Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, abbr. PzKpfw V "Panther" - a German tank during the Second World War. This combat vehicle was developed by MAN in 1941 — 1942 as the main tank of the Wehrmacht. According to the German classification, "Panther" was considered a medium tank. In the Soviet tank classification "Panther" was considered a heavy tank. In the departmental end-to-end system of designations of the Nazi Germany military equipment, the Panther had the Sd.Kfz index. 171. Starting from 27 February 1944, the Führer ordered to use only the name "Panther" to designate a tank.
The battle debut of "Panther" was the battle of Kursk, later tanks of this type were actively used by the Wehrmacht and the SS troops in all European theaters of operations. According to a number of experts, the Panther is the best German tank of the Second World War and one of the best in the world. At the same time, the tank had a number of drawbacks, was difficult and expensive to manufacture and operate. On the basis of the "Panther" produced self-propelled artillery (SAU) "Jagdpanther" and a number of specialized vehicles for engineering and artillery units of the German armed forces.
What was the real significance for the course of the war of such an outstanding machine? Why did Germany, having such an outstanding tank, not utterly defeat the Soviet armored forces?
Panther battalions on the Eastern Front. Period from the end of 1943 to 1945 year
The “Panthers” who survived the Kursk Arc were assembled as part of the 52 tank battalion, which 24 of August 1943 of the year was renamed I. Abteilung / Panzer-Regiment 15. In early August, the 51 Battalion received the new 96 "Panther" and remained in the Grenadier Division "Grossdeutschland". By the end of August, the 52 Battalion had irretrievably lost the 36 Panther. As of 31 in August, the 1943 of the 52 tank battalion had 15 tank-capable tanks, and the 45 vehicles were under repair.
At the end of August 1943, 1 arrived at the front. Abteilung / SS-Panzer-Regiment 2, part of the tank division of the SS "Das Reich". This battalion numbered the "Panther" 71. Three commander tanks were located at headquarters, and in each of the four companies there were 17 vehicles: two in the headquarters section and five in each platoon. August 31 1943 in the battalion was 21 efficient tank, 40 machines needed repair, 10 was written off.
The fourth Panther battalion, which turned out to be on the Eastern Front, was II. Abteilung / Panzer-Regiment 23. The battalion had 96 "Panthers", of which the majority were Ausf. D, but there were a few Ausf. A. The fifth part was I. Abteilung / Panzer-Regiment 2, equipped with the Panther 71, mainly Ausf. A. From the report of the 13 Tank Division of 20 in October 1943 of the year:
"Because of the threatening situation at the front, the battalion was thrown to the front, barely having time to unload. The battalion acted on companies. Due to the rush, it was not possible to establish interaction with the grenadiers. later, such use of tanks contradicted the basic tactical principles, but the situation at the front did not leave a choice. "
Below are excerpts from the reports of Commander I. Abteilung / Panzer-Regiment 2. Hauptmann Bollert, covering the period from 9 to 19 in October 1943 of the year:
“Insufficient tactical training of the crews did not seriously affect the combat capability of the battalion, as more than half of the battalion’s personnel have combat experience. In such an environment, young soldiers quickly improve their skills. Many young driver mechanics who have just finished tank school have been very zealous in maintaining their tanks in combat readiness. In any case, it is highly desirable to have an experienced platoon commander. "
Technical training in Germany
During several weeks of training, driver and maintenance personnel did not always learn what was required on the front line. Some of the soldiers were engaged all the time in any one task, for example, they changed the track rollers. Thus, many did not have a holistic view of the PzKpfw V device. Under the guidance of an experienced instructor, young soldiers sometimes achieved excellent results in a very short time. There is an opportunity to study the materiel at each factory collecting tanks.
Cylinder head seal went through. Destroyed fuel pump shaft.
Bolts on the big gear of onboard transfer are broken. Often there is a loss of plugs, which leads to leakage of oil. Oil also often flows through the seam between the casing of the onboard transmission and the side of the tank. The bolts with which the side gears are attached to the hull side, often loosen.
Top fan bearing often sticks. Lubrication is insufficient, even if the oil level is normal. Damage to the fan is often accompanied by damage to the fan drive.
The propeller shaft bearings fail. The drive of the hydraulic pump wears out.
Weapons problems: the compressor clutch sticks, which interferes with the operation of the barrel purge system. The TZF 12 sight fails as a result of hits in the gun mask. Optics consumption for the sight is very high.
