The incorporation of a diesel engine promised increased operational range, reduced flammability and allowed for more efficient use of petroleum reserves. Hitler himself considered a diesel engine imperative for the new tank. Wa Pruef 6's opinion was that the leaf spring suspension was a disadvantage and that using torsion bars would allow greater internal hull width. It also opposed the rear drive because of the potential for track fouling.
The employment of a rear drive provided additional crew space and also allowed for a better slope on the front hull, which was considered important in preventing penetration by armour-piercing shells. The MAN design embodied a more conventional configuration, with the transmission and drive sprocket in the front and a centrally mounted turret.
It had a petrol engine and eight torsion-bar suspension axles per side. Because of the torsion bar suspension and the drive shaft running under the turret basket, the MAN Panther was higher and had a wider hull than the DB design. These multiple large, rubber-rimmed steel wheels distributed ground pressure more evenly across the track. The two designs were reviewed from January to March At the final submission, MAN refined its design, having learned from the DB proposal apparently through a leak by a former employee in the Wa Pruef 6, senior engineer Heinrich Ernst Kniepkamp and others.
Hitler approved this decision after reviewing it overnight. One of the principal reasons given for this decision was that the MAN design used an existing turret designed by Rheinmetall-Borsig , while the DB design would have required a brand new turret and engine to be designed and produced, delaying the commencement of production. Since the Tiger had originally been designed to weigh fifty tons but as a result of Hitler's demands had gone up to fifty seven tons, we decided to develop a new thirty ton tank whose very name, Panther, was to signify greater agility.
Though light in weight, its motor was to be the same as the Tiger's, which meant it could develop superior speed. But in the course of a year Hitler once again insisted on clapping so much armor on it, as well as larger guns, that it ultimately reached forty eight tons, the original weight of the Tiger. A mild steel prototype of the MAN design was produced by September and, after testing at Kummersdorf , was officially accepted.
It was put into immediate production. The start of production was delayed, mainly because of a shortage of specialized machine tools needed for the machining of the hull. Finished tanks were produced in December and suffered from reliability problems as a result.
About Panther Variants 1942–45
The initial production target was tanks per month at the MAN plant at Nuremberg. This was increased to per month in January Despite determined efforts, this figure was never reached due to disruption by Allied bombing, and manufacturing and resource bottlenecks. Production in averaged per month. In , it averaged a month 3, having been built that year , peaking with in July and ending around the end of March , with at least 6, built in total. Front-line combat strength peaked on 1 September at 2, tanks, but that same month a record number of tanks were reported lost.
The Allies directed bombing at the common chokepoint for both Panther and Tiger production: the Maybach engine plant. A second factory had already been planned, the Auto Union Siegmar plant the former Wanderer car factory , and this came on line in May MNH was not attacked until 14 and 28 March In addition to interfering with tank production goals, the bombing forced a steep drop in the production of spare parts, which as a percentage of tank production dropped from 25—30 percent in to 8 percent in late This compounded the problems with reliability and with the numbers of operational Panthers, as tanks in the field had to be cannibalized for parts.
The cost of a Panther tank has been given as , Reichmarks RM [ citation needed ]. These figures did not include the cost of the armament and radio.
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French army studies in found that many Panthers had been sabotaged during production. By comparison the total cost of the early production Tiger I in — has been stated to be as high as , RM. The process of streamlining the production of German armoured fighting vehicles first began after Speer became Reichminister in early , and steadily accelerated through to ; the production of the Panther tank coincided with this period of increased manufacturing efficiency.
At the beginning of the war, German armoured fighting vehicle manufacturers had employed labour-intensive and costly manufacturing methods unsuitable for the needs of mass production; even with streamlined production methods, Germany never approached the efficiency of Allied manufacturing during World War II. The weight of the production model was increased to 45 tonnes from the original plans for a 35 tonne tank. Hitler was briefed thoroughly on the comparison between the MAN and DB designs in the report by Guderian's tank commission.
Armour protection appeared to be inadequate, while "the motor mounted on the rear appeared to him correct".
He agreed that the "decisive factor was the possibility of quickly getting the tank into production". The Panther was rushed into combat before all of its teething problems had been corrected. Reliability was considerably improved over time, and the Panther proved to be a very effective fighting vehicle,  but some design flaws, such as its weak final drive units, were never corrected. The crew had five members: driver, radio operator who also fired the bow machine gun , gunner, loader, and commander.
The first Panthers were powered by a Maybach HL P30 V petrol engine, which delivered metric hp at 3, rpm and had three simple air filters. To save aluminium, the light alloy block used in the HL was replaced by a cast iron block. Two multistage "cyclone" air filters were used to improve dust removal.
The HL P30 engine was a very compact tunnel crankcase design, and it kept the space between the cylinder walls to a minimum. The crankshaft was composed of seven "discs" or main journals , each with an outer race of roller bearings , and a crankshaft pin between each disc. To reduce the length of the engine by an inch or so, and reduce unbalanced rocking moment caused by a normal offset-Vee type engine , the two banks of 6 cylinders of the V were not offset — the "big ends" of the connecting rods of each cylinder pair in the "V" where they mated with the crankpin were thus at the same spot with respect to the engine block's length rather than offset; this required a "fork and blade " matched pair of connecting rods for each transversely oriented pair of cylinders.
Usually, "V"-form engines have their transversely paired cylinders' connecting rods' "big ends" simply placed side by side on the crankpin, with their transverse pairs of cylinders offset slightly to allow the connecting rod big ends to attach side by side while still being in the cylinder bore centerline. This compact arrangement with the connecting rods was the source of considerable problems initially.
