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22 septembre 2007 6 22 /09 /septembre /2007 22:06




German Panther Ausf. G 
- Germany, 1944-

SKN: 80026 | SCALE: 1:32



Panzerkampfwagen V Panther


The Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, next to the PzKpfw VI Tiger, is the best-known German tank of World War II. The Panther and the Soviet T-34 are considered to be the best tanks of World War II. When in June of 1941, Germany invaded Russia, Panzertruppe encountered KV series and T-34/76 tanks, which were far superior in firepower and armor protection to any Panzer at the time. It was then decided, because of the constant reports from the Eastern Front to design a new more powerful medium tank, which could be quickly put into production. On November 25th of 1941, Adolf Hitler ordered Wa Pruef start work on the new tank. In December of 1941, Wa Pruef ordered Daimler-Benz and MAN (Maschinenfabrik Augsburg Nuernberg) to design new 30-ton tank armed with 75mm KwK L/70 gun as a response to the Soviet T-34/76 tank. Rheinmetall-Borsig was in charge of the development of the turret for this new tank. In March of 1942, Daimler-Benz was the first to produce their version of VK3002's design based on previously rejected VK3001 (direct copy of T-34/76) design from January of 1942. Two versions of VK 3001 with different suspensions were designed by Daimler-Benz - one with spring suspension and other with torsion bar suspension. Daimler-Benz VK3002 design was largely based on T-34/76 and was more like a modified German version of it. MAN finished their design of VK3002 in early Spring of 1942.


VK3002(DB)'s turret was mounted in the forward position of the hull just like that of T-34/76. Prototype was presented to the Fuhrer, who ordered the production of 200 to start as soon as possible. On May 11th of 1942, VK3002 project received the designation of Panther. On May 14th of 1942, when extensive tests of both prototypes were completed, Hitler decided to put MAN's design into production. Daimler-Benz's design was rejected since it was assumed that it would cause many problems with identification of the vehicle and also proved to have poor performance and many modifications would have to be made in order to improve its faults. The Daimler-Benz protototype was captured by the Soviets in 1945. Skoda also provided their design similar to Soviet T-34/76, designated Panzerkampfwagen T-25, but its design was also rejected. In June/July of 1942, MAN's Panther was finally accepted for full-scale production. Adolf Hitler ordered that the production of MAN's Panther was to start as early as December of 1942. Adolf Hitler himself insisted on using 75mm KwK 42 L/100 gun, but since it was not ready for production, shorter 75mm KwK 42 L/70 gun, which was capable of penetrating almost 150mm thick armor at the range of 1000 meters was used. Panther's 75mm gun had penetration slightly better than Tiger's 88mm gun. VK3002(MAN)'s design had its turret mounted in the central part of the hull and had better overall performance.

Panther's technical design incorporated many features of the T-34/76, such as wide tracks for better traction and improved cross-country performance, a powerful engine, a hard-hitting long-barrelled 75mm gun, and sloping armor for extra protection. It is important to note that the Panther was the first German-made tank with sloping armor. Although its design was in some ways similar to the T-34/76, the Panther was larger, heavier, and different in many technical aspects. The Panther had large overlapping road wheels and a state-of-the-art suspension system that enabled it to traverse rough terrain at high speed.

