PANTHER A gallery

The running gear generated a large number of faults in the previous Panther D, so in variant A was modified to provide more resistance and reliability. They put double wheel-rim bolts to prevent breakdowns and also modified the engine exhaust cooling to eliminate the frequent overheating problems.
Different components of the engine such as connecting rods and bearings that had been unreliable and caused breakdowns were modified. Further it was decided to reduce the maximum engine speed to 2,500 rpm to improve its reliability. The coolant circulation system was also improved and the fuel pump was reinforced to prevent leaks.
Another important modification was the installation of an armored ball mount with an MG-34 machine gun. This assembly significantly improved the self-defense against the infantry. This machine gun could move 5º on each side and rise from -10º to + 15º.
Protection was almost the same as in the Panther D. Nevertheless, the turret’s front armour was increased from 100 to 110mm and the installation of 5mm thick spaced armor skirts was standardized. These skirts protected the upper part of the tracks and the lower part of the hull. These areas were especially vulnerable areas if the tank was surrounded by enemy vehicles.
The gunner’s TF-12 binocular sight was replaced by the monocular TF-12a, so that only one opening was necessary in the gun’s mantlet. The radio operator / hull machine gunner also had a KgZF-2 scope for firing the MG-34.
Panther A turret received some important improvements like new seals behind the gun mantlet, a simpler system to raise the barrel, new seals for the turret race and the most important, a variable speed turret traverse drive dependent on the engine’s rpm.
With this new traverse powered system, the time to complete a full turn was reduced from 60 seconds to only 46 seconds. This was achieved if the engine was running at 1,000 rpm, but reduced to a spectacular 15 seconds if it was running at 3,000 rpm. This system had the problem that gunner and driver must have extraordinary coordination to aim at the target in the shortest possible time.
The modifications previously exposed, greatly improved the reliability and combat capacity of Panther tanks, They began to gain reputation of fearsome tanks among Allied tank crews, although some problems such as fuel consumption and transmission failure were endemic in all Panther family. The mechanical components of the transmission were not designed for vehicles of this weight, and this finally, took its toll.
About 2,000 Panther A were built in a period of nine months, far from the expected figures. In this period the Allied bombings were already causing stoppages to production and discontinuity in the delivery of all types of vehicles. Although it had been planned to build 600 Panther per month, this number was never achieved, with an average in 1944 of about 315 tanks per month.
From summer 1943 onwards, Panther became the backbone of the Panzer Division in the Eastern Front, and all the manufactured ones were sent to this area to contain the Soviet advance. For example, in September 1944 there were about 730 Panthers on this front, of which 70% were operational.
The unstoppable Soviet advance produced that availability of Panther tanks was reduced more and more due to the long fighting. In March 1945, shortly before the German defeat, 740 Panthers were still on the Eastern Front, of which more than 50% were not operational, this clearly indicates the extreme hardness of combats and conditions supported by this vehicles.
Although most of Panthers were sent to the East, some went to Western Front. Initially to Italy and then to France to try to contain Allied advances that had begun with the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. In August the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Panzer Division, formed by Panther tanks, joined the 2nd SS Panzerkorps in Northern Italy where they were until November, when they were sent back to the Eastern Front.
At the beginning of 1944, the 1st Battalion of the 202nd Panzer Regiment belonging to the 26th Panzer Division, composed by 76 Panther tanks, was sent to the Eastern Front from Italy. The rest of the 26th Panzer Division would surrender in 1945 in Rimini, Italy, while the 1st Battalion would end the War in the East.
Another unit that operated with Panther tanks was the 116th Panzer Division, which in June 1944 was in Calais and in July was sent to Normandy. This Division had 79 Panthers assigned in June, and in August it carried out the “Operation Lüttich”, a German counterattack on Mortain, in the northwest of France. On August 21, the Division only had 12 tanks out of the 158 it had in June.
Perhaps the most powerful unit that operated Panther tanks was the famous 130th Panzer Division, better known as “Panzer-Lehr Division”. The German word “Lehr” means “teaching” or “demonstration”. This Division was formed in 1944 and was composed of instructors and war veterans and was considered an elite unit. It was part of the Reserve Armored Force of the German High Command.
At the beginning of June 1944 the Panzer-Lehr Division had 198 tanks, of which 89 were Panther. From June 9 would be fighting in Bayeux, to be sent later to fight against the British in Caen and finally to Saint Lo, where they would face the Americans. Almost annihilated, this unit was able to retire to Luxembourg to go later to Sennelager, Germany, where the Division would be reorganized and re-equipped again.
In October 1944 the Panzer-Lehr was re-equipped and sent back to France. Despite the efforts, they only counted on 27 Pz.IV and 30 Panther tanks, very far from the power that they had 4 months before. In December it was added to the LXVII Panzerkorps of the 5th Panzerarmee to take part in the Battle of the Bulge, in the Ardennes. Finally, after demonstrating enormous fierceness and resistance in combat, the Division surrendered to the Americans in April 1945.
France used 50 Panther A tanks abandoned by Germans with which it managed to equip a pair of battalions that were in service between 1944 and 1950 with the 503rd Tank Regiment. This image shows one of them with the symbol of “Free France” on the glacis, these tanks were replaced by the American M-47 medium tank.

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