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Germany's Panzerkampfwagen V; PzKpfw V; Panther; SdKfz 171 medium tank

Photos

Wilhelm Wagner, 18, of the 10th SS Panzer Division, in combat dress. Willy was a Panther tank driver and senior mechanic. He had the Panzerwart im Gold and the Iron Cross 2nd Class as his tank destroyed more than 10 enemy tanks.
Germany's Wilhelm Wagners, of the 10th SS Panzer Division, in combat dress
Terry Kelley

Wilhelm Wagner's, of the 10th SS Panzer Division, friends. Willy has the X above him. They are in Normandy or Malais-de-Camp, France
Germany's Wilhelm Wagners', of the 10th SS Panzer Division, friends Willy has the X above him.
Terry Kelley

PzKpfw V, Panther, medium tank:
Germany's PzKpfw V, Panther, medium tank

PzKpfw V, Panther, medium tank:
Germany's PzKpfw V, Panther, medium tank

Design

At an Army Weapons Department technical conference held on October 28, 1935, Daimler-Benz suggested using the M 71 (DB 600) aircraft engine that would produce 550-600 hp for a Grosstraktor (heavy tractor) that was being considered to be added to the Panzer forces. The Army Weapons Department on June 3, 1937, issued a contract to Daimler-Benz for a mock-up of the heavy tank. The engines were initially scheduled to be ready in the spring of 1938 but were delayed by other priorities. Two MB 507 engines were converted and used in the VK 3001 (dB) prototype.

Other contracts were given to Henschel, MAN, and Porsche to develop a tank to eventually replace the PzKpfw IV.8 It was to initially have the 7.5 cm KwK L/24 tank gun and then later have the 10.5 cm KwK L/28 in the turret.

Turrets

Rheinmetall-Borsig designed the turret.4

The gunner sat on the left hand side and had a binocular sight in the early models that was replaced by a monocular sight.8 Firing the gun was with an electronic trigger that was on the hand wheel that elevated the gun.8 He also controlled the coaxial machine gun when he fired via a foot switch.8

The loader was on the right side.8

The turret was cramped but the commander's cupola was 10.25" high with 6 slots around it which provided very good visibility.8 It was later replaced in the Ausf A(2) model with armored periscopes.8 Over the cupola was a ring for a MG 34 for AA defense.8 The turret had a full floor that rotated with the turret.8 Fire extinguishers would be activated in the engine compartment if temperature rose above 120° C. Power for the 8 ton turret was provided by taking power from the main shaft.

The mantlet had 2 holes, one for the coaxial machine gun and the other for the gunner's sight.

At the rear of the turret was a large round hatch that was used for loading ammunition but could also be used for escape.8

Fighting Compartments

As with other German tanks the Panthers were separated into compartments.8 The forward one had the driving and transmission, in the center were the turret, and the rear was the engine.2,8

The driver sat on the left, the radio operator on the right with the hull machine gun.2,8 The radio equipment was located to the operators right.2,8 Between them was the gear box that had the final drive going to the drive sprockets on each side.2,8 The hull had a one piece glacis plate.

The driver had a vision port in front of him to see out with when the armored flap was open.8 When closed he could see out by using two episcopes that were located in the roof.8 One faced forward with the other to the left a little.8 In the Ausf G model these were replaced by a rotating periscope.8

The turret had the gunner on the left, with the commander behind him.2 The loader was on the right side.2 The gun was fired electrically by a trigger on the elevating hand wheel.2 The coaxial gun was fired by a foot switch.2 The turret had sloping sides and a rotating floor. Traversing was done by hydraulic power or by hand cranking the turret one turn of the hand wheel which only moved it 0.36°.

Steering

Steering gear and brakes were developed by MAN and operated hydraulically. Interleaved bogies sprung on torsion bars gave the Panther a smooth ride for the crew. However, these could freeze up with snow. Steering was done by hydraulic disc brakes and epicyclic gears to each track.8 The tank was driven by a front sprocket and had a idler in the rear. The main shaft was mounted in a housing that also worked 2 oil pressure pumps for steering.

A long transmission shaft ran from the engine in the rear to the front steering and the AK 7-200 gear box.4,8 This forced the turret to be up higher than normal.4 The designers thought this would help the track arrive at the drive sprocket relatively clear of mud.4

To help with traction in icy conditions, the track was fitted with non-skid ribs that were placed between the links.

