Side skirts and Zimmerit on Panther tank. Original description: Sd.Kfz 171, German medium tank V, also Tank V, better known as "Panther",, image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PzKpfw-Vg_%22Panther%22-Zimmerit.jpg
Side skirts and Zimmerit on Panther tank. Original description: Sd.Kfz 171, German medium tank V, also Tank V, better known as "Panther",, image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PzKpfw-Vg_%22Panther%22-Zimmerit.jpg

The German Panther Tank – All You Need to Know About The Panzer V Panther German Medium Tank!

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Im Westen, Panzer V (Panther), Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-490-3270-06A / Stöpfgeshoff / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Im Westen, Panzer V (Panther), Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-490-3270-06A / Stöpfgeshoff / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The German Panther tank, officially Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (PzKpfw V in short) with ordnance inventory designation ”Sd.Kfz. 171”, is a German medium tank of World War II. It was used on all fronts from the middle of 1943 until to the last days of the war in May 1945.

The Panther was intended to counter the Soviet medium tank T-34 and to replace outdated Pzkpfw III and Panzer IV German tanks. As Germany was sort of arms always it served alongside the Panzer IV and the Tiger I heavy tanks until the end of the war. It had excellent firepower, protection and mobility, although its reliability wasn’t such good.

The Panther was having essentially the same engine than Tiger I: the Maybach V12 petrol engine with 690 hp made it highly mobile, and it had better gun penetration, was lighter and faster, and could cross through difficult terrain better than the PzKpfw VI Tiger I. Some says it was one of the best tank in the Second World War

On the other side: the Panther was weaker side armour, which made it vulnerable to flanking fire and a weaker to HE (High Explosive) shellfire. The vehicle was really effective in open country, for long-range targets.

There was a change in the tank’s name, from „Panzerkampfwagen V Panther” to „PzKpfw Panther” on 27th, February 1944 as Hitler ordered that the Roman numeral “V” should be removed. Sometimes, in English-written reports it’s called as “Mark V”.

Bridge collapsed under The Panther's 44.8 Tons.<a href="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-4b2FNpLC4pg/VeMrZdVyqoI/AAAAAAAAIv4/DjC4rr7DB0s/s1600/tanques%2By%2Bpuentes%2B0.jpg" rel="nofollow">Source</a>
Bridge collapsed under The Panther’s 44.8 Tons. Source

Though officially classified as a medium tank at 1943, with over weight of 44 tons the Panther tank was closer in weight to foreign heavy tanks. The Panther’s weight caused logistical problems, such as inability to cross weak bridges or difficulties to transport on railroad.

The naming of Panther tank variants is unlogical: first variant was “D” (Ausf. D), followed by “A” and “G” variants.

Design development of Panzer V Panther heavy tank

Soviet T-34 knocked out during the Battle of Kursk, near Prokhorovka, image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-219-0553A-36 / Koch / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Soviet T-34 knocked out during the Battle of Kursk, near Prokhorovka, image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-219-0553A-36 / Koch / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Early steps – VK 20 project ruined by the T-34

The Panther was born out of a project name VK 20, started in 1938 initially to replace the Panzer III and Pz IVs.

The initial requirements of the VK 20 series called for a fully tracked vehicle weighing 20 tonnes and design proposals by Krupp, Daimler Benz and MAN ensued. These designs were abandoned and Krupp dropped out of the competition entirely as the requirements increased to a vehicle weighing 30 tonnes – direct reaction to the first war experiences with the Soviet T-34 or KV-1 heavy tanks.

Soviet T-34 medium tank and KV-1 tanks easily outclassed the existing models of the German Pz III and IV – Germany’s medium tanks in production at the time. In the need of quick solution a special design commission was created with General Heinz Guderian, to define advantages of the T-34.

Main features of the Soviet T-34 as they identified:

  • the sloping armour, which gave much improved shot deflection and also increased the effective armour thickness against penetration,
  • the wide track, which improved mobility over soft ground,
  • and the 76.2 mm (3 in) gun, which had good armour penetration and fired an effective high-explosive round.