It is absolutely necessary to equip the tank with a machine gun to fight the enemy’s infantry. The need for a course machine gun is especially acute when the coaxial machine gun is silent.
Frontal armor PzKpfw V is very good. 76,2-mm armor-piercing shells leave dents on it no deeper than 45 mm. "Panthers" fail when a direct hit 152-mm high-explosive shells - the projectile breaks through the armor. Almost all the “Panthers” received frontal hits of 76-mm projectiles, while the combat capability of the tanks practically did not suffer. In one case, the gun mask struck an 45-mm projectile fired from the 30 distance. The crew was not injured.
However, the side armor is very vulnerable. The side of the turret on one of the “Panthers” was pierced with an anti-tank rifle. The board of the other "Panther" was also punched by a small-caliber projectile. All these damages occur during battles on the streets or in the woods, where it is not possible to close the flanks.
A direct hit by an artillery shell in the lower part of the frontal armor led to the fact that the weld seams burst, and a piece several centimeters long broke off the armor plate. Obviously, the seam was not boiled to the full depth.
Skirt performed well enough. Sheet fasteners are not reliable and very awkwardly located. Since the sheets are suspended at a distance of 8 cm from the side of the tank, they are easily torn off by branches of trees and shrubs.
New basic skating rinks did not cause censures. Almost all the “Panthers” were losing speed due to explosive shells. One track roller pierced through, three damaged. Split several road wheels. Although 45-mm and 76-mm shells pierce the tracks, they cannot immobilize a tank. In any case, "Panther" can under its own power to leave the battlefield. During long marches, at the maximum speed, rubber tires on support rollers wear out quickly.
The gun proved to be excellent, only a few minor problems were noted. Frontal armor KV-1 confidently makes its way from a distance of 600 m. SU-152 makes its way from a distance of 800 m.
The new commander's turret has a fairly successful design. Diopter, which helped the tank commander in pointing the gun at the target, is absent. The three front periscopes should be moved a little closer together. The field of view through the periscopes is good, but it is impossible to use binoculars. When shells hit the tower, the optics of the periscope often fail and require replacement.
In addition, the driver and radio operator periscopes should be better sealed. During rain, water penetrates inside and makes it very difficult to work.
The Bergepanther tugs have proven their worth. One Bergepanther is enough to evacuate one tank in dry weather. In the deep mud, even two tugboats are not enough to evacuate one Panther. To date, the Bergepanther tugs have evacuated the Panthers 20. In total, the damaged tanks were towed over a distance of 600 m. The Bergepanther was used only to tow the wrecked tanks from the front to the rear. The experience of the battalion shows that it is necessary to have at least four Bergepanther tugboats, albeit at the expense of ordinary 18-ton tugs. The equipment of the tugs with radio stations turned out to be the way. During the battle, the Bergepanther commanders received instructions on the radio.
To tow one “Panther” in dry weather requires two tractor Zugkraftwagen 18t. However, even four 18-ton tractors cannot move a tank in deep mud.
October 16 battalion launched an attack by the forces of the 31 tank. Although the distance traveled was small, the Panthers 12 failed due to mechanical damage. By October 18 1943, the battalion had 26 combat-ready "Panthers". 39 tanks needed repair and 6 machines had to be written off. In the period from 9 to 19 in October, the average number of combat-ready tanks was 22 Panthers.
Results: 46 tanks hit and 4 self-propelled guns. 28 anti-tank guns, 14 artillery guns and 26 anti-tank guns destroyed. Our irretrievable worn - 8 tanks (6 was hit and burned during the fighting, two were disassembled for parts). "
Due to the mechanical unreliability of the Panther and the high level of losses 1 in November 1943, Hitler decided to send 60 tanks without engines to the Leningrad Front, which should have been dug into the ground opposite the Kronstadt Bay. From 5 to 25 in November 1943 of the year 60 "Panther" (fully combat-ready) was sent to the command of the Army Group North.
30 November 1943, the command of the L Army Corps reported that the 60 "Panthers" had entered into the 9 th and 10 th Lufwaffe field divisions. The “Panthers” were dugged in three along the defense line, having 1000-1500 m swept in front of them. If for some reason it was not possible to dig up three tanks next to each other, the single machine was reinforced with infantry and anti-tank gun. 10 most combat-ready machines left on the go as a mobile reserve.
