupp, which had been in the process of designing the unrelated Panzerselbstfahrlafette IVd assault gun on the basis of their Panzerselbstfahrlafette IVc self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, was informed that the 8.8cm L/71-armed assault gun would no longer be based on its own unique chassis, but on that of the VK30.02(M), and should be redesigned accordingly. This would become what is known as the Jagdpanther.

On August 4th, M.A.N. announced that they would begin construction of the first prototype hull, and they requested that the foremen and chief operators from the Henschel, M.N.H., and Daimler-Benz plants visit M.A.N. in Nürnberg to familiarize themselves with the project.

The first prototype, VK30.02(M) Chassis Number V1, was finished without a turret. Instead, it had a box-shaped weight to simulate the turret. This machine was used for driving tests on the M.A.N. factory grounds in Nürnberg. The suspension of the V1 differed from all other Panthers in that the shock absorbers were mounted to the first and eighth roadwheel arms, as opposed to the second and sixth.


Illustration of VK30.02(M) Chassis Number V1 by Andrei Kirushkin

Due to unavailability of parts and for the sake of simplicity, the prototype was completed with a clutch-brake type steering unit. This was less efficient than the Maybach type, produced higher wear on parts, and did not allow the tank to neutral steer. Additionally, in place of the intended planetary reduction gear, this machine was fitted with a two-stage spur gear reduction of the final drive; the end result of a final drive reduction being the trade-off of speed for torque. It is unclear what steering system the V2 prototype used.

The only known photograph of the VK30.02(M) V1 undergoing trials at the M.A.N. factory grounds, seen here attempting to climb a rather impressive grade. Evidence of the vehicle’s descent into the pit, or perhaps a separate attempt at climbing out, can be seen on the far side. Source: Panther & Its Variants

The second prototype was a complete tank with turret. VK30.02(M) Chassis Number V2 mounted the 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 with an early, 220 mm (8.66 inch) diameter, single-baffle muzzle break in the Rheinmetall-Borsig turret. While similar to the muzzle break used by the 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/43 on the Panzer IV Ausf.F2, it was not identical. The V2 had apparently been delayed by the Rheinmetall turret not being ready in time. The turret housing was finished on September 16th, and final assembly of the turret was done at Rheinmetall’s Düsseldorf plant.

The turret used on the VK30.02(M) V2 was derived from the turret developed for the VK45.01(H2), the original Tiger tank. Back in May of 1942, it had a maximum width of 2.14 m (7 feet) which tapered to a frontal width of 1.84 m (6 feet). Excluding the cupola it was 770 mm (30.3 inches) tall. By the time the turret was built and mounted, it had grown to 790 mm tall (31.1 inches) and 2.30 m (7’7’’) wide, tapering to 2.104 m (6’11’’) wide. Increasing the height of the turret by 20 mm (0.79 inches) while also keeping the frontal plate sloped at 12° and the rear at 25°, meant that the turret also became 20 mm (0.79 inches) longer. The length would not be changed on production turrets, even when the frontal turret armor was increased to 100 mm (3.94 inches), meaning that the 20 mm of extra space needed was taken from the inside, instead of being expanded outward. Another feature of the prototype turret that would not be changed in the production model was the offsetting of the entire gun mantlet by 40 mm (1.57 inches) to the right of the centerline.

Inside view of the prototype turret mounted on the VK30.02(M) V2. The gunner’s position is to the left of the cannon and the loader’s to the right. The commander’s seat can be seen at the far left of frame. Source: Panzer Tracts 5-1

The most distinctive feature of the Versuchs-Turm (experimental turret) though, was the curved turret sides and bulge stamped into the left side of the turret to accommodate the cupola. The controls for the smoke grenade launchers were placed inside this bulge. The sides of the production turret would be widened to eliminate the cupola bulge; the layout of many of the interior components would also be changed.

View of the inside of the Versuchs-Turm from the loader’s position, facing the rear. The controls for the Nebelkerze (smoke dischargers) can be seen in the bulge under the commander’s cupola. The hatch to the left of frame is the main entrance and exit for the turret crew. Source: Panzer Tracts 5-1

When it was completed, the second prototype VK30.02(M) was sent to Kummersdorf proving grounds for official testing. The V1 was registered as IIN-2686 and the V2 as IIN-0687. “IIN” was the prefix for license plates registered to the cities of Nürnberg and Fürth. What is strange about this is that registered German military vehicles usually had a registration number with the prefix “WH” for the Heer (army) or “WL” for the Luftwaffe. Instead, the VK30.02(M) prototypes were registered as civilian vehicles in Nürnberg, the home city of M.A.N.

The hulls of the two Panther prototypes differed slightly from the production model. None of the hull plates were interlocking, as they would be on all Panthers that came after. The hull side plate did not extend past the rear plate at all. Between the 16 mm (0.63 inch) thick bottom of the hull and the 40 mm (1.57 inch) thick rear plate (reverse sloped at 30°) was a small 30 mm (1.18 inch) thick plate reverse sloped at 60°. On production vehicles this piece was eliminated, meaning the belly plate and the rear plate were directly connected to each other. The driver’s periscope was only 432.5 mm (17 inches) to the left of the centerline, on production vehicles it would be moved further out, to about 490 mm (19.3 inches) left of center line. The casting of the armored covers that went over the fans on top of the engine deck included an extension that encompassed the radiator filler cap, this would be eliminated on the production model. The drive sprockets on the prototypes were different to the production type. The dual exhausts shared a single horizontally mounted muffler, with a single exhaust pipe exiting at the center, just behind the engine deck. The roadwheels had 18 rim bolts each as opposed to 16. Finally, at the rear of the engine compartment was a single large fuel tank, the filler cap for this tank was to the left of the center line on top the engine deck.

VK30.02(M) V2 on trials, likely at Kummersdorf. Notice the ball-shaped muzzle break, drive sprocket, and clean-cut side armor plates. Source: Panther External Appearance & Design Changes
VK30.02(M) V2 on trials, likely at Kummersdorf. Notice the bulge on the side of the turret which accommodates the cupola, and also the ladder on the side of the hull. Source: Panther External Appearance & Design Changes
VK30.02(M) V2 on trials, likely at Kummersdorf. Notice the license plate held on with wire. Source: Panther External Appearance & Design Changes
VK30.02(M) V2 on trials, likely at Kummersdorf. Notice the narrow rear of the Versuchs-Turm, the extensions of the armored fan covers which encompass the radiator filler ports, the single exhaust pipe, and the rear license plate hanging from the exhaust. Source: Panther External Appearance & Design Changes
VK30.02(M) V2 on trials, likely at Kummersdorf. Source: Panther External Appearance & Design Changes
View of the engine deck of the VK30.02(M) V2 with all cover panels removed. The large single fuel tank in the rear (nearest to the camera) would be changed on the production model, with the filler port being moved to the right and the section of tank on the left being deleted. Source: Panzer Tracts 5-1

On account of the 80 mm (3.15 inch) thick frontal armor demanded by Hitler, the V2 weighed 43 metric tons – 8 tons over the 35 ton weight limit for the VK30. It was powered by a 650 hp Maybach HL 210 engine, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of just 15.1 hp/ton. This figure was 25% worse than the initial VK30.02(M) design projected. On the positive side, trials showed that there was less stress on the rubber roadwheel tires than was expected, and less stress on the torsion bars as well (16kg/mm square actual versus 20-22kg/mm square expected).

VK30.02(M) V2 on trials, likely at Kummersdorf. Source

The Panzerkommission met for the 11th time on November 2nd and 3rd, either at the 2nd Panzer Regiment’s training field in Berka an der Werra, or the nearby city of Eisenach. The following week a wide variety of experimental vehicles were to be demonstrated at Berka an der Werra — the “rough terrain” outpost of Kummersdorf — for Albert Speer and personnel of Wa. Prüf. 6. The vehicles slated to be present at the demonstration included VK30.02(M) V2, VK30.01(D), a VK36.01(H), a Panzer II with a Zahnradfabrik Electric Transmission, a Panzer III with Ostketten, a Zugführerwagen 40 (Panzer III with Schachtellaufwerk overlapping suspension), the Zugführerwagen 41 (Panzer III with rubber-saving roadwheels), two Henschel Tigers, one with a Zahnradfabrik 12E-170 Electric Transmission, two Porsche Tigers, two Panzer IIIs and two armored cars with with flamethrower equipment, a T-34, and a KV-1. A number of half-tracks, trucks, and tractors were also involved in the display, namely four Sd.Kfz.3s, an Sd.Kfz.10, an Sd.Kfz.11, two Radschlepper Ost, a Raupenschlepper Ost, a French Latil, and an Opel Blitz 3,6-6700 A.

The supposed presence of a VK30.01(D) at this demonstration is the only evidence for a Daimler-Benz Panther ever being built to a degree where it would be operable. Sadly, there are no known photographs of the vehicle selection at this demonstration which would confirm many details about the lost history of the VK30.01(D).

On the first day of demonstrations, Albert Speer drove the VK30.02(M) V2 for one and a half hours. He was highly complimentary of the tank’s handling. The trials showed that the differential worked well in rough terrain and that the tank turned fine without having to rely on brake steering. At this time, the V2 was temporarily equipped with a controlled differential discontinuous regenerative steering unit. This would not be the same as the Einradienlenkgetriebe, and may in fact be the L 600 C. The delegation from M.A.N. present at the demonstration stated they were satisfied with the performance of their prototype.

On the 4th of December, the first Einradienlenkgetriebe delivered by Henschel was installed in the VK30.02(M) V1. The performance of this vehicle with the new steering mechanism was not recorded. This was the last use of the VK30.02(M) as a developmental platform, as the Panzerkampfwagen V went into production in January 1943.

Daimler’s Requiem

Information regarding the development and construction of the Daimler-Benz design is frustratingly slim. Only bits and pieces exist that, when cobbled together, give a rough idea of the sequence of events following Daimler’s loss of the Panther contract. Unfortunately, many of Daimler-Benz’s files were destroyed at the end of the war, and much of what did survive fell into possession of the Soviets. While the Iron Curtain has now fallen, this information has still not escaped the Russian archives.

Following M.A.N.’s victory in the VK30 program, Albert Speer informed Daimler-Benz on the 20th of May that work on their design was to cease. However, they would be allowed to complete the two prototype machines that were already under construction. With M.A.N.’s design selected after all, the previous order for 200 Daimler-Benz tanks was withdrawn.

The loss of the VK30 contract was discussed by the Daimler-Benz board of directors on June 3rd, 1942. The following transcript of that meeting is from Germany’s Panther Tank by Thomas Jentz.
“Our proposal for the new tank was not accepted by the special commission established by Hitler. Instead they selected the M.A.N. design for large scale production, after the initial proposal from M.A.N. apparently was improved. During a meeting, M.A.N. had the opportunity to learn all the advantages of our proposal which they then took into consideration in their own design.
At first, the majority of the experts were impressed by our proposal. Even Hitler expressed his approval. But then, the commission consisting of Thomale and Eberan, decided against us for the following reasons:

  • The double torsion bar suspension from Porsche was chosen over our proposed leaf springs.
  • The MB 507 motor proposed by us can not be produced in the number required.
  • Our design requires a new turret. The turret for the M.A.N. design was already designed. The M.A.N. vehicle had front drive, our vehicle rear drive. Because of the rear drive our vehicle required a new turret design. It was admitted that the rear drive possessed advantages.

We are completing only two experimental vehicles, that positively will make a good impression. The two experimental vehicles are to be completed in June/July 1943. The entire tank should be completed since we can finally obtain the turret ourselves. We still have the contract to build these two prototypes and therefore we also want to demonstrate these as completed tanks.”

The same month, June 1942, the MB 507 diesel engine was installed in the first prototype. It is believed the first VK30.01(D) was completed about September, likely excluding any sort of turret. As was discussed in the previous section, it is reported that the Daimler-Benz Panther was present at Berka an der Werra in November of 1942, and that it competed alongside the VK30.02(M) prototype.

The fact that an operational VK30.01(D) existed no later than November is an apparent contradiction to Daimler’s own estimate of June or July 1943 as the completion date. It is possible this was the projected date for total completion of both the first and second prototypes, including turrets, which needed to be made from scratch.

If the VK30.01(D) prototype was in fact made to run at some point in 1942, then the question remains, why are there no photographs of it? While photographs of the VK30.02(M) prototypes are few in number, enough exist to give us a visual history of the vehicles. Only two photos remain of a VK30.01(D) prototype, both show it in an incomplete state without a turret and running gear, left outside the Daimler-Benz plant in Berlin at the end of the war.

A still image from a video survey taken by the western Allies of the Daimler-Benz Marienfelde plant after the end of the war. The unfinished VK30.01(D) hull is seen among other discarded weapons and vehicles. It is painted in RAL 3009 Oxidrot (oxide red) primer. The vehicle to the right of frame is the VK20.01(D), the earliest ancestor of the Daimler-Benz Panther. The field gun beside the VK30.01(D) is an 8cm Panzerwurfkanone 8H63, previously known as the PAW 600. To the left of the VK30.01(D) is the hull of a StuG III Ausf.G with the Saukopf gun mantlet. Source: Unknown

The quality of these photographs is poor, but with digital manipulation, more details can be brought out that show this hull is quite different to the original VK30.01(D) design. The most prominent feature is the presence of return rollers mounted on top of the leaf spring bundles. This has been the most vexing question raised during the writing of this article, and one which no credible source dares to expand on. While the interpretation regarding the January 28/29th meeting that the phrase “long suspension” is in fact talking about the length of suspension travel and not the length of the track in contact with the ground is very much grasping at straws, there is no other explanation for the change in suspension layout that is not based entirely in conjecture and even fiction.

In addition to the suspension, mudguards, and the slightly redesigned driver’s visor, which placed the periscope further forward than that of the mockups, other features seen only on this hull include an amorphous bulge on either side of the lower hull, just rearward of where the idler wheel would be, and a black-colored triangular extension of the hull atop the left side mudguard. The purpose of these features is not known; the only potential clue to their use is one of the only known blueprints for the VK30.01(D), which shows a linkage of the track tensioning system protruding up through the frontal glacis of the hull in the same area as the box

VK30.01(D) blueprint, notice the black linkage coming from the idler wheel at the front of the hull. Source
A lightened and cropped version of the first picture, showing the first of three return rollers and the bulge on the left side of the hull. Source
Photograph taken of the same hull from the other side. This angle more clearly shows the undocumented features of this hull, namely the box atop the left side fender, the front mudflaps, modified driver’s port, and suspension with return rollers. Also of note are the Panther tracks in the foreground; it is not known whether these were to be used on this prototype, or if it is merely a coincidence they are here. The hull of the vehicle to the left of frame seems to be that of another VK20.01(D). Source: Panther & Its Variants
An enhanced version of the previous photo. The three return rollers and unfinished suspension are easier to see.
Another still taken from the same film as the first photograph of the VK30.01(D) hull. The framework on the building on the right matches that seen in the first still. At the extreme right of frame is what appears to be the front right corner of the VK30.01(D) hull poking above a pile of rubble between it and the camera. Note at the extreme left of frame is the hull of an Sd.Kfz.8 Typ DB 10 half-track. Source
Overview of the bombed out Daimler-Benz Marienfelde plant taken from across the street. This photo seems to be from a later date as some of the rubble has been cleared and the scaffolding on the main building has been removed. Arrows have been drawn on the enlarged portion of the photo to show the Sd.Kfz.8 hull and what may be the VK30.01(D) or the VK20.01(III). Source: Daimler AG “Mercedes-Benz Classic”

The history of the Daimler-Benz Panther between November 1942 and June 1945 has been lost to time. While there is no direct evidence that the second prototype, which would have mounted the MB 503 gasoline engine, was ever completed, or even laid down, there is circumstantial evidence to suggest this may be the case. Daimler-Benz’s official production numbers for Panther vehicles is 545 for 1943, and 1,215 for 1944. These figures are including all vehicle types in the Panther family, for instance the 1,215 figure is a summation of the 1,175 Panthers and 40 Bergepanthers that Daimler-Benz produced in 1944. Daimler’s figures are perfectly in line with the actual production numbers confirmed by the author, with the exception that Daimler-Benz produced only 543 Panthers in 1943. This leaves 2 vehicles unaccounted for; the same number of VK30.01(D) prototypes Daimler intended to make.

Without knowing for certain when and how the change in suspension came about, it can not be taken for granted that the vehicle seen in the photos is the first prototype. Its incomplete state would indicate that some work had gone into the VK30.01(D) after the November demonstration in which the first prototype took part, whether this was construction of a second prototype or deconstruction of the first. The final fate of the Daimler-Benz Panther remains unknown.


Conservative reconstruction of the incomplete VK30.01(D) hull found at the Daimler-Benz factory in 1945 based off of photographs and supplemented with known features of the original design. The hull with return rollers is seen in photos to have the same mounting brackets for leafsprings as the original hull design, thusly it is drawn here with leafsprings.


Hypothetical reconstruction of the incomplete VK30.01(D) hull with return rollers, closely following the original design which lacked them. The retention of the same leafsping suspension suggests relatively unchanged running gear, merely lengthened to accommodate the return rollers, hence the author’s “long suspension” theory. Certainly this arrangement looks quite attractive, and would have greatly improved the VK30.01(D)’s vertical stepping ability — an area where it was outclassed by the VK30.02(M). All illustrations on this page by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Final Disposition of the Prototypes

With the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther in production, the two VK30.02(M) prototypes had served their purpose. What became of the VK30.02(M) V2 is not known, as there is no record of it past December 1942. The V1 prototype, on the other hand, did go on to serve a useful purpose as a suspension testbed. No written sources detail the post-1942 career of the VK30.02(M) V1, photographs are all that is left to tell the story.

Sometime in 1943 or 1944, the VK30.02(M) V1 was modified to replace its 18 bolt roadwheels with new Gummisparenden Laufwerke (rubber-saving running gear), all-steel roadwheels. These 800 mm (31.5 inch) diameter roadwheels were designed to save precious rubber, a resource that Germany was quickly running out of; they were to be used on both the Panther II and Tiger II, and eventually would also be used on the Tiger Ausf.E and Panther Ausf.G. The VK30.02(M) V1 was also fitted with Transportketten (transport tracks) and new drive sprockets and idler wheels. Transportketten were 660 mm (26 inch) wide tracks used on the Tiger and Tiger II to allow those vehicles to fit on railcars; these tracks were intended to be used as the main combat tracks for the Panther II, which was under development in 1943, aimed to replace the troubled Panther Ausf.D and standardize components with the Tiger II, then also under development. The drive and idler wheels used on the VK30.02(M) V1 test vehicle seem to be completely unique, they do not resemble those used on the Panther II or any other tank.

Without supporting documentation as to when this conversion was made, it is impossible to say for certain its purpose; however, the fact it is equipped with Gummisparenden Laufwerke and Transportketten, both features of the Panther II, would suggest that this was a testbed for that vehicle. This is contradicted by the fact that the only known photos of the VK30.02(M) V1 in this configuration come from 1944, a year after the Panther II was cancelled.