Daimler-Benz, which designed the Pzkpfw III and StuG III self-propelled assault gun, and Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg AG were given the task of designing a 30 to 35 tonne new tank, called VK 30.02, by April 1942.

The VK 30.01 (D) and VK 30.02 (D) – MAN’s Proposal

Comparison of VK 3002 proposals.<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Comparison_of_VK_3002_proposals.jpg" rel="nofollow">Source</a>
Comparison of VK 3002 proposals. Source

The VK (Vollketten) 30.01 (D) and VK 30.02 (D), were two designs made by Daimler Benz (DB) submitted for the VK 30 project for a 30 tonne german tank that would be used by the Panzer divisions of the Wehrmacht.

The “VK 30.02 (DB)” design copied the T-34 in shape and was also to be powered by a diesel engine. It was driven from the rear drive sprocket with a forward situated main gun.

The incorporation of a diesel engine promised increased operational range, reduced flammability and allowed for better use of petroleum reserves. Hitler himself considered a diesel engine imperative for the new vehicle.

Daimler-Benz’s proposal used an external leaf spring suspension, against to the MAN proposal of twin torsion bars. Wa Prüf 6’s opinion was that the leaf spring suspension was a disadvantage and that using torsion bars would allow greater internal hull width. It also opposed the rear drive because of the potential for track fouling.

Daimler Benz still preferred the leaf springs over a torsion bar suspension as it resulted in a silhouette about 200 mm (7.9 in) shorter and rendered complex shock absorbers unnecessary.

The employment of a rear drive provided additional crew space and also allowed for a better slope on the front hull, which was considered important in preventing penetration by armour-piercing shells.

MAN Proposal for Panther tank

The Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg AG (MAN) design embodied a more conventional configuration, with the transmission and drive sprocket in the front and a classic arrangement. It had a common petrol engine and eight torsion-bar suspension axles per side.

Because of the torsion bar suspension and the drive shaft running under the turret basket, the MAN unit was higher and had a wider hull than the DB design.

MAN followed the Henschel company’s design concepts for their Tiger I tank’s suspension/drive components, name „Schachtellaufwerk” format. In detail it was large, overlapping, interleaved wheels with a “slack-track”, without using return rollers for the upper run of track.

The „Schachtellaufwerk” suspension system featured on almost all German military half-track designs since the late 1930s.

These multiple large, rubber-rimmed steel wheels distributed ground pressure more evenly across the track.

The MAN proposal also complemented Rheinmetall’s already designed turret modified from that of the VK 45.01 (H) and used a virtually exist Maybach V12 engine to the Tiger I heavy tank’s Maybach HL230 powerplant model.

Hitler’s decision of the design

The two designs were reviewed from January to March 1942. Reichsminister Fritz Todt, and later, his replacement Albert Speer, both recommended the Daimler-Benz design to Hitler because of its advantages over the initial MAN design.

Before the final submission, MAN refined its design, having learned from the DB proposal apparently through a leak by a former employee.

On 5 March 1942, Albert Speer reported that Hitler considered the Daimler-Benz design to be superior to MAN’s design.

A review by a special commission appointed by Hitler in May 1942 selected the MAN design. Hitler approved this decision after reviewing it overnight.

One of the principal reasons given for this decision was that the MAN design used an existing turret designed by Rheinmetall-Borsig, while the DB design would have required a brand new one and a diesel engine to be designed and produced, That significally would delaying the production.

At that time time-saving reasons were the main pont of the design. Main redusing point was DB design looked too much like a T-34 and could be identified as an enemy T-34 tank on the battlefield.

Weight of the Panzerkampfwagen V German tank from the original design increased to 45 tonnes from a 35 tons. Armour protection was called to be poor, so the upper glacis plate was to be increased from 60 mm (2.4 in) to 80 mm (3.1 in) by Hitler.

He demanded that an increase to 100 mm (3.9 in) should be done, on at least all vertical surfaces were to be 100 mm (3.9 in) on the body; the turret and front plate must be increased from 80 mm (3.1 in) to 100 mm (3.9 in).

