This week, Osprey author Leigh Neville, in his series on WW2 German armoured fighting vehicles, examines one of the most well-known of the German Panzers, the Panzerkampfwagen V or Panther.
The Panther was the product of hard-won experience on the Eastern Front against the Russian T-34/76 which was faster, more maneuverable and featured angled frontal armour that, with a little luck, could withstand hits from the common 75mm L/48 of the Panzer IV. The Panther itself featured angled frontal plate and the excellent high velocity 75mm L/70. In fact, the arrival of the Panther also directly influenced the Red Army’s development of the T-34/85, up-gunning the standard 76mm gun to an 85mm.
One of the Panther’s first combat deployments was at the Battle of Kursk where it fought well although hampered by mechanical breakdowns (it has been reported only 40 of the 196 Panthers committed to the battle actually saw combat due to the number of breakdowns). For most of its operational life, the Panther suffered reliability problems with the primary culprit being the drivetrain. Better quality steel solved the problem to a degree but the drivetrain’s relatively short life expectancy still proved a challenge.
Three core variants were produced, the Ausf. D, the Ausf. A, and the Ausf. G. The most common variant which faced Allied forces after the Normandy landings was the Ausf. A with the final design, the G, first seeing significant action during the Ardennes offensive. The Panther proved lethal to Allied tanks like the Sherman and Cromwell but many fell prey to the excellent British 17 pounder anti-tank gun which became both feared and respected by Panther crews.
Many historians view the Panther as one of the best tanks of the war with a near ideal mix of armour, firepower and mobility although, as noted, its reliability left something to be desired. In fact it was better armoured and faster than the iconic Tiger. Importantly the Panther also offered the best situational awareness of any German tank with excellent optics, rangefinder and vision ports. In tank engagements, the Panther crew could often spot opposing T-34s or Shermans and engage at extended range before their enemy knew what was happening.
King & Country offer a beautiful Panther Ausf. G resplendent in “Hinterhalt-Tarnung” or “Ambush” pattern camouflage, designed after Normandy to better conceal the Panther from the air. It represents a Panther Ausf. G of the 2nd SS Panzer Regiment of the infamous 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich”