Panzerkampfwagen Panther

By Christian Ankerstjerne

Panther II

In early 1943, there were fears that the armor of the Panther would be insufficient against future Russian tank guns. Therefore, an up-armored design of Panther, the Panther II, was initiated. The specifications were identical to that of the Panther, except for the thicker armor. The additional weight of the thicker armor was estimated to be seven tons, for a total of 47 tons.

Differences between the planned Panther I and Panther II armor thicknesses.
Location Panther I Panther II
Glacis plate 80 mm 100 mm
Hull sides 40 mm 60 mm
Turret front 80 mm 100 mm
Turret sides 45 mm 60 mm

In February 1943, it was decided to share components between the Panther II and Tiger II. The roadwheels were to be changed to steel-wheeled roadwheels (gummisparende Laufrollen), and the tracks of the Panther II would be used as the transport tracks for the Tiger II. It was also decided that the turret ring should not exceed 1570 mm, which was later reduced to 1565 mm.

On 1 November 1943, a more detailed armor thickness specification was given by Wa Prüf 6.

Differences between the planned Panther I and Panther II armor thicknesses as of 1 November 1943.
Location Panther I Panther II
Glacis plate 80 mm 100 mm
Hull sides 40 mm 60 mm
Hull roof 16 mm 30 mm
Turret front 100 mm 120 mm
Gun mantlet 100 mm 150 mm
Turret sides and rear 45 mm 60 mm
Turret roof 16 mm 30 mm

The plan was to begin Panther II production without trial vehicles in September 1943. This date was later pushed back to the end of 1944 or the beginning of 1945. Two new plants, Werk Falkensee and Nibelungenwerk, were to begin Panther II production in the beginning and middle of 1944, respectively.

While the Panther II was still in the development phase, development of the then in-production Panther I continued. One significant improvement, the addition of Schürzen (armored skirts) to the lower hull, significantly reduced the threat presented by the Russian 14.5 mm PTRD-41 and PTRS-41 anti-tank rifles. The Panther I also received steel wheels, another suggested improvement of the Panther II. These and other developments had by 4 May 1943 made the Panther II largely superfluous.

In June 1943 it was recognized that the Panther II production would not begin in the immediate future, and that Panther production should focus on the Panther I. Two trial chassis were ordered from MAN, one of which was completed, but never received a turret. They were captured intact by US forces, who mounted a Panther I Ausf. G turret on one of them. This vehicle is currently on display at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum at Fort Benning.

It should be noted that development of the Panther II ceased before the proposed Panther Schmalturm, which was therefore never intended to be mounted on the Panther II. A conceptual drawing of a Panther I turret, modified with a narrow mantlet to avoid shot traps, was made, but no further design work was done. In addition, the Panther II's turret ring diameter would have made it impossible to upgrade with an 88 mm gun, The Panther II chassis with a Panther I Ausf. G turret is thus a fairly accurate representation of how the Panther II would have looked like.

Panther Schmalturm

A number of design problems had been revealed in the Panther turret, including:

In February 1944, Rheinmetall presented a suggestive design. The design has a narrower turret front and an external rangefinder located in a bulge on the turret. Wa Prüf 6 did not like the design, and asked Daimler-Benz to design an alternative. Daimler-Benz' design, the Schmalturm (narrow turret) was narrower, re-arranging the internal layout, and had thicker, sloped armor:

The gun would have been the 7,5 cm Kw K 44/1 (L/70), a re-designed version of the 7,5 cm Kw K 42 (L/70), which would be mounted in a cast Topfblende (pot mantlet) with a co-axial MG 42. The height of the commander's cupola was reduced, instead adding a periscope that could be used without opening the turret hatch.

To increase firepower, Wa Prüf 6 ordered on 23 January 1945 that the 8,8 cm Kw K 43 (L/71) of the Tiger II was to be installed in a Panther Schmalturm. This would be made possible by increasing the turret ring diameter with 100 mm. The larger gun would increase the weight by one ton, and reduce ammunition storage to 69 rounds.

Work on both the 75 mm and 88 mm Schmalturms continued until the end of the war. Several trial turrets of the 75 mm Schmalturm had been completed when the war ended, but none were operational. A wooden mock-up of the 88 mm Schmalturm was made.

Technical Information

Technical details of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf. D, A, and G.
Ausf. D Ausf. A Ausf. G
Crew
Crew
  • Commander
  • Gunner
  • Loader
  • Radio operator
  • Driver
Physical Characteristics
Weight
  • Total: 45.5 t
  • Turret: 7.56 t
  • Gun with mantlet: 2.65 t
  • Engine: 1.475 t
  • Engine cover plate: 0.285 t
  • Full track: 2.09 t
  • Single track link: 0.021 t
Length 8.66 m 8.86 m
Width
  • With Schürzen: 3.27 m
  • Without Schürzen: 3.42 m
Height 2.99 m 3.10 m
Firing height 2.26 m 2.305 m
Ground pressure 0.88 kg/cm²
Armor
Armor (range) 16-100 mm
Performance
Maximum speed
  • Forward: 46 km/h
  • Reverse: 3.5 km/h
Road speed
  • On road: 25 km/h
  • On highway: 30 km/h
Cross-country speed 20 km/h
Maximum grade 35°
Trench crossing 1.9 m 2.45 m
Vertical obstacle 90 cm
Fording depth 170 cm 190 cm
Fuel capacity 720 l 700 l
Mileage (road) 3.6 l/km 3.5 l/km
Mileage (cross-country) 7.2 l/km 7 l/km
Cruising range 200 km
Cross-country range 100 km
Engine
Make and model Maybach HL 210 (later Maybach HL 230 P 30) Maybach HL 210 (later Maybach HL 230 P 30)
Type Water cooled
Cylinders 12
Displacement 21 000 cc (later 23 000 cc) 23 000 cc
Fuel Gasoline
Max. governed speed 3000 rpm 2500 rpm
Net h.p. 650 700 600
Armament
Main weapon 7,5 cm Kw K 42 (L/70)
Secondary weapon MG 34
Ammunition Storage
Main weapon 79 82
Secondary weapon 5100 4800

Additional Reading

Web Links

Panther photographs (external link)
Photographs of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther at Panzerphotos.
Jagdpanther
Information about the Jagdpanther.

Books

Sources

  1. Adolf Hitler Panzerprogramm - Band 1: Pz.-Kpfw., Stu.-Gesch. u. Sfl.. Düsseldorf, 1943. 41 p.
  2. Pz Kpfw Panther Ausführung A und D und Abarten - Gerätbeschreibung und Bedienungsanweisung zum Fahrgestell. Berlin : Heereswaffenamt, 1944. 71 p. D 655/1 a.
  3. JENTZ, Thomas L. & DOYLE, Hilary Louis. Germany's Panther Tank : The Quest for Combat Supremacy. Atglen, PA : Schiffer Military History, 1995. 156 p. ISBN 0-88740-812-5.
  4. JENTZ, Thomas L. & DOYLE, Hilary Louis. Panzer Tracts No. 5-1.
  5. JENTZ, Thomas L. & DOYLE, Hilary Louis. Panzer Tracts No. 5-2.
  6. JENTZ, Thomas L. & DOYLE, Hilary Louis. Panzer Tracts No. 5-3.
  7. JENTZ, Thomas L. & DOYLE, Hilary Louis. Panzer Tracts No. 5-4 - Panzerkampfwagen Panther II and Panther Ausfuehrung F. Boyds, MD : Panzer Tracts, 2006. 56 p. ISBN 0-9771643-2-2.