Looking at the whole design it was “overengineered”. The new German vehicle was rushed into combat at the Battle of Kursk (summer of 1943) with serious and sometimes unidentified technical problems, resulted to high losses due to mechanical issues.

The new tank battalions was forced to battle before all of its childhood problems resolved well. Reliability was improved from time to time, however some design weaknesses – such as poor final drive units – were never resolved.

Most design problems were solved by late 1943 or the first months of 1944, however the main problems depended on the bombing campaigns of it’s factories and German-held oil refineries, and on losing mines of high quality materials for it’s armour and main components.

Production of the Panther medium tank

Unfinished Panther hulls in Ruhrstahl. <a href="https://www.armedconflicts.com/attachments/796/ruhrstahl2.jpg" rel="nofollow">Source</a>
Unfinished Panther hulls in Ruhrstahl. Source

A soft steel prototype of the MAN design was produced by September, 1942 and, and after testing at Kummersdorf. It was officially accepted, decided to put into immediate production.

Start of production was delayed, mainly because of a shortage of specialized machine tools needed for the machining of the hull. Finally, finished tanks were produced in December and immediately suffered from reliability problems as a quick design result.

Requests of the front for this medium class armour was so high – the manufacturing was soon expanded beyond MAN’s Nuremberg factory. They included Daimler-Benz’s  Berlin-Marienfelde plant, the Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen at Hanover (MNH) first. Finally the Pzkfw VI Tiger I and Tiger II original plant, Henschel & Sohn in city of Kassel joined the manufacturing quickly.

The official production target was 250 unitsper month at the MAN plant, later increased to 600 per month for January 1943.

Despite determined efforts, this figure was never reached due to Allied bombing campaigns, also of manufacturing and material resource shortages.

Production averages were 148 per month in 1943, in 1944, it averaged 315 a month. Overall, in 1944 3,777 Panthers built, in July peaking with 380. Production ended in March 1945, with at least 6,000 units built in total, during the war.

Approximately four Panther tanks for every five Panzer III vehicles built, based on rough estimates the labour hours in comparison to the Pz III. Manufacturing cost of the vehicles, without weaponry:

–        PzKpfw III: 96163 Reichsmark;

–        Panther 117100 Reichsmark

The Allies directed bombing at the common painpoint for main battle tank production: the Maybach V12 petrol engine plant. This factory was bombed the night of 27/28 April 1944 and production halted for five months.

Bombing all production plants forced a fall in the production of spare part as well. Also as a percentage of Panther tank production dropped from 25–30 percent in 1943 to 8 percent in late 1944 in overall production.

Transmission change on the front. Original description: Sowjetunion-Mitte.- Instandsetzung eines Panzer V "Panther"; Ausbau des Getriebes; PK 697, Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-280-1096-34 / Jacob / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Transmission change on the front. Original description: Sowjetunion-Mitte.- Instandsetzung eines Panzer V “Panther”; Ausbau des Getriebes; PK 697, Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-280-1096-34 / Jacob / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Lack of spare parts lied to problems with combat reliability with the numbers of operational Panthers, as tanks in the field had to be cannibalized for parts.

VariationProduced amountManufacturing dateAdditional info
VK Prototypes2September, 1942Called V1 and V2
Ausf. „D”842January, 1943 – September, 1943
Ausf. „A”2200August, 1943 – August, 1944Other name: Ausf. „A2”
Ausf. „G”about 2961March, 1944 – April, 1945

Cost of production a Panther tank in Reichsmarks

As a quick view of manufacturing: one early Panther was far cheaper to produce than it’s larger brother, the Tiger tank.

On all main points of the design simplifications made, such as its armour or transmission. Finally Panther became much quicker and cheaper to produce.

A Pzkfw V Panther tank cost 117100 Reichsmark (RM) to produce. To compare:

Tank nameCost in RM
StuG III           82 500
Pzkfw III           96 163
Pzkfw IV         103 462
Pzkfw V “Panther”         117 100
Pzkfw VI “Tiger I” (serial production)         250 800
Pzkfw VI “Tiger I” (early production)         800 000

All these figures exclude the cost of the guns and radio equipment.