During a series of tests in 1944 at the M.A.N. plant, the VK30.02(M) V1 Testbed was fitted with a vibration measuring apparatus. This consisted of a bicycle wheel “idler” in contact with the ground, a vertical track for the idler to move up and down on so to stay in contact with the ground, a lever which reduced the input from the idler by 2:1, and a further 6:1 reduction device in conjunction with a vibration recorder. Several wires ran from the sensor to the inside of the tank, presumably to a recording device.

The VK30.02(M) V1 Testbed driving over a wave road in 1944. The single bicycle tire on a vertical track mounted to the side of the tank is a system for measuring vibration. Source: Panzer Tracts 5-1
Another shot of the above. The license plate seems to have fallen off between this shot and the previous one and has been stuck back on sideways. On the left mudguard appears to be a Wolfsangel, a rune emblematic of the 2nd SS Panzer Division; the purpose of its presence is not known. Source
Closeup view of the vibration measuring device. Source
What may possibly be a photo of the VK30.02(M) V1. Other Panther chassis used for developmental purposes were also fitted with the same type of turret-simulating test weight, but usually without the observation cupola. The fact that this tank has two headlights and an apparent foot step on the side of the test weight are in line with the VK30.02(M) V1, but without greater detail it cannot be said for certain. Source

Allied reports on the post-war evaluation of Henschel’s Tank Proving Ground in Haustenbeck mention what may be one of the VK30.02(M) prototypes. Apart from the incomplete E-100 and Grille 17, two Tiger IIs, a Jagdtiger, a Panther Ausf.G, and two VK30.01(H)s also found at Haustenbeck, it is recorded that, “Two tanks made during early German tank development are also in this area. They are of light armor plate and show distinct lines of the Mark IV and Mark V tanks. The salient feature is in the development phase of their suspension systems.” Unfortunately, photos of these tanks have not been found.

Sources

AFV Profile 10 Panzerkampfwagen V Panther – Chris Ellis and Peter Chamberlain, ~1972
Armor at War Series Panther cn7006 – Thomas Anderson and Vincent Wai, 1996
Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy – Thomas L. Jentz, 1995
Osprey Military Fighting Armor of WWII Panther Variants 1942-1945 – Hilary Doyle and Thomas Jentz, 1997
Osprey New Vanguard Panther Medium Tank 1942-45 – Stephen A. Hart, 2003
Panther vs T-34 Ukraine 1943 – Robert Forczyk, 2007
Panther & Its Variants – Walter J. Spielberger, 1993
Panzer Tracts No.5-1 – Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, 2003
Panther External Appearance & Design Changes – Roddy MacDougall and Martin Block, 2016
Inside the Third Reich – Albert Speer, 1969
https://warspot.ru/14561-panteri-predki
http://www.gizmology.net/tracked.htm
ETO Ordnance Technical Intelligence Report 288 – Henschel Tank Proving Ground, 24 May 1945
100 Jahre DaimlerChrysler Werk Berlin – Chronik 1902 – 2002
Correspondence between the author and staff of Daimler AG
Correspondence between the author and staff of Rheinmetall AG

The author would like to express the utmost gratitude to the staff of Daimler/Mercedes for their generous assistance in providing information.

Categories
WW2 German Panzer V

Pz.Kpfw. Panther With 8.8 cm Gun Design Proposals

 

Nazi Germany (1944-45)
Medium tank – Project only

By 1944, the fate of the Großdeutsches Reich (English: ´Greater German Reich´), more colloquially known as Nazi Germany, started becoming clearer and it was certainly not in the favor of the Germans. However, the German nation was not ready to surrender. As a result, the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, one of the armored staples of the Wehrmacht at the time, continued to see development and upgrades until Germany’s eventual defeat in May of 1945.
While the 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70 main gun on the Pz.Kpfw. V Panther was a formidable tank gun capable of engaging any armored vehicle the Allies were able to field at the time, it was felt that the gun lacked enough future-proofing. In retrospect, these sentiments may not have been completely unjustified seeing as how vehicles developed by the Soviet Union near the end of the Second World War, like the T-54 and the IS-3, managed to be frontally resistant to the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 as mounted on the Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf.B. Other vehicles, such as the United States’ Heavy Tank T32 and Heavy Tank T32E1, could also be theoretically frontally resistant to most of Germany’s anti-tank arsenal.

This IS-2 Mod.1944 was tested against the 8.8cm PaK.43 L/71 and 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70. The upper hull was impervious to the 7.5cm at any ranges while the 8.8cm could defeat it at 450 m, making it a great example as to the difference that an 8.8cm could have made in a real combat situation. Source: warspot.ru
During mid to late 1944, the firm of Daimler-Benz was in the midst of developing the Schmalturm (English: ‘narrow turret’), a replacement for the regular Rheinmetall-designed Panther turret. The Schmalturm was supposed to be used on the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F. Considering that the Schmalturm was set to replace the original Rheinmetall turret and presumably Krupp thought that turret would be more accepting of a larger gun, Krupp designed an up-gunned version of the Schmalturm with a minimal amount of modifications. Krupp´s drawing Hln-130 (also referred to as Hln-B130), called ‘8.8cm L/71 I, Panther, schmal’ in at least one of the drawings, shows the Schmalturm mounting a modified version of the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 dating back to October 18, 1944.

Faded drawing of Hln-130 showing the internals of Krupp’s proposal from a top-down point of view with the turret facing left. (Source: Yuri Pasholok.)

Hln-130 modified to show major components of the turret. The red outline shows the armor structure, turret ring in orange, cupola in purple, bulbous turret extension in yellow, 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 gun breech in brown, and 8,8cm round in green.
The gun was able to be accommodated by creating an armored bulbous extension at the front of the turret. The trunnions on the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71´s gun carriage were moved 350 mm rearwards along the length of the gun, or the gun itself was moved 350mm forwards on the trunnions depending on how one wants to interpret it. The new gun mantlet was entirely different compared to the pot-shaped mantlet used on the regular Schmalturm. The installation of this new, larger gun compromised internal space and would mean that the loader would have a tough time loading rounds into the breech due to the limited amount of space between the gun breech and the rear of the turret. The round had to be loaded at an angle going upwards from the base of the turret, where there was enough room to squeeze in the round to the breech. One further modification was that the aperture for the main gun differed from the regular Schmalturm, although the apertures for the gunsight and machine gun were to remain identical.
Krupp´s Hln-E142 drawing, called ´Pz.Kpfw. “Panther” mit 8.8cm L/71 (Kw.K.43)´, dating back to November 17, 1944, shows the turret from drawing Hln-130 or the Schmalturm mounting the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 mounted onto a regular Panzerkampfwagen V Panther chassis. Here it is revealed that the gun has a depression angle of -8 and elevation angle of +15. The whole length of the vehicle with the turret and gun facing forward is 9,250 mm (9.25 m) with the length from the very front of the chassis to the end of the gun being 2,650 mm (2.65 m) and the vehicle (excluding gun) being 6,600 mm (6.60 m) long. On December 4, 1944, Wa Prüf 6, the department of the Waffenamt in charge of the development of armored and motorized vehicles, awarded Krupp a development contract.

Drawing Hln-E142 showing Krupp’s proposal for mounting an 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 onto a Pz.Kpfw. V Panther chassis. Source: Yuri Pasholok
Krupp was curious about Wa Prüf 6’s opinions on some of the aspects of the proposal and whether further development was worthy of advancing forward. Krupp asked Wa Prüf 6 these three following questions, which are taken verbatim from Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy.

  • Is there sufficient space for the loader?
  • Is the shape of the armored cover in the turret front plate acceptable?
  • Is relocating the center of balance about 200 mm forward plus a weight increase of 900 kg bearable?

For the first question, Krupp proposed mounting a wooden model of the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 onto a “Panther turret” in order to test the loading of the main gun. For the third question, Krupp proposed a test turret with the load being off-center. Wa Prüf 6’s exact responses are not known.
For the sake of brevity, Schmalturm mounting the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 on a Panzerkampfwagen V Panther will be referred to as ‘Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm’ although it is important to note that this is not an official name and used here solely for clarity.

Renditions of Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm proposal. Source: Doyle and Jentz

Daimler-Benz Joins In

A meeting by the Entwicklungskommission Panzer (English: ‘Tank Development Commission’) was held on January 23, 1945, in which Colonel Holzäuer from Wa Prüf 6 reported that development of the Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm project was to be completed by Daimler-Benz. In addition, a wooden model is said to have been completed. Earlier, on December 12, 1944, Daimler-Benz had displayed a wooden model of the vehicle, but it is not known if it was the same wooden model Colonel Holzäuer reported or an unknown previous iteration.
The turret ring of the Daimler-Benz Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm was to be enlarged by 100 mm, making it 1,750 mm compared to the turret ring on the regular Rheinmetall-designed turret on the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (Ausf.D to G), which was 1,650 mm. In doing so it gained a single tonne of weight. It also carried 56 rounds for the main gun.
On February 20, 1945, Krupp and Daimler-Benz representatives, Wa Prüf 6, and Wa Prüf 4 (a sister department to Wa Prüf 6 in charge of the development of artillery) held a meeting comparing both Daimler-Benz and Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm designs. One large difference was the gun itself. Daimler-Benz used a ‘8.8cm Kw.K.’ with the recoil cylinders installed underneath the gun and the turret ring widened by 100 mm, while Krupp opted to use, for the most part, a regular 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 with repositioned trunnions in a mostly unchanged Schmalturm turret as mentioned earlier. Wa Prüf 6 recognized that Krupp’s design was an expedient one meant to save time, however, their representatives did not much appreciate the idea.
In the end, it was proposed that Daimler-Benz and Krupp would work together on a project involving the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 with relocated trunnions and a larger turret ring with Daimler-Benz tackling the turret and Krupp the gun, unsurprisingly. This would have lead to the creation of a more complex project, but also combine the best elements of both designs and create additional space inside the turret.
On February 27, 1945, it was decided by Wa Prüf 6 that Daimler-Benz would continue development of the Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm and was slated to produce a soft steel prototype of the turret to the specifications listed. Some of the specifications listed below reflect Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm design which might indicate their involvement.

  • Needed to depress -8 degrees and elevate 15 degrees, which Krupp’s design was able to achieve.
  • The turret ring diameter was to be enlarged to 1,750 mm which was designed to give the loader more room to do his duties. Daimler-Benz’s previous design had already accomplished this.
  • The vehicle had to use only the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 as its main gun. The bore evacuation cylinder was to be placed in the middle of the recoil cylinders above the gun.
  • The trunnions were relocated and the muzzle brake was removed similar to Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm.
  • Interestingly, the trunnions were to be located on the “forward edge” of the turret front plate, implying that it lacked any turret front extension like Krupp’s design.
  • The turret front was to have a “smooth armor plate” with the apertures being as small as possible but including an aperture for the main gun, presumably with the coaxial machine gun included. It is not clear if the turret was to be equipped with a telescopic gunsight or a coaxial machine gun
  • Mounting the S.Z.F.2 or S.Z.F.3 stabilized gunsight was to be considered.
  • The turret traverse gear and the cupola were to stay the same as on the regular Schmalturm.
  • The design was to use either a 1.32 m or 1.65 m stereoscopic rangefinder. It should be noted that the regular Schmalturm could already mount a 1.32 m stereoscopic rangefinder.
  • The turret was to feature ready racks which would make ammunition easily accessible.
  • Emphasis was placed on a low turret height.
  • Lastly, the rear turret plate was to be sloped instead of “upright” as it was on the first wooden model of the Daimler-Benz Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm. The wooden model might be the one showed off on December 12, 1944, but this is just speculation.

Krupp’s Return and Wa Prüf 6’s Variant

Krupp appears to have returned to the project under the request of Colonel Crohn from Wa Prüf 6 on March 8, 1945. They were to design an “armor shell” of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F turret (otherwise known as a Schmalturm) mounting the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 by March 12, 1945. Speculatively, considering that they were given four days to design, it might be the case that they simply took their previous design, such as like Hln-130 or a similar iteration around the same time, and adapted it to the existing Schmalturm design of the time.
On March 14, 1945, during a discussion of further developing the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther in the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, the Waffenamt is said to have done an excellent job designing the ‘8.8cm Kw.K. L/71’ onto a Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, with Wa Prüf 6 being thanked specifically. If the Waffenamt’s ‘8.8cm Panther’ was to be put into production, existing Panthers that received major overhauls would also be subject to mounting a turret with the 8.8cm. A ‘Versuchs-Panther’ or a prototype of the 8.8cm Panther was to be built out of soft steel and completed by early June. Mass production was to begin in the last quarter of 1945 if the “necessary support” was given.
This significantly improved vehicle with the new turret and increased firepower would weigh just one tonne more than the “current Panther”. Armor was to protect the rangefinder and it featured a stabilized gun sight “about the same as the Panther-Schmalturm”. Fifteen rounds were to be stored and be accessible in the turret and fifty to fifty-four more rounds were to be stored in the hull, meaning a total of 65 to 69 rounds could be carried.
Wa Prüf 6 was requested by the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen on March 14, 1945, to build a Versuchs-Panther mounting an 8.8cm Kw.K. L/71 based off the wooden model Daimler-Benz had shown off on December 12, 1944. The turret was to be made out of soft steel and the superstructure of the hull was to be modified in an unspecified way. Wa Prüf 6 was to complete the Versuchs-Panther quickly and display the vehicle on time.
Albert Speer, who was the Reich Minister of the Reichsministerium für Bewaffnung und Munition (English: ‘Reich Ministry of Armaments and Munitions’), requested on March 23, 1945, a display of a Panther armed with an 8.8cm Kw.K. gun, along with other weaponry, to be viewed by Adolf Hitler some time in mid-April. Hitler, however, was never able to see the vehicle as it was never built.
Daimler-Benz representatives were interrogated by the Allies after the Second World War had ended. They claimed that they had made plans to mount the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 onto a Schmalturm equipped with a stabilized gun sight with the project still being early in development. A wooden mockup of the project apparently existed up to June of 1945, three months after the German defeat, but after that it was lost to time.

Conclusion

The Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm isn’t one homogenous project as it is sometimes depicted. It is a series of unrelated and related projects from various different firms and organizations. In the end, arming the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther with an 8.8cm L/71 in a Schmalturm became little more than a fantasy. The war was nearing its end when actual progress was made and such a turret would have made no difference to the outcome of the war. Krupp’s proposal though would have been the most feasible when compared to the design from Wa Prüf 6 and Daimler-Benz’, since it was simply a regular Schmalturm with the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 stuffed inside. The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F was already placed into production and at least two mostly finished Schmalturms were made by the end of the war, one of which was captured and analyzed by the United States and the other captured and analyzed by the United Kingdom before ending up as a range target. However, there would have been issues with this design. Along with the bigger gun, the design was, in general, worse ergonomically for the crew and the cramped interior would have hampered the crews’ ability to carry out their tasks. There is no real surprise as to why Wa Prüf 6 was not fond of this design.
On the other hand, it is rather difficult to judge the Daimler-Benz or Wa Prüf 6 designs as very little is actually known. It appears, though, that the Daimler-Benz design would have required significant changes to an already existing design (Schmalturm) which would cause even further delays. In the case of Wa Prüf 6’s design, not only was the design of the turret changed, but existing Panthers would have to have their turret rings widened by 100 mm which would cause even more significant delays.
Despite the technical challenges of fitting an 8.8cm L/71 gun into a space smaller than that which had previously accommodated a 7.5cm gun, all designs managed to come up with workable solutions. Undoubtedly, had the final design for the compromise Schmalturm come to fruition, it would have made the new Panther a more powerful vehicle on the battlefield with a smaller silhouette, smaller profile, more firepower and improved protection, but at the expense of the crew ergonomics in the turret and their ability to carry out their tasks.

Sources

Jentz, T.L. 1995. Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy. 1st ed. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Jentz, T.L. & Doyle, H.L. 2001. Panther Tracts No. 20-1: Paper Panzers.1st ed. Boyds, Maryland: Panzer Tracts

Specifications for Krupp’s 8.8cm Schmalturm turret

Crew 3 (commander, loader, and gunner)
Armament 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71
-8/+15 gun elevation
Armor Armor: Presumably identical to Schmalturm with the exception of the mantlet and bulbous turret extension
Turret front: 120 mm (20 degrees)
Turret sides and rear: 60 mm (25 degrees)
Roof: 40 mm (horizontally flat)
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index


Krupp’s proposal for mounting an 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 onto a Pz.Kpfw. V Panther chassis according to drawing Hln-E142. Illustration by Andrei “Octo10” Kirushkin. Funded by our Patreon campaign.

Categories
WW2 German Panzer V

Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F (Sd.Kfz.171)

Germany (1945)
Medium tank – Small number of unfinished hulls and turrets. At least one F/G hybrid.

As early as 1943, the Germans sought to design a new turret for the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (Sd.Kfz.171). The Rheinmetall-designed turret that the Panther was equipped with was considered to be an inefficient design with various flaws. Wa Prüf 6, a department of the Waffenamt tasked with designing and testing armored vehicles, presumably thought that Rheinmetall could redeem themselves by redesigning the new turret. Wa Prüf 6 required that the new turret was to have a smaller visible frontal area, elimination or reduction of the mantlet’s shot trap from the original Panther turret (which tended to deflect rounds into the hull), increase in armor protection, and internally mount a stereoscopic rangefinder, while weighing no more than the original Panther turret.

On March 1, 1943, Rheinmetall created conceptual turret design drawing, H-Sk 88517, otherwise known as the ‘Turm-Panther (schmale Blende)’ (English: ‘Turret-Panther (narrow mantlet)’) under these requirements. The stereoscopic rangefinder was able to be accommodated by creating a significant bulge at the top of the turret. In addition, a periscopic gun sight was considered over a standard telescopic gun sight. The frontal turret armor had a thickness of 120mm set at an angle of 12 degrees, a thickness of 60mm at the sides and rear set at an angle of 25 degrees, and a thickness of 40mm set at an angle of 17 and 7 degrees on the turret roof. With these changes in mind, everything else was to be the same as the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.A’s turret.

The schmale Blende seems to be some sort of adaption of Rheinmetall’s H-SKA 86176 otherwise known as ‘Turm Panther 2 (schmale Blendenausführung)’ (English: ‘Turret Panther 2 (narrow mantlet variant)’) which the drawing dates back to November 7, 1943. The turret served as one of several proposals for the Panzerkampfwagen Panther II. It lacked the triangular roof line which accommodated the rangefinder, the rangefinder itself, and the armored guard underneath the mantlet which was designed to prevent shot traps. It is unclear if the schmale Blende is a parallel development to schmale Blendenausführung or a way for Rheinmetall to salvage the design after the cancellation of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther II in May, 1944.

