Panther tank


The Panther was a tank of Nazi Germany in World War II that served from mid-1943 to end of the war in Europe in 1945. It was intended as a counter to the T-34, and to replace the Panzer IV and III, though it served along with them and the heavier Tigers until the end of the war.

Until 1944 it was designated as the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther and had the Ordnance inventory designation of Sd.Kfz. 171. On February 27, 1944, Hitler ordered that the tank only be known as Panther.


Development and Production

The Panther was a direct response to the Soviet T-34. First encountered on 23 June 1941, the T-34 decisively outclassed the existing Panzer IV and Panzer III. At the insistence of General Heinz Guderian a team was dispatched to Russia to assess the T-34. Among the features of the Russian tank were considered most significant: the sloping armour, which gave much improved shot deflection and also increased the apparent armour thickness against penetration, the wide track and large road wheels which improved stability, and the long, over-hanging gun. Daimler-Benz and MAN were tasked with designing a new 30-35 ton tank, designated VK3002, by April 1942 (apparently in time to be shown to Hitler for his birthday).

Missing image
A Panther Ausf. G in Houffalize, Belgium

The two proposals were delivered in April 1942. The Daimler-Benz (DB) design was a direct 'homage' to the T-34, side-stepping the German propensity for overengineering, and hence complexity, to produce a clean, simple design resembling the T-34 in hull and turret form, engine, drive system, leaf spring suspension, track layout, and other features. The MAN design was more conventional to German thinking; it was higher and wider with a substantial turret placed far back on the hull, a petrol engine, torsion bar suspension and a characteristically German internal crew layout. The MAN design was accepted in May 1942, in spite of Hitler's preference for the DB design. A mild steel prototype was produced by September 1942 and after testing at Kummersdorf was officially accepted. It was put into immediate production with the very highest priority. Finished tanks were produced in December and suffered from reliability problems as a result of this haste. The demand for this tank was so high the manufacturing was soon expanded out of MAN to include Daimler-Benz and in 1943 the firms of Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen and Henschel.

The initial production target was 250 a month at MAN; this was increased to 600 a month in January 1943. Despite determined efforts, this figure was never reached due to disruption by Allied bombing, manufacturing bottlenecks and other difficulties. Production in 1943 averaged 148 per month. In 1944, it averaged 315 a month (3777 having been built that year), peaking with 380 in July and ending around the end of March 1945 with at least 6000 built in total. Strength peaked on 1 September 1944 at 2304, but that same month a record number of 692 tanks were reported lost (source: T.L. Jentz (1999) Die deutsche Panzertruppe Band 2).

Design Characteristics

Missing image
Panther Ausf. D

If the over-hanging gun and sloping armour are ignored, the Panther was a conventional German design. The tank's weight had increased to 43 tons from the planned 35. It was powered by a 700 horsepower (520 kW), 23 litre Maybach HL 230 V-12 petrol engine. The engine drove eight double-interleaved steel and rubber bogie wheels on each side suspended on staggered torsion bar suspension. Tank control was accomplished through a Maybach-Olvar seven-speed synchromesh epicyclic box and hydraulic disc brakes. The crew was made up of five members: driver, radio operator, gunner, loader, and commander. The armour consisted of a homogenous steel glacis plate, welded but also interlocked for strength. Original models only had a maximum of 60 mm of armour. This was soon increased to 80mm. On the production of the Ausf. D and later models, the armor had a maximum thickness of 120 mm. A 5mm armored Skirt and Zimmerit coating also became standard.

The main gun was a 75 mm Rheinmetall KwK 42 L/70 with 79 rounds supported by two MG 34 machine guns. 75 mm was not a particularly large calibre for the time. Nonetheless, the Panther's gun was one of the most powerful tank guns of WWII, due to the large propellant charge and the long barrel, which gave it a very high muzzle velocity. The flat trajectory also made hitting targets much easier, since aiming was less sensitive to range. The 75 mm gun actually had more penetrating power than the 88 mm gun of the Tiger I, although not of the Tiger II.

The Panther was the first Axis tank design where modern features were more prominent than early WWII-era ones. The rule-of-thumb among Allied tank crews of Sherman-to-Panther ratio necessary for destruction of a single Panther was 5:1, or the same as with the Tiger. Once the problems caused by the vulnerability of the engine and the transmission were solved, it proved to be a most effective fighting vehicle, being as effective as the Tiger, but less demanding to produce and logistically far less troublesome. Captured Panthers proved to be extremely popular vehicles among Soviet troops, who received them as rewards for extraordinary achievements in combat, and who sought (contrary to regulations that captured Tigers and Panthers should not be repaired but abandoned and destroyed after mechanical failure) to keep them in service as long as possible. Even the Pantherfibel service manual was translated into Russian and provided to crews of captured Panzers! Altogether, it was the best Axis tank in WWII, mainly due to the fact that the Tiger's limitations were overcome by the introduction of sloped armor and the outstanding performance of its main gun.