Transmission

The bogies were carried on double torsion bars which lay transversely inside the hull.4 Each track could be stopped separately without a loss of power.4

Engine Compartment

In the roof of the rear engine deck was a large hatch that allowed access to the engine.8 On either side were cooling fans.8 There were exhaust pipes at the rear and on some vehicles there were storage bins on each side.8

Main Armament

Rheinmetall-Borsig2 received a contract on July 18, 1941, to develop a gun that could penetrate 140 mm at 1,000 meters. It was also to design a turret that the gun could fit in. In early 1942 a barrel of length L/60 was tested and it almost met the specifications. A barrel length of L/70 was chosen and was promised to be delivered by June 1942. It had a spherical, single baffle muzzle brake which was later replaced by a double baffle.

Gun Capabilities

The 75 mm gun had a muzzle velocity of 3,070'/936m per second.4 It could penetrate 120 mm/4.7" at 1,000 m/1,090 yards.4

Penetrate 90 mm of armor at 500 yards, 80 mm at 1,000 yards. Could knock out a T-34/76 at 875 yards, Sherman at 1,090 yards.

Comparison of Main Tank Armament Performance

Prototype

In January 1942 Daimler-Benz and MAN submitted designs.6

DW 1

Henschel's prototype, DW 1, weighed 30 tons and was similar to the PzKpfw IV. However, it had large bogies as opposed to the smaller ones in the existing tanks. These resulted in longer life of the tires.

DW 2

On April 2, 1937, the DW 2 was ordered by the Army Weapons Department. The contracts for this were issued on September 9, 1938. It had 50 mm armor and weighed 32 tons. It was to have the Maybach HL 116 which gave it a maximum speed of 25 kph. Eight prototypes were delivered at the beginning of 1940. Krupp made the first turret in 1940 as well.

VK3001(H)

The VK3001(H) was the prototype from Henschel.7,8 Next came the 4 VK 3001 (H) prototypes. Two were completed in each March and October 1941. This had medium sized bogies with 3 return rollers. It had hydraulic steering. The first 2 were converted by Rheinmetall-Borsig into self-propelled guns with 128 mm guns to attack fortifications and fight the heavy tanks that they expected Britain and USA to have. This could only carry 15 rounds. They were delivered in August 1941 and used in Russia during 1942.

VK3001(P)

The VK3001(P) was Porsche's prototype that was completed by 1941.8

Porsche

Porsche was instructed at the end of 1939 to develop a heavy tank between 25 and 30 tons with the 7.5 cm KwK L/24 gun, and possibly later have the 10.5 cm KwK installed. Nicknamed the Leopard within Porsche. It had twin engines. Nibelungenwerke in St. Valentin built 2 prototypes in 1940.

The T-34 Influences Design

When the Russian T-34/76 was first encountered near Minsk on July 2, 1941, the design program was sped up.6,10

In October 1941, T-34s caused heavy casualties with the 4th Panzer Division.6

In November 1941, General Guderian (commander of Panzergruppe II in Russia) wrote a report suggesting that a commission should be formed immediately to design a tank to be able to gain supremacy over Russian T-34 tanks.8 The Armaments Ministry sent a commission to the Russian front to study the T-34, and on November 15, 1941, it's initial report stated that the T-34 was superior because of sloped armor, large road wheels and tracks, and a large caliber gun.1,2

On November 25, 1941, the Armaments Ministry put out requirements to Daimler-Benz and MAN for a new tank that would have8:

  1. Sloped armor of 60 mm front and 40 mm sides2,3,8
  2. Large road wheels for a stable ride8 and allow speeds up to 55 kph2,3,8
  3. Overhanging long barrel gun8
  4. Limited in weight of 35 tons2,3,8

VK 3002 MAN

The VK 3002 (VK 3002-MAN3,7) was MAN's design.8 MAN had a design ready by April 1942 and presented it to the Army Weapons Department.8 A mild steel version was ready by September 19423, and was put through trials at Nuremberg.8 A second prototype went to Kummersdorf. MAN was chosen to develop production vehicles.8

The MAN design had the turret placed towards the rear to allow for minimal overhang with the long barrel 75 mm gun.8 The suspension used interleaved road wheels with torsion bars.8

The engine for the MAN design started out as a gasoline Maybach HL 210 V-128, but this was later changed to the Maybach HL 2301 P 30 with a AK 7-200 gearbox1.

During VK 3002's (MAN) development it was unofficially known as the Panther.1 It was considered too heavy and too tall to be a medium tank to replace the PzKpfw IV. However, the design specifications were changed to 43 tons. Twenty vehicles were initially produced with 60 mm frontal armor, this was increased to 80 mm.

VK 3002 DB

The Daimler-Benz version, VK 3002 (DB)7, was presented to the Waffenprüfamt 6 in April 1942.8 It had a maximum weight of 34 tons and could go 54 kph. Prototypes were tested and 200 were initially ordered but this order was withdrawn.3

The Daimler-Benz was an almost exact copy of the Russian T-34/76.1,2,3,7,8 It had a similar hull shape and the turret was placed well forward.8 The driver sat within the turret cage and drove with hydraulic steering.8 A MB507 diesel engine was installed with transmission to rear sprockets.8 The bogies were steel (saved on rubber) and suspended in pairs by leaf springs (easier to produce than torsion bars).8 Escape hatches were installed on the hull sides along with jettisonable fuel tanks in the rear.8

Hitler Chooses

These 2 designs were shown to Hitler in April 1942 and he was impressed by the Daimler-Benz design, however suggesting the 75 mm L/48 be replaced by L/70 gun.2,6,8 An order for 200 were placed and production started.8 The Waffenprüfamt 6 ("Panther committee") decided on the MAN design and placed an order for 200 while they rescinded the order for the Daimler-Benz models.2,8

The prototypes were delivered in September 1942, and production started 2 months later.2,5,7 Daimler-Benz then started production, and in February and March of 1943 Henschel and Maschinenfabrik Niedersachen joined in production.2 Later in war other production (aircraft) was cut back to free up facilities to manufacture parts for Panthers.2

The initial vehicles were tested at Erlangen and Grafenwöhr, and many faults were found. With the excessive weight, the gears and shafts wore down quickly. Guderian emphasized these problems to Hitler in March 1943, telling him that the Panther's should not enter service earlier than July 1943. Despite these warnings, Hitler insisted they be used in Operation Citadel.

As of February 27, 1944, Hitler ordered that the tank only be known as Panther.2

Production

Armor and turrets were produced by Dortmund-Hörder Hüttenverein of Dortmund, Eisenwerke Oberdonau of Linz, Ruhrstahl of Hattingen, Böhler of Kapfenberg, Bismarckhütte of Upper Silesia and Harkort-Eicken of Hagen.

Hitler wanted production to be 600 per month by Spring 1944.1,2,7 MAN was supposed to produce 250 per month.2,8 The maximum output that was ever achieved was 330 a month.

  • Total: >4,5009, 4,8007, 4,8142,8
    • Production: ? - February 19452 , November 1942 - February 19458
    • Manufacturers: MAN2,7,8, Daimler-Benz1,7,8, Henschel1,7,8, Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen of Hanover (MNH)1,8, Niedersachen7