Drawings of Rheinmetall’s schmale Blende redesigned Panther turret. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy

Wa Prüf 6 was dissatisfied with Rheinmetall’s design for reasons unknown and, thus, in Spring of 1944, they handed the responsibility over to Daimler-Benz. Wa Prüf 6 gave a new set of requirements, most of which were the same as the original. The exceptions were exchanging the co-axial M.G.34 with the M.G.42, minimizing of the production cost, ability to be quickly converted into a Befehlswagen Panther (commander’s tank version of the Panther), and ability to use infrared night vision equipment.

Under these new specifications, the Schmalturm (English: ‘narrow turret’) was born. It did everything it was required to do and then some. It weighed less than the original Panther turret (from 7665 kg to 7565 kg) and made the area of the frontal armor smaller while not affecting the internal crew space. It also reduced the production time by about 30-40%. The new turret shared little to no relation to the original Panther turret, unlike its Rheinmetall predecessor.
It was then decided that the genesis of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausführung F (Sd.Kfz.171) would be determined by mounting the Schmalturm on a slightly modified Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G hull.

Prototypes

Several Schmalturm prototypes, dubbed ‘Versuchs-Schmalturm’ (English: ‘experimental narrow turret’), are known to have been built for Wa Prüf 6. These were essentially experimental Schmalturm turrets on a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G hull, effectively making them Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F prototypes.

The first Versuchs-Schmalturm, completed by August 20, 1944. It was mounted on Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G chassis number 120413, which was built by M.A.N. and was originally intended for combat. The chassis was instead used as a test bed. It featured a loader’s periscope on the turret roof which ended up being removed and the hole left from the installation was filled with a welded armor plug. A hole at the front of the turret was created for a telescopic gun sight, presumably a monocular version of the articulating T.Z.F.13 gun sight and an unspecified periscopic gun sight. ‘T.Z.F.’ stood for ‘Turmzielfernrohr’ (English: ‘turret gun sight’). The redesigned cupola had a hole to extend a T.S.R.1 observation periscope without opening the hatch.

Semple Tank undergoing trials
Front and side shot of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G. mounting the first Versuchs-Schmalturm. Source: Panzer Tracts

The second Versuchs-Schmalturm was built by January 4, 1945 and also mounted on a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G, chassis number 120413 (according to a different source), which might suggest that the same chassis was used for both Versuchs-Schmalturm turrets. The new turret featured a S.Z.F.1 stabilized periscopic gun sight, but no hole for a telescopic gun sight. The hull was also photographed with ‘Schürzen’ side skirts and with the rain and debris guard band on top of the mantlet omitted. The muzzle brake was most likely omitted on this iteration.


Front photograph of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G mounting the second Versuchs-Schmalturm. Source: Panzer Tracts

Vision

One of the defining features of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F was the inclusion of a rangefinder. The E.M.1.32 m stereoscopic rangefinder was under development by Zeiss of Jena, Germany. ‘E.M.’ is an acronym for Entfernungsmesser (English: ‘rangefinder’) and ‘1.32 m’ stood for the length of the rangefinder. It has a magnification of 15x and a field of view of four degrees. However, no example of this rangefinder would ever be built. Development would end in April of 1945 and mass production was meant to begin in July of 1945. In order to accommodate the rangefinder, it was located near the front top of the Schmalturm. Two spherical bulges were created to properly accommodate the piece of equipment on both upper front sides of the turret.

Initially, the monocular, articulated telescopic T.Z.F.13 was the intended gun sight for the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F, developed by Leitz of Wetzlar, Germany. An aperture at the front of the turret would need to be created to accommodate the sight, a feature that the first Versuchs-Schmalturm possessed. The T.Z.F.13 had a selectable magnification of 2.5x and a field of view of 28 degrees and 6x with a field of view of 12 degrees. An order of 4208 T.Z.F.13 gun sights was placed from Leitz which only ended with the dismal production of two gun sights, one in October of 1944 and the other in January of 1945.

A general view of the binocular version of the T.Z.F.13 gun sight. Source: Walter J. Spielberger

It appears that the T.Z.F.13 and S.Z.F.1 gun sights were going to compliment each other with S.Z.F.1 acting as a supplement. However, the S.Z.F.1 ended up being chosen, seeing as a periscopic stabilized device was desired for series production of the Schmalturm turret. Ten trial series S.Z.F.1s were ordered from Leitz in 1944 which seemed to have resulted in the production of five examples from September to December, 1944. One thousand more production versions were ordered in January of 1945. Meanwhile, four S.Z.F.1b modified gun sights were produced in January and February 1945.

According to the President of the Panzer Kommission Stiele von Heydekampf, they became interested in stabilizing both guns and gun sights after the discovery of the Medium Tank, M3’s stabilizers during the North Africa Campaign. Heydekampf claimed that they had managed to build an experimental gun and gun sight stabilizers for the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther. However, he refused to give any additional details other than claim that the experiments were promising.

The optical parts of the S.Z.F.1 sight were built by Leitz of Weltzar, but the gyroscopic parts for vertically stabilizing the sight were provided by Fa. Kreiselgerate of Berlin.  Ernst Haas from the Berlin firm was credited as the inventor and designer. Haas claims that he invented the equipment prior to the Second World War and offered his patents to the American Sperry Gyroscope Company. The company offered him too little for his patents and thus Haas refused their offer. However, his claims contradict the claims of Ludwig Leitz, head of development at Leitz. A less refined sight similar to the S.Z.F.1 sight was found in the Leitz plant. Ludwig Leitz claims that the sight was captured on the Eastern Front. He also goes on to claims that the sight was being refined and copied by both Leitz and Kreiselgerate together.

The original precursor to the S.Z.F.1 sight lacked the ability to fire accurately while on the move. While the sight was stabilized in the vertical plane, the gun was not. This meant that one could easily use the sight for observation, but could not be used to accurately fire while the vehicle was moving. However, the inclusion of a “pre-ignition device”, as Haas called it, allowed it to fire with a degree of accuracy while the vehicle was moving. The “pre-ignition device” was, in reality, a gyroscopic rate-of-turn indicator that measured the rate of angular motion in the vertical plane. With this device, when the unstabilized gun and stabilized gun sight aligned at the right moment when moving, the gun would fire after the gunner has triggered the firing of the gun. There would thus be a delay until the gun and sight align. This effectively gave the tank the ability to fire accurately while driving albeit only when the inconsistent alignment occurred.

The S.Z.F.1 periscopic sight consists of the periscope, control box, and motor-generator. The control box sits at a “comfortable” proximity to the gunner. It features switches for correcting the optical sighting axis by elevating or lowering it, for power supply, lighting, and firing, and for the “arresting device”. The sight had a magnification of 3x and 6x with “clean” observation up to 6000 m, elevation/depression of ±18, and the gyros rotated at 28000 RPM. The device consumed 120 watts on the direct current side.

The S.Z.F.1 was seen as a very rugged and sturdy design which “works without the least failure” even beyond the elevation of the sight because of the “good arrangements of the gyros”. Trials showed a mean value of 10 rounds which each deviated ±0.5 m from a target 1000 meters away, which corresponded with the angular value of 0.5 milliradians.

It is not confirmed if the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F would have had the ability to fire on the move. It is known that the S.Z.F.1 was intended for the vehicle and that the second Versuchs-Schmalturm also equipped with it. The information on the performance and characteristics is based on Ernst Haas claims albeit in great detail. Without solid documentary evidence, this information should be used cautiously. The documentation doesn’t explicitly mention the S.Z.F.1, but it does provide photographs of the S.Z.F.1 implying that is what is being referred to. Speculatively, it could be possible that the S.Z.F.1b was the variant with the pre-ignition device equipped which would allow it to fire on the move accurately while the S.Z.F.1 was the original precursor that did not have this ability. Both sights were known to have been built.



Top: general view of the S.Z.F.1 motor generator (left) and control box (right). Bottom: general view of the S.Z.F.1 periscopic gun sight. Source: Stabilized Optical Sight for German Tank Guns

The loader’s periscope from the previous Panther turrets was carried over to the first Versuchs-Schmalturm and production Schmalturm turrets. However, a design change omitting the loader’s periscope occurred after production of the Schmalturm turret commenced. The hole for the loader’s periscope was plugged by a welded armor plug.

Compared to the earlier Panther cupolas, the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F tank’s cast cupola was lower in height and, as a result, presented a smaller target. It featured seven slots for easily replaceable watertight and bullet resistant periscopes. A traversable ring was mounted internally at the top of the cupola, where a V-shaped rangefinder, scissor telescope, FG 1250 infrared night vision device (of which can be screwed on easily), and an anti-aircraft machine gun mount could be mounted. Internally, a cupola azimuth indicator was located near the bottom of the cupola. The azimuth indicator showed the commander and the gunner the relative position of the turret to the hull and consisted of a “clock dial drive”, comprised of ring connected via a gear train to the turret.

Protection

The Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F featured overall improved armor on the turret and even the hull (although to a lesser extent) compared to previous Panthers. The armor plates were made from E22 alloy. Armor plates that ranged from 16-30mm thick had a Brinell hardness of 309 to 353, 278-324 for 35-50mm plates, and 265-309 for 55-80mm plates. Armor plate thickness were allowed to deviate 0% to 5% from the intended specifications. The cast armor portions were made from alloy ‘B’ and had a Brinell hardness of 220 to 336. Brinell scale is a standardized method of characterizing the hardness of a certain material.


Drawing of a production series Schmalturm for the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F. Both the telescopic and periscopic gun sights are drawn. Source: Panzer Tracts

The frontal turret armor plate thickness consisted of 120mm at 20 degrees, 60mm on the sides and rear at 25 degrees, 40mm flat on the roof, and 150mm of cast armor on the ‘Saukopf’ (English: pig’s head) style mantlet. The hull’s armor was largely the same as the Ausf.G, with the differences lying on the hull’s roof. With the hull’s armor being entirely made out of armor plating, the frontal upper glacis plate consisted of 80mm thick plate at 55 degrees, 50mm at 55 degrees for the frontal lower glacis, 50mm at 29 degrees for the upper side hull, 40mm vertically flat for the lower side hull, 40mm at 30 degrees at the rear, 40-25mm horizontally flat for the hull roof (compared to the Ausf.G’s 40-16mm), 16mm horizontally flat on the engine deck, 16mm horizontally flat on the panniers (plate protecting the bottom of the hull superstructure overhang above the tracks), 25mm flat at the frontward belly, and 16mm horizontally flat at the rearward belly.


An alternative or replacement Schmalturm design dating back to September 30, 1944 from Daimler-Benz for the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F shows it with 100mm thick frontal armor, 50mm thick sides and rear, and 30mm thick turret roof. It also lacks a periscopic gun sight and has a telescopic gun sight. Source: Panzer Tracts

The Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F was equipped with a Nahverteidigungswaffe (English: close defense weapon). The Nahverteidigungswaffe consisted of a circular plate bolted down with a 92mm launch tube angled at 39 degrees. It primarily fired Schnellnebelkerze 39 (English: ‘quick smokescreen’) smoke candles for concealment.


Drawings of the Nahverteidigungswaffe as shown in Panther and Tiger II manuals. Source: custermen.net

The new ventilator’s position for the fighting compartment made it more economic in armor parts. The ventilator was now mounted on the right front of the turret reinforcement ring and the ventilator’s fan also saw use as an extractor of fumes from firing the gun. Greater efficiency was gained by swapping the flexible ducting from the previous Panthers with a thin metal tubing.

Firepower

The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F tank’s main armament consisted of the 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70 developed by Skodawerke of Pilsen, Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (English: ‘Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia’) (German-occupied Czechoslovakia), with the assistance of Krupp. The gun was essentially a 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70, but modified to be more compact by placing the buffer and recuperator below the gun instead of either side as on the 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70. The gun cradle was now welded and the air compressor set for the fume extractor was now replaced by an air pump cylinder by surrounding the recuperator with a single additional cylinder. The air pump cylinder activated once 420mm of recoil was reached. The muzzle brake was removed which caused the recoil force to increase from 12 to 18 tonnes, however, this omission was probably necessary to reach the 420mm of recoil. Few early 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70s were fitted with muzzle brakes and an example can be seen on the first Versuchs-Schmalturm. The Kw.K.44/1 weighed 1920 kg and had a muzzle kinetic energy of 285 tonnes.


Side shot of the 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70 with its mantlet. Source: Walter J. Spielberger

The 7.5cm Kw.K.44/2 L/70 was a further development of the 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70. Essentially, it was a Kw.K.44/1 with a mechanical rapid reload device weighing 3400 kg with the gun. The device consisted of a large structure to the right of the gun carriage which held 4 rounds This device, when activated by the recoil of the gun, would lift up a round onto a holder at the end of a pivoting arm. After the breech opened and ejected the spent casing, it stayed open and the holder would move downwards and a tension spring guide would insert the round into the breech. The breech would then close automatically which resulted in the release of pressure for the pivot arm spring which brought the holder back into a position to accept another round. When the gun fired the newly inserted round, the tension spring guide would reset and thus the process repeated. Three examples of the 7.5cm Kw.K.44/2 L/70 were built and sent to Unterlüß, Germany at the Rheinmetall-Borsig test range. The device gave the gun an impressive rate of fire of 40 rounds per minute albeit with only four rounds to fire. However, it would take a significant amount of space in the Schmalturm. Nevertheless, steps were taken to mount it in the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F.

All 82 rounds were stored in the hull, likely in the same fashion as the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G. carrying mostly Pzgr.39 (APCBC), Sprgr. (HE), and possibly a few Pzgr.40 (APCR) shells.

Due to the cancellation of production of the armored M.G.34, the M.G.42 was chosen as the replacement for the coaxial machine gun. A new mounting was designed in order to receive the M.G.42. The mounting was attached to the gun cradle and comprised of a front support with locking clamps, rear support, recoil spring, and a mechanism to adjust the gun. Two ammunition bags were positioned below the mounting. One for live ammunition and the other for spent casings.

On the rear turret plate, a pistol port was created in order to defend against enemy soldiers from climbing over the rear of the vehicle. In addition, the M.G.34 bow machine gun for the radio operator was replaced by a St.G.44.

Mobility and Maneuverability

Most if not all the automotives of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F were the same as on the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.G.
The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F was propelled by a V12, watercooled, Maybach HL 230 P30 engine generating 600 hp @ 2500 rpm. The Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F had a combat weight of 45.5 tonnes which gave it a power-to-weight ratio of 13.2 horsepower per tonne. Coupled with a ZF A.K.7/200 transmission (located at the front), the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F could reach 3.4 km/h in the first gear, 6.8 km/h in the second gear, 10.9 km/h in the third gear, 17 km/h in the fourth gear, 24.6 km/h in the fifth gear, 34.7 km/h in the sixth gear, 45.8 km/h in the seventh gear, and 3.3 km/h in the reverse gear. It had a maximum speed of 46 km/h, average road speed of 30-35 km/h, and a cross country speed of 20 km/h. It carried 700 liters of fuel which gave it a range of 200 km on road and 100 km on cross country.

The Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F was 8.86 m long (with gun), 6.866 m long (without gun), 3.42 m wide (with Schürzen, and 2.917 m tall. It had a ground pressure of 0.88 kg/cm^2, could climb slopes of 35 degrees, a ground clearance of 540mm, was able to ford depths of up to 1.9 m, could climb steps of up to 900mm, and cross trenches of up to 2.45 m wide. It also had a steering radius of 9.4 m and a steering ratio of 1.5.
The suspension consisted of 8 overlapping road wheels on each side with 860/100 rubber tires connected to torsion bars. The drive sprockets were located at the front and the idler wheels at the rear. Eighty-seven dry pin Kgs 64/660/150 track links were located on both sides. ‘Kgs’ is code used to describe the characteristics of the tracks. ‘K’ stands for ‘rapid tracks for vehicles’, ‘g’ stands for ‘cast steel all alloys’, and ‘s’ stands for ‘floating pins’. ‘64’ stands for the design of the track, ‘660’ stands for the width of the tracks in millimeters, and ‘150’ stands for the pitch of tracks in millimeters.


Illustration of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F (Sd.Kfz.171).


Illustration of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.G (Sd.Kfz.171) mounting the first Versuchs-Schmalturm.


Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.A (Sd.Kfz.171) equipped with Rheinmetall’s schmale Blende.

These three illustrations are by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patron Golum through our Patreon Campaign.


Maybach HL 230 P30 engine schematics.

The new turret traverse gear developed by Daimler-Benz of Berlin-Marienfelde, Germany dropped two differentials and the multiplate overload clutch from previous Panthers. This resulted in it being cheaper, lighter, and smaller. The traverse gear was fixed in place to the turret ring and “driven from the main transmission shaft through a hydraulic motor”. The hydraulic motor developed by Böhringer GmbH produced 6 hp at 800-4200 rpm. Normal turret traverse and precise horizontal gun sight aiming were both done by the hydraulic motor. Accurate control of the turret traverse, instead of the gunner’s feet as on previous Panther variants, was now done by hand. In addition to the gunner, the commander was also able to directly manipulate the turret traverse because of a linkage to the hydraulic motor. However, the commander wasn’t able to precisely traverse the turret needed for good aiming of the gun. The maximum 360 degrees turret traverse time via hydraulic power was 30 seconds.

Traversing the turret by hand took four minutes for a full 360-degree traverse. One full turn of the handwheel equaled 0.405 degrees of turret traverse. If the tank were to tilt to one side, the loader had an auxiliary turret traverse handwheel to help the gunner traverse the turret.
Elevating the main gun and coaxial machine gun was also made lighter, cheaper, and more compact with the new elevation mechanism. The mechanism consisted of a screw and nut which were connected by universal joints from the turret turntable to one end and the other end of the gun cradle. Elevating the gun was done by a handwheel on the turret traverse gearbox casing which used a carden shaft and beveling gear to connect to the screw and nut mechanism. To dampen shocks from the movement of the vehicle, a ring spring was installed. The gun was able to elevate up to 20 degrees and depress down to 8 degrees. A full rotation of the hand wheel equated to 4 degrees of elevation.

Crew

The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F carried over the five-man crew, three in the turret and two in the hull. In the hull, the driver was seated on the left front and the right radio operator was located on the right next to the driver with the St.G.44 hull machine gun under his control. In the turret, the gunner sat to the right of the gun and the loader on the left. The commander was located behind the gunner.

Miscellaneous

The deep groove type turret ball race had the same internal diameter as the previous Panther turret. Additionally, instead of being separate as on previous Panthers, the inner race was integral with the traversing rack.

The turret basket was connected to the inner turret ball race which used a tubular frame to connect with the turret floor. The tubular frame carried the hydraulic turret traverse motor, gun elevating gear, and a compartment for spent cartridge casings. Removable and adjustable leather cushioned with “rubber hair filler” seats for the gunner and loader were mounted on upper left and upper longerons (longitudinal bar added to provide rigidity), respectively. 20 “belt sacks” on the longeron, a container for a spare M.G.42 barrel, two containers for breathing tubes, and a container for a spare periscope are located in the turret basket. The rest of the equipment was put away behind a guard on the turret reinforcement ring.
For communication between vehicles, the Fu 2 and Fu 5 intercoms were used. Other changes include modification of the driver’s periscope mount and new hatches for the driver and radio operator. In order to open the new hatches, the hatch would be raised slightly and “move to the side”, presumably as opposed to swiveling away as on previous Panther iterations.