Engine developments of Panther tanks

Front-top view of a Maybach HL 210 TRM P45.<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maybach_HL_210_TRM_P45_front-top_2017_Bovington.jpg" rel="nofollow">Source</a>
Front-top view of a Maybach HL 210 TRM P45. Source

250 units were powered by a Maybach HL 210 P30 V-12 petrol engine – the first ones. This engine provided 650 horsepower at 3,000 rpm equipped with three simple air filters. The V12 block was made of aluminium.

From May of 1943, all vehicles were built using the 690 hp 23.1 litre Maybach HL 230 P30 V-12 petrol engine. To save war material aluminium, the light engine block was replaced by a cast iron. Two updated, multistage “cyclone” air filters provided improved dust removal.

Due to the use of low quality petrol, the engine power output fell. With a maximum capacity of 730 litres (160 imperial gallons; 190 US gallons) of petrol fuel, the fully fuelled range was 260 km (160 miles) on road and 100 km (62 miles) cross country.

The fuel connectors in early engines weren’t insulated, leading to the leakage of fuel into the Maybach engine compartment, causing engine fires. Additional ventilator was added to blow off these gases, but partly solved the problem of engine fires only.

Rear hull of a Panther, ventilators visible on the sides. Original description: Panther tank in Canadian War Museum, Ottawa. <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Panther_CWM_2012_7.jpg" rel="nofollow">Source</a>
Rear hull of a Panther, ventilators visible on the sides. Original description: Panther tank in Canadian War Museum, Ottawa. Source

More design updates were taken to reduce the engine fire problem including improving the coolant circulation inside the Maybach motor and adding a reinforced membrane spring to the fuel pump. However there was a high risk of fire and the fighting compartment was relatively safe – a solid firewall separated the engine compartment from the crew.

Engine reliability improved over as developments occurred. The expected, average service life of the engines was about 2000 km, or around 100 working hours – without dismounting the engine from it.

In 1947 French test their captured Normandy Panther. It revealed the Maybach engine had an average life of 1,000 km (620 mi) and max life of 1,500 km (930 mi).

Suspension of the Panther tanks – Schachtellaufwerk

"Schachtellaufwerk" interleaved wheels on a Panther. Original description: Panther D tank, Wilhelminapark, Breda. Image source: Alf van Beem, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Panther_D_tank,_Wilhelminapark,_Breda,_pic_5.JPG" rel="nofollow">Source</a>
“Schachtellaufwerk” interleaved wheels on a Panther. Original description: Panther D tank, Wilhelminapark, Breda. Image source: Alf van Beem, Source

“Schachtellaufwerk” interleaved wheels on all Panther tank models made maintenance really difficult.

The suspension contained on each side:

  • front drive sprockets,
  • eight double-interleaved rubber-rimmed steel wheels
  • rear idlers

overall so-called ”Schachtellaufwerk” design, suspended by a dual torsion bar system.

This system, designed by Professor Ernst Lehr, provides wide travel stroke and rapid oscillations with high reliability, thus allowing for relatively high speed travel over difficult terrain.

Extra space required for the bars running across the length of the bottom of the hull, increased the overall height of the vehicle. In the case of battle damage, the torsion bars required a welding torch for removal often.

Advantages of the Panther’s ”Schachtellaufwerk”suspension system:

  • smooth running and stability
  • overlapped wheels provide armour protection for hull sides
  • possibly operating with missing or broken wheels
Rolling plates with mud between. Original description: Nordfrankreich.- Deutsche Soldaten auf einem getarnten Panzer V "Panther" in Ortschaft; PK 698, Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-301-1955-18A / Kurth / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Rolling plates with mud between. Original description: Nordfrankreich.- Deutsche Soldaten auf einem getarnten Panzer V “Panther” in Ortschaft; PK 698, Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-301-1955-18A / Kurth / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Disadvantages of the Panther tank’s ”Schachtellaufwerk” suspension system:

  • over complicated: replacing inner wheels were labour costly
  • damage could cause the wheels to jam together,
  • easily clogged by mud, rocks and ice,
  • interleaved wheels could freeze together even

Armour of Panzer V

Italy – German tank ((Panzer V) Panther), traveling cross-country, image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-478-2164-38 / Bayer / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Italy – German Panzer V, traveling cross-country, image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-478-2164-38 / Bayer / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Initial production Panthers had a face-hardened glacis plate (the main front hull armour piece), but as armour-piercing capped rounds reveal on the battlefield the face hardening lost it’s advantages.