Comparison of Main Tank Production

Comparison of Main Tank Production

Variants

  • Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf A: Had more powerful engine.5 Hull machine gun was mounted in a ball mount.5 Schürzen was added to the sides.5
  • Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf A(1): Preproduction model.8
  • Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf A(2):
  • Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf B: Was going to have Maybach-Olvar gearbox but was aborted.8
  • Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf C: Unknown.
  • Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf D:
  • Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf D2: Had design and mechanical defects when first used in combat.5 The fuel tanks in the hull rear did not have sufficient armor.5 Hull machine gun was fired through a slot in armor.5
  • Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf F:
  • Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf G: Hull was revised to make production easier and provide better protection.5 Driver's vision port was replaced by a periscopic vision device.5 Late models had the dished and convex road wheels replaced by steel wheels.5
  • Panther Command Tank, SdKfz 168: Designed to be used by Luftwaffe liaison officers.1 It carried a Fu 7 radio.1 No evidence that the vehicles saw action in the role that they were intended to fulfill.1
  • Beobachtungspanzer Panther (SdKfz 267 or SdKfz 268)5,6: Artillery observation.5,10 Main gun was replaced by a dummy barrel.5 Extra radios were installed inside.5
  • Bergepanzer "Panther" (SdKfz 179): Armored recovery vehicle.5,6,10 Removed turret and added heavy duty winches inside the hull of Ausf A and Ausf D tanks.5 297 converted.5 Could tow 50 tons.6
  • Sparrowhawk Night-fighting Panther: In 1943 a small number of Panthers had a 300 mm (11.8") Uhu (Owl) infra-red searchlight and Biwa image converter installed.1 The range was approximately 600 m (1,968').1
    Crews practiced at the Armored School at Fallingsboostel.1
    In 1944, a 600 mm (23.6") infra-red searchlight was installed on a half-track.1,8 These were to operate alongside the Panthers to provide longer range.1
    Also intended to be deployed with the Panther and half-track would be a panzer grenadier squad that would be equipped with Vampir (Vampire) night sights.1 This unit of 3 vehicles was to be known as the Sperber (Sparrowhawk).1
    In the summer of 1944, the 3rd Company, 24th Panzer Regiment, of the 116th Panzer Division were equipped with the Uhu devices at the Bergen training ground.1 Hitler had wanted them to be used in the Ardennes offensive, but they never were.1
    In early 1945,a team was sent to Stuhlwissenberg, Hungary to be used by the Sixth SS Panzer Army in the relief of Budapest.1 However, the rest of the company didn't have their Uhu devices.1
    In 1945 it was planned to equip five companies, but only two teams joined the Panzer Division Clausewitz.1 On April 21, 1945, the teams overran an American unit on the Weser-Elbe Canal, to become the only documented case of the Sperber units in action.1
    A company of 10 Sperber Panthers and a company of night fighting panzer grenadiers with half-tracks was assigned to the Panzer Division Muncheberg.1 The unit was in the battle of Berlin and was destroyed.1 It is unclear whether they were deployed in their night fighting role.1
    Some Ausf Ds and Ausf As were equipped with an additional infra-red searchlight and image converter for the driver.1 This was developed at the tank school at Fallingsboostel and was know as Solution B.1 In April 1945, Some of these Panthers were assigned to the Panzer Division Clausewitz.1 Near Uelzen in mid-April, they were deployed in their only known action, and destroyed an entire platoon of British Comet tanks.1
  • Munitionspanzer Panther: Mainly in the field modifications.
  • Minenraumpanzer: Mine exploding vehicle that was only in prototype.6,8
  • Flakpanzers: One with an 88 mm FlaK 41 in open topped rotating turret, and "Coelian" a twin 37 mm Flak 43 in a fully armored turret.
  • Waffenträger: Weapons carrier with an open topped hull.8
  • Jagdpanther (SdKfz 173): Mounted 8.8 cm Pak 43/3 gun and used as a tank destroyer.5 382 constructed.5
  • Panther II; Panther Ausf F: Was in design phase at end of World War II.5,8 Turret was smaller and afforded better protection.5,8 The turret could also handle an 8.8 cm gun.5 Transmission and gearbox were improved.8 The gun was to have a gyrostabilizer.8

Usage

Makeup of Units

Each Panzer division was to have 1 battalion of Panther tanks and 1 battalion of PzKpfw IV tanks, however the Waffen SS Panzer divisions usually got the priority.

Transforming the Panzer Units

During 1943, panzer divisions started to sent back a battalion to be re-equipped with Panthers.1 The 1st Panzer Division was the first.1 By January 1944, 15 division had a Panther battalion.1

During the summer of 1944, 13 new battalion strong panzer brigades were formed.1

Kursk

All bugs weren't worked out in early models, and many had mechanical failures.3 Many of the armored units had little confidence in the vehicles. 200/2043/2501 were introduced in July 1943 at the battle of Kursk. 160 were out of action by the end of the 1st day, and only 43 were left after 9 days. Many broke down between the Orel railheads and the front at Byelograd. Insufficient cooling caused engine fires and the gears and tracks were damaged.

Italy

Some Ausf D turrets were used in the Hitler and Gothic1 lines in Italy as defensive strong points.

Ardennes

During the Ardennes some were camouflaged as American M-10s.1 The commander's cupola was removed and 2 semi-circular hatch covers were installed. Sheet metal was used to give the turret, bow, and sides a similar look.1 They joined SS-Standartenführer Otto Skorzeny's 150th Panzer Brigade.1

The unit quickly lost the element of surprise and all the Panthers were knocked out.1

Barkmann

Ernst Barkmann was the commander of the 4th Company, 2nd SS Panzer Regiment of the 2nd SS Panzer Division, Das Reich.1 After gaining experience on the Eastern front he found himself in Normandy.1 Near St. Lo, on July 8, 1944, he destroyed his first Sherman.1 He destroyed 5, disabled 1, and destroyed an anti-tank gun four days later before being damaged himself by an anti-tank gun.1

On July 14, he was in another Panther and destroyed three more Shermans before his track was blown off by artillery.1

On July 26, back in his own Panther, he and his unit fought against Operation Cobra, the attempt at breaking out.1 His tank broke down and was damaged further by American fighter-bombers.1 He tried catching up to his company on July 27, near Le Lorey, but he encountered an American force.1 He knocked out another 9 Shermans.1 During this battle his tank's front drive sprocket was damaged, threw a track, put a hole in the hull and wounded his driver, but he still fought.1 He withdrew from the battlefield in reverse.1

Repairs were made and on July 28 he destroyed another 6 tanks.1

On the 29th he was wounded and surrounded by American forces at Gavray.1 However, while towing another disabled Panther, he was able to reach new positions.1

On August 1st his Panther was set afire when the Panther he was towing had its ammunition blow up.1 He and his crew had to walk out and he was later awarded the Knight's Cross.1

After World War II

The French Army used Panthers after World War II.9

Specifications

  PzKpfw V, Panther
Crew Commander, gunner, loader, driver, radio operator
49
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 100,100 lb9
45,500 kg9
Length w/gun 28' 4.5", 29' 0.75"9
8.86 m9
Length w/o gun 21' 11.5"
Height 9' 4", 10' 2"9
3.1 m9
Width 10' 9.5", 11' 3"9
3.43 m9
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure 12.5 psi
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 1: 75 mm9
75 mm KwK 42 L/70
Secondary 92 mm Nahverteidigungswaffe (grenade launcher)
MG  
MG - hull 1: 7.92 mm MG349
MG - coaxial 1: 7.92 mm MG349
MG - antiaircraft 1: 7.92 mm MG349
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG 4,200
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 30 - 1109, 808
Hull Front, Upper  
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom  
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Maybach HL 2309
Bore / stroke  
Cooling  
Cylinders 129
Capacity  
Net HP 7009
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type) AK 7-2008
Synchromesh8
7 forward, 1 reverse8
Steering Argus hydraulic disc brakes8
Epicyclic gears8
Steering ratio  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Diesel9
Octane  
Quantity

160 gallons

Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse 360°, hydraulic or hand8, 360°/18 seconds
Speed - Road 29 mph9
46 kph9
Speed - Cross Country 15 mph
Range - Road 110 miles9
177 km9
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius 16' 5"
Elevation limits -9° to +20°
Fording depth 5' 7"9, 6'
1.7 m9
Trench crossing 6' 3"9, 10'
1.91 m9
Vertical obstacle 3'9
0.91 m9
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type) Torsion bar8
Wheels each side 88
Return rollers each side 0
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width 2' 2"
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread Dished with solid rubber. Ausf G were all steel.
Track centers/tread  

Sources:

  1. German Tanks of World War II, Dr. S. Hart & Dr. R. Hart, 1998
  2. Tanks of World War II, Duncan Crow, 1979
  3. The Panther Family, Horst Scheibert, 1990
  4. Battle Winning Tanks, Aircraft & Warships of World War II, David Miller, 2000
  5. Airfix Magazine Guide #8 German Tanks of World War 2, Terry Gande and Peter Chamberlain, 1975
  6. German Tanks and Armoured Vehicles 1914 - 1945, B. T. White, 1966
  7. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  8. AFV #10 Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, Chris Ellis and Peter Chamberlain
  9. Armored Fighting Vehicles, 300 of the World's Greatest Military Vehicles, Philip Trewhitt, 1999
  10. World War I and II Tanks, George Forty, 2012
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