Combat Use

The Panther first saw mass action around the Kursk on July 5, 1943. Early tanks were plagued with mechanical problems: the track and suspension often broke and the engine was dangerously prone to over-heating and bursting into flames. Initially, more Panthers were disabled by their own failings than by enemy action. Heinz Guderian, who had not wanted Hitler to order them into combat so soon, later remarked about the Panther's peformance in the battle, "they burnt too easily, the fuel and oil systems were insufficiently protected, and the crews were lost due to lack of training."

Panther tanks being prepared for the .
Panther tanks being prepared for the Battle of Kursk.

The Panther remained a major German tank until the end of the war. Later versions of the Panzer IV with long 75 mm guns were cheaper to produce and more reliable and so remained in production alongside the Panther.

Panthers saw the most service on the Eastern Front, though by the D-Day landings of June 1944, Panzer units stationed in France were also receiving Panther tanks, which were used to good effect on that front.

Around the time of the Battle of the Bulge a number of Panther tanks were configured to look roughly like a M10 Tank Destroyer, as part of a larger operation that involved para-dropping soldiers disguised as Americans, and other activities.

Throughout the period they were in operation there were a number of Panthers that were captured, some of which were in good enough shape to be used.

The Panther had a humorous instruction manual for the crew, called the Pantherfibel (Panther Primer); just as the Tiger tank before had the Tigerfibel'.

Panther II

Design work on the Panther II began in February 1943. The main aim was to secure maximum interchangeability of parts with the Tiger II heavy tank in order to ease manufacturing. The Panther II had a hull similar to the Tiger Ausf. B, and also shared identical wheels, track, suspension and brakes. One of the parts to be changed was the gun-mantlet, which had to become smaller. This was referred to in German as "Turm mit schmaler Blende" (narrow-mantlet turret).

The Panther II project never got further than one single chassis, that now can be seen in the Patton museum. (See photo at (

Later in the war, in March 1944, the work started again on a Panther turret with a smaller front. This led to the development of the Schmalturm (narrow turret). In August a Versuchsturm (trials turret) was completed. This was mounted on the chassis of a regular Panther Ausf. G.

In that same period, development of the Panther led to the Ausf. F, slated for production in April 1945. The key-points for this mark of Panther were the new Schmalturm with it improved armour-protection, an extended front hullroof which was also slightly thicker. A number of Ausf. F hulls were under construction at Daimler Benz and Ruhstahl-Hattingen steelworks.

The only difference between the Panther 1 and the Panther 2 was running gear, and increased armour protection. The turret was exactly the same on both types. The Panther 2 was only designed with the 7,5 cm Kw.K. L/70 in mind, and the 8,8 cm Kw.K. L/71 idea didn't enter into consideration after the Panther 2 project had been dropped.

See Jagdpanther for the tank hunter based of the Panther.


  • Ausf. A: 20 produced in 11/42 (Prototypes, sometimes called Ausf. A1)
  • Ausf. D: 842 produced (1/43 to 9/43)
  • Ausf. A: 2,192 produced (8/43 to 6/44, sometimes called Ausf. A2)
  • Ausf. G: 2,953 (3/44 to 4/45)
  • Befehlspanzer Panther (Pz Bef Wg): 329 Converted (5/1943 to 2/1945), extra radio equipment
  • Beobachtungspanzer Panther (Pz Beob Wg): 41 Converted (1944/1945), two MG and dummy gun
  • Bergepanther (Recovery vehicle): 347 (1943 to 1945)

External links


German armored fighting vehicles of World War II
Panzer I | Panzer II | Panzer III | Panzer IV | Panther | Tiger III | Panzer 35(t) | Panzer 38(t)
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SdKfz 4 | 250 | 251 | 252 | 253 Sdkfz 221/22/23 | Sdkfz 231/32/34/63
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Flakpanzer IV: Möbelwagen, Wirbelwind, Ostwind, Kugelblitz | Gepard
Maus | P-1000 Ratte | E- series | Panther II | Waffentrager | Neubaufahrzeug
Proposed designs
P-1500 'Monster' | Panzer VII 'Löwe' | Panzer IX
German armored fighting vehicle production during World War II
de:Panzerkampfwagen V Panther

fr:Char Panther ms:Kereta kebal Panther nl:Panther (tank) ja:5号戦車 pl:PzKpfw V Panther fi:Panther


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