So from March 1943. to August 1943, all Panthers were equipped only with a homogeneous steel glacis armour. The front hull had 80 mm (3.1 in) of armour angled at 55 degrees from the vertical, welded and interlocked with the side and bottom plates for more strength.

The combination of strong, thick and well-sloped armour meant that heavy Allied weapons needed to take out a Panther of action. Some heavy weapons could penetrate the Panther’s upper glacis plate: Soviet tank 122 mm A-19, 100 mm BS-3 and US 90 mm M3. Some can’t, like the American M10 tank destroyer.

Hull side armor, was much thinner, 40 to 50 mm (1.6 to 2.0 in). This thin side armour was necessary to reduce the overall weight, but it made it vulnerable to hits from the side by the enemy.

Side skirts and Zimmerit on Panther tank. Original description: Sd.Kfz 171, German medium Tank V, also Tank V, better known as "Panther"<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PzKpfw-Vg_%22Panther%22-Zimmerit.jpg" rel="nofollow">Source</a>
Side skirts and Zimmerit on Panther tank. Original description: Sd.Kfz 171, German medium Tank V, also Tank V, better known as “Panther” Source

5 mm (0.20 in) thick extra skirt armour known as Schürzen were added to gain more protection for the lower side hull. Original thickness was able to damaged by Soviet anti-tank rifles such as the PTRS-41

Magnetic mine protection, the Zimmerit, was applied at the factory on late Ausf D models, from September 1943, and to gain more protection a field order for Panther tank units was given to apply Zimmerit to older versions of the Panthers in November 1943.

Panther crews feared the weak side armour and made field upgrades by hanging track links or spare road wheels onto the turret and/or the hull sides. The hull top armour over the engine was only 16 mm (0.63 in) thick, and had two cooling fans and four air intake holes over the Maybach engine compartment – easy to hit through by enemy aircraft.

As the war turned bad for Germany, tank production plants were forced to decrease or eliminate critical alloying metal usage in the production of Panther armour plates, like nickel, tungsten or molybdenum. Lack of critical materials resulted in lower impact resistance levels compared to earlier Panthers.

Turret of the PzKpfw V Panther

Panther with original turret design ,without the "Chin" Original caption: "Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf. A SD.Kfz.US Soldiers inspect an destroyed German Panther tank in the street in the French town of Saint-Gilles July 1944."<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/16118167@N04/14187981441/in/album-72157623445730211/" rel="nofollow">Source</a>
Panther with original turret design ,without the “Chin” Original caption: “Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf. A SD.Kfz.US Soldiers inspect an destroyed German Panther tank in the street in the French town of Saint-Gilles July 1944.” Source

On the tank’s turret, on the front there was a curved 100 mm (3.9 in) thick cast armour mantlet. Its shape helped the enemy shells to defect, however the lower section possibly drove enemy ammo down to the body, called a „Shot Trap”.That means non-penetrating hit bounced off the mantlet’s lower section, it could penetrate the thin hull roof armour.

Penetrations of this nature might lead to serious results, since both the driver and the radio operator sitting in that area, on both sides of the tank’s gearbox and steering unit. Moreover, four main gun magazines containing ammunition were located between the driver and the radio operator’s seats.

To avoid casualties, starting from September 1944, German engineers slightly redesigned the Panther tank’s mantlet with a flattened and much thicker lower “Chin”. The new forms were fitted to Panther Ausf „G” models, however the update was gradual, so germans continued to be manufactured with the old rounded gun mantlet until the end of the war.

