Table of Contents
Panzerkampfwagen V, Sd.Kfz.171 is much better known as the “Panther”. Its origin started back in 1941, when the Wehrmacht was unpleasantly surprised by the capabilities of the opposing T34 tank while invading Russia. Besides its high speed the T34 could muster on the fields, due to the American invented Christy suspension.
Also the T34 had sloping armour which gave it double the thickness of armour compared to the straight up placed armour which was usual with the Panzerkampfwagens I, II, III, IV and VI (Tiger-I).
The development of the Panther started after the development of the Tiger tank. The Panzerkampfwagen VI (the Tiger) entered service earlier than Panzerkampfwagen V ( the Panther). Plans for the Tiger started way back in 1937, the order for construction came in May 1941.
The development of the Panther started in December 1942 after the T34 had been studied thoroughly. The tank had to be in the 30 ton class, a medium tank. Two German companies, M.A.N. & Daimler-Benz (Mercedes-Benz nowadays) received the order for the development of the Panzerkampfwagen V. Hitler was under the impression that the Daimler-Benz company would create the better panzer, but after seeing the blueprints of both companies he gave the order of the first 250 Panthers to M.A.N. (Machinenfabrik Augsburg – Nürnberg).
Panzerkampfwagen V Types
Besides that the type markings don’t run in order, I –II – III – IV – VI & V, the first type of Panther produced was mark “D” instead of “A”.
Production of the Panther started in January 1943. In May 1943 the 51st & 52nd Panzerabteilungen (Panzer Detachements) received their first Panthers, which were the first to see action at Kursk in July 1943.
The type “D” lacked the machine gun in the hull, as can be seen on the picture above. The machine gun was there though, it was concealed behind a metal armoured flap. In combat when the hatches where sealed, the driver had two 2 periscopes at his proposal to navigate.
Type A entered service in August 1943. This second version featured a new cupola for the commander, with a machine gun position for close defence and anti aircraft purposes, and a strengthened running gear. A modified engine exhaust cooling and the machinegun “flap” was replaced by a ball-mount.
Type G entered service in march 1944. The adjustments came from field experience using the types D and A in combat situations. The major adjustments was a redesigned hull, the side armour was increased on the upper hull from 40 to 50mm. The driver received a rotating periscope instead of standard vision ports, and an effective flame exhaust muffler was introduced.
Panthers on the battlefield
The Panthers saw action on all fronts from 1943 on. About 450 Panthers were available at the start of the Ardennes offensive. With its 7,5cm high velocity gun it was a force to be reckoned with. In close combat and midrange distance the gun of the Panther had more power than the 88mm gun of the Tiger, due to its high velocity.
The same velocity gave the projectile a straight line on these distances and made it very accurate. On the long distances though, nothing could outgun the Tiger in it’s heydays.
Panzerkampfwagen V “Panther” variants
The Panzerkampfwagen V didn’t have as much variants as it’s predecessors.
A Panzerbefehlswagen Sd.Kfz 267 was constructed from the Panther and best German bergepanzer (armoured recovery vehicle), Panzerkampfwagen Panther Bergegerät Sd.Kfz. 179.
They made a wooden mock-up turret for a Panther though. The mock-up was of at two mount 3.7cm Flak 43, which they nicknamed; “Flakpanzer Coelian”, it never went into production.
Plans for a SturmPanther and Jagdpanther starr, a tank destroyer with an experimental rigid gun, never went into production as well.
By the end of the war Daimler-Benz was producing the Panther ausf F, a version with a “schmall turm”, a small turret. Only 8 hulls were produced, only prototype turrets were produced.
From 1943 there were plans for a Panther II version. It should have heavier armour (100mm front, 60mm on the side). Of the two prototypes delivered by M.A.N., one is still around. It carries a normal Panther turret and can be seen at the Fort Knox museum.
