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German Panther Ausf. G

German Panther Ausf. G; digital illustration by Les Still
German Panther Ausf. G; digital illustration by Les Still

German Panther Ausf. G

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 German Panther Ausf. G

Crew;- 5
Armament;- One 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70 main gun, two 7.92mm MG 34 machine guns.

Armour;- 0.6in (20mm) minimum, 4.72in (120mm) maximum.

Dimensions;- Length 22'6" (6.68m), width 10'10" (3.3m), height 9'8" (2.95m), data refers to the Ausf G.

Weight;- 98,766lb (44800kg).

Ground Pressure;- 12.5lb/sq in (0.88 sq cm).

Power to weight ratio;- 15.9hp /ton.

Engine;- Maybach HL 230 V-12 water cooled petrol engine developing 700bhp at 3,000rpm.

Performance;- Road speed 29mph (46km/h), cross country speed 15mph (24km/h), range 110 miles (177km), vertical obstacle 3' (.9m), trench 6'3" (1.9m), fording depth 4'7" (1.4m), gradient 35 degrees.

History;- In service with the German Army from 1943 to 1945. Also used by the Soviet Union and France after the war.

Development;- Until the invasion of the Soviet Union, the PzKpfw IV had been the heaviest tank in the German Army, and had proved quite adequate. In early October 1941 the new Soviet T-34 appeared and proved the PzKpfw IV to be completely out of date. The sloped armour, speed and manoeuvrability of the T-34 brought about a profound change of heart on the part of the Germans, and a new requirement was hurriedly drawn up. At first to save time, it was even considered that the T-34 should be copied directly, but national pride forbade this approach and the specification issued in January 1942 merely incorporated all the T-34 features. Designs were submitted in April 1942, and the first trial models appeared in September, the MAN design being chosen for production. There were the usual multitude of modifications called for as a result of the prototypes performance, and spurred on by Hitler himself, MAN brought out the first production tank in January 1943, but Daimler Benz had to be brought in to help. From then on production forged ahead, but never reached the ambitious target of 600 vehicles a month set by Hitler. There were many difficulties. The engine and transmission were overstressed to cope with the increase in weight, cooling was inadequate, engines caught fire, and the wheel rims gave trouble. When the Panther first went into action at Kursk in July 1943, it was at Hitler's insistence, and it was a failure. Most broke down on the journey from the railhead, and few survived the first day. All that were salvaged had to be sent back to the factory to be rebuilt. Later models corrected the faults, and the Panther soon became a fine tank which was superior to the T34/76 and very popular with it's crews. The hull was fairly conventional in the German fashion, with a large one piece glacis plate in which were originally two holes, one for the gunner and one for the driver. The G model had only the gun hole, the driver using a periscope. The turret was well sloped, although rather cramped inside, but the commander was given a good cupola. The mantlet was massive, with tiny holes for the machine gun and the gunner's binocular sight. From the front, the protection was excellent. The suspension was by inter leaved bogies sprung on torsion bars, and it gave the Panther the best arrangement of any German tank of the war. The trouble was that the bogies could freeze up when clogged with snow in Russian winters, and so immobilise the vehicle. Maintenance was also difficult since the outer wheels had to be removed to allow access to the inner ones. Steering was by hydraulically operated disc brakes and epicyclic gears to each track, which allowed the tracks to be stopped separately when required without loss of power. It was an adaptation of the Merritt-Brown system, but rather more complicated in design. The long 75mm gun (with 79 rounds) could penetrate 4.72" (120mm) of sloped plate at 1.094 yards ( 1000m) and this together with the protection of the thick frontal armour meant that the Panther could stand off from Allied tanks and knock them out without being harmed itself. The US Army reckoned it took five Shermans to knock out one Panther, and over 5,000 Panthers had been built by the end of the war. After 1943 the Germans needed numbers of tanks rather than improved designs and the Panther was simplified to ease production. The hull sides were sloped more, the mantlet was thickened to prevent shot being deflected into the decking and the gearbox was improved to cope with the weight problem. In 1944-5 over 3,500 Panthers were built, more than any other German tank during that time. Despite its complexity and high manufacturing cost, the Panther was a successful design and many consider it to have been one of the best tanks produced during the war. Towards the end of the war it's petrol engine and complications were distinct disadvantages, but it was a powerful supplement to the PzKpfw IVs of the armoured formations, and it was really only defeated by the overwhelming Allied air strength.

from The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of the Worlds Tanks and Fighting Vehicles - Salamander

 

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