Italy, near Florence/Ravenna - German tank ((Panzer V) Panther), with a downward view into the commander's hatch, image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-478-2166-27 / Bayer / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Italy, near Florence/Ravenna – downward view into the commander’s hatch, image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-478-2166-27 / Bayer / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Ausf „A” model was introduced with a new commander’s cupola, replacing the old, forged cupola. It featured a steel hoop where anti-aircraft machine guns could be mounted.

Turret’s traverse was powered by the variable speed Boehringer-Sturm L4 hydraulic motor, which was driven from the main engine through a secondary drive shaft – the same system as used on PzKpfw. VI Tigers. On early production the maximum traverse was limited to 6º/second, but on later versions this was updated to a settable high speed traverse gear.

Panther turret rotation
GearRotation angleEngine RPM
on Low setting6º/secondindependent
on High setting19º/second2000
on High setting36º/second3000

The direction and speed of traverse was controlled by the main gunner with foot pedals, the speed of traverse depended on the level of pressure the gunner push to the foot pedal. This traverse system allowed for very precise control of the main gun, a light touch on the pedal revealed a minimum turning speed of 0.1 deg/sec (so a full turn in 60 min).

Most other tanks of the time (like US M4 Shermans or Soviet T-34s) use a traverse handwheel for precious turning.

Armament of the Panzer V on all fronts of World War 2

Panther’s main gun – Rheinmetall-Borsig 7.5 cm KwK 42 (L/70)

Kampfwagenkanone 7.5-cm-KwK 42 L/70, showmen at the „German armoured fighting vehicle museum" in Munster, Germany, the location of the Munster Training Area camp. Image source: Banznerfahrer, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:7,5-cm-KwK_42_L-70_Munster.jpg" rel="nofollow">Source</a>
Kampfwagenkanone 7.5-cm-KwK 42 L/70, showmen at the „German armoured fighting vehicle museum” in Munster, Germany, the location of the Munster Training Area camp. Image source: Banznerfahrer, Source

All Panther tanks used Rheinmetall-Borsig 7.5 cm KwK 42 (L/70)-tank gun as main armament, with semi-automatic empty shell ejection and an ammo supply of 79 rounds (82 on Ausf. „G”).

The main gun used three different types of ammunition:

  • APCBC-HE (Pzgr. 39/42), Armour-Piercing Shell with Ballistic Cap – High Explosive ammunition against armoured enemy vehicles
  • HE (Sprgr. 42), the 75mm HE round was the same as the Tiger I’s 88mm HE round used for common infantry support.
  • APCR (Pzgr. 40/42), Armour-Piercing Composite Rigid, with high-density hard material inside and deformable metal coat outside. Usually available in short supply.

However, having the same calibre as Allied tanks, the German Panther tank’s gun was one of the most powerful weapon of World War II, because of it’s large propellant charge and the long barrel. The barrel length results in a very high muzzle velocity, so excellent armour-piercing effect — instead of Allied tank guns of same calibre, none of them had equivalent muzzle power.

But there was an exception, the British Sherman Firefly variations. Their Ordnance QF 17-pounder gun, with 3 inch (76.2mm) calibre and a 55 calibre long (L/55) barrel, with APDS shot had more potential armour piercing power. But it was less accurate, regarding to turbulence caused by the separation of the shot and performed far less damage inside the target after hitting the enemy armour.

The gun’s almost flat trajectory and high accuracy of the full bore ammunition also made hitting targets much easier, since accuracy was not sensitive to range estimation errors. These all increased the chance of hitting a moving target on the battlefield.

The Panther tank’s 75 mm gun had more penetrating power than the main gun of the Tiger I heavy tank, the famous 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56,[75] – but the larger 88mm projectile often inflicted more damage in the case of a hit.

Auxiliary Armament Guns – MG34 Machine Gun

Turret mounted MG 34 machine gun, on Panzer IV, not Panther tank. Image source: <a href="https://www.militaryimages.net/media/panzerkampfwagen-iv.54277/" rel="nofollow">Source</a>
Turret mounted MG 34 machine gun, on Panzer IV, not Panther tank. Image source: Source

Most tanks had two MG 34 machine guns, in the armoured fighting vehicle variant with armoured barrel sleeve. One MG 34 gun was located next to the main gun on the gun mantlet; an identical MG 34 was located on the right side of the glacis plate, used by the radio operator.

