The German medium tank Panzerkampfwagen V was used by the Wehrmacht in the second half of World War II, from the summer of 1943 until the end of hostilities in Europe.
Called the Panther, it was also abbreviated as Pz.Kpfw. V. The Soviet as well as other Allied tank classifications ranked the Panther as a heavy tank, but the Germans listed it as a medium tank.
Serial production of the Panther ran from January 1943 to April 1945. In addition to the MAN developer company, other famous companies including Henschel and Demag Daimler-Benz were involved in the release of the Panther. In total, up to 136 organizations and manufacturers took part.
The Panther’s protection consisted of rolled armor plates of low and medium hardness with surface hardening. The thickness of the armor began at .4″ and could be as thick as 4.3,” and varied depending on the modification of the tank. The Panther’s crew consisted of five people.
Notably, based on the main modifications of the Panthers, automatic control systems for both command and repair vehicles were developed, which were widely used on virtually all fronts.
As its main weapon the Panther used a 75-mm KwK 42 tank gun with a barrel length of 70 calibers. Modifications A and D carried 79 rounds of ammunition, and modification G carried 82 rounds, which included subcaliber (Pzgr. 40/42), armor-piercing (Pzgr. 39/42) and high-explosive shells (Sprg. 42). Later modifications of the tank included two 7.92-mm MG 34 machine guns as auxiliary weapons.
The first 250 tanks used a Maybach HL 210 P30 carburetor engine which was V-shaped, had 12 cylinders, and was water-cooled. However, it was later replaced by the Maybach HL 230 P45 engine, which produced 700 horsepower, allowing a maximum speed of 28-30 miles per hour on highways.
The Panther’s debut at the front took place during the Battle of the Kursk Bulge on July 5, 1943, as part of the 39th Tank Regiment of the SS “Great Germany” division. In the first battles, Panthers performed well at medium ranges against Soviet tanks. However, this was not enough to stop the increased resistance of the Red Army troops. In total, from July 5, 1943, to April 10, 1945, 5,629 Panther tanks were lost in combat operations.
Military historian and engineer Mikhail Svirin praised the Panther: “Yes, the Panther was a strong and dangerous opponent and can be considered one of the most successful German tanks of the Second World War. But we should not forget that this tank was very expensive and difficult to manufacture and maintain.”
The last massive use of German tanks was during a counterattack in Hungary, near Lake Balaton. The Panthers also took part in battles in the Czech Republic and during the defense of Berlin. After the end of WWII, some trophy Panthers served in the armies of Hungary, Romania, France, and Czechoslovakia. Currently, surviving Panthers can be seen on display in many military museums.