The third real variant that went into production is the Jagdpanther. This is an awesome weapon, even to the requirements of present day, and it can do some real damage. The Jagdpanther gave up its turret and received a fixed gun position. The loss of the turret and 75mm gun was compensated with the 88mm PaK43 gun, the gun size of the Tiger II. This heavy assault gun was extremely effective. The Jagpanther Sd.Kfz. 173 was an excellent Panzerjäger (tank destroyer)
The Panzerkampfwagen V and its variants almost reached 7100 in number.
The “Panther” on display
We encountered quite some Panthers on our trips so far.
In Houffalize Belgium, it was in this town that our wanderlust started (read the post), we encountered our first Panther. The Panther 111 version G from the 116 Panzer Division is on display in the town. It was knocked out during the Battle of the Bulge. It is an outdoor display, not in a mint condition, but not too bad for a free site. It still shines its power to the spectators. It is missing road wheels, but still a nice visit.
In Breda, the Netherlands is the only surviving version “D” on display, it is in better condition than the Belgium ausf. G one, and still holds original Simmerith above the tracks.
In the Panzermuseum in Munster Germany is a Panzerkampfwagen Befehls Panther, in very good condition, next to a Jagdpanther, in mint condition as well.
In Victory Park, Polonnaya Gora, Moscow there is a wreck on display, you only see the rusty bottom and some steel road wheels left of the Panzerkampfwagen V.
Liberty Park, Overloon, in the Netherlands shows a battle damaged version of the Panther version G, still in good condition though, they have a hall dedicated to the battle in the surrounding of the museum, only damaged vehicles left on the battlefield are on display in this hall. The Panther is one of them.
In the Technik museum in Sinsheim Germany they have 3 Panthers. A Panther version A, you can turn its turret for a donation of 2 euro’s. A damaged Jagdpanther, it was found on a target practice lane of the army. The damaged gun is from this practice era, they put it back together from Panther and Jagpanther parts, mostly found in France. The inside seems to be a mess. And the third Panther is found in a bog somewhere, displayed as it was found rusty and decaying. It still carries its original paint though.
The last “Panther” we encountered was a bit of a surprise. On our visit to Normandy we stopped at the “August 1944” museum in Falaise, France. It was closed, we still are afraid it is closed forever. Walking around the museum we saw the hull of a Panther, version A, standing in the Barn in the back yard. More than one Hull was to be found here, Sherman, M35 recovery Vehicle, M3 Stuart and the Panther. Hopefully it gets restored one day, it is such a waste if they let it rot away. (see Landmark Scout for the post on Normandy)
Name: Panzerkampfwagen V ausf G
Other designation: Panther I, VK3002
Type: Heavy medium tank
Manufacturer: MAN, Daimler-Benz, MNH
Chassis numbers: 120301-?, 124301-?, 214001-?
Number produced: 3126
Production: From March 1944 to april 1945
Weight (tonnes): 45.5
Length (metres): 8.86
Width (metres): 3.4
Height (metres): 2.98
Engine: Maybach HL230P30
Gearbox: 7 forward, 1 reverse
Speed (km/h): 46
Range (km): 200
Armament: One 7.5cm KwK L/70
Two 7.92mm MG34
Traverse: 360° (hydraulic)
Elevation: -8° to +18°
Sigths: TZF12a / KgZF2 on MG34
Ammunition: 81 Pzgr
4800 patr SmK
Turret front: 110/11°
Superstructure front: 80/55°
Hull front: 60/55°
Gun mantlet front: 100/round
Link to photosets
Panther D – Breda
Panther ausf A – August 1944
Panther ausf A- Technik museum Sinsheim
Panther ausf A, Befehlspanther- Panzermuseum Munster
Panther ausf A wreck – Technik museum Sinsheim
Panther wreck ausfuhrung unknown – Victory Park Polonnaya Gora
Panther ausf G – Houffalize
Panther ausf G – Liberty Park Overloon
Jagdpanther – Panzermuseum Munster
Jagdpanther – Technik museum Sinsheim