The first production model of the Panther series was the Panther Ausf. A1. It had a 690 hp, gasoline powered Maybach HL230 engine capable of propelling the Panther at speeds of 55 km/h. The Panther's main gun was a high velocity 75 mm Kwk L/70 cannon capable of piercing nearly all tank armor at the time at long ranges. The gun was designated the 75 mm KwK L/70 and the Panther furthermore had two defensive machine guns. An MG 34 was used in the front lower hull in the first models first through a letter box opening (rectangular shutter which was closed when gun was not in use) and in the later more common A and G series through an armored and magnified ball-mount similar to the ones found on the Panzer IV and Tiger designs.
In 1944 provisions for an AA mount were given and was possible for the Panther to mount an MG 42 or MG 34 on the cupola for this role. The Panther had a crew of 5; driver, machine gunner/radio operator, loader, main gunner, and a commander. The Panther's glacis plate is approximately 80 mm to 85 mm (Soviet & British measurement state "85 mm") thick sloped at 55 degrees which was roughly the equivalent to about 170 mm of flat armor.
The Panther had a torsion bar suspension system along with 7 speed forward, 1 speed reverse transmission system. The total weight of the Panther system was about 39,900 kg while the total length was about 8.8 meters. The maximum operational range of the Panther was 250 kilometers.
The first variant in the Panther series was the D series which had a fairly disappointing debut during Kursk with many vehicles become quickly disabled during the first few days of fighting however the next variant the Panther A had improved upon many of the early Panther Ausf. D's shortcomings as well as introduced new features such as a redesigned commanders cupola, ball mount, and a new monocular dual magnification telescopic sight. Despite the fact that the Panther Ausf. A's designation seems to indicate that it came early on, the designations at this point were not alphabetical and were, in fact, based on the manufacturer.
The final variant, the Ausf. G, was heavily modified and by November 1944 eliminated all the major teething troubles the earlier Panther series had inherited by being rushed into production as well as fixed an issue relating to shot trap on the turret with the addition of a chin to the mantle. Additionally, some command vehicle Panther variants were also made.
The Panther design started life in 1940 as the Vk 20.01(M) prototype tank. This design evolved into the VK 20.02 (M) and the VK 30.02(M) which incorporated sloping plate armor. These models became known as the "Panther Programm". In September 1942 the first two prototype chassis were completed. Production of the first Panthers (D series) started in January 1943.
The Panther began its development almost immediately after German units demanded a heavier tank that could compete with the heavily armored KV-1 & 2. One of the main aspects of the Panther's success was its fairly thick, as well as heavily sloped, armor and tight weld seams which vastly increased the tank's armor protection and battlefield survivability.
The Panther tank also possessed considerable firepower, mounting the potent 75 mm KwK L/70. The tank's main gun could effectively deal with enemy armor at very long ranges. Another aspect of the Panther's success was its wide road tracks & wheels which prevented it from getting bogged down in heavy mud, increasing its mobility over such terrain. Field tests were then conducted as early 1942, but due to Hitler's increasing desire for the new Panthers to be in the field on the Eastern Front as soon as possible, the Panther tank was rushed into service, thus leading to early mechanical problems which then led to field break-downs evident in the early 1943 Panther D series, most notably at the Battle of Kursk.
The Panther was extensively used on the Eastern Front against the Soviets as originally intended, but it also saw action on the Western Front and in the Italian Campaign against American and Commonwealth forces where it earned its fearsome reputation. The Panther was arguably one of the best medium tanks of World War II due to its excellent combination of mobility, firepower, and armor protection. Its frontal armor was effective against most guns fielded by its opposition and was difficult to penetrate for even later designs such as the Pershing tank and IS-2.
- ↑ http://www.wwiivehicles.com/germany/tanks-medium/pzkpfw-v-ausf-a1.asp
- ↑ http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/vehiclesarmor/p/panther.htm