From July to September 1942, MAN produced two prototypes, only one of which was fitted with a turret. These were extensively tested and proved prone to many technical problems. At the same time, a first order for 1,000 tanks was placed, with the first tank expected in early 1943. In late 1942, a small pre-production series of 20 tanks was ordered. This was the Null-Serie, or Zero Series. Those 20 tanks were designated Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausfuehrung A and were technically different from later Ausf A production models. All were lightly armored (with 60mm frontal armor) and armed with the early version of the 75mm KwK 42 L/70 gun. This gun had a single-chamber muzzle brake from the 75mm KwK 40 L/43 gun and was mounted in a turret that featured a drum cupola that bulged the turret on the left side. A 650hp Maybach HL 210 P 45 engine of 21 liters (1,280 cubic inches] displacement powered them. Interesting conversion was Ausf D1 (some sources state that it was an early model Bergepanther) fitted with bolted on PzKpfw IV Ausf H's turret (that could not be traversed), which served as a command tank of schwere Heeres Panzerjager Abteilung 653 on the Eastern Front in early/mid of 1944. The same unit used other early model Bergepanther that was mounted with 20mm Flakvierling anti-aircraft gun and Flakpanzer T-34(r).
In December 1942, a new and improved model, designated Ausf D, was ready. In February 1943, 20 Ausf A tanks were re-designated Ausf D1. These Ausf D1 models were exclusively used as test vehicles and later for training. By this time, preparations were under way for Operation "Zitadelle" (Citadel). For this, the Army ordered 250 Panthers to be ready by May 12, 1943, while 750 more were to be completed as soon as possible. In December 1942, Ausf D entered production, and the first D model left the factory on January 11, 1943. Armor protection was improved (in comparison to Ausf D1) and the newer version of the 75mm KwK 42 L/70 gun was mounted in a hydraulically-powered turret. The first 250 Panther Ausf D tanks were powered by a Maybach HL 210 P 30 [with 23 liters (1,400 cubic inches) displacement] and were also referenced as Ausf D1. The Panther's weak spot was its side armor, which ranged from 40mm to 50mm, depending on the variant.
Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf D(D1), along with Panzerj盲ger Tiger(P) Ferdinand (Sd.Kfz.184) and other new armored fighting vehicles, made their debut with Panzer Abteilungen 51 and 52 (96 tanks each) along with Panzer Regiment Stab 39 (8 tanks each) as part of Heeresgruppe Sued (Army Group South) in July 1943 during Operation Citadel in the Kursk salient. Because of technical problems (especially with the gearbox, transmission and suspension, and engine fires) that were not fully solved until later, many Panthers broke down before and during the battle.

"...they (Panthers) burnt too easily, the fuel and oil systems were insufficiently protected, and the crews were lost due to lack of training." - Heinz Guderian.

From the original 250 Panthers, only 43 were in service by August 10, 1943. These were later converted to Panzerbefehlswagen (Sd.Kfz.267). The next 600 Ausf D (also called Ausf D2) were powered by a more powerful 700hp HL 230 P 30 engine, which became the standard power plant for all later models of the Panther. They also featured a cast commander's cupola instead of the early drum-type cupola, and armor skirts, which were standard on later Ausf D Panthers and all later models. Ausf D also equipped 23rd and 26th Independent Panzer Regiment as well as Panzer Regiment of Das Reich and Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Panzer Divisions. In general, from December 1942 to September 1943, some 850 were produced by MAN, Daimler-Benz, MNH and Henschel.

In August 1943, after repairs and modifications to the gearbox and other systems, a new variant of Panther was produced-the Ausf A, which soon became a formidable weapon. Panther Ausf A was the most numerous variant during the Normandy campaign, and some 400 Panthers of all types were lost there. Panther Ausf A featured a redesigned turret, the new cast commander's cupola, a mounting bracket for an AA MG34 on the cupola, a ball-mounted MG34 in the frontal plate and standard armor skirts. Over time, five different types of exhaust arrangement were used. In general, from August 1943 to May 1944, some 2,200 were produced by MAN, Daimler-Benz, Demag and Henschel.

As with any weapon in constant use, various modifications and design changes were made to the Panther to improve its combat capabilities. In March 1944, the first Ausf G was produced. Panther Ausf G became the most numerous model, and had many new features. These included a new design for the top hull hatches, removal of the driver's visor in the glacis (front) plate and upper hull sides closer to the vertical. Later variants had a rotating periscope for the driver, a new exhaust arrangement, a new mantlet design to eliminate the shot trap and a new engine deck layout with a raised fan cover. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Ausf G was the tapered one-piece upper hull side plate on the sponson over the suspension. From March 1944 to April 1945, some 2,950 were produced by MAN, Daimler-Benz and MNH.
Older models returned for repairs were often fitted with newer parts creating hybrids.

Overall, from 1943 to 1945, only some 6000 Panthers were produced by Maschinenfabrik-Augsburg-Nuremberg (MAN) in Kassel and Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen-Hannover (MNH) in Hannover, along with Daimler-Benz, Henschel and Demag.

A small number of Panthers, probably five, and probably G models, was sold to Hungary in 1944, while a single Panther was apparently sold to Sweden in 1943, though this is unconfirmed.

In February of 1943, MAN allowed Italian Fiat-Ansaldo to licence produce Panthers but production never took place due to the Italian surrender in September of 1943.

Originally, it was planned to manufacture model Ausf G with steel-rimmed road-wheels (instead of previously used rubber-rimmed road-wheels), but in 1944, only small series of 24 was produced.
Also at the same time, Krupp developed two projects to rearm Panther with 88mm KwK 43 L/71 gun but none was adapted.
In order to improve Panther's performance, various powerplants were tested and experimentally mounted including, aircooled MAN/Argus, modified aircraft BMW and diesel Daimler-Benz engine. Also hydrostatic and hydrodynamic suspension systems were tested, along with special wading arrangement (Tauch Einrichtung) and special filter system allowing the tank to operate in the chemically contaminated area. Also unrealized project of Panther flame-thrower tank was proposed.

In May 1944, design for the next generation of Panther, designated Ausf F (neuer Art), was proposed and accepted. Ausf F was to have increased armor protection and a newly-designed Schmalturm (narrow) turret (designed by Rheinmetall in November of 1944 and to be produced by Daimler-Benz). Schmalturm was to mount either a 75mm KwK 42/1 or Skoda's 75mm KwK 44/1 L/70 gun in a "saukopf" mantlet. There was also a project to mount a longer 75mm KwK L/100 gun. Production models of Ausf F were to be manufactured exclusively with steel-rimmed road-wheels. In October 1944, it was planned to start production of Ausf F by Daimler-Benz (in Berlin-Marienfelde) in March 1945. Only one prototype (an Ausf G hull fitted with the Schmalturm turret) was fully completed in January 1945. Because of the deteriorating war situation, only a few prototype Schmalturm turrets (without key components) and eight hulls were completed when the war ended. Some sources state that Daimler-Benz completed a few Ausf F vehicles between April 20 and 23, 1945. If so, it is possible that they were used in combat, but this has not been confirmed. On February 20, 1945, a list of planned modifications to the Panther series was presented, but none of those were ever used.
The introduction of Panther, made its chassis and components available as base for various conversions. First of those was the Artillerie-Panzer-Beobachtung Panther proposed by Rheinmetall-Borsig in late 1942. Few proposals were made but all were rejected and eventually led to the Panzerbeobachtungwagen Panther (Artillery Observation Vehicle). In the spring of 1942, Krupp and Rheinmetall-Borsig were ordered to design a new self-propelled mountings based on chassis contructed using Panther's components. Krupp designed and proposed two series of such vehicles, Grille and Heuschrecke. In late 1942, two designs were proposed, Grille 12 armed with 128mm K 43 gun and Grille 15 armed with 150mm sFH 43 L/35.5 gun. In 1943/44, both guns were replaced by never 128mm K 44 L/55 and 150mm sFH 44 Both designs had their armament dismountable and fully traversable. Heuschrecke 12 and 15 (had the same armament as Grille 12 and 15) and were designed as weapon carriers - Waffentrager. Heuschrecke development was cancelled in February of 1943, while in October October of 1943, Grille development was cancelled. In early/mid 1944, Krupp proposed new designs of Panther based Waffentragers with 150mm sFH 18 and 128mm K 44 L/55 guns. In October of 1944, the design of Sturmpanther armed with 150mm StuH 43/1 gun (similar to Jagdpanther) was proposed, delayed and included on the list of planned modifications to the Panther series (from February 20th of 1945). Rheinmetall-Borsig provided their proposals for similar vehicles at the same time as Krupp, such as Skorpion armed with 128mm K 43 gun. Both Krupp and Rheinmetall-Borsig designs never went beyond wooden model stage. From late 1942 to early 1944, Rheinmetall-Borsig also worked on the 88mm Flakwagen (Versuchsflakswagen / 8.8cm Flak 41 (Sf.) Panther) based on Panther's chassis and its components but it eventually cancelled. In 1944, Rheinmetall-Borsig started the development of a new Flakpanzer based on Panther's chassis. It was planned to arm it with two 37mm Flak 43 guns mounted in a fully traversible armored turret that allowed near vertical elevation of the guns. Later models were to be armed with two 55mm Flak guns mounted in newly designed turret. First projects with two 37mm Flak 43 (Flak 431 or Flak 44 L/57) guns was designated as Flakpanzer 341 but was also unofficially referred to as Flakpanzer V Coelian. Wooden mock-up of the turret was made and mounted on Panther chassis but entire program never reached the production stage. Another project was to mount Panther with a newly design turret armed with four 20mm guns - Flak Vierling MG 151/20. Skoda also designed very modern looking variant of Panther armed with 105mm Raketenwerfer (rocket launcher) mounted on the fully traversible platform in a place of the standard turret, but this design never even reached prototype stage. Many of those interesting designs never went beyond drawing boards due to the desperate war situation and lack of resources.

Panther Battalion - 1943 Type.
  • Battalion Command (composed of Communication and Reconnaissance Platoon)
      • Communication Platoon - 3 x Befehlswagen Panther SdKfz.267/268
      • Reconnaissance Platoon - 5 x Panther
    • 1st Company - 22 x Panther
      • Company Command - 2 x Panther
      • 1st Platoon - 5 x Panther
      • 2nd Platoon - 5 x Panther
      • 3rd Platoon - 5 x Panther
      • 4th Platoon - 5 x Panther
    • 2nd Company - 22 x Panther (composed as 1st Company)
    • 3rd Company - 22 x Panther (composed as 1st Company)
    • 4th Company - 22 x Panther (composed as 1st Company)
    • Service Platoon - 2 x Bergepanther
Note: From 1943 to 1945, many modifications were made to unit organization by reducing both number of companies and platoons due to the war situation.

The most successful conversion based on Panther's chassis was Jagdpanther, an excellent tank destroyer armed with 88mm Pak 43 L/71 gun but its production was limited. Development of larger and more powerful Panther II was started but desperate war situation ended its development in the prototype stage.
Panther turrets (from battle damaged and retired vehicles along with specially manufactured ones) were also mounted in the permanent (fixed) fortifications. Turrets (mechanically traverseable) were mounted on the concrete emplacements (Pantherturm III - Betonsockel - concrete base) or welded steel boxes (Pantherturm I - Stahluntersatz - steel sub-base), which housed the ammunition storage and fighting compartment along with crew quarters. Such emplacements were located in fortifications of Atlantic Wall, West Wall, Gothic Line (Goten-Linie), Hitler Line (one of those was located at Piedimonte in Monte Cassino area) and in the East (approx. 12 in Berlin). Total of 268(280) turrets was installed as of March 26th of 1945.

In preparations for the Ardennes Offensive, around 10 Ausf Gs were converted to resemble American Gun Motor Carriage M10 tank destroyer. The conversion was done by welding additional metal sheets to the turret and hull along with application of US Army camouflage and markings. Designated Ersatz (Substitute) M10, they all equipped Panzer Brigade 150, commanded by SS-Standartenfuehrer Otto Skorzeny.

German comparison of German tanks with the new (at the time) Russian T-34/85 and JS-II (122mm), from March 23rd of 1944, stated that: "The Panther is far superior to the T34-85 for frontal fire (Panther Ausf G could penetrate frontal armor of T-34/85 at 800m, while T-34/85 could penetrare frontal armor of Panther Ausf G at 500m), approximately equal for side and rear fire, superior to the JS for frontal fire and inferior for side and rear fire." In 1943 and 1944, Panther was able to destroy any enemy tank in existence at ranges of 2000m, while in general veteran Panther crews reported 90 percent hit rate at ranges up to 1000m. According to US Army Ground Forces statistics, destruction of a single Panther was achieved after destruction of 5 M4 Shermans or some 9 T-34s.

"To destroy a Panther, a tank destroyer with a three inch (Gun Motor Carriage M10) or 76mm gun (Gun Motor Carriage M18 Hellcat) would have to aim for the side or rear of the turret, the opening through which the hull-mounted machine gun projected, or for the underside of the gun shield (mantlet)." - U.S. Army report prior to September of 1944.

Since 1943, Soviets captured some number of various variants of Panther, which equipped some of their tank units such as Lieutenant Sotnikov's Guard Company. This unit used captured Panthers as late as spring of 1945, when they had 3 Ausf As, while operating in Prague (Praga) - district of Warsaw. Soviets held Panthers in high regard and considered captured Panther to be a prize. Captured Panthers were then given to successful crews as a kind of reward. In order to keep them running captured German mechanics were pressed into service and in 1944, Panther's manual was printed in Russian for distribution among tank crews. Captured vehicles temporarily remained in their original colors but with markings of their new owners. Later, some were repainted in dark green and were marked with large tactical markings and white stars for indentification purposes.

"It is suggested to the Red Army to use such German tanks as StuG III and Pz IV due to their relability and availability of spare parts. The new German Panther and Tiger can be used until they broken down without trying to repair them. They have bad engines, transmission and suspension." - Department of Weaponry of the Red Army, late 1944.

Small number of captured Panthers was also pressed into service by British (e.g. Ausf G "Cuckoo" from 4th Battalion of 6th Coldstream Guards Tank Brigade, North-West Europe, 1944/45), Canadian, French and American units and three were used by the Polish Home Army during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, against its former owners. Also small number was captured and operated by the French resistance in mid 1944. They took part in fighting in the Rouen area, where two of them were destroyed on August 30th of 1944 by Tigers from sSSPzAbt 102. This was probably the most interesting combat situation involving Panthers.

Panther in Action . 

On September 13th of 1943, seven Panthers from 1st Battalion of 2nd SS Panzer Regiment of 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich", commanded by SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Holzer (turret number 101) fought with a group of some 70 Soviet T-34 tanks near Kolomak. During the 20 minutes long engagement Panthers destroyed some 28 T-34 tanks without any losses.

During the battle around Siedlce on 28/29th July of 1944, 2nd Battalion of 5th SS Panzer Regiment of 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking", destroyed some 107 Soviet tanks (including T-34s, Shermans and Valentines), while losing 6 tanks (one PzKpfw IV and five Panthers).

The most notable Panther ace was SS-Oberscharfuehrer Ernst Barkmann from 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich". His actions in Western Europe, especially in Normandy and Ardennes earned him the Knight's Cross.
On October 13th of 1944, this Panther Ausf G (turret number 222) from 107th Panzer Brigade was hit and disabled by PIAT fired by 2nd Battalion of East Yorkshire Regiment at Oveloon in Holland. This was a brand new tank and its unit was operational for only two and a half months old as it was raised in August of 1944 in Aachen.
Recently, it has been taken apart and it is being currently restored.