A Befehlswagen Panther configuration could be easily achieved by personnel in the field. The FuG5 ultra-short wave radio set was mounted on the hull and the Fu 8 long range radio was mounted in the turret. An armored encasement besides the cupola located on top of the turret shields the insulator below the antenna for the Fu 8 radio.

There were two types of methods the upper front plate and side plate interlocked with each other on the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F. The side hull plate interlocked with the front hull plate in two different methods. The side plate either locked with the front plate perpendicularly or horizontally.


Frontal portion of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F hull showing the two methods for the upper front plate and side plate can interlock. Source: Panzer Tracts

The rear turret escape hatch was made out of the leftovers from cutting the rear turret plate.

Production

Production of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F was to start in early 1945 and done by Krupp-Gruson in April, M.A.N. in April, Daimler-Benz in March, M.N.H. in May, and Nibelungenwerk in April. To Krupp-Gruson and Nibelungenwerk, the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F was to be their first Panthers produced while for M.A.N. production would have started with Panther number 2229, Daimler-Benz with Panther number 2621, and M.N.H. with Panther number 2303.

Semple Tank undergoing trials
Unfinished Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F hulls on a welding jig. Source: Panzer Tracts

The sought after production goal of all the German firms combined was 2,940 Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.Fs in 1945. Most of the firms were to share the production load about equally together with Krupp-Gruson and initially Nibelungenwerk doing the least, presumably due to their lack of experience in building Panthers.

Due to numerous delays and setbacks, the planned production schedule was never achieved. Krupp-Gruson was to build their first two Panthers in May and Nibelungenwerk was to build their first two Panthers in August.


The second, third, and fifth unfinished hulls are Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F hulls mixed in with Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G hulls. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy

According to M.A.N. representatives, M.A.N. was unable to finish any Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.Fs, although they claim that Daimler-Benz was able to finish a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F chassis outfitted with a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G turret and “steel tire, rubber cushioned” road wheels. Even if the turret ring sizes were the same between the Ausf.G and Ausf.F, significant changes were going to be needed in order to mount an Ausf.G turret on an Ausf.F hull as the turret race and turret traverse gear were incompatible.

It seems that only a few Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F. hulls were completed with a couple of mostly finished Schmalturm turrets (although they lacked some essential equipment such as the gun sights and range finder). Some Schmalturm examples were captured and sent to the United States, specifically the Aberdeen Proving Ground and the United Kingdom for analysis.


A Schmalturm, missing its gun, that was sent to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in the United States. Take note that the turret lacks a periscopic gun sight, but has a hole for a telescopic gun sight perhaps suggesting that this Schmalturm is an early example. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy

Semple Tank undergoing trials
Two front photographs of a production Schmalturm sent to the United Kingdom. Take note that it lacks a hole for a telescopic gun sight, but has an armored guard for the periscopic gun sight suggesting that this Schmalturm was produced later. Also take notice of the rings on both sides of the turret for mounting camouflage and the turret basket present on the left image. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy

Service

The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F, in its completed state, never saw service as the turrets were never completed. If a few Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F. managed to be completed by 20-23 of April 1945, they would have immediately seen combat defending Berlin with the II Abteilung/Panzer Regiment 2 (2nd battalion of the 2nd Panzer Regiment). However, at least one Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F mounting a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G. turret was seen defending Berlin in 1945 and subsequently moved into some sort of tank dump next to a Tiger I and Tiger II. This is most likely the Daimler-Benz-made Pz.Kpfw. Panther F/G hybrid M.A.N. representatives mentioned.


Semple Tank undergoing trials
Three different images of the same Pz.Kpfw. Ausf.F/G hybrid knocked out in Berlin. It seems to have been knocked out from a round hitting the barrel near the mantlet, fracturing the barrel, and thus being abandoned by its crew. The hull was identified as Ausf.F hull by examining the interlocking plates. The side superstructure plate interlocks with the front upper plate horizontally, which means it is a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F hull.


Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F/G hybrid at an unidentified tank dump after being knocked out in the streets of Berlin. This hybrid is the same as the one in Berlin due to the mud guards being bent the same way. A Tiger II and Tiger can be seen in the background. Source: Unknown

Conclusion

The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F was the right upgrade at the wrong time. The Schmalturm was a significant improvement over the previous turret, however, it was far too late. By the time the vehicle entered production, Germany’s fate was sealed. The Allies were closing in and by the time they reached the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F’s production facilities, what they found were a couple of unfinished hulls and turrets. What is left of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F is a fractured Schmalturm that was used as a range target at The Tank Museum, Bovington.

Semple Tank undergoing trials
Two more photographs showing the left side and rear of the Schmalturm that was sent to the U.K. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy


This Schmalturm was the one that was sent to the United Kingdom. The last remaining relic of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F at The Tank Museum. Source: Mark Nash


Krupp’s design to mount an 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 onto a Panther based on the Schmalturm. Source: Panzer Tracts

Side Note: Panther’s Designation

It is important to note that the designations, ‘Panzerkampfwagen V Panther’ and ‘Panzerkampfwagen Panther’ are both correct for the same family of vehicles. It is also important to note that the designation ‘Panzerkampfwagen V Panther’ did not receive an Ausführung letter modifier, however ‘Panzerkampfwagen Panther’ did.

For example, it is incorrect to say ‘Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf.G’ (or any other Ausführung letter modifier). On the other hand, it is correct to say ‘Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.G’.

Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausführung F (Sd.kfz.171) specifications

Dimensions Length: 8.86 m
Length (without gun): 6.866 m
Width (with Schürzen): 3.42 m
Height: 2.917 m
Weight, combat loaded 45.5 tonnes
Crew 5 men (commander, gunner, loader, radio operator, and driver)
Propulsion Water-cooled, gasoline Maybach HL 230 P30 V12 motor producing 600 hp @ 2500 rpm
coupled to a ZF A.K.7/200 transmission
Suspension Torsion bars
Top speed 46 km/h (28.6 mph)
Range (road) On road: 200km
Cross Country: 100km
Armament 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70
Secondary armament 1x coaxial 7.92mm M.G.42
1x St.G.44 bow machine gun
Armor Hull
80mm (55 degrees) upper frontal hull
55mm (55 degrees) lower frontal hull
50mm (29 degrees) upper side hull
40 (vertically flat) lower side hull
40mm (30 degrees) rear hull
40-25mm (horizontally flat) roof
16mm (horizontally flat) engine deck
25mm (horizontally flat) frontward belly
16mm (horizontally flat) rearward belly
16mm (horizontally flat) pannier
Turret
150mm (pot shaped) cast mantlet
120mm (20 degrees) turret front
60mm (25 degrees) turret sides and rear
40mm (horizontally flat) roof
Total built Few unfinished hulls and turrets. At least one Ausf.F/G hybrid

Sources

Jentz, T.L. & Doyle, H.L. 2006. Panther Tracts No. 5-4: Panzerkampfwagen Panther II and Panther Ausfuehrung F. 1st ed. Boyds, Maryland: Panzer Tracts
Jentz, T.L. 1995. Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy. 1st ed. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Spielberger, W.J. 1993. Panther & Its Variants. 1st ed. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military/Aviation History.
Doyle, H.L. & Jentz, T.L. Panther Variants 1942-1945. 1st ed. London, England: Osprey
The Custermen Division. 2001. Nahverteidigungswaffe. https://www.custermen.net/nahvert/nah.htm Date of access: 6 Feb. 2018.
CIOS XXXII-33 Tank Development at the Daimler-Benz Factory Berlin-Marienfelde
Stabilized Optical Sight for German Tank Guns (S.Z.F.1 document)
The author would like to extend his gratitude to Harold Biondo for providing sources.

Categories
WW2 German Panzer V

Ersatz M10s – Panthers in Disguise

Nazi Germany (1944)
Medium Tank – 10 Disguised

Over centuries of war, elaborate disguises have been used many times to hide a combatant’s true force or intention. This spans from the famous Trojan Horse of the Trojan Wars to the fake spying trees of the First World War. In World War Two, the German Wehrmacht employed such tactics in quite an elaborate fashion.
In winter 1944, the Battle of the Bulge was in full swing. As part of a special operation, codenamed Greif, the Germans employed an even more elaborate deception. This involved taking multiple Panzerkampfwagen V Panthers and disguising them as the American M10 ‘Wolverine’ Tank Destroyer. To quote the fictional Captain George Mainwaring; “this is just the sort of shabby trick the Nazis would play”.

Background, Operation Greif

The brainchild of Adolf Hitler and commanded by Waffen-SS Commando Otto Skorzeny, Operation Greif (meaning Griffin) was part of an elaborate special operation during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944. Skorzeny had become one of Hitler’s most trusted operatives, especially after he succeeded in the rescue of Benito Mussolini in the autumn of 1943.

A head-on view of one of the disguised Panther’s after it was knocked out. Note the crudely painted American stars and unit markings on the bow. Photo: lonesentry.com
Skorzeny was ordered to form Panzer Brigade 150 whose role would be to capture as many bridges over the Meuse river as possible. The twist to the operation was that the troops in the Brigade would be disguised as British and American troops and also use the enemy’s equipment, vehicles, and tanks. The hope was that it would lead to catastrophic confusion.
The SS Commando was concerned, however. With his men in disguise, they were in breach of the Hague Convention of 1907 (Part IV, Section II, Chapter II). This meant, that if any of his troops were to be captured in the uniforms of British or American soldiers, they could be shot as spies.

Panzer Brigade 150

With the Ardennes Offensive looming on the horizon, Skorzeny only had a matter of weeks to assemble his brigade. 3,300 troops were requested in total to fill three battalions. Part of the request was that the troops have general knowledge of the English language or American dialects. The Western German Army Command (OB West) was charged with finding the needed US and British equipment. This included 15 tanks, 20 self-propelled guns, 20 armored cars, 100 jeeps, 40 motorcycles and 120 trucks. They were also tasked with collecting as many British and American Uniforms as possible. Once gathered, the equipment would be sent to the Brigade’s training ground which was set up in eastern Bavaria at Grafenwöhr.
What was delivered to the training ground fell far short of Skorzeny’s requests. Of the 3,300 men requested, only around 400 spoke any kind of English. The best English speakers, 150 of them, were formed into a commando unit known as Einheit Stielau. To fill the gaps in the infantry, Skorzeny recruited from other corps such as the SS-Jagdverbände, SS-Fallschirmjäger, Paratroopers and tank crews from other Panzer Regiments and Brigades. This still did not meet the desired 3,300 men, 2,500 would be all Skorzeny had to deploy. The Brigade was scaled back to two battalions to cope with the smaller than anticipated number of infantry.
Infantry numbers were not the only disappointment. Far fewer captured Allied vehicles were available than anticipated. Just 49 unarmored vehicles were delivered. The shortfall was met with German Army vehicles repainted in the American Olive-Drab. What was worse, however, was that of the 15 requested captured Allied tanks or ‘Beutepanzers,’ only two American M4 Shermans in an ill state of repair were delivered.
To cover the gap left by these decrepit M4s, Skorzeny employed five of Germany’s own tanks, the Panzer V Panther. But, to blend in with the operation, modifications had to be made.

45-ton Cuckoo

Defined as a medium tank, the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther entered service in 1943 in response to the Soviet T-34. It had armor of up to 80mm, with the upper glacis sloped at 35 degrees. The tank was powered by a Maybach HL230 P30 V-12 rated at 690 hp, producing a top speed of up to 34 mph (55 km/h).
The Panther was armed with the 7.5 cm (75mm) KwK 42 L/70 which could penetrate up to 199mm of armor at 1000 yards. It also had a bow and coaxially mounted MG 34 7.92mm Machine Guns. It was operated by a five-man crew; Commander, Gunner, Loader, Driver, Bow Gunner/Radio-Operator.
The particular Panthers chosen for Operation Greif were Ausfuhrung Gs. The Ausf. G was produced from March 1944. It was the last model of Panther to be produced in large numbers and featured a number of changes over the previous models that were originally intended for introduction on the canceled Panther II. This included thicker side armor, the addition of a wedge on the bottom of the mantlet to eliminate the shot trap, and the deletion of the driver’s vision port in exchange for a rotating periscope above his position.

Modifications

For the Panthers to assume the appearance of the Allies’ M10 Tank Destroyer, a number of cosmetic changes had to be made.
The description of the changes is based on information from the issue 57 of the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends, published in April 1945. As it is a wartime intelligence publication, some data may be missing or may be inaccurate.

Turret

The turret saw the heaviest application of this ‘camoflage’. To replicate the M10’s unique turret shape, five sections of sheet metal around 3.4 mm thick were cut. Two pieces were cut to mirror the turret sides. These were flanged and bent into shape, supported by iron bars. Two more pieces were placed on the rear of the turret to represent the lower bustle and counterweight and were strengthened with iron bars. This counter weight piece is mysterious, as there appears to be no visual record of it. These four pieces were then attached together, and the frame work welded to the turret. Even the smallest M10 turret details were closely studied and replicated, including the lifting eyes, brackets and the attachment points for appliqué armor.
A false gun shield was manufactured and welded to the Panther’s own. A hole was made for the coaxial machine gun, something the original M10 did not require as it did not have one.
The most drastic change to the turret came with the removal of the iconic German Commander’s cupola. Having been cut out, it was replaced by a simple two-piece hatch. Each piece was hinged for opening. No vision devices were added, so the commander was now effectively blind when buttoned down.

A close up look of the modifications to the turret. Photo: lonesentry.com

Hull

Bow: The hull saw the heaviest application of fabricated M10 parts. Roughly four pieces of sheet metal, all 3.5mm thick, were carefully formed and welded into place to replicate the iconic bulbous transmission housing on the bow of M4 derived tanks. A further sheet of metal was welded over the upper glacis. A trap door attached to a chain was cut into the piece to allow use of the bow MG 34 Machine Gun. As with the turret, the appropriate towing eyes and brackets were applied to these pieces.
Sides: In an attempt to replicate the sloping side armor of the M10 which overlaps the return of the track, a long piece of sheet metal was cut and welded horizontally along the flanks, replacing the Schurzen side armor. Three blocks of spare track links were also added along the sides replicating the stowage pattern used on the M10. All external stowage such as the pioneer tools, ramming staff water cans and jacks were removed.
Rear: The rear of the Panther saw the addition of a false rear. A box like frame was welded together from 4-5 pieces of sheet metal and welded to the rear of the tank. This was attached in place of the two large stowage boxes to replicate the overhanging tail of the M10. Holes were cut in the seam along the top for the exhaust pipes. On the top of this box, a replica of the M10s fixed gun rest was also welded into place.
Paint: Paintwork was the final step in the disguise. The entire tank was painted in a reproduction of the typical American Olive Drab paint. Allied star markings were applied to the upper glacis and also to the sides and roof of the turret. False unit markings were also applied to the bow and rear.

Undisguised Parts

There were parts of the Panther that were too hard to disguise too. The biggest issue, of course, being the classic German overlapping road wheels which looked nothing like the VVSS (Vertical Volute Spring Suspension) of the M10. The tracks were also much thicker. Another was the muzzle brake of the L/70 which had to be retained for the gun to operate safely and effectively. Apart from the British 17-Pdr Achilles variant, the M10 did not have a muzzle brake. The overall size of the Panther was an issue too, as it was wider, longer and taller than the M10.

The overlapping road wheels were impossible to mask, as displayed by this knocked out disguised Panther. Photo: SOURCE
M10 Ersatz
Buy this poster and support Tank Encyclopedia!


One of the 10 Panther Ausf. Gs that was disguised as an Allied M10 Tank Destroyer. Operation Grief, December 1944. (Click to see full image)


A standard allied M10 “Wolverine” for comparison. This is the appearance that the 150 were aiming for. 


Standard Panther Ausf. G for comparison. With this, you can see the how extensive the modifications were.

All illustrations are by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.


Action

In action, the disguised Panthers used a number of methods to signify to surrounding German forces that it was indeed a friendly vehicle. This included painting a subtle yellow triangle on the rear of the tank. Another method was that all the disguised tanks would have their guns aligned in certain direction.
Before the operation started, rumours began to spread among the troops about the Brigade’s purpose. The troops believed they would be reinforcing besieged towns such as Dunkirk, Lorient, another was that they were to capture Antwerp. The most elaborate speculation was that their orders were to capture the Allied Supreme Command at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces Europe (SHAFE) in Paris. Not even Skorzeny’s own commanders knew about the true plan. Just 4 days before the beginning of the operation on the 10th of December, would they know.
On the 14th of December, the 150th Brigade was assembled near the historic town of Bad Münstereifel moving out on the 16th. The aim was to capture two or more bridges over the River Meuse at Amay, Huy and Andenne. The brigade was supported by three Panzer divisions; 1st SS Panzer Division, 12th SS Panzer Division, 12th Volksgrenadier Division. The bridges were divided between the three battle-groups that would each hold a bridge until they could be destroyed, which would prevent the Allies from crossing. It was hoped that the confusion caused by the Allies receiving fire from what appeared to be friendly vehicles and troops would play into the hands of the Wehrmacht, and in turn increasing the likelihood of success.
However, the brigade became delayed by two days after the 1st SS Panzer Division failed to link up at the starting point. With this 48 hour delay, Skorzeny realized that the original plan was now doomed. As a result of this failure, Skorzeny attended a meeting at the 6th Panzer Army’s Headquarters where he suggested that his brigade take on the role of a normal army panzer unit. This was approved, and the Commander was ordered to assemble his forces south of the Belgian municipality of Malmedy.

A disguised Panther knocked out by American forces, coincidentally under a ‘Chevrolet’ sign. Photo: SOURCE
Under Skorzeny’s command, the Brigade moved out on the 21st of December 1944 in an attempt to take Malmedy. The 150th tried several times to take the town, but they were repelled by the defending American forces, including the 120th Infantry Division, every time with heavy artillery support. Private Francis Currey of the 120th received the Congressional Medal of Honor after he managed to knock one of the tanks out with a Bazooka.
The artillery pummeled the 150th into submission, taking a heavy toll on the brigade. Even Skorzeny himself was wounded by shrapnel. Skorzeny’s unit would be the German’s only attempt to take Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge.

Aftermath

Operation Greif succeeded in causing a great deal of confusion in American and Allied forces. Spies were thought to be everywhere. It was even thought at one point that there may be an attempt to kidnap General Eisenhower. This paranoia spawned from a German commando team which was captured on the 17th of December where one of the commandos told their captors that there was a plan to capture the general.
A number of friendly-fire incidents also occurred as a result of the confusion. On the 20th of December, two American GIs were shot at a checkpoint by a military policeman in a case of mistaken identity. Such incidents continued to happen into early 1945, when two more were killed and several injured when the US 6th Armored Division engaged the 35th Infantry Division by mistake near Bastogne.

A group of civilians pose for a photo next to one of the knocked out Panthers. Photo: SOURCE

Investigating the Tanks

In total, four of the Ersatz M10s were knocked out during the battle. After the action, the Ordnance Intelligence department investigated the hulks of these Trojan Horses.
From numbers found on the tanks, it was thought that there were at least ten converted vehicles. The destroyed vehicles they studied had the identifying numbers of B-4, B-5, B-7, and B-10. In the more intact wrecks, investigators found American uniforms including overcoats, helmets, and trousers.
The investigators surmised that had the tanks been deployed with a bit more care and cover, they would’ve been extremely effective and dealt considerable damage. Not much is known about the tanks from this point on. After the investigation, they were likely scrapped. None of the Ersatz M10s survive today.


These Photos: SOURCE

An article by Mark Nash
For our U.K. readers, this article can also be found in the August 2018 issue of ‘Classic Military Vehicle‘ Magazine.

Panther specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 6.87/8.66 x3.27 x2.99 m (22.54/28.41 x10.73 x9.81 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 44.8 tons max. (98,767 lbs)
Armament Main: 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 42 L/70, 79 rounds
Sec: 2x 7.9 mm (0.31 in) MG 34, 5100 rounds
Armor Sloped, from 15 to 120 mm (0.59-4.72 in)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, loader, radioman/machine gunner)
Propulsion V12 Maybach HL230 P2 gasoline, 690 hp (515 kW)
Transmission ZF AK 7-200 7-forward/1-reverse gearbox
Suspensions Double torsion bars and interleaved wheels
Speed (late model) 48 km/h (29 mph)
Operational range 250 km (160 mi)
Vehicles Disquised 10
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Panzer Tracts No.5-3, Panzerkampfwagen “Panther” Ausfuehrung G, Thomas L. Jentz & Hilary L. Doyle.
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #22: Panther Variants 1942–45
Stackpole Military History Series, Battle of the Bulge, Vol. 2: Hell at Bütgenbach / Seize the Bridges, Hans J. Wijers
Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 57, April 1945 (READ HERE)

Categories
WW2 German Panzer V

Panzer V Panther Ausf.D, A and G

German tanks ww2 Germany (1943) Medium tank: between 5,984 – 6,003 built

Introduction

Panther tanks first saw action on the Eastern fronts. They were also used in Italy, France, Belgium and Holland. They took part in the Ardennes offensive, the battle of the Bulge plus the defence of Germany. It had better cross-country mobility than the Tiger tank and had the same if not more hitting power, with its 7.5 cm Kw.K 42 L/70 long barrelled high velocity anti-tank gun. Around 6,000 were produced.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

The use of sloped armor kept the weight of the tank down but maintained its protection level. The angled front 80 mm armor glacis plate gave more protection than the Tiger tank’s 100 mm vertical armour plate. This fact is not often mentioned. An enemy’s standard armour piercing round fired from directly in front of the tank hitting the glacis plate in a straight line had to penetrate 139 mm (5.4 inches) of armor due to the angle of the armour. If the enemy tank was firing at the front of a Panther tank but at a 45 degree angle to it, the shell would have to pass through 197 mm (7.7 inches) of armor.
Enemy tank crews always tried to out flank Panther tanks to fire at its more vulnerable side or rear armor. German Panther tank crew’s tactics involved presenting their frontal armour towards enemy tanks as much as possible.

The Panther was born out of the shock of combat on the Eastern Front during the 1941 Operation Barbarossa. There, German units first met the T-34 and KV-1 tanks which posed significant problems to the German tank and anti-tank cannons.

This led to the start of development of the VK30.01(D) and VK30.02(M), the two designs that would compete to become the Panzerkampfwagen V. The MAN design would go on to be selected and rushed into production.

The Panzer V Ausf.D

The first production Panther tank was the Ausf.D not the Ausf.A. This confuses many people. In the past German tank versions started with the letter A and then went on to B, C, D etc. In January 1943 M.A.N produced the first production series Panther Ausf.D tank. ‘Ausf’ is an abbreviation for the German word ‘Ausfuehrung’ which means version. The Panzer V Ausf.D Panther tank Fahrgestell-Nummer Serie chassis numbers range from 210001 to 210254 and 211001 to 213220.

The Main Gun

The Panther Tank was armed with a long barrelled high velocity 7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone (KwK) 42 L/70 gun that could knock out most Allied and Soviet tanks at long distances. It had an effective direct fire range of 1.1 km – 1.3 km. With a good gun crew it could fire six rounds a minute. The barrel length including the muzzle brake was 5535 mm (5225 mm without the muzzle brake). It had an elevation range of -8 degrees to +20 degrees. It was fitted with a Turmzielfernrohr 12 binocular gun sight. Seventy nine rounds of 75 mm ammunition could be stored inside the tank. There was a coaxial 7.92 mm MG34 machine gun next to it.

Armor

To defeat uncapped armor piercing shells the front, side and rear chassis armour plates were face-hardened. The external armor plate used a tenon joint arrangement. It was found this gave the welds added strength.
The upper front glacis plate armour was 80 mm thick angled at 55o. This meant that an enemy shell firing directly at the Panther from a head on position would have to penetrate 139 mm of armour plate due to the angle of the armour. The Tiger I tank only had 100 mm of armour. This is a little understood fact.
The bottom of the Ausf.D chassis was made out of a single sheet of 16 mm thick armor plate. This would change on later versions of the Ausf.D: some were constructed of two 16 mm plates and others of three 16 mm plates. The thickness of these belly plates would be increased in the later Panther Ausf.A to help the tank cope with anti-tank mine explosions.
Most tanks of this period in time had vertical armored sides and thin metal track guards that came out at a right angle from the hull side. They were used to store tools and stowage boxes. Using sloping armor on the upper sides of the Panther tank chassis, that covered the top of the tracks, was a clever idea. It formed an internal triangular ‘pannier’ stowage area over the tracks. It gave more room inside the tank. Angled armor means that there is more metal for incoming enemy armor piercing rounds to penetrate and there is a higher chance of the shot ricocheting.
The chassis hull front glacis plate was 80 mm thick and fitted at 55 degrees. The Lower front plate was 60 mm thick and at an angle of 55 degrees. Both had a Brinell Hardness rating of 265-309.
The armour used on the lower hull side was 40 mm thick and vertical. The sloped upper side armor was also 40 mm thick but at an angle of 40 degrees. They had a Brinell Hardness rating of 278-324.
The top deck of the panther chassis and the belly armor were both 16 mm thick. The top of the turret was also 16 mm thick. They had a Brinell Hardness rating of 309-353.
The sides and rear armor of the Panther tank’s turret was 45 mm thick fitted at an angle of 25 degrees. It had a Brinell Hardness of 278-324.
The turret front and rounded gun mantle was made of armor 100 mm thick. The turret front armor was mounted at an angle of 12 degrees. It had a Brinell Hardness rating of 235-276.
The bottom section of the rounded gun mantle acted as a ‘shot trap’ that deflected incoming armor piercing shells downwards into the thin 16 mm thick chassis decking, killing the driver or bow machine gunner. This is why on the late production turret of the King Tiger tank the front of the turret and the gun mantle are nearly vertical to overcome this problem. The King Tiger’s early production turret had the same design defect as the Panther. On the Ausf.G Panther tank a revised gun mantel design was introduced that had a ‘chin’ guard to stop the ricochet problem.
To maintain the strength of the face-hardened armor plate, components were not welded onto its surface. Instead metal strips were used to hold and attach fastenings for tools, stowage boxes and spare parts. They were welded to the underneath of the side panniers and onto the top of chassis roof at the front near the driver and radio operator’s positions. The only exception to this was the cylindrical tube that contained the main gun cleaning rods. It was not part of the original design. It was an oversight, so was welded onto the outside of the pannier just under the turret. Spare track hangers were bolted onto the rear-deck, but the spare track hung over the sides of the pannier at the rear of the tank.

Panzerschuerzen – Skirt Armor

The German designers added protective skirt armor made from 4 mm soft steel to protect the visible 40 mm chassis side armor visible between the top of the track and below the pannier. It was believed this area would be vulnerable to penetration at close range by Soviet anti-tank rifles. The Schuerzen protective skirt armor was added starting in April 1943.

Zimmerit

The Germans had developed magnetic anti-tank mines for use by their infantry. They believed the Soviets would soon equip all their infantry units with a similar device. Starting in late August/early September 1943 the factories started to apply Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste on all upright surfaces of the Panther tanks on the production line. The paste was rippled to increase the distance to the tank’s surface.

Headlights

Two Bosch Tarnlampe headlights with black out covers were fixed onto the armor of the front glacis plate, one above each track guard. Starting in July 1943 only one was installed on the left side of the glacis plate.

The driver’s vision port

On the early Panzer V Ausf.D tanks a rectangular hole was cut out of the front armor on the left side of the tank and covered with an armored vision port. The driver could open this hinged port when not in a combat zone. This was perceived as a weak spot and was also a feature that took time to fabricate. To stream line production, to enable more tanks to be built quickly, the driver’s vision port was not fitted on later models. He could only see where he was driving by looking through two fixed armored periscopes and later only one swivelling periscope, that projected out of the chassis roof.

Hull machine gun

The early Panzer V Panther tanks were not fitted with an armoured ball mount for the 7.92 mm MG34 machine gun. A rectangular ‘letterbox’ slit was cut into the front sloping glacis plate to enable the radio operator to fire his machine gun when necessary. A small armoured door covered this opening. He had two periscopes fixed to the roof of the chassis: one faced forward and the other to the right side of the tank.

Suspension

The tank’s suspension system consisted of a front drive sprocket wheel that powered the track, a rear idler wheel and eight large double-interleaved rubber-rimmed steel road wheels on either side of the chassis.
Many tanks during World War Two had suspension units bolted onto the outside of the tank hull. When they were damaged by mines they were easily replaced with a new one. The Panther’s suspension system was not as easily to repair. When the torsion bars were damaged it sometimes needed a welder’s torch to cut them out.
The large interleaved road wheels caused problems for the crew when they had to replace a damaged internal wheel. They had to unbolt several wheels to get at the broken one. This was time consuming. Ice, mud and rocks could clog the interleaved wheels. In the severe winter weather on the Eastern Front they could freeze solid overnight.
These problems were considered acceptable because the dual torsion bar system allowed for relatively high-speed travel for such a heavy vehicle over undulating terrain. The extra wheels did provide better flotation and stability by allowing wider tracks to be fitted, and they also provided more armour protection for the tank’s hull sides. Each road wheel had sixteen bolts around the rim. This was increased to twenty-four rim bolt road wheels in later production models of the Ausf.D.

Tracks

Its wide tracks and large interleaved road wheels resulted in lower ground pressure. This helped it traverse waterlogged, or deep-snow covered rough terrain, providing better traction and mobility.
The Panther Tank’s track was a ‘Trockenbolzen-Scharnierkette’ (dry single-pin track). There were 87 track links per side kept together with a dry ungreased metal rod. It had a cap on the inside section and a split ring in a groove on the outside. The track was in contact with the ground for a length of 3.92 m. The tracks gave the tank a ground pressure reading of 0.88 kp/cm² on the Panther Ausf.D and Ausf.A and 0.89 kp/cm² on the Panther Ausf.G, which was good for such a large heavy vehicle. A complete length of track weighed 2,050 kg.
The track was called Kgs 64/660/150. The number 660 means the width of the tracks (660 mm). The number 150 is the ‘chain pitch’ (150 mm). The chain pitch was the distance between one drive sprocket tooth to the next. The letter ‘K’ was an abbreviation for ‘Schnelllauffähige Kette für Kraftfahrzeuge’ (fast running track for motor vehicles – unlike agricultural tractors). The letter ‘g’ was the code for ‘Stahlguß aller Legierungen’ (steel castings of all alloys) and the letter ‘s’ was short for ‘schwimmende Bolzen’ (swimming/rotating bolt).
Because of reported problems of tanks slipping the track link was redesigned. Starting in July 1943 new track links were cast with six chevrons on each track face.

Engine

A Maybach HL 210 P30 petrol V12 water-cooled 650 hp engine was installed in the first 250 Ausf.D tanks. This was later replaced with the more powerful Maybach HL 230 petrol V12 water-cooled 700 hp engine. The HL 230 engine’s crankcase and block were made of grey cast iron and the cylinder heads from cast iron.

Transmission (gearbox)

It was fitted with a ZF A.K.7/200 transmission, which was produced by the German ZF Friedrichshafen engineering company. The letters ‘ZF’ are an abbreviation for the German word “Zahnradfabrik” which translates to gear factory. It had seven forward gears and one reverse. The following is the official recommended maximum road speed for each gear: 1st gear 4.1 km/h; 2nd gear 8.2 km/h; 3rd gear 13.1 km/h; 4th gear 20.4 km/h; 5th gear 29.5 km/h; 6th gear 41.6 km/hr and 7th gear 54.9 km/h. The tank could be drive in reverse gear at a maximum road speed of 4 km/h.

Turret

On early Panther turrets there was a circular side communication hatch. It could be used for loading shells and throwing out used shell casings. The commander’s cupola was drum shaped and had six viewing ports of 90 mm thick bullet proof glass. There was a circular escape hatch at the rear of the turret with a handle above it. Starting on 1 August 1943 an anti-aircraft machine gun mount was added to the cupola.
There were three pistol ports in the sides of the turret armour: one on each side and one at the rear. The circular cover at the front of the turret roof was to protect the gun gasses exhaust fan. There were two brackets at the front of the turret attached to the roof, one on either side, to mount Nebelwurfgerät smoke grenade dischargers.
Starting in June 1943 they were no longer fitted. A Tiger tank crew battlefield report, dated February 1943, recorded the self-ignition of nebelkerzen smoke rounds inside the Nebelwurfgerät smoke grenade discharger, when hit by small arms fire. Wind conditions were calm and this resulted in a fog around the tank, incapacitating the crew, as well as restricting vision of potential threats and targets.
At the same time a rain guard was welded over the top of the two binocular gun sight apertures on the gun mantel and a gun laying vane was welded onto the turret roof in front of the commander’s cupola. Later production turrets had semi-circular rain guards welded above each pistol port opening, communication hatch and escape hatch.

Crew

The Panther tank had a five-man crew. The turret was large enough for three people: the commander, gunner, and loader. The driver sat on the left-hand side of the tank chassis at the front and next to him on the right-hand side was the hull machine gunner who also operated the radio.

Radio

The Panther tank was fitted with a FuG 5 radio and an intercom system. The prefix FuG is an abbreviation for ‘Funkgerät’ meaning ‘radio device’. The Funkgerät 5 radio was a high-band HF/low-band VHF transceiver. It operated in the 27,000 to 33,3000 kHz (27-33.3 MHz) frequency range with a transmit power of 10 Watts. This equipment provided for 125 radio channels at 50 kHz channel spacing. It was fitted in many German tanks and in other vehicles. The FuG 5 was designed to be used for tank-to-tank communication within platoons and companies. It had a range of approximately 2 km to 3 km when using the AM voice frequency and 3 km to 4 km when using CW (continuous wave) frequency.
If the Panther tank was used by a company commander a second radio was fitted called a Funkgerät 2 (FuG 2). This radio was a high-band HF/low-band VHF receiver (not a transmitter). It operated in the 27,000 to 33,3000 kHz (27-33.3 MHz) range. The FuG 2 was never used on its own but as an additional receiver. It allowed tank commanders to listen on one frequency while transmitting and receiving on the FuG 5. It used the same band as the FuG 5 radio set. This meant that the commander could listen to the regimental command net while talking to other tanks at the same time. This radio receiver could listen into a total of 125 channels, at 50 kHz channel steps in the 27.0 to 33.3 MHz range.

Camouflage

When the first batch of Panthers left the factory they were painted Dunkelgrau dark grey. In February 1943 all factories were instructed to paint all German armoured fighting vehicles Dunkelgelb, a dark sandy yellow. Each individual Panzer unit then applied its own individual camouflage pattern. They were issued with Olivegruen olive-green and Rotbraun reddy-brown paint. In the winter a covering of white wash was applied to the tanks.

Panther Ausf.D specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.86 m x 3.27 m x 2.99 m
(29ft 1in x 10ft 9in x 9ft 10in)
Total weight, battle ready 44.8 tonnes
Main Armament Main: 7.5 cm Kw.K.42 L/70, 82 rounds
Secondary Armament 2x 7.92 mm MG 34 machine guns
Armor 16 to 80 mm (Turret front 100-110 mm)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, loader, radioman/machine gunner)
Propulsion Maybach HL 210 (or 230) V12 water cooled 650hp gasoline/petrol engine
Transmission ZF AK 7-200 7-forward/1-reverse gearbox
Suspensions Double torsion bars and interleaved wheels
Max Road Speed 55 km/h (34 mph)
Operational range 200 km (124 miles)
Production 842 approx.

The Panzer V Ausf.A Panther

It can be difficult to identify the Ausfuehrung version of a Panzer V Panther tank without knowing its Fahrgestell-Nummer (Fgst.Nr.) chassis number. Many features of the Ausf.D like the drum-shaped commander’s cupola and the thin rectangular ‘letterbox’ hull machine gun port were still present on early production Ausf.A Panthers produced between July to December 1943. They only changed mid production and not at the same time. Other modifications were introduced during the production run. Ausf.D and Ausf.A tanks were also upgraded with different features once they had been issued to a Panzer Division when they went to a maintenance or repair unit.
The long name for this tank was Panzerkampfwagen ‘Panther’ (7.5 cm Kw.K L/70) (Sd.Kfz.171) Ausfuehrung A. The chassis used for the early production Panzer V Ausf.A was exactly the same as that used for the Ausf.D. This new batch of Panther tanks was given a new version designation, Ausf.A, because they were fitted with an improved turret.
The tank chassis were produced at four different locations: Daimler-Benz produced Fgst.Nr. 151901 to 152575; Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen Hannover (MNH) produced Fgst.Nr. 154801 to 155630; Demag-Benrath produced 158101 to 158150 and Maschinenfabrik-Augsburg-Nuernberg (M.A.N.) produced 210255 to 210899.

The Turret

The new Ausf.A turret, like the chassis, underwent changes during its production. The 7.5 cm Kw.K.42 L/70 gun was the same and so was the binocular T.Z.F.12 gun sight. The external shape of the new turret looked very similar to the older Ausf.D turret but there were some subtle changes. The gun mantle on the Ausf.A turret was wider than the one fitted to the older Ausf.D. Directly behind the gun mantle, the shape of the cast turret side had changed to a dish shape protrusion to fit the new seal for the gun mantle.
On the older Ausf.D turret the front and side armour plate used a ‘dovetail’ angled carpentry style welded joint. The new Ausf.A turret plates were welded together using an interlocking squared-off joint, with the top and bottom cut parallel to the turret base.
The loader had a periscope mounted in the turret roof. The powder gas extractor for the gun (Rohrausblasevorrichtung) was improved. The Ausf.D turret had a single speed power traverse system. A new variable-speed unit was fitted to the Ausf.A. To prevent water entering into the tank during fording a new spring-compressed sealing ring was fitted to the turret ring.
Early production Ausf.A Panthers were fitted with the Ausf.D round drum like commander’s cupola. A new dome shaped cast armor commander’s cupola was gradually introduced. It had seven periscopes with armored protective cowlings. It was fitted with a 1 o’clock to 12 o’clock azimuth indicator ring which moved with the turret. The gunner also had a 1 o’clock to 12 o’clock azimuth indicator mounted to his left. This helped with target acquisition communication. The commander could shout, ‘enemy tanks 7 o’clock’, and the gunner would know where to look. On 1 August 1943 a ring was mounted on the commander’s cupola to enable an anti-aircraft machine gun to be mounted.
The early production Ausf.A turrets had three pistol ports: one on each side and one on the rear. To make production simpler and the armor stronger, the pistol ports were dropped from late production Ausf.A turrets. Instead a Nahverteidgungswaffe close defence weapon was fitted to the roof of the tank to the right of the commander’s cupola. It could fire a high explosive grenade in the direction of attacking infantry. The crew were safe from the shrapnel inside the tank but the enemy soldiers would be exposed. The Nahverteidgungswaffe could also be used to fire smoke grenades and signal flares. It looked like a large flare pistol.
The early production Ausf.A turrets had the same gunner’s binocular T.Z.F.12 gun sight with a rain guard over the two lenses, that were fitted on the earlier Ausf.D turrets. This was changed to a monocular T.Z.F.12a gun sight starting in late November 1943. There was now only one hole on the gunner’s side at the front of the turret not two. The design of the gun mantle had to be changed to accommodate this new single lens gun sight. A smaller semi-circular rain guard was added to the design.
These changes to the turret design were not introduced at the same time. You can see photographs of Ausf.A turrets with the new commander’s domed shaped cupola but the sides still had pistol ports and the binocular gun sight mounted in the gun mantle.

Belly and deck armor

The production drawings have shown that the construction of the Panther Ausf.A chassis belly armor was not consistent. Some chassis belly armor was made from one sheet of 16 mm armor. Others were constructed in two parts with the front part being 30 mm thick to help cope with the damage caused by anti-tank mines. The third variation was formed of three separate armor plates. The front two were 30 mm thick and the rear one was 16 mm thick. It is not known exactly when these changes were introduced or what factory followed which authorised plans.
The construction of the deck armor was also not consistent. Some chassis deck armor was built from a single piece of 16 mm armored plate. Others were formed by welding three different pieces of 16 mm thick armored plate.

Side armor

The eight large double-interleaved rubber-rimmed steel road wheels on either side of the chassis provided more armored protection for the thin 40 mm thick hull sides than the smaller wheel used on the Panzer III and IV. The gap between the top of the wheels and the panniers was covered by plates of skirt armor designed to stop Soviet anti-tank rifle rounds.

Hull machine gun

Early production Ausf.A tanks had the same rectangular ‘letter box’ pistol port in the front glacis plate, out of which the radio operator could fire a machine gun. In late November 1943 a ball mount (Kugelblende) with a spherical armoured guard was introduced. The radio operator could now see forward through the machine gun sight. The forward-facing periscope was no longer fitted. His side periscope was repositioned 25 mm further to the right.

Side straps

Most metal straps for holding tools, spare parts and stowage boxes were welded or bolted to the top of the chassis or under the pannier, just above the track. Panthers built by Demag-Benrath were the exception. They welded the spare track hangers, base-bar directly to the hull side.

Suspension

The Panzer V Ausf.A chassis used the same dual torsion bar suspension system used on the earlier Ausf.D, but numerous changes were introduced during the production run at different times and locations. In August 1943 the road wheels were strengthened with twenty-four outer rim bolts, but road wheels with sixteen rim bolts were still being fitted to some panthers as late as March 1944. When new wheels were damaged there would be a chance that they could be replaced with the older 16 rim bolt wheels at the maintenance yard. Some had locking rectangular tabs on the inner face of replacement production series road wheels.
The design of the armor casing for the final drive housing was altered during the production run of Ausf.A Panthers. The armoured hub cap that went over the centre of the drive sprocket was also changed midway through production. Not all Panzer V Ausf.A Panther tanks looked the same.

Exhaust pipes

The early production Panther Ausf.A had the same layout as on the Ausf.D tank with two vertical exhaust pipes sticking out of individual curved armored guards at the rear of the tank. The red convoy light was fixed below the left pannier above the track.
Later the left side pipe was altered. Two cooling pipes were added. Now three long vertical pipes came out of a modified armored curved cover. There was still only one exhaust pipe coming out of the armored cover on the right side of the tank. The red convoy light was moved from over the left track to the immediate left side of the left exhaust armored cover at the rear of the tank.

Panther Ausf.A specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.86 m x 3.42 m x 3.10 m
(29ft 1in x 11ft 3in x 10ft 2in)
Total weight, battle ready 45.5 tonnes
Main Armament Main: 7.5 cm Kw.K.42 L/70, 79 rounds
Secondary Armament 2x 7.92 mm MG 34 machine guns
Armor 16 to 80 mm (Turret front 100-110 mm)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, loader, radioman/machine gunner)
Propulsion Maybach HL 230 P30 V12 water cooled 700hp gasoline/petrol engine
Max Road Speed 55 km/h (34 mph)
Operational range 200 km (124 miles)
Production 2,200

The Panzer V Ausf. G (September 1943 – May 1945)

The Panzer V Panther tank was given the Ausf.G version designation to indicate this production run of tanks used a different redesigned chassis. The turret and 7.5cm Kw.K L/70 gun was the same one used on the earlier Ausf.A.
On 4 May 1944, during a meeting at the M.A.N. company, a decision was made to design a new Panther tank chassis. Work had already started on developing a new version of the Panther tank called Panther II but that was far from completion. Some of the lessons learnt from that design process were used in formulating the plans for the Ausf.G tank chassis.
The side pannier armor that covered the top of the tracks on both sides of the tank was angled at 40 degrees on the Ausf.D and Ausf.A tank chassis. The new chassis pannier side armor was sloped at 29 degrees. The thickness in the armor was increased from 40 mm to 50 mm. This increased the weight of the tank by 305 Kg.
To compensate for this increase in weight the designers looked for areas where the thickness of the armor could be reduced. They chose to use 50 mm armor plate on the lower front hull instead of the normal 60 mm. This saved 150 kg. The forward belly plates were reduced to 25 mm from 30 mm. The front two belly plates were 25 mm thick and the rear plate was 16 mm thick. This saved a further 100 kg in weight. The rear side armor wedges at the end of the superstructure were not part of the new design. The floor of the pannier was now a straight line. These weight reduction changes meant that the increase in side armor thickness did not result in an increase in weight of the Ausf.G tank chassis compared with the older chassis.
As the bottom of the pannier was now 50 mm nearer to the top of the track no weld seams or stowage straps were fixed there. This was to stop them coming into contact with the track as the tank drove fast over undulating ground. Instead the stowage straps were welded to the side of the pannier armor.
There were many other minor changes but the overall thinking behind the design was to simplify the construction process to enable more tanks to be built as fast as possible. For example, the ventilation systems for the transmission, brakes, engine and exhaust were redesigned. This meant that the two additional parallel vertical pipes that came out of the left armoured exhaust cover at the rear of the tank on the late production Ausf.A tank chassis were no longer needed. Starting in May 1944, cast armor exhaust guards gradually replaced welded ones. To help reduce the red glow given off by the exhaust pipes at night, as a temporary solution, sheet metal covers were gradually introduced starting in June 1944. Starting in October 1944 these were replaced gradually with purpose build Flammenvernichter flame suppressor exhaust mufflers. When additional supplies became available they were back-fitted to other Panther tanks.
Another simplification of the production process was to introduce less complicated hinged hatches above the heads of the driver and radio operator. It was found during trials that the performance of the cross-country ride of the tank with or without the rear shock absorber was practically the same. Starting from 7 October 1944 the factories were ordered to stop fitting them to help simplify production.
Maschinenfabrik-Augsburg-Nuernberg (M.A.N.) started producing Panzer V Ausf.G Panther tanks from Fahrgestell-Nummer Serie chassis number 120301: Daimler-Benz from chassis number 124301 and Maschinenfabrik Neidersachsen Hannover (M.N.H.) from chassis number 128301.

The Driver’s position

A perceived weak spot was the driver’s armored vision port cut into the front glacis plate. This was deleted in the design of the Ausf.G chassis. The driver was provided with a single pivoting traversable periscope that was mounted in the roof of the chassis covered by an armored rain shield. (Starting in August 1944 it was covered by a larger hood rain shield.) This change in design helped simplify construction. When building the older Ausf.A chassis three features had to be built: the driver’s armored vision port plus the forward and side periscopes. Now only one periscope had to be fitted.

Schuerzen side skirt armour and headlight

When looking at the side of the Panther Ausf.G chassis it appears that the track guard, is jutting out of the steeper angled pannier side armor along the whole length of the tank. This is an optical illusion. It is a fender, introduced on this chassis, to enable the Schuerzen side skirt armor plates to be hung in the correct position. They were designed to protect the thinner 40 mm chassis hull side armour, visible above the top of the road wheels and under the pannier, from Soviet anti-tank rifles. It meets the front track fender. The single headlight on the Ausf.A chassis was mounted on the left side of the upper glacis plate. To make fitting the headlight easier it was moved to the top of the left fender on the Ausf.G chassis.

Ammunition stowage and machine gun ball mount

Two 4 mm thick dust cover sliding doors were introduced to close off the sponson ammunition racks. Starting in September 1944, these were no longer installed as it was found they got in the way of ammunition handling. The ammunition stowage area was changed so the tank could now carry eighty-two 7.5 cm main gun rounds. There was now a distinct ‘step’ around the 7.92 mm MG34 machine gun ball mount. This was to reduce enemy bullet splash entering the mount’s aperture. The machine gun ball mount was considered a weak spot by enemy infantry and was often targeted. If a bullet hit the sloped glacis plate below the mount it would ricochet upwards. The ‘step’ helped reduce the damage they could do.

Radio

Most Panther Ausf.G tanks were fitted with a Fug 5 radio set and an internal intercom. It had a usable range of around 4 km to 6 km depending on the atmospheric conditions and location of the tank. Hills reduced the radio’s range. Platoon leaders and company HQ tanks were fitted with an additional FuG 2 radio for a command channel.

Production

On 3 April 1944, M.A.N. reported that it had successfully completed trial production runs of the new Ausf.G chassis. M.A.N. built about 1143 Panther Ausf.G tanks between March 1944 and April 1945. Between July 1944 to March 1945 M.N.H. constructed 806 Panther Ausf.G tanks. Daimler-Benz finished 1004 Panther Ausf.G tanks between May 1944 and April 1945.
There were some minor differences between factory built tanks. M.N.H. fitted a cast steel Gleitschuh skid shoes instead of a rubber tire return roller behind the front track drive sprocket. The other two factories continued to fit rubber rimmed return rollers.
Starting in September 1944, M.A.N. replaced the road wheels on a few Panther Ausf.G tanks, with smaller 800 mm diameter steel tire, rubber cushioned, road wheels similar to the ones used on all Tiger II tanks and some Tiger I tanks. Although this saved on the amount of rubber required to build a new Panther tank it had the disadvantage of reducing the vehicle’s ground clearance by 30 mm. The slightly larger rubber rimmed tires were 860 mm diameter wheels. A few tanks built in April 1945 had rubber rimmed road wheels except for the one next to the idler wheel at the rear of the turret. That was a fitted with a smaller steel tire road wheel. It is not known why.
Starting in October 1944 a larger diameter self-cleaning idler wheel was fitted. This new idler wheel was introduced to held elevate the problems caused by the build-up of mud and ice.
During the production run some of the components of the suspension system changed like the swing arms and bump stops.
Ausf.G leaving the factory

Camouflage

Early production Panther Ausf.G were delivered to the front line painted in Dunkelgelb dark sandy yellow on top of the anti-magnetic mine Zimmerit coating. Each individual Panzer unit then applied their own camouflage design. On 19 August 1944 and order was issued to the factories that the tanks should be painted in a new camouflage pattern known as ‘Ambush’. Patches of Rotbraun, a reddy-brown colour and Olivgruen olive-green were spray painted over the Dunkelgelb base coat. Because of Allied and Soviet air supremacy in the later part of the war, Panther tank crews tried to hide their tanks under trees where possible. Dots of Dunkelgelb were applied to the olive-green and reddy-brown patches to simulate light coming through a tree canopy. Darker dots were applied to the Dunkelgelb base coat.
On 9 September 1944, because of reports that Zimmerit had caused tank fires and the lack of evidence of magnetic mine use by the Soviets and Allies, the factories were ordered to stop applying Zimmerit. Panther Ausf.G tanks now left the factory painted in a base coat of red oxide primer. They were only sparingly painted in camouflage patterns using Dunkelgelb in patches. Paint supplies were getting low and the need to get as many tanks to the front line as fast as possible was urgent.
On 31 October additional instructions were received at the factories. The inside of the Panther Ausf.G tanks were no longer to be painted a light colour. They were just painted in red oxide primer to save time. This would make the inside of the tank a very dark working environment. The outside could be sparingly painted in patches of reddy-brown Rotbraun, dark sandy yellow Dunkelgrau and olive-green Olivgruen. If supplies of Dunkelgrau had run out the factories were authorised to use Dunkelgrau dark grey instead. On 15 February 1945 the factories were ordered to paint the inside of the turrets Elfenbein ivory white again.

The Turret

A few minor changes were made to the turret during the production run. The most visible was the introduction of a handle on the circular hatch at the rear of the turret and one above it. A thin rectangular metal sheet was welded across the gap between the front of the turret and the top of the gun mantel to help stop debris entering the gap and jamming the gun elevation. A lengthened rain guard over the gun sight aperture was added starting in September 1944.
An armor piercing shells ricocheting off the bottom of the mantel and penetrating the roof of the chassis and killing the driver or radio operator
An armor piercing shell ricocheted off the bottom of the mantel and penetrating the roof of the chassis and killing the driver or radio operator
At the same time a new gun mantle was gradually introduced. It had a ‘chin’ guard to stop enemy armor piercing shells ricocheting off the bottom of the mantel and penetrating the roof of the chassis and killing the driver or radio operator. When allied troops inspected the M.N.H. Panther production factory at the end of the war they found turrets still being produced with the older curved gun mantel with out the ‘chin’ guard.
Ausf.G mantlet
Panther Ausf.G gun mantlet with chin guard, elongated rain guard over gun sight and debris guard on top of the gap between the gun mantel and front of the turret.
Starting in January 1945 five metal loops were welded to each turret side. Rope or wire was run between these loops to help hold in place branches from trees and bushes used as camouflage.

The Infrared Searchlight and Scope.

To be able to see the enemy at night was a tank commander’s dream. To be able to point the tank’s gun at a target with the correct elevation as well was cutting edge technology in late 1944.
Starting in September 1944 a few Panzer V Ausf.G Panther tanks had a F.G.1250 Ziel und Kommandanten-Optic fuer Panther infrared search light and Scope mounted on the commander’s cupola. When he moved the scope up and down an attached steel band, that had been fed through a hole in the turret roof, connected with a new indicator that showed the gunner the correct elevation. The 200-watt screened infrared light and receiver gun sight optic had a range of 600 m in clear weather.
It is not known exactly how many Panther tanks were fitted with this device or used on the battlefield. On 5 October 1944 M.N.H. reported that it had fitted twenty Panther tanks with the new infrared equipment during September. Another thirty were scheduled to be completed in October and a further thirty in December 1944. On 15 January 1945 M.N.H. were instructed to fit them to all their current order for Panther Ausf.G tanks. It cannot be confirmed if this was done.

Panther Ausf.G specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.86 m x 3.42 m x 3.10 m
(29ft 1in x 11ft 3in x 10ft 2in)
Total weight, battle ready 45.5 tonnes
Main Armament Main: 7.5 cm Kw.K.42 L/70, 82 rounds
Secondary Armament 2x 7.92 mm MG 34 machine guns
Armor 16 to 80 mm (Turret front 100-110 mm)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, loader, radioman/machine gunner)
Propulsion Maybach HL 230 P30 V12 water cooled 600hp gasoline/petrol engine
Transmission ZF AK 7-200 7-forward/1-reverse gearbox
Suspensions Double torsion bars and interleaved wheels
Max Road Speed 46 km/h (28.5 mph)
Operational range 200 km (124 miles)
Production 2961 approx.

Panzer V Ausf.F Panther

In November 1943, Rheinmetall designed a new turret with a narrow front plate 120 mm (4.72 in) thick. The narrow turret presented a smaller target and spared weight as well. The design was refined in March 1944, under the name of Schmale Blende Turm-Panther. This was one of several designs later collectively called “Schmallturm” (narrow turret). Several of these turrets, housing an adapted 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 42 L/70, were tested until the end of the war.

The Panther II

The Ausf.G was, however, not the last Panther version. Two major overhauls were attempted, the Panther II and the Ausf.F. The most distinctive feature of the latter was the new Schmallturm narrow turret and improved gun. None ever saw action before the end of the war. It should be noted that two features of the Ausf.G were well ahead of their time. Night infrared targeting systems and poison gas protection (a forerunner of NBC protections) were characteristics of the MBTs of the fifties and sixties.

E 50

The E 50 program inherited most of the ideas concerning the Panther II. The E series made good use of industrial commonality between models, for the sake of mass-production. The E 50 corresponded to the 50 ton class medium tank, and was scheduled to replace the original Panther. The plans for a prototype built by MAN included a Tiger II-like hull and mechanical parts, including the drivetrain and new steel-rimmed wheels, paired and not interleaved. No plans regarding the turret or gun were found, but it is commonly assumed that it would’ve sported the Schmallturm and the Tiger II‘s 88 mm (3.46 in).

Bergepanther

The idea emerged in 1943, due to problems in recovering heavy and medium tanks with usual methods. Previous recovery vehicles (like the Sd.Kfz.9) were rarely able to salvage a Panther or a Tiger. Plus, it was strictly forbidden for a Tiger to attempt salvaging another one, due to the risk of loosing both in breakdowns. The development was carried out by MAN. After the Tiger was seen as not meeting the desired requirements, the Panther was chosen instead. First Bergepanthers were completed on Panther Ausf.D chassis, in which only the turret was removed by the manufacturer.
By the end of 1944, the more reliable Ausf.Gs were used for these conversions. The crew consisted of at least three soldiers, the towing apparatus was operated by two soldiers in the vehicle. They sat in the central tower, a square wooden and metal structure, with longitudinal tensile reinforcements for 40 tons embedded in the chassis. A large earth spade at the rear served to support traction. In addition, the simple crane boom had a 1.5 tons loading capacity. The Bergepanther was quite reliable and could be used in enemy territory, receiving a single MG 34 or 42 for self-defense at the front, or a Buglafette for a 20 mm (0.79 in) cannon. Its towing capacity allowed to salvage Tigers and even heavier vehicles. From 1943 to 1945, approximately 339 Bergepanthers of all versions were delivered by MAN, Henschel, Daimler-Benz (Berlin plant-Marie Felde) and Demag.