Some Panther tanks in Ausf. „D” and early Ausf. „A” models used a “letterbox” hole enclosing its underlying thin, vertical arrow slit-like aperture, through which the machine gun was fired. In later Ausf. „A” and all Ausf. „G” models a MG ball mount added to the glacis plate with a K.Z.F.2 machine gun sight was installed for the hull machine gun.

From the model Ausf „A”, on the commander’s cupola a steel hoop was added, to which a third MG 34 machine gun, or either a coaxial or a bow machine gun could be mounted for the need of anti-aircraft defense.

Some Ausf. „D” variants were equipped with the Nebelwurfgerät, a turret mounted smoke grenade launcher used to disperse the Schnellnebelkerze 39 smoke grenades. Later Ausf. „A” and Ausf. „G” equipped with the Nahverteidigungswaffe, an updated smoke launcher system.

Ammunition storage order of the Panther tank

Storage for the main gun’s ammunition was a weak point of the Panther. All ammunition for the 7.5 cm gun was stored in the hull, mostly behind the hull sides. In the first Ausf „D” and later „A” models, 18 gun rounds were stored next to the turret on each side, so a total of 36 ammo rounds.

In the Ausf „G” version of the Panther tank, which had deeper hull sponsons, 48 rounds were stored in the turret. In all versions, 4 rounds were also stored in the left hull sponson between the driver and the turret.

Additional 36 rounds were stored inside the hull of the Ausf „D” and „A” models – 27 in the forward hull compartment directly underneath the mantlet. In the Ausf G, the hull ammunition storage was reduced to 27 rounds total, with 18 rounds in the forward hull compartment.

Ammunition explosion of a Panther tank at Budapest. Original description: Retek utca a Fény utcától a Széna tér felé nézve. Német Panther típusú harckocsi roncsa. Image source: FOTO:FORTEPAN / Military Museum of Southern New England
Results of ammunition explosion at Budapest. Original description: Retek utca a Fény utcától a Széna tér felé nézve. Német típusú harckocsi roncsa. Image source: FOTO:FORTEPAN / Military Museum of Southern New England

For all models, 3 main gun rounds were kept under the turntable of the turret. The stowage of 52 rounds of ammunition in the side sponsons made this area the most vulnerable point on the vehicles since a hit here often led to fatal ammunition fires.

The loader sat on the right side of the turret. With the lookout facing forward, he had access only to the right sponson and hull ammunition, and so these served as the main ready-ammunition storages.

Crew of the Panzer V Panther

Crew members of a Panther tank in Italy, 1944. Original description: Italien.- Zwei Panzersoldaten auf Turm eines Panzer V "Panther" Ausf. A (Turmnummer 334) sitzend; PK Lfl 2, Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-476-2051-31A / Brünning / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Crew Panther tank crew members in Italy, 1944. Original description: Italien.- Zwei Panzersoldaten auf Turm eines Panzer V “Panther” Ausf. A (Turmnummer 334) sitzend; PK Lfl 2, Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-476-2051-31A / Brünning / CC-BY-SA 3.0

It had five crew members:

  • driver,
  • radio operator (who also fired the self defense machine gun),
  • main gunner,
  • main gun loader,
  • tank commander

The commander, loader and gunner were in the turret, while the driver and radio operator were in the hull of the vehicle. The driver sat on the front-left side of the tank and next to him was the machine gunner whose job it was to operate the radio also.

Specifications

Dimensions

  • Length: 8860 cm (29 ft 1 in) including gun, 6.87 m (22 ft 6 in) for the hull only
  • Width: 3270 cm (10 ft 9 in) hull, 3.42 m (11 ft 3 in) with extra skirt plates on both sides
  • Height: 2990 cm (9 ft 10 in)
  • Weight: 44.8 metric tons (99,000 lb)

Performance

  • Speed on road: 55 km/h (34 mph) at 3,000 rpm with Maybach HL 230 engine
  • Range on road: 260 km (160 mi)
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