June 1941: The German invasion of the Soviet Union ("Operation Barbarossa"). The initial phase of the war was determined by significant military successes of the Wehrmacht. At that time the Red Army was poorly equipped and unorganized, which was not least due to the fact that large parts of the officer corps had fallen victims of the Stalinist purges of the previous years.
However, it turned out that the Germans had badly underestimated the Soviet resistance. Among other things, the Red Army had advanced heavier tanks (T-34, KV-I/-II), which were superior to the German armored fighting vehicles in every aspect. The operational success of the Wehrmacht was only possible because the new Soviet tanks were not available in large numbers and the lack of radio equipment and therefore coordination lead to limited control of the tanks in operation in comparison to the Wehrmacht.
The backbone of the German Panzertruppe was at that time the PzKpfw II, III and IV and the 38(t), which was taken over from the Czech army. These vehicles had the following armament:
- P II with 20 mm KwK 30 L/55,
- P III with 37mm KwK L/45,
- P IV with 75mm KwK L/24,
- P 38 (t) by 37 mm L/48 KwK A7.
These armaments only offered the possibility of achieving damaging hits on Soviet tanks of the latest design at very short ranges.
At that time the only German gun, which could be used on long distance with prospect of success was the 8.8cm anti-aircraft gun (the famous "Acht-Acht"). But at this time the gun was not available in a battle tank and not even in significant numbers as self-propelled guns.
As Operation Barbarossa progressed it became clear that all existing types of German Panzers were inferior in both armour and armaments to the latest soviet designs. Thus the need arose to design a competitve, massed produced tank.
Thus, among other things the development of the battle tank V "Panther" began.
proposal VK30.01 Daimler-Benz (note the similarity to the T-34!)
Already in November 1941, Generaloberst Guderian welcomed the " Panzerkommission " (Armored Commission) among other things with these demands and priorities of the new MBT:
1. Heavier weapons
2. Higher tactical speed
3. Enhanced Armor
Since the summer of 1937
vehicles in the 35-40 ton class powered by a 700hp engine had been in development. This was contrary to a prohibition put in place by Truppenamt (In 6), which was issued after the Polish campaign. It was this illicit development which made possible the short term construction of Tigers and Panthers in the summer of 42)²
Decision to drop earlier developments in the 20-ton class (UK 20.01), and to develop a battle tank in the 30-ton class.
the companies MAN and Daimler-Benz received the development contract
Following an recommendation from an commission appointed for this purpose Hitler decides for the design of MAN.
Vehicle demonstration in Berka near Eisenach headed by Speer, Fichtner and Holzhäuser.
Including a MAN panther and a Daimler-Benz Panther! )²
the first 4 Panther Ausführung D are produced by the company MAN
From August 1943:
Production of Ausführung A. A revised turret mounted on the chassis of the Ausführung D .
From March 1944:
Production of Ausführung G. Now the turret of Ausführung A was placed on a revised hull.
from March 1945 (planned):
production of Ausführung F. Revised hull of the Ausf G Panther with a newly constructed turret, "Schmalturm" (narrow turret)
1942 to 1943
Panther II (till April 1943 called Panther 2). The Panther II was completely different to the Panther Ausf F; It showed a clearer relationship to the Tiger 2. The development of the Panther II was hired in May / June 1943 (according to Spielberger 4.5.1943). A correlation Panther II and narrow turret is therefore purely fictitious, though in the Internet and among modelers rather popular.
The G-turret on the Panther II (the one at Fort Knox) was added as an afterthought at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. The original hull had no turret.
More about production volume.
Clearly, further alterations were carried out within the production series. E.g. the change from binocular gun sight called TZF 12 to the monocular version TZF 12a in November 1943.
Also tanks already in use were outfitted with modifications, such as a handle on the rear turret hatch and the debris guard over the gap behind the gun mantlet.
An overview of the changes is compiled here
A report, dated February 20 1945 identifies technical innovations which were located in the developments.
The times indicated in the first list show when the changes would have been fully developed. The introduction of these changes to the production line would certainly have taken much longer.
- 1. Automatic loading for the 7.5 cm KwK, April 1945
- Stabilized optics, April 1945
- BiWa Infrared Illuminators / optics and rangefinders, April 1945
- Rubber saving road wheels (Stahllaufrollen), May 1945
- Dreschflegelpanzer (deminers attachment), May 1945
- Maybach HL 234 as a new engine, August 1945
The developments referred to in the second list were designed to last a long time perspective
- Air cooled diesel engine by Simmering and water cooled diesel engine by Deutz
- Stabilized main gun
- Hydrostatic steering gear
- Hydrodynamic steering gear
- New turret with 8,8cm KwK L/71
The third list contains only a development that should be immediately discontinued
- s.F.H. 18 auf Panther-Bauteilen (self propelled howitzer on Panther prefabricated parts)
)² Hartmut H. Knittel; Panzerfertigung im Zweiten Weltkrieg; Band 2; Verlag E.S. Mittler&Sohn GmbH 1988; ISBN 3-8132-0291-7
Sources: see books