Jagdpanther

The Panzerjäger V Panther, also known as “Jagdpanther”, was the main derivative of the Panther. Official designation was 8.8 cm (3.46 in) Pak 43/3 auf Panzerjäger Panther, and it was based on the upgraded Panther Ausf.G. Thus, it was reliable mechanically and even more agile than the regular Panther, while being able to destroy any single Allied tank of the time. Only 415 were built by MIAG, MNH and MBA until 1945.

FlakPanzer Coelian

The idea was to put the most powerful AA system on the Panther chassis, to provide each Abteilung with its anti-air defense, when it was needed most. By the fall of 1944, Allied air superiority over Europe was a constant threat to any operation. Rheinmetall proposed a special twin 3.7 cm (1.46 in) FlaK 43 fully enclosed turret to be adapted on a regular Panther chassis. The first prototype was not even built when the war ended. A single unit was captured, a Panther.D chassis with a mock-up turret mounted on it. Other Rheinmetall paper projects, also called “Coelian”, had four 20 mm (0.79 in) MG 151/20 guns, or a combination of a QF 55 mm (2.17 in) with twin 37 mm (1.46 in).

Production Numbers

The amount of Panzer V Panther tanks produced was recorded by chassis number (Fgst.Nr.) for each Ausfuehrung (version) and from factory monthly completion figures. The factory completion figures did not record the Ausfuehrung information. Panther tank production occurred at factories belonging to the following companies: Daimler-Benz, M.A.N., Henschel and MNH. A few were built by Demag. As you can see the figures do not match.
Total number produced using Chassis Number data (Fgst.Nr.)
Panzer V ‘Panther’ Ausf.D (Sd.Kfz.171): Total 842
Panzer V ‘Panther’ Ausf.A (Sd.Kfz.171): Total 2,200
Panzer V ‘Panther’ Ausf.G (Sd.Kfz.171): Approx. total 2961
Grand total 6,003
Total produced using monthly factory completion data
1943 Total 1768
1944 Total 3777
1945 Total 439
Grand total 5,984

Sources

Panzer Tracts No.5 by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle
Panzer Tracts No.5-2 by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle
Panzer Tracts No.5-3 by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle
Panzer Tracts No.5-4 by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle
Panzer Tracts No.23 by Thomas L.Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle
Panther and its variants by Walter J.Spielberger
Ed Webster – Armor calculations

Panzer V Ausf. D

Panzer V Panther Ausf.D-1
Panzer V Panther Ausf. D-1 at the end of the battle of Kursk, July 1943. Despite the shortcomings of the earliest series, once corrected, the few Panthers that saw action there in the latter part of the battle did very well. Also, notice the early KwK 42 L/70 gun, which presented a rounded muzzle brake and was slightly shorter.
Panther Ausf.D-1 Turm IV-H
Panzer V Panther Ausf.D-1 mit PzKpfw IV H Turm, Schwere Heeres Panzerjäger Abteilung 653, Russia, early 1944. It was one of the many field conversions using surplus Panzer IV Ausf.H turrets and serving as command tanks.
Panther Ausf.D-2
Panther Ausf.D-2 at Kursk, July 1943. This one was part of the batch which returned to the battle with many modifications, including the new KwK 43 gun.
Panther Ausf.D-2
Panzer V Panther Ausf.D, regimental vehicle from Panzer Abteilung 51, one of the very first units equipped with Panthers. Central front, August 1943, in the aftermath of the battle of Kursk.
Panther Ausf.D, Kursk
Panther Ausf.D from the Panzer Abteilung 51, 1st Company, battle of Kursk, summer 1943.
Panther Ausf.D-2, Russia, 1943
Ausf.D, Panzer 6th Company, Abteilung 52, 39th Panzer-Regiment, Central front, summer 1943.
Panther Ausf.D in Normandy
Panther Ausf.D, late production from the 24th Panzer Regiment in Normandy, June 1944.
Panther Ausf.D, 11th Panzer Division
Panther Ausf.D, 2nd Kompanie, 15th Panzerregiment, 11th Panzerdivision, Russia, fall 1943.
Panther Befehlswagen
Stabs-Panzerbefehlswagen, 8th Kompanie, 5th Pz.Rgt, 5th SS PzDiv. Wiking, Russia, winter 1943/44.
Panther Ausf.D, 2nd SS Panzerdivision
Ausf.D, 2nd SS Panzerdivision, Eastern Front, fall 1943.


Panzer V Ausf.A

Early Panzer V Panther Ausf.A
Panzer V Panther Ausf.A. The second version produced, up-armored. This was also the heaviest Panther, weighing 48 tons, the original planned weight of the Tiger. This one is an early production model from the 1st Panzer Abteilung, 4th Panzer-Regiment, at Anzio, Italy, 1944.
Panther Ausf.A
Panther Ausf.A from the 1st Battalion Panzer Regiment Grossdeutschland, Eastern front, fall 1944.
Panther Ausf.A, 12th SS Panzerdivision - HitlerJügend
Ausf.A, 12th SS Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend, Falaise gap, Normandy, France, August 1944.
Panther Ausf.A, Wiking
Ausf.A from the 5th Kompanie, 5th SS-Panzer Regiment, 5th SS-Panzerdivision Wiking – Kovel area, March-April 1944.
Barkmann's Panther Ausf.A, Barkmann's corner
Personal Panther of SS-Oberscharführer Ernst Barkmann, 2nd SS-Panzer Regiment “Das Reich”. Barkmann, a veteran tank gunner of the 1939-40 campaigns, was credited to be an excellent shot. After being wounded during Operation Barbarossa, he returned on the Eastern Front in 1942, then became Sergeant and, as a tank commander, he participated in the battle of Kharkov. He distinguished himself at Prokhorovka and during the aftermath of the Kursk battle, on a Panzer IV. The “Das Reich” Panzerdivision was withdrawn into reserve in August, and, later, Barkmann was given a new Panther Ausf.D, just in time for the defensive battles of the Southern Front. In January 1944, he was transferred in France and, after being given a new Ausf.A, was stationed near Bordeaux. In June, his fourth company was committed in action near St Lô. Here, he accumulated a string of kills which created a legend (the famous “Barkmann’s Corner” near Le Neufbourg and Le Lorey on 27 July, 1944 in Normandy), confirmed later by a Knight’s Cross and the promotion as senior commander. Later on, during the Ardennes offensive, he spearheaded his unit against the US 2nd Armored Division. By March 1945, he was defending against a Russian offensive near Stuhlweissenburg (Székesfehérvár) in Hungary, scoring many hits on T-34s. He remains one of the greatest “Tank Aces” of the war, and perhaps the most famous Panther tank commander.
Panther Ausf.A, Poland
Ausf.A, mid-production, autumn 1944. This one belongs to the 2nd platoon, 4th Company, of an unknown Panzerdivision, during a fighting retreat in Poland and eastern Prussia.
Late Panther Ausf.A, Romania
Ausf.A, late production, Stabskompanie, PzRgt. “GrossDeutschland”, Romania, spring 1944.
Panther Ausf.A, winter 1943-44
Ausf.A in winter livery, Eastern Front, winter 1943/44.
Captured Russian Ausf.A
Captured Russian Ausf.A, Southern front, spring 1944. At least a dozen Panthers and Tigers were captured intact by Soviet troops during the German retreat on the Eastern Front, in late 1943-mid 1944. They were generally painted dark green with white stars or, in some cases, only dark rectangles with a Soviet red star painted in, directly upon the former identifications numbers. These tanks were used until they were worn out, because of the lack of spare parts and complexity.
Late Panther Ausf.A, GrossDeutschland
Ausf.A, late production vehicle, 3rd Kompanie, 2nd SS Panzer Regiment GrossDeutschland Division, Eastern Front, 1944.
Panther Ausf.A, Poland, 1944
Late Ausf.A, 35th Panzer-Regiment, 4th Panzerdivision, Poland, June 1944.
Panzerbefehlswagen
Panzerbefehlswagen Ausf.A, Eastern front, April 1944.
Late Panther Ausf.A, Totenkopf
Late Ausf.A, 38th Panzer-Regiment, 3rd SS Panzerdivision “Totenkopf”, Poland, summer 1944.
Panzerbefelhswagen V Ausf.APanzerbefelhswagen V Ausf.A, Panzer-Grenadier Division GrossDeutschland, Lithuania, summer 1944.


Panzer V Ausf. G

Panther Ausf.G
Ausf.G, early production vehicle, Panzer-Regiment 27, 19th Panzerdivision, Warsaw, Poland, September 1944.
Panther disguised as a M10 Tank Destroyer
Ersatz M10, a Panther disguised as a M10 Tank Destroyer, operation Greif, Belgium, December 1944. These were converted by welding additional metal sheets to the turret and hull. Of course, the wheeltrain had nothing to do with the standard VVSS type, and they hardly fooled anyone for long. Around ten Ersatz M10 auf Panther Ausf.Gs composed Skorzeny’s special Panzer Brigade 150 during the early phase of the Battle of the Bulge.
Panther Ausf.G, Paris, 1944
Panther Ausf.G early type, 1st SS Panzerdivision, Paris, mid-1944.
Captured Panther Cuckoo
Ausf.G early version, “Cuckoo” (captured), 4th Battalion of the 6th Coldstream Guards Tank Brigade, North-Western Europe, 1944/45.
Early Panther Ausf.G, Belgium
Panzer V Panther Ausf.G early, Stoumont, Belgium, December 1944 (battle of the Bulge).
Panther, Kampfgruppe Peiper
Early type Ausf.G, Kampfgruppe Peiper, 1st SS Panzerdivision, La Gleize, Belgium, January 1945.
Panther Ausf.G, Czechoslovakia, 1945
9th Panzer-Regiment, 25th Panzer Division, Czechoslovakia, April 1945.
Panther Ausf.G early
Pz.Rgt.31, 5th Panzerdivision, East Prussia, October 1944.
Panther Ausf.G, Berlin, 1945
Early Ausf.G, Kampf-Gruppe Monhke, Berlin area, May 1945.
Late Panther Ausf.G
Early Ausf.G, unknown unit, eastern Germany, March 1945.
Late Panther Ausf.G Hungary 1945
Late Ausf.G, Hungary, early 1945. Notice the winter paint, washed in stripes.
Panther Ausf.G
Unknown unit, Czechoslovakia, April 1945.
Panther Ausf.G with chin mantlet
Another late Ausf.G (with the chin mantlet), Czechoslovakia, April 1945.
Panther Ausf.G, Prussia
Ausf.G, Fsch. PzDiv. I, Eastern Prussia, fall 1944.
Panther Ausf.G
Ausf.G, unknown unit, Weissenburg, January 1945.
Panther Ausf.G, Ardennes
Ausf.G, 1st SS Panzerdivision, Ardennes, December 1944.
Panther Ausf.G, Poland
Ausf.G (late), with a splinter camouflage, Poland, autumn 1944.
Captured Panther Ausf.G
Captured Ausf.G with Russian markings.
Panther Ausf.G with IR system
Ausf. G (late), ambush camouflage pattern and IR sight system, western Germany, March 1945
Panther Ausf.G, Ruhr pocket
Panzer V Panther Ausf.G, 9th Panzer-Division – Ruhr Pocket, Germany, spring 1945.
Panther Ausf.G with steel wheel rimmed
Ausf.G, late type with steel-rimmed wheels and ambush pattern, Eastern Prussia, March 1945.
Pantherturm
Pantherturm III – Betonsockel Ausf. G, Siegfried line, March 1945.


Prototypes

Panther II

Panther II, possible appearance according to technical sketches.

E 50
The E 50. Here is a prospective view of the E 50 in service. No plans regarding the E 50 turret have been found to date. The turret presented here is based on the assumption that the Schmalturm turret and the 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71 would have been used.

Variants & Conversions

Beobachtungspanzer V Panther Ausf.D
Beobachtungspanzer V Panther Ausf.D mit FuG-5 & FuG-8, artillery observation vehicle.
Bergepanther Panther Ausf.D
Bergepanther auf Panzer V Ausfuehrung D, Eastern front, 1944.
Befehslpanzer V Panther
Bergepanther mit Aufgesetztem PzKfw.IV Turm als Befehlspanzer, a Bergepanther retro-fitted command version, equipped here with a spare Panzer IV F-2 turret.
Jagdpanther
Panzerjäger V Panther. Also known as the Jagdpanther.

Gallery

Panther manufacture.
Panthers being turned out from various manufacturers.
Panther Ausg.G at Bovington
Ausf.G at Bovington.
WWII color photo of a PantherPanther with Vampir IR devicePanzerturmTwo Panthers in NormandyPanther on the Eastern Front

One of the best tanks of WW2

Military historians still debate about which was the best tank of the Second World War, but for all the polls and spec comparisons, the Panzer V Panther is always one of the contenders. Given its speed and off-road capabilities, tremendous firepower, protection, sophisticated targeting sights, use of equipment far ahead of its time (like infrared vision) and, last but not least, the more than 6000 machines built, the Panther can be compared to a main battle tank, years before the British Centurion appeared. Being one the best-balanced designs of WWII, it performed accordingly, with a fear capital almost rivaling that of the Tiger.

The Eastern Front 1941

In June 1941, during a seemingly unstoppable advance, the first encounters with T-34s really shook the General Staff, as more and more reports signaled that a Russian tank was found superior to both the upgraded Panzer III and the Panzer IV. After many had been captured in relatively good order, Heinz Guderian ordered a full report to be drawn by a Panzerkommision, dispatched to assess the T-34. It was noted that the combination of thick, well-sloped armor, a very effective 76.2 mm (3 in) gun and good power-to-weight ratio combined with large tracks meant that the Russian tank almost reached the “impossible triangle” that characterized a perfect medium tank. This was unmatched in the German arsenal, raising concerns, which in turn needed prompt reactions. As soon as April 1942, both Daimler Benz and MAN AG were charged to design the VK 30.02, a 30-35 ton tank incorporating all the aspects underlined by the report.
Albert Speer inspects a T-34

DB and MAN designs

Daimler-Benz’s design sported a well-sloped low hull, permitted by a well-proven, although “old school” solution with leaf spring suspensions combined with large doubled roadwheels and no return rollers. This gave the tank a low silhouette and narrow hull, and thus kept the weight under the allocated limit. At the same time, this restricted the turret ring diameter, which in turn limited the turret size. Like on the T-34, the drive sprockets were at the rear and the turret was placed forward. The engine was a diesel. Even with a three-man turret, the internal space was cramped, and mounting the planned high velocity L/70 75 mm (2.95 in) gun proved very difficult.
On the other hand, MAN presented a much larger vehicle, with the transmission and drive sprockets at the front, a larger, roomier turret moved backwards and a gasoline engine. The torsion bar suspension required more internal space, a larger hull and tracks. For the suspension, MAN took inspiration from Henschel’s Tiger design, with pairs of large interleaved wheels, which gave a lower ground pressure, better traction and mobility. This configuration also provided extra protection to the weaker lower hull sides.
Versucht Panther V2 (Fgst nr.V2), fall 1942
Versucht Panther V2 (Fgst nr.V2), pre-production prototype, fall 1942.
From January until March 1942, these two prototypes were tested. Fritz Todt and, later, Albert Speer, replacing the former, both warmly recommended the DB design to Adolf Hitler. In the meantime, DB had reviewed its design in order to match the MAN proposal, and added the already existing Rheinmetall-Borsig turret, which allowed immediate production. MAN produced a mild steel prototype in September 1942, which started a new series of trials at Kummersdorf. These showed far superior mobility, even compared to the Panzer IV. The engine, for the sake of standardization, was shared with the Tiger, but the Panther weighed 20 tons less. Two final pre-production prototypes were also delivered in November (V1 and V2). Production swiftly followed, at MAN and DB (hull and assembly), Rheinmetall-Borsig (turret), later extended to Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen-Hannover (MNH) and Henschel & Sohn in Kassel.

Production of the Panzer V

The delivery orders were rushed, asking for a first batch by December. However, the specialized tooling for this new model was far from ready and designed in haste. The order for 1000 to be delivered in early 1943 proved over-optimistic, and a first pre-series of 20 was built. These were called Null-series, Ausfuehrung A (different from the later series), equipped with the early 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 42 L/70 gun. Later, these were called D-1, and the large-scale series was named Ausf.D.
As a consequence of this rush, the first series of the Ausf.D had reliability problems. Speer set a 250 vehicles/month objective, modified in January 1943 to 300 per month. By 1944, increasing Allied bombings and industrial bottlenecks meant that only a feeble percentage of this figure was reached. 143 were built per month on average in 1943, but with new simplified models and production spread out throughout Germany, this rose to 315 in 1944 and even 380 in March 1945, with a total production reaching 6000. This figure was still far away from those of the T-34 and Sherman, but the Panther became the third most produced German AFV, after the Panzer IV and the StuG III. Its unit cost was only marginally higher, despite the technological gap. 117,100 RM compared to the 103,462 RM of the late Panzer IV, mostly thanks to streamlined production methods, but, still, far less than the same generation Tiger (250,000 RM).
At some point, deliveries of hulls exceeded those of engines. The Maybach factory was pounded mercilessly, and even came to a complete halt for five months. The Auto-Union plant at Siegmar also started to build the engines from May 1944. Rheinmetall-Borsig, however, never suffered such gaps in production, and there was constantly an excess of Panther turrets. Many of these were turned into AT pillboxes, defensive fortifications which played their part in Italy, in Northern Europe and the Siegfried line. The biggest problem suffered by the Panther production was the lack of spare parts, which dropped to only 8% of tank production at the end of 1944. By then, field workshops had to cannibalize existing tanks to repair others, further hampering the operational availability of these tanks in the crucial years of 1944-45.
Ausf.D turret

Design of the Panther

Hull & armor

The T-34’s main feature, its well sloped armor, was used with great attention by the MAN and DB designers. However, to increase internal space, the MAN designers, who created the V1 and V2 prototypes, choose to increase the engine compartment by creating a rear inverted slope. They also used moderately sloped flanks, without mudguards, as the flanks themselves formed them. This was also a welcome simplification in design, but required numerous straps to fix spare elements and steel towing cables. The frontal glacis was the thickest, forming a beak nose, with a 60 mm (2.36 in) upper plate (90 mm/3.54 in equivalent armor), and a lower 50 mm (1.97 in) plate.
Later, on Hitler’s orders, the upper plate was increased to 80 mm (3.15 in) and the lower to 60 mm (2.36 in). The frontal equivalent armor became 120 mm (4.72 in), enough to withstand most Allied and Russian AT guns of the time. The lower and upper hull sides were both 40 mm (1.57 in) thick. The upper side hull was sloped to a 50° angle, later raised to 50 mm (1.97 in) at 60° on the Ausf.G. The lower hull was also protected by the interleaved wheels and, later, added 10 mm (0.39 in) side skirts. The rear was sloped at 60°, 40 mm (1.57 in) thick.
The Rheinmetall-Borsig turret was also well-sloped and roomy. The front had, at first, 80 mm (3.15 in) of armor at 78°, then 110 mm (4.33 in) (Ausf.A), then 100 mm (3.94 in) at 80° on the Ausf.G. The sides were angled at 65° and 45 mm (1.77 in) thick, and the top, almost flat, was 15 mm (0.59 in), then 30 mm (1.18 in) on the Ausf.G. The gun mantlet, made of cast armor, was 120 mm (4.72 in) thick and rounded. This part also serves to help distinguish between versions, the later versions being fitted with a flattened, “chin” model, to avoid the “shot-trap” effect of this configuration.
The armor itself was at first face-hardened, but with the generalization of armor-piercing capped rounds, a March 1943 note dropped this specification in favor of a simpler homogeneous steel glacis plate. The turret sides also proved relatively weak and an alternative turret, the Schmalturm, was soon studied. A forged cupola replaced the cast one in earlier models. On the D-2, the commander cupola was cast instead of drum-type and side armor skirts became standard.
These plates were welded and interlocked for extra strength. The mantlet didn’t prove immune to the late 75 mm (2.95 in) M1A1 (late Sherman versions), Russian IS-2 122 mm (4.8 in), and British 17-pdr (76.2 mm/3 in). The side armor was not sufficient to deal with flanking attacks by most Allied tanks, contrary to the Tiger. Different tactics and 5 mm (0.2 in) side skirts (Schürzen) were applied. Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste was applied relatively early, on the late Ausf.D, but dropped in September 1944 due to unverified rumors claiming this paste caught fire. Because of incessant Allied bombings, some precious alloys became hard to acquire. The production of composite armor was thus problematic, the lack of molybdenum, in particular, causing late armor plates to crack easily when hit.
Ausf.A side view

Engine, steering & drivetrain

The prototypes and first 250 Ausf.Ds delivered were fitted with a V12 Maybach HL 210 P30, giving 650 hp (484.9 kW) at 3500 rpm. By May, it was replaced by the more powerful 23.1 liter Maybach HL 230 P30 V-12, 690 hp (514.74 kW), which made the late Ausf.D the fastest of the entire series, and prompted an armor upgrade on the Ausf.A. The light alloy block was replaced by a cast iron one and two multistage “cyclone” air filters added, but the engine output was reduced by the low quality gasoline. Average operational range was around 97-130 km (60-80 miles), reduced to 60-80 km (40-50 miles) cross-country. The Maybach P30 was compact, with a seven disc crankshaft, and the two series of cylinders were not offset. However, this tight connecting rod space caused teething problems, like blown head gaskets, and the bearings failed early on.
To avoid overheating, an engine governor was also fitted in November 1943, as well as an eight disc crankshaft, improved bearings and seals. The engine compartment was watertight, but this caused concerns of poor ventilation and overheating. This, added to early non-isolated fuel connectors, caused leakages and the engine to catch fire. The fighting compartment was well separated, these issues being addressed later by better isolation and cooling. With all these measures, the reliability grew steadily until the end of the war. There was also an automatic fire extinguisher, which experienced early malfunctions.
Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen made the seven-speed AK 7-200 synchromesh gearbox, coupled with a MAN single radius steering system, operated by levers. The fixed turning radius of the last, 7th gear, was 80 meters (262 ft). The choice was left to the visual appreciation of the driver, which could also engage to brakes to turn more sharply. This simpler system, compared to the Tiger steering, was thought to be more reliable. However, the final drive units proved a major issue, caused by the original epicyclic gearing, which had to be greatly simplified under the supervision of Chief Director of Armament and War Production.
The double spur gears chosen, combined with lower quality tempered steel, proved to be a burden due to the high torque of the Panther and enormous stress, even more complicated by the tight space allocated. The situation was such that these fragile parts had a life expectancy of 150 km (93.2 mi) on average. This issue was partly addressed by a stronger gear housing, but the complete replacement of the system was not planned before the next Panther II, later abandoned. Planners devised special training for careful handling. Most of the time, the Panthers were carried by rail next to their immediate deployment zone.
Drive sprocket detail

Turret traverse

The Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor Curator Charles R. Lemons ran a comparison of the turret traverse speeds of the German Panther tank and the Allied Sherman Tank. He found that the Panther had a travers speed of 10 degrees per second which was a lot slower than the 20 degrees a second produced by the US electro-hydraulic powered traverse motors fitted to the Sherman Turrets. The Panther’s travers speed depended on the main engine for pumping power. This slow speed could help a fast Allied tank avoid getting hit in Urban situations.

Suspension

One of the most striking features of this 2nd generation German tank, compared to previous models, was the adoption of a Schachtellaufwerk wheeltrain. It was already pioneered on several AFVs and also adopted by the Tiger, and suspended by dual torsion bars. This system was invented by prof. Ernst Lehr, and was known for its wide travel stroke and rapid oscillations, plus overall reliability, being designed both for high speed and bad terrain. In case of damage, the torsion bars could be removed and replaced easily on the spot. However, the interleaved wheel system rendered all replacements and maintenance time-consuming, due to difficult access to the internal wheels and weight of individual roadwheels. A complexity which remained properly German and was never adopted elsewhere. In bad weather, they had a tendency to clog with mud, rocks, snow and ice, which proved problematic on the Eastern Front. In March 1945, MAN converted a few chassis to interleaved, but non overlapping wheels and, from the fall of 1944 to early 1945, sleeve bearings were also tried, with mixed success, but not further developed.
Roadwheel replacement
Roadwheel replacement in Northern France – Credits: Bundesarchiv.

Armament of the Panther

The Rheinmetall-Borsig KwK 42 (L/70) was the high-velocity gun planned and integrated in the Panther turret. It was a 75 mm (2.95 in) gun with 79 to 82 HE, APCBC-HE, and APCR rounds, often in low availability. Despite the moderate caliber, the large propellant charge and long barrel contributed to making this gun a very efficient armor-piercing weapon. The shell had even more penetrating power than the 88 mm (3.46 in) of the Tiger. Secondary armament comprised, typically, of one coaxial MG 34 machine gun and one hull MG 34, usually fired by the radio operator. The latter was, at first, operated through a “letter box” flap covering the vertical firing aperture. Later, on the late Ausf.A and on the Ausf.G, a more conventional ballmount was fitted, coupled with a K.Z.F.2 sight. Spent shells fell into a box, and the hatch covering it automatically closed while exhaust fumes were extracted outside via hoses.
Panther gun
75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 42 L70.

A Panther unleashed on the battlefield

Eastern Front

“Operation Zitadelle”
On January 9, 1943, in preparation for the great summer offensive on the Eastern front, the first unit ever supplied with the Panther was Panzer-Abteilung 51, followed by Pz.Abt. 52 in February 1943 (96 tanks, four companies each), plus HQ Panzer Regiment Stab 39. Training started immediately, but the vehicles were soon found to be plagued by mechanical failures, which led to a major reconstruction at Falkensee and Nuernberg in March to May 1943. However, the program failed to correct all detected problems, still present when the units were first committed in action (eventually, only 40 of the 196 were serviceable).
At the insistence of Guderian, a second program was initiated at Gafenwoehr. With all these interruptions, training quality was degraded. By mid June, the two Panzer-Abteilung, plus PzAbt.28, were sent back on the Eastern front, under the command of Von Lauchert. His units were part of the XLVIII Panzer-Korps, 4th Panzerarmee, Herresgruppe Sud. On the 5th of July, it was attached to the Panzer Grenadier Division GrossDeutschland (200 Panthers). Operations ceased on the 20th of July with just 41 Panthers operational (43 in August), and a report by Lauchert, underlining many problems, notably the fuel pump deficiencies (56 burned out beyond repairs).
Disabled Ausf.D at Kursk
Disabled Ausf.D at Kursk
The report, endorsed by Gen. Guderian, presented excellent fighting performances nonetheless, the crews claiming 267 kills. These vehicles could destroy any Soviet AFV beyond reach. However, they only accounted for a small percentage (7%) of all German armor committed in the offensive (2400-2700). There was a reinforcement of 12 Ausf.Ds, but losses rose again with the Soviet counter-attack, many Panthers being abandoned and never recovered. By the 11th of August, 156 were total write offs.
Soviet counter-offensive
On the 26th of August 1943, the former Pz Abt.52 was consolidated into the 1st Abteilung/Pz.Rgt 15, with all recovered and repaired Panthers. Pz.Abt 51 received a new shipment of 96 vehicles, still remaining attached to “GrossDeutschland”. During the counter-offensive, they lost 36 of them (total write offs). Only 15 were serviceable and 45 needed repairs. The same month, a new unit arrived, the 2nd Abteilung/SS Pz.Rgt 2 attached to “Das Reich” with only 71 Panthers. Later, in September, this unit had only 21 Panthers left, with 40 needing repairs. A fourth unit joined in, the 2nd Pz.Abt./Pz.Rgt 23 (96 Panthers), and a fifth, 1st Abt./Pz.Rgt 2, mostly with Ausf.As, which soldiered on until late October.
Northern Front
After another report, still showing mechanical unreliability, Hitler took action. He ordered, in November, that 60 Panthers without engines or transmissions be sent on the Leningrad Front (Heeresgruppe North). They were dug-in on the opposite bank of Konstadt, supported by AT guns and infantry, with the 10 more reliable machines left in a mobile reserve, forming the Ist Abt./Pz.Rgt 29. Two other Abteilungs arrived the same month on the Northern front, for the L Armee Korp. By December, the last unit for a long time arrived in this area, 1st Abt/Pz.Rgt31. Indeed, new faults have been found with the HL 230 engine which needed corrections and no Panther was sent on the Eastern front for months. By the end of December, 624 Panthers had been lost as total write offs, on the Central and Northern front, for 841 shipped in total. After improvements, Guderian would state in January 1944 that “the Panther is at last front ripe”.
Central Front, summer 1944
Before the start of operation Bagration, the Germans had considerably reinforced their strength. 31 Abteilungen were converted to Panthers, and new ones sent on the Central front. Their average complement was 79, but some counted 60 units, and Panzerbrigades had only 36. Mixed units like the I/Pz.Rgt Brandenburg assigned to the Panzergrenadier Division Kurmark, had 45 vehicles, while Pz.Rgt 29 (Pz. Div. Münchenberg) counted only 21 Panthers. Ausf.As formed the bulk of these, completed with early Ausf.Gs.
Aftermath (July-December 1944)
Shortly after the Russians succeed in creating a gap on the Central front, 14 Panzer-Brigades were hastily reorganized, but only half were sent to the Eastern Front, the others being gathered to counter the Allied push from Normandy in August. By that time, Allied bombings severely hampered the production capacity, which needed drastic reorganization. Under severe shortages, reduced Abteilungs were now committed into action, at least until the end of the year.
By September 1944, 522 were listed in service at the same time in operational units. The bulk of the Panthers produced was found on the Eastern Front, with as many as 740 in March 1945.
Most successful operational units comprised the 23rd and 26th Independent Panzer Regiments, 2nd Das Reich and 1st Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Panzer-Divisions.
Operations in January-March 1945 (Poland, eastern Prussia)
By February 1945, following the failure of the Western offensive, eight divisions (1, 2, 9, 10, 12 SS, 21st Pzd. and 28th PzGd, and the Fuehrer Grenadier Division) were sent back to the Eastern front, with some reinforcements (275 Panthers). By March 1945, experimental units started using night attack tactics, equipped with FG1250/1251 infrared illuminators. Following this success, five other units were equipped with these systems, all on the Eastern front. Against all odds, combining an absence of notable breakdowns, operational readiness reached its all-time highest and various units gained local victories which diverted considerable resources from the enemy. In January 1945, production also reached its historical highest.
Ausf.G in operations
Panther Ausf.G in operations.

Western Europe

Normandy was the playground for the new Ausf.A. By D-Day, only two Panzer regiments on the Western Front were equipped with the Panther (156 in all). With reinforcements, this figure rose to 432 by July. Six Abteilungen (counting 79-89 Panthers each) were attached to the 1st, 2nd, 9th, and 12th SS Panzerdivisions operating in this area, as well as the 2nd PzD and Panzerlehr divisions. Most of the teething problems found on the D1-D2 had been solved and reliability, as well as tactical deployment, allowed this up-armored version to show its full and formidable potential. Guderian still complained about the life expectancy of the final drives, and, still, some engines caught fire.
The majority soldiered around Caen, pinning down the Anglo-Canadian forces of the 21st Army Group on open ground and retreating under the cover of the bocage, woods and buildings. However, the British 17-pdr (76.2 mm/3 in) claimed many of these machines on the same grounds, which rendered counter-offensives perilous, not mentioning the always present air threat. Reinforcements and replacements arrived in the end of June, but, by September, only three regiments were left, crippled after operation Cobra. Most had been wiped out at the Falaise gap. After this, many inexperienced units were sent to “plug the gap”, with mixed success, during the retreat from France.
Engine replacement in the field
Engine replacement in the field.
As Gen. Fritz Bayerlein of the Panzer Lehr division mentioned, the Panther was not at an advantage in the hedgerows. The long barrel and overall width reduced its maneuverability on the narrow roads. More so, it was front heavy, tall and lacked lateral vision, which rendered the crew almost blind to sneaking antitank infantry squads and close-quarter attacks. In September-October 1944, brand-new Panzerbrigades were sent to block the path of Gen. Patton, but the young and poorly trained crews couldn’t cope with well seasoned US crews, and their new tactics involving the M4(75)W, M10 and M36 tank-hunters. Losses were appalling. After this, the bulk of the new Panther Ausf.A-G were kept until the Ardennes counter-offensive (“Wacht am Rhein”). However, in the hands of a few veterans and tank aces, the last upgraded Ausf.Gs performed quite impressively.
British Pz.Kpfw.V Panther Ausf.G Cuckoo from the 4th Battalion of the 6th Coldstream Guards Tank Brigade, North-West Europe, 1944/45.
British Pz.Kpfw.V Panther Ausf.G Cuckoo from the 4th Battalion of the 6th Coldstream Guards Tank Brigade, North-West Europe, 1944/45.
During the battle of the Bulge, around 400 Panthers were listed in the units participating in the offensive, while 471 were listed in all for all the Western front. They were not at their advantage in the forest, but once again proved deadly on open ground. However, when supporting troops assaulting small villages, they took heavy losses due to Bazookas and PIATs manned by Allied infantry inside the narrow streets.
A special unit, the Panzerbrigade 150, included five Panthers disguised as M10 tank destroyers for Operation Greif, a “fifth column” commando which created havoc behind US lines. However, the disguise did not trick US forces for long, and the five vehicles were ultimately destroyed.
By January 1945, only 97 were left from the Bulge Furnace. The bulk of the new Panzerbattalions were sent in the East, and only four regiments were kept on the Western front. Late versions saw an array of modifications, allowing night attacks in coordination with special versions of the Sd.Kfz.251 with long-range infrared illuminators, and completed by assault troops using Vampir-modified Sturmgewehr guns. Until the end of the war, new rounds with enhanced AP characteristics were also issued, although in limited quantities. For example, the Panzergranät 40 was able to penetrate 194 mm (7.64 in) or armor at short range and 106 mm (4.17 in) at 2000 m (6561 ft).
The Panther’s thick frontal armor and long range gun were considerable assets on the battlefield, but the sides were vulnerable. So, the drivers developed a habit of retreating in reverse speed instead on turning the vehicle when under attack, always presenting the front. Despite of this, Allied crews became experts in out-flanking maneuvers, but the Panther could still count on better mobility than the Tiger, which in turn, compensated by its stronger side armor.
Ausf.G IR system
Ausf.G IR (Infrared) vision system.

Italy

Contrary to the Tiger, no Panther was ever sent in Tunisia. Despite of this, some Abteilungen saw action throughout Italy, until March 1945. At the same time, more and more “Panther-pillboxes”, spread out in defensive open fields, turned to be highly effective. The first batch arrived in August 1943, with 71 Ausf.D tanks of the 1st SS Panzer Division. They returned to Germany by October, never to see action there. However, the 1st Abteilung, 4th Pzr-Regt first engaged US forces in February as reinforcements at Anzio. However, by the end of May, most had been lost in action, some destroyed by ship artillery. By mid-June, only 11 were reported operational. However, 38 were shipped by rail, reinforced later by two batches of 20 and 10 in replacements in October. This unit stayed as a tactical reserve until the end of the war.
The mountainous terrain favored the Panther when well placed, and greatly complicated flanking attacks by Allied forces. However, the British had more and more 17-pounders engaged in action, and many Panthers were also disabled by indirect fire (Allied SPGs were massively employed) due to poor upper protection.

Variants, projects and derivatives

Panther II

The Panther II, later abandoned and merged with the E 50 program, was initially the result of Hitler’s insistence for an up-armored Panther, and to raise the commonality between the Panther and Tiger II, then in development. In April 1943, this was materialized in the Panther II program, basically a standard Panther hull with a glacis 100 mm (3.94 in) thick, 60 mm (2.36 in) of side armor and 30 mm (1.18 in) top. An initial plan asked for a production schedule by September 1943. The new tank would have also been equipped with the same 75 mm (2.95 in) L/70 KwK 42 gun as the normal Panther.
MAN was asked to deliver a prototype in August 1943, equipped with the latest Maybach HL 234 fuel-injected engine, capable of delivering 900 hp (671.4 hp) coupled with the GT 101 gas turbine. However, by the summer of 1943, these concerns were dropped and all efforts focused on the Panther itself. Although it is unclear if there was any official cancellation, US forces eventually captured one Panther II prototype, fitted with an Ausf.G turret in 1945 (now displayed at Fort Knox).

Panzer V Panther Ausf.D with Panzer IV Ausf H turret

Panzer V Panther Ausf.D with Panzer IV Ausf H turret
This Panzer V Ausf.D Panther tank hull was fitted with a Panzer IV Ausf.H turret as part of a battlefield conversion. It was used as a Command tank, The turret was fixed, just polted down to the hull. The Panzer IV and Panther have different sized turret rings. It is believed to be part of 635 schw.Pz.Jg.abt. (635 heavy tank hunter battalion).

American built wooden Panzer V Panther

The American Army built a full size wooden replica Panther tank to help train its troops in target recognition.
Wooden mock-up of the Panzer V Panther tank
Side view of the US wooden mock-up of the Panzer V Panther tank showing the overlapping large road wheels(ebay)
front view of the Wooden mock-up of the Panzer V Panther tank
Front view of the American wooden mock-up of the Panzer V Panther tank showing the sloping glacis plates and large tracks. (ebay)
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2