Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf D

The Panther I Ausf D was the first production version of the Panther medium tank, and was rushed into combat only a year after the design was first approved. As a result the early version of the Panther was mechanically unreliable, and had a near disastrous combat debut during the battle of Kursk. Despite this the basic design was sound, and as reliability improved the Panther playing an increasingly important role in the Panzer forces.

At its heart the Panther was actually very similar to all other German tanks, sharing the same basic layout as every other design from the Panzer I to the Tiger. It was powered by a Maybach petrol engine placed at the back of the hull, but with front wheel drive. The turret was centrally mounted in the hull. The use of large road wheels was relatively new on German tanks, but was also used on the Tiger I, while the overhanging long gun had been introduced on the Panzer IV Ausf F2.

Panzer V ausf D - Panther I
Panzer V ausf D/ Panther I

The most revolutionary feature of the Panther, at least in terms of German tank design, was its well sloped armour. This was modelled on that of the Soviet T-34, the tank that had triggered the urgent development of the Panther, and would later be used on the Tiger II. The great advantage of the sloped armour was that it increased the effective thickness of the armour – 80mm of armour at 55 degrees is the equivalent of 140mm of vertical armour.

The Ausf D can be identified by two main features. It had a straight sided “drum” commander’s cupola, with viewports for periscopes low down on the side, and there was no hull machine gun mount. Instead the crew machine gun was fired through a narrow slit in the hull front.

The Ausf D was developed as the Ausf A, but its designation was changed before production began in January 1943. Tests on the first few machines revealed a large number of flaws with the new tank. Most seriously the engines caught fire and the final drive chains broke, in a worrying sign of the mechanical unreliability to come. The issue of new tanks stopped in April, and all existing tanks were recalled for major modifications. Only in May was the Panther ready to go back into service, equipping the 51st and 52nd Panzerabteilungen (Panzer detachments).

By the start of Operation Citadel these two detachments had 96 Panthers each, and the Germans had great hopes for them. The Panther did not live up to expectations. Fifteen broke down before even reaching the front. After three days 40 tanks were still in front line service, and three days later, on 10 July, that figure had been reduced to only 10! Very few of the missing 182 tanks had actually been written off (23 had been destroyed by enemy action and 2 by engine fires). Nearly 160 tanks were under repair at the time, with enemy action and mechanical failure responsible for roughly equal numbers of losses. The Panther had failed as an offensive weapon.

Side view of Panzer V ausf D/ Panther I
Side view of Panzer V ausf D/ Panther I

Plans of Panther I ausf D
Plans of Panther I ausf D

The Panther soon proved itself as a defensive weapon during the Soviet offensives that followed the battle of Kursk. Here its thick armour and powerful gun made it a very effective weapon, and it would be in this role, during the two years of defensive battles that followed Kursk, that the Panther would earn its reputation.

Names
Panther I
VK3002
Gerät 46
Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf D (Sd Kfz 171)

Stats
Number produced:  850
Produced: January-September 1943
Length: 8.86m
Hull Width: 3.4m
Height: 2.95m
Crew: 5
Weight: 43 tons
Engine: Maybach HL230P30
Max Speed: 46 km/hr
Max Range:  200km
Main Gun: One 7.5cm KwK42 L/70
Secondary Armament: Two 7.92mm MG34

Armour

 

Front

Side

Rear

Top/ Bottom

Superstructure

100mm

45mm

45mm

16mm

Hull – upper

80mm

40mm

 

16mm

Hull – lower

60mm

40mm

40mm

16-30mm

Gun mantlet

100mm

 

 

 

Panther Medium Tank, 1942-45, Stephen A. Hart, Osprey New Vanguard 67. This look at what was probably the best German tank of the Second World War concentrates on the technical development of the Panther. The text is divided into chapters on each of the major versions of the Panther, looking at their development, production, deployment and combat career. As a result the text flows well, and each new development is placed properly in its context. [see more]
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 September 2008), Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf D , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_panther_ausf_D.html

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