Improved bearings were introduced in November An eighth crankshaft bearing was added beginning in January to reduce motor failures. The engine compartment was designed to be watertight so that the Panther could ford water obstacles; however, this made the engine compartment poorly ventilated and prone to overheating. The fuel connectors in early Panthers were not insulated, leading to the leakage of fuel fumes into the engine compartment, which caused engine fires.
Additional ventilation was added to draw off these gases, which only partly solved the problem of engine fires. Engine reliability improved over time. The suspension consisted of front drive sprockets, rear idlers and eight double-interleaved rubber-rimmed steel road wheels on each side — in the so-called Schachtellaufwerk design, suspended on a dual torsion bar suspension. The dual torsion bar system, designed by Professor Ernst Lehr, allowed for a wide travel stroke and rapid oscillations with high reliability, thus allowing for relatively high speed travel over undulating terrain.
The extra space required for the bars running across the length of the bottom of the hull, below the turret basket, increased the overall height of the tank.
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When damaged by mines, the torsion bars often required a welding torch for removal. The Panther's suspension was overengineered and the Schachtellaufwerk interleaved road wheel system made replacing inner road wheels time consuming though it could operate with missing or broken wheels.
The interleaved wheels also had a tendency to become clogged with mud, rocks and ice, and could freeze solid overnight in the harsh winter weather that followed the autumn rasputitsa mud season on the Eastern Front. Shell damage could cause the road wheels to jam together and become difficult to separate.
The extra wheels did provide better flotation and stability, and also provided more armour protection for the thin hull sides than smaller wheels or non-interleaved wheel systems, but the complexity meant that no other country ever adopted this design for their tanks. E tanks. These steel-rimmed roadwheels were introduced from chassis number due to raw material shortages. From November through February , a conversion process began to use sleeve bearings in the Panther tank, as there was a shortage of ball bearings.
The sleeve bearings were primarily used in the running gear; plans were also made to convert the transmission to sleeve bearings, but were not carried out due to the ending of Panther production.
Panther Variants 1942-45 (New Vanguard, #22) Hilary Doyle
Steering was accomplished through a seven-speed AK synchromesh gearbox, designed by Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen ZF , and a MAN single radius steering system, operated by steering levers. The driver was expected to judge the sharpness of a turn ahead of time and shift into the appropriate gear to turn the tank.
The driver could also engage the brakes on one side to force a sharper turn. The AK transmission was also capable of pivot turns, but tests showed this was only possible when the ground resistance on both tracks was the same. The Panther's main weakness was its final drive unit. The problems stemmed from several factors. The original MAN proposal had called for the Panther to have an epicyclic gearing planetary system in the final drive, similar to that used in the Tiger I. To achieve the goal of higher production rates, numerous simplifications were made to the design and its manufacture.
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This process was aggressively pushed forward, sometimes against the wishes of designers and army officers, by the Chief Director of Armament and War Production, Karl-Otto Saur who worked under, and later succeeded, Reichminister Speer. Consequently, the final drive was changed to a double spur system. Because of the significant numbers of breakdowns, the Wehrmacht was forced to move the Panther and Tiger I tanks by rail throughout Initial production Panthers had a face-hardened glacis plate the main front hull armour piece , but as armour-piercing capped rounds became the standard in all armies thus defeating the benefits of face-hardening, which caused uncapped rounds to shatter , this requirement was deleted in March By August , Panthers were being built only with a homogeneous steel glacis plate.
The combination of moderately thick and well-sloped armour meant that heavy Allied weapons, such as the Soviet mm A , mm BS-3 and US 90 mm M3  were needed to assure penetration of the upper glacis at all combat ranges. The thinner side armour was necessary to reduce the weight, but it made the Panther vulnerable to hits from the side by all Allied tank and anti-tank guns. German tactical doctrine for the use of the Panther emphasized the importance of flank protection.
Zimmerit coating against magnetic mines started to be applied at the factory on late Ausf D models beginning in September ;  an order for field units to apply Zimmerit to older versions of the Panther was issued in November As the war progressed, Germany was forced to reduce or eliminate critical alloying metals in the production of armour plate, such as nickel, tungsten and molybdenum; this resulted in lower impact resistance levels compared to earlier armour.
The loss of molybdenum, and its replacement with other substitutes to maintain hardness, as well as a general loss of quality control, resulted in an increased brittleness in German armour plate, which developed a tendency to fracture when struck with a shell. Testing by U. Army officers in August in Isigny, France showed catastrophic cracking of the armour plate on two out of three Panthers examined. The main gun was a Rheinmetall-Borsig 7.
Panther Variants – Hilary Doyle: Osprey Publishing
While it was of a calibre common on Allied tanks, the Panther's gun was the most powerful of World War II, due to the large propellant charge and the long barrel, which gave it a very high muzzle velocity and excellent armour-piercing qualities — among Allied tank guns of similar caliber, none hade equivalent muzzle energy. The flat trajectory and accuracy of the full bore ammunition also made hitting targets much easier, since accuracy was less sensitive to errors in range estimation and increased the chance of hitting a moving target. The tank typically had two MG 34 armoured fighting vehicle variant machine guns featuring an armoured barrel sleeve.
An MG 34 machine gun was located co-axially with the main gun on the gun mantlet; an identical MG 34 was located on the glacis plate and fired by the radio operator. Initial Ausf. D and early Ausf. A models used a "letterbox" flap enclosing its underlying thin, vertical arrowslit -like aperture, through which the machine gun was fired.
A and all Ausf.
Related Panther Variants 1942-45
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