PhotogaleriesPANTHER G gallery 1 2019-07-15 Javier As the war progressed, all the improvements that did not imply a radical change in the design of the tank, or made it more difficult to build, were incorporated. The Panther G was quite similar to the Panther A and became the most manufactured variant with more than 3,000 vehicles entered into service from March 1944 to April 1945. Although the figures foreseen for its production were never achieved, it is surprising the fact that the month in which more Panther tanks were manufactured was in July 1944, when 380 were delivered, despite the bombing campaign carried out by the Allies. Although Panther G was a sophisticated and difficult to build tank, its price was kept within reasonable limits. A Pz.IV tank cost around 103,000 Reichmarks and the Panther cost around 117,000 Reichmarks, which comparing the characteristics of both tanks suggests that the Panther was even cheap. In comparison, a Tiger tank reached 250,000 Reichmarks, and it can be said, without fear of being wrong, that one Tiger tank was not superior to two Panther tanks. Many modifications were made in the Panther G, some of great importance and others minor on paper, but which were very successful in practice. A gearbox oil cooler was installed, the hull top hatches were simplified, a revised air intake grill was installed, armored exhaust louvres were incorporated and sheet metal shields were added around the exhaust pipes. A tower-like device was fitted over the left engine cooling fan, this system sent warm air to the combat compartment to improve the comfort of the crew. After all these modifications, the reliability of the engine improved and some reports indicated that the period between revisions was established between 1,000 and 1,500 km. The suspension also ended up being more reliable and as a curiosity it can be noted that some Panther G mounted overlapping non-interleaved steel-rimmed 800 mm diameter roadwheels, the same as those installed in the Henschel’s Kingtiger. One weakness of all Panther models was the ammunition storage. The D and A variants had 79 projectiles for the gun, but in the Panther G, a new internal distribution increased this amount to 81 projectiles. The 75mm ammunition was located inside the hull in different areas, especially on the sides. This was really dangerous if the tank was hit there, becasuse it was almost certain that ammunition would explode causing the total destruction of the tank. The loader had at hand the ammunition on the right side of the hull, which was the first to be used. The Panther G wore a new cast and more curved gun mantlet than the previous one, which produced a dangerous inconvenience. The rounds that hit the lower half of the mantlet were usually deflected towards the hull roof or the turret ring. This was solved since September 1944 adding a sort of vertical “chin” to the mantlet casting. The production of Panther G was distributed among the Eastern and Western Fronts and made up half of the tank force of the Panzer divisions since mid-1944. They were the main tanks in the German offensives over Belgium, Hungary and East Prussia. It was calculated that in September of 1944 there were about 2,300 Panther tanks in the front, but the losses were very numerous and the production could not cover them, so the fighting force did not stop diminishing. However, at this time it was already considered the best German tank in service. Some Panther were installed modern experimental systems to improve their night combat capabilities such as IR search lights and image converters. This Panther has installed one of the first infra red (IR) search light (Infrarot-Scheinwerfer) on the commander’s cuppola, and an image converter in the commander’s post. Vehicles equipped with these devices were nicknamed “Uhu” (owl) and there were several IR devices with different diameters and powers. In the case of the Panther, as the range of the IR search light was about 600 meters, it used to operate with a Sd.Kfz-251 half-track equipped with an IR device of 60 cm in diameter that had greater reach and allowed to take better advantage of the excellent gun of the Panther. These night combat teams used to be formed by a Panther tank, a Sd.Kfz-251 “Uhu” with the IR search light and another Sd.Kfz-251 “Falke” support. The Sd.Kfz-251 “Uhu” detected the target and transmitted its position through the radio to the Panther of the unit that fired at the enemy. These tanks had a flash-proof ammunition to avoid detection by the enemy as much as possible. There is evidence of some night combats carried out by units equipped with IR devices. It is known of a Panther sent to Stuhlweissenburg, Hungary, at the beginning of 1945, two Panthers of the Clausewitz Panzer Division were sent to the area of Fallersleben and attacked an American antitank