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WW2 German Fake Tanks

Panther II mit 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71 (Fake Tanks)

Nazi Germany (1940s)
Medium Tank – Fake

During World War Two, the German war machine created some of the largest and most powerful tank designs of that time.

Nonetheless, a design that is often incorrectly cited as being one of these is the ‘Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71’ (Eng: Panther II with 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71). Featured prominently in popular video games such as ‘World of Tanks‘- published by Wargaming – and War Thunder – published by Gaijin, the Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 has been fooling not only video gamers, but, for decades, many historians too.

The Real Panther II

The Panther II’s origins can be traced back to 1942. There were concerns that the Panther I did not have sufficient armor for protection against the anti-tank weapons that would be encountered on the Eastern Front in 1943. Of particular concern were Russian 14.5 mm anti-tank rifles, as they could penetrate the flat 40 mm lower hull sides of the Panther I at close ranges. These concerns lead to the development of a new Panther design, the Panther II, featuring a single piece 100 mm frontal plate and 60 mm side armor.


As revealed by a report from 22nd January 1943, the Panther II was originally to be identical to the Panther I except in armor and weight. Source: Jentz and Doyle.

At a meeting in Nuremberg on 10th February 1943, the chief design engineer of Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (MAN), Dr. Wiebecke, stated that the current Panther design (the Panther I) did not meet specifications derived from experience on the Eastern Front. Therefore, the Panther I would be thoroughly redesigned and incorporate components from the Tiger, such as the final drives. The suspension and turret would also be redesigned and modified. This newly designed Panther was to be the Panther II. A week later, on the 17th, it was decided that the VK45.03(H) Tiger 3 (later redesignated as Tiger II) would become standardized along with the Panther II.

A table drawn up by Thomas L. Jentz from a Wa Pruef 6 (the German ordnance department) report from 1st November 1943 comparing the armor thickness and angles of the Panther I and the Panther II. Source: Jentz and Doyle.

The Panther II would meet its end in May 1943, largely at the hands of 5.5 mm armored plates called ‘Schürzen’ (Eng: Skirts). Schürzen were fitted on the sides of German Panzers in order to provide protection against Soviet anti-tank rifles and these would be fitted onto the Panther I in April 1943. As Thomas Jentz and Hilary Doyle put it in their book Panther Germany’s Quest for Combat Supremacy, “the invention of Schürzen saved the Panther I. If the Panther I hadn’t been able to cope with anti-tank rifles, production would have been converted to the Panther II.”

With the fitting of Schürzen onto the Panther I, there was no longer much need for the Panther II and further development and work was largely ended. While no versuchs turm (Eng: experimental turret) for the Panther II was ever completed, a single versuchs Panther II hull was completed by MAN in Nuremberg. This sole Panther II hull would later be captured by the Americans at the end of the war and shipped to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, USA. A Panther Ausf.G turret with a “chin”-mantlet would be mounted on it. The Panther II hull with the Panther Ausf.G turret still survives to this day and can currently be found at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA.

A drawing of the only Versuchs Panther II hull by Hilary Doyle. Source: Jentz and Doyle
A photograph of the Versuchs Panther II hull with the Panther Ausf.G turret mounted. Source: Jentz and Doyle

The Real Panther mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71

In a meeting on 23rd January 1945, Oberst (Eng: Colonel) Holzäuer of Wa Pruef 6 reported that development of a Panther mounting the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun in a heavily modified Schmalturm was to be accomplished by Daimler Benz.

The Schmalturm (Eng: Narrow Turret) was a narrow turret design by Daimler Benz for the Panther Ausf. F designed to increase armor protection, provide a smaller target, and eliminate the shot trap of the previous curved mantlet design of the Panther.

Daimler Benz’s design called for a turret ring that was 100 mm larger than the current Panther turret ring to allow for the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun to fit. Ammunition stowage in this Panther would also decrease to 56 rounds due to the larger size of the 8.8 cm rounds as compared to the smaller 7.5 cm rounds. A wooden mock-up of the Daimler Benz design had been completed.

Krupp had previously drawn a sketch (drawing number Hln-130 dated 18th October 1944) of the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun mounted in a Panther Schmalturm with as little modifications as possible, the most notable of which was the relocation of the trunnions for the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun. This would allow for the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun to fit in the turret. Krupp had been awarded a contract by Wa Pruef 6 to develop this design further on 4th December 1944.

A cross-section of Krupp’s proposal for a Schmalturm mounting the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun as drawn by Hilary Doyle. Source: Jentz and Doyle.

At a meeting on 20th February 1945 Wa Pruef 6, Wa Pruef 4 (a sister department to Wa Pruef 6 in charge of the development of artillery), Daimler Benz, and Krupp compared both Daimler Benz’s and Krupp’s 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 Schmalturm proposals. It was decided that a new proposal was to be developed that featured design aspects from both Daimler Benz’s proposal, such as increasing the turret ring diameter, and Krupp’s proposal, such as relocating the trunnions. Daimler Benz was put in charge of developing the turret and Krupp was put in charge of the gun.

However, by the war’s end, all that was completed was a wooden mock-up which was still located at the Daimler Benz assembly plant in August 1945.

The Fake Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71

The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 was born out of a mistake made by the German tank historian, Walter J. Spielberger.

In a report on the previously mentioned 10th February 1943 meeting, it was stated how experience on the Eastern Front had shown that the Panther I did not have sufficiently thick armor. Seeing how the Panther I had yet to make its famous debut at Kursk in July 1943, Walter J. Spielberger had thought that the report was misdated and should have read 10th February 1944. Missing crucial documents that had yet to be discovered, Walter J. Spielberger then made the assumption that the Panther II project was still very much active into early 1945 despite its cancelation in May 1943. This would lead him in making the claim that the Panther II project was linked with the Panther mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 project, ergo the Panther II was meant to mount the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 in a Schmalturm.

While there was a Panther II turret design in a Rheinmetall Borsig drawing (drawing H-Sk A 86176 dated 7th November 1943) which showed a 7.92 mm M.G. 42 machine gun mount in a Panther II turret with a schmale blendenausführung (Eng: narrow gun mantlet model), this was completely separate from the Daimler Benz Schmalturm design for the Panther Ausf.F or the Daimler Benz Schmalturm design for the Panther mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 for that matter.

A drawing of Spielberger’s Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 by Hilary Doyle. Note that the turret used in this iteration would not have been capable of fitting the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun as no modifications have been made to it, such as relocating the trunnions and or increasing the turret ring diameter. Source: Walter J. Spielberger

The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 was essentially impossible, as the Panther II project was killed off in May 1943, whilst the earliest known drawing for a Panther fitted with an 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun is Krupp’s drawing (drawing number Hln-130) which was from 18th October 1944.

The Myth Spreads

Despite correcting his mistake in the 1999 edition of his book Panther and Its Variants, Spielberger’s Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 was still being touted as fact by multiple historians in multiple publications, for example, Thomas Anderson in his book Panther. The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 would further spread as a result of numerous modeling companies producing models of it, such as DRAGON, as well as its inclusion in the popular tank video games World of Tanks and War Thunder.

The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 as seen in the video game War Thunder. Note that the turret used in this iteration would not have been capable of fitting the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun as no modifications have been made to it, such as relocating the trunnions or increasing the turret ring diameter. This particular model is also fitted with German infrared devices such as the F.G. 1250 Ziel- und Kommandanten-Optik für Panther (Eng: Infrared Sight and Commander’s Scope for a Panther), a Kampfraumheizung (Eng: Crew Compartment Heater), and Schürzen, features that the real Panther II never had. Image: Gaijin
The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 as seen in the video game World of Tanks. This particular model is fitted with Krupp’s 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 Schmalturm, meaning that the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun could fit as the trunnions would have been relocated. Also of note is the external travel lock fitted onto the upper glacis plate for the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun, a feature the real Panther II never had. Image: Wargaming.net
The Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 as modeled by the DRAGON model company. The turret used in this iteration of the Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 would not have been capable of fitting the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun, as no modifications have been made to it, such as relocating the trunnions and or increasing the turret ring diameter. Source: kingkit.co.uk

Conclusion

While having parts from very real German tank designs, the Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 is ultimately fake. This beast of a Panther tank was merely the result of a misunderstanding of a single sentence, not of any actual German design efforts. Despite the lack of evidence supporting its existence and its subsequent removal from further editions by Walter Spielberger, the one behind the Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71, the Panther II mit L/71 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 has been propagated repeatedly in media and literature.

Also, despite repeated attempts to clear this myth, its continued presence in games such as World of Tanks and War Thunder, in certain books, and in the shape of modeling kits that present it as fact will ensure that this fake will live for years to come.



The fake Panther II mit 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71. Note that the turret used in this iteration would not have been capable of fitting the 8.8 cm Kw.K 43 L/71 gun as no modifications have been made to it, such as relocating the trunnions or increasing the turret ring diameter. Illustration produced by Andrei Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

Panther and Its Variants by Walter J. Spielberger.
Panzer Tracts No. 5-4 Panzerkampfwagen Panther II and Panther Ausfuehrung F by Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary L. Doyle.
Panzer Tracts No. 20-1 Paper Panzers by Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary L. Doyle.
Germany’s Panther Tank The Quest for Combat Supremacy by Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Doyle.
Thomas Anderson, Panther, Osprey Publishing


14 replies on “Panther II mit 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71 (Fake Tanks)”

How likely would the Panther II have been upgraded to mount a more powerful gun despite this fake proposal? What gun could be the most likely candidate?

Propably they would keep using original panther’s gun as it was still capable of knocking out enemy tanks, especially in 1943-1944. Original Panther II and Panther F also got The old 75mm one. The only eventual gun to be placed on panther was that KwK 43 L/71 mentioned in The article, but it’s to use it they had to make all modifications as written above.

From memory War Thunder removed this tank and several other prototype and fake tanks (“paper tigers”) some time ago.

Possibly it was just removed from the game except for players who already had it unlocked, or had made research progress toward unlocking it. Same with the Maus, 105mm Tiger II and Coelian.

Combination of being paper and impossible to balance well enough in the current system.

Replaced with 1 (or maybe 2) Bundeswehr M48 Pattons and the Ostwind II.

Heinz it’s still in the Wikipedia because those who owned it before it was removed (like myself) got to keep it after it was removed from the main tree. Same goes for the 10.5cm Tiger II, Flakpanzer 341, and the Maus.

ROFLMAO…and still a gutless engine and brittle transmission. An armored pill box on the side of the road.

i believe i read that they had considered the possibility of a 75L100 as being an upgrade gun for the small turm. but i dont believe that went anywhere either as the barrel lenght would have been to long.

confused

so what was the small panther turret going to be used for? was taken back to Bovington and used on the range as a target in the 50′ and 60′

Schmalturm – Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org

The Panther II in War Thunder was a lot of fun despite it’s historical inaccuracies, sad that they removed it along with the Maus and 10.5 cm King Tiger.

Hey, great work on putting all the misinformation circulating about the Panther II in its place. Though I have a question: According to the text and drawings the Schmalturm as displayed would not have been able to fit the 8.8cm gun without modification, I assume there does not exist any artwork showing a fitting example?

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