From I. Abteilung / Panzer-Regiment, 29 identified 60 people (20 commanders, 20 driver-mechanics, 15 gunners and 5 gunners-radio operators). 26 December III Tank Corps received an order to collect all the remaining mobility "Panthers" in the composition of I. Abteilung / Panzer-Regiment 29. The trenched "Panthers" remained under the jurisdiction of the divisions.
In November 1943, two Panther battalions arrived on the Eastern Front. These were the Abteilung / Panzer-Regiment 1, which counted 76 "Panthers" (in the company of 17 tanks), as well as Ableilung / SS-Panzer-Regiment 1, fully equipped with the 96 "Panthers". Both battalions operated as part of their divisions.
In early November, the 1 battalion of the 15 Tank Regiment received a reinforcement in the form of the Panthers 31. At the end of December, the 1943, I Battalion 1 of the Tank Regiment, received the 16 of the new Panthers. Apart from the 60 Panther sent to the Leningrad Front, the 1943 Panther was sent to the Eastern Front in 841 in the year. By December 31 1943, the Germans had only 217 "Panthers", of which only 80 remained operational. 624 tank was written off (loss 74%).
From 5 to 11 December 1943, the 76 Panther was taken to the 1st battalion of the 2 Tank Regiment. Another 94 "Panther" arrived as a replenishment to other battalions. However, all these tanks were used for the first time in battle in January 1944.
5 March 1944, Guderian reported:
“As the experience of the last battles showed, the Panther was finally able to bring to mind. In a report from February 22 1944, received from the 1-th tank regiment, says: "In the current version of the Panther is suitable for front-line use. It is much superior to the T-34. Almost all the drawbacks are eliminated. The tank has excellent booking, armament, patency and speed. Currently, the average engine mileage is within 700-1000 km. The number of engine breakdowns has decreased. There are no more breakdowns in the onboard gears. The steering and transmission are fairly reliable. "
However, this report from the 1-th tank regiment was premature. Indeed, the Panther felt good in the winter on frozen ground, but already in the report from April 22 of 1944, from the 1st Battalion of the 2-Tank Regiment, numerous technical problems caused by the spring off-road were reported:
The report summarizes the experience gained between March 5 and April 15 of the year 1944.
Engine Maybach HL 230 Р30;
In general, new engines are much safer than their predecessors. Sometimes the engine without repair passes to 1700-1800 km, and the 3 "Panthers", after passing this distance, still remain on the move. But the nature of damage has not changed: the destruction of mechanical parts and damage to bearings.
The number of fires in the engine compartment has decreased markedly. The following causes of fires were identified:
Oil leaks through valves due to bad seals. Drops of oil fall on hot exhaust pipes and ignite.
In some cases, there is an overflow carburetor. Candles are filled with gasoline and do not give a spark. Unburned fuel is then thrown into the exhaust pipes and seeps out through the seals, causing a fire.
The service life of the transmission also increased. On average, every 1500 km of run fails the 3-I transmission, and the failure in field conditions is beyond repair. The failure of the 3 transmission is due to its overload when driving through mud. Since we sometimes fail to replace the transmission, we exploited three Panthers with a defective gearbox. Switching from the 2-th to the 4-th transmission at once sometimes caused a clutch failure, but repairing the clutch is much easier. It happens that tanks pass without a clutch breakdown on 1500-1800 km, and the Panthers 4 have already blocked this record.
Rapid steering wear is also due to constant off-road driving. The steering has a rather complicated structure, and the qualification of driver-mechanics is not enough to independently eliminate any malfunctions. Therefore, tanks are controlled by on-board brakes, which leads to their rapid wear and frequent failure.
Very often, tanks fail due to damage to the onboard gear. For example, March 11 had to replace the onboard transmissions on 30 tanks. The left side gear fails more often than the right. Bolts on the big gear of onboard transfer often break. Especially adversely affects the onboard transmission reversing the mud.
Suspension and caterpillars
After 1500-1800 km of mileage, there is heavy wear on the tracks. In many cases, the guide teeth break off or bend. Four times the caterpillars had to be changed entirely, since there was no guide tooth left on any track.
Despite the fact that the reliability of tanks has increased markedly, attempts should be made to increase reliability even more. For this, it is necessary that the Panthers are adapted to the following combat situations:
Engine operation at extreme conditions when driving uphill or in deep mud.
Taxiing when reversing (the inevitable maneuver during the battle).
The reduction in the level of damage is also due to the increased experience of driver mechanics and tank commanders. In the 4 th company of the 2 th tank regiment, the corporal of the Gablevsky corporation (PzKpfw V. Fgst.Nr. 154338. Motor Nr.83220046) has now passed without repair 1878 km and still retains full combat capability. During all this time it took to change a few track rollers and tracked tracks. Oil consumption on the tank is about 10 l. on 100 km. On the "Panther" still stand engine and transmission, mounted at the factory. "
In order to close the huge gap on the Eastern Front, made by the Red Army in July 1944, 14 tank brigades was hastily formed. Only seven of them were sent to the Eastern Front. The remaining seven had to be sent west, since in August 1944, the Allies launched a successful offensive in France. In each brigade with a number from 101 to 110. and also in the Fuehrer - brigade there was one battalion "Panther". The battalion consisted of a headquarters (3 "Panthers") and three companies, 11 "Panthers" in each (2 in the headquarters section and 3 in three platoons).
From August 1944, the Allied bombing began to affect the performance of German tank factories. Production of the Panther fell, and losses on the fronts, on the contrary, grew. I had to go to the reduction of tanks in the battalions. For example, in I. Abteilung / Panzer-Regiment73160; 10 had three cars with headquarters and 17 "Panthers" in the 2 and 4 companies.
In the 1st battalion of the Hermann Goering tank regiment there were 4 "Panthers" at the battalion headquarters and 14 "Panthers" in each of the four companies (two "Panthers" in the headquarters section and four in three platoons). The 1 battalions of the 6, 11, 24 and 130 tank regiments were organized in the same way. In these four battalions, all 60 Panthers were equipped with night vision devices. Field trials failed. therefore, all night-vision devices were dismantled and sent to the warehouse before the parts were sent to the front.
After the failure of the offensive on the Western Front, in February 1945 of the 8 divisions (1-I. 2-I, 9-I, 10-I and 12-I division of the SS, as well as 21-I division, 25-I Grenadier Division and Grenadier Division the Fuehrer division), which had a total of 271 tanks, was redeployed to the east.
12 February 1945, the tank inspector general, ordered the 1 company of the 101 tank battalion of the Fuehrer tank brigade to begin military tests of the FG 1250 night vision device. Ten "Panther" companies were sent to the Altengrabs, to equip the Noktovizorov. In addition, the company received three SdKfz 251 / 20. equipped with infrared illuminators BG 1251 (Uhu). 26 March 1945, Major Voelwart and Hauptmann Ritz reported on the first night of the battle using infrared sights. The fight was successful, night-vision devices were quite reliable. Having received encouraging results, the German command equipped tanks with IR sights in the following units:
I./PzRgt 6 (3. PzDiv) - March 1 10 pieces;
Ausbildungs-Lehrgang Fallingbostel - March 16 4 pieces;
I./PzRgt 130 (25. PzGrDiv) - March 23 10 pieces:
I./PzRgt 29 (PzDiv Muenchenberg) - April 5 10 pieces;
4. Kp / PzRgt 11-8 April 10 pieces.
With the exception of the four “Panthers” sent to Fallingbostel, all vehicles equipped with FG 1250 (50 units) participated in battles on the Eastern Front.
The largest number of combat-ready "Panther" was at the disposal of the German command in the summer and autumn of 1944. At this time, the peak number of efficient tanks reached 522 units. At the same time, the Red Army had several thousand T-34, KV-1, EC-2 and M4 Sherman. Despite many local successes, the Panthers could not turn the tide of the war.
Well, what do we have in the bottom line? In addition to combat and technical characteristics, any combat vehicle also has other characteristics. Such as reliability, maintainability, and most importantly - the price and the possibility of mass production resulting from it. If you evaluate the bare numbers of technical specifications, the car looks outstanding, even the statistics of battles with our tanks speak in favor of the Panther. But the above qualities, which often go beyond the attention of ordinary lovers of military history, make it simply awful. And despite its technical excellence, this machine almost destroyed the Third Reich, leaving it virtually without tanks. According to these qualities, “Panther” is not ahead of its time, but rather late. She was supposed to appear in the pre-war period, and all her childhood illnesses had to be eliminated before the war, and not at a critical moment for Germany.
Was there an alternative? I personally do not see her. Before the war, such a machine could not appear. Since it was the result of thinking about the battles against the T-34
What did Germany have to do? Probably right those colleagues who wrote that the only correct action would be to continue the modernization of T-IV. Machines rather outdated, which in my opinion, even in large numbers, would hardly change the course of the war.