Panzerkampfwagen V Panther was a very successful design and two could be produced in the same time as a single Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger tank. Panther revolutionized tank designs and influenced post-war western tank designs and is considered to be the first MBT (Main Battle Tank). Overall, Panther proved to be an excellent weapon when commanded and operated by people like Ernst Barkmann. Panther was liked by its crews, best summarized in statement by Lieutenant Berger of "Grossdeutschland" - "We were shot three times - I owed my life to the Panther...".
After the war, many French Army tank units were equipped with Panthers (eg. 503rd Tank Battalion in Mourmelon had 50 Panthers in 1947 and 501rd Tank Battalion used Panthers from 1946 to 1950). Other post-war users included Bulgaria (Bulgarian Panthers), Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia.
After the war, modified Panther's 75mm KwK 42 L/70 gun was produced by French as 75mm DEFA and CN75-50 gun. It was used by them in a number of light tanks (eg. AMX 13) and armored cars (eg. EBR 75). Also, Israelis used the gun to upgrade their M50 Super Sherman.
Between 1949 and 1952, French also worked on AMX-50 tank, which was heavily influenced by the Panther (and powered by Maybach engine), but it didn't enter production in favour of American M47 Patton Medium Tank. 

In 1947, Sweden received single Panzerbefehlswagen Panther Ausf A from France as a gift, which was then handed over to Germany in 1960/61 and is today on display in the Panzermuseum Munster. In late 1940s, Israeli high command was considering starting production of modified Panther but it was never realized. Today, fully restored and operational PzKpfw V Panther Ausf G can be seen in the Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung in Koblenz, Germany. In 1984, this vehicle was used as a caisson to bear the coffin of a Bundeswehr General, who was a World War II veteran. Panthers can be also seen in numerous museums and displays in Germany, Canada, Holland, England, France, USA and Russia.
Model: Ausf D Ausf G
Weight: 43000kg 45500kg
Crew: 5 men 5 men
Engine: Maybach HL 230 P 30 / 12-cylinder / 700hp Maybach HL 230 P 30 / 12-cylinder / 700hp
Speed: Road: 46km/h / Cross-Country: 24km/h Road: 46km/h / Cross-Country: 24km/h
Range: Road: 200km / Cross-Country: 177km Road: 200km / Cross-Country: 177km
Fuel Capacity: 730 litres 730 litres
Lenght: 6.88m (w/o the gun)
8.86m (with the gun)
6.88m (w/o the gun)
8.86m (with the gun)
Width: 3.40m 3.40m
Height: 2.98m 2.98m
Armament: 75mm KwK 42 L/70 & 2 x MG
(1 x MG34 - hull)
(1 x MG34 - coaxial)
75mm KwK 42 L/70 & 3 x MG
(1 x MG34 - hull)
(1 x MG34 - coaxial)
(1 x MG42 - cupola)
Ammo: 75mm - 79 rounds
7.92mm - 5100 rounds
75mm - 81-85 rounds
7.92mm - 4200-4800 rounds
Armor (mm/angle): Front Turret: 100/10
Front Upper Hull: 80/55
Front Lower Hull: 60/55
Side Turret: 45/25
Side Upper Hull: 40/40
Side Lower Hull: 40/0
Rear Turret: 45/25
Rear Lower Hull: 40/30
Turret Top / Bottom: 16/83 / 16/90
Upper Hull Top / Bottom: 16/90
Lower Hull Top / Bottom: 30/90 / 16/90
Gun Mantlet: 100/round
Front Turret: 110/11
Front Upper Hull: 80/55
Front Lower Hull: 60/55
Side Turret: 45/25
Side Upper Hull: 50/30
Side Lower Hull: 40/0
Rear Turret: 45/25
Rear Lower Hull: 40/30
Turret Top / Bottom: 16/84 / 16/90
Upper Hull Top / Bottom: 40/90 / 16/90
Lower Hull Top / Bottom: 30/90 / 16/90
Gun Mantlet: 100/round
Penetration of Armor Plate at 30 degrees from Vertical.
Ammunition: 100m 500m 1000m 1500m 2000m
Panzergranate 39/42 138mm 124mm 111mm 99mm 89mm
Panzergranate 40/42 194mm 174mm 149mm 127mm 106mm
Pzgr.39/42 (APCBC) - Armor Piercing Composite Ballistic Cap
Pzgr.40/42 (APCR) - Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (Tungsten Core)




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