position, and in April of 1945 several IR Panthers destroyed at night a platoon of British Comet Tanks. In 1944 the Panzer Division underwent a restructuring that gave them a Regiment formed by two tank battalions, one with Pz.IV medium tanks and another with Panther heavy tanks. This Division was designated as “Type 44 Panzer Division” and in theory had from 68 to 88 tanks by Battalion, but this figure was rarely achieved. During the invasion of Normandy, in June 1944, some German units equipped with Panther tanks in the area were as follows: 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend”, (66), Panzer-Lehr Division (89) and the 2nd Panzer Division (79), totalizing 234 Panther tanks, of which only 10 remained operational in August! In July 1944, new german units equipped with Panther tanks arrived to Normandy, these units were the following: 1st SS Panzer Division “Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler” (89), 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” (79), 9th SS Panzer Division “Hohenstaufen” (79 ) and the 116th Panzer Division (79), totalizing 326 Panther tanks, of which about 20 still operational in August! The last major German offensive launched to try to break the Allied line in the Western Front was prepared with total secrecy and managed to gather a few hundred Panther tanks. This offensive was called “Operation Wacht am Rhein” by the Germans, although it would be known worldwide as the “Battle of the Bulge”, and would be launched in mid-December 1944 from the forests of the Ardennes between Belgium and Luxembourg. The bulk of the Ardennes Offensive was composed of the 5th and 6th Panzer Armies. The 5th Panzer Army managed to gather a total of 135 Panther tanks, while the 6th Panzer Army gathered another 80 Panthers that took the Americans completely unawares, since according to all, it was “impossible” to cross the dense forest of the Ardennes to launch a offensive. The Battle of the Bulge lasted 41 days, during which, the Allies with their inexhaustible resources and the improvement of the climatology, managed to reject the German Forces after fierce combats. The Germans lost 340 tanks of all types, an irreplaceable loss at this stage of the war. One of the most surprising missions carried out by the Panther G, was the so-called “Operation Greif” (Griffin), carried out within the Ardennes Offensive. This commando-type mission was carried out by the Panzer Brigade 150 under command of SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) Otto Skorzeny. His mission was to capture some bridges over the river Meuse, for which this unit would be equipped with uniforms and allied vehicles to cause confusion behind the American lines. The operation Greif involved the transformation of five Panther G tanks into US M-10 tank destroyers. These vehicles were designated as “Ersatz M-10” and were concealed conscientiously, with many details in the American style. They were painted in an olive drab scheme with American style markings, but finally the Operation was truncated since the 1st SS Panzer Division did not reach its starting point on December 16 and on the 17th Otto Skorzeny informed the High Command that the Operation had to be suspended. The last major German offensive within the WWII that had Panther tanks was the so-called “Operation Frühlingserwachen” (Operation Spring Awakening) and took place from March 6 to April 15, 1945. The fighting took place in Hungary, and the Operation had two clearly differentiated phases: the German attack carried out from March 6 to 15, and the Soviet counterattack carried out from March 16 to April 15. It is known that the beginning of the career of the Panther tank was not easy, the mechanical failures and acts of sabotage carried out by Soviet volunteers detected before the Battle of Kursk greatly worried the German commanders. On the afternoon of July 5, 1943, only 22 Panthers remained with the 51st Panzer Battalion. The problems of refrigeration in the first Panthers deployed in the Eastern Front, took dozens of casualties in the first clashes with the Soviets, burning many, having to be abandoned by the crews. There is an anecdote that occurred in September of 1943 that tells how several Panthers were knocked out when crossing a pine forest and causing a rain of pine needles that entered through the air inlets and blocked them, overheating the engines that stopped immediately. But despite these initial “little hiccups”, the Panther soon proved that it could destroy the then-feared T-34 tanks at 2,500 meters away with its powerful 75mm gun. At this distance the Panthers were invulnerable to the fire of the Russian tanks and turned the fighting into shooting sessions. It is more than proven that for every German tank destroyed, 4 or 5 Soviet tanks were lost, which in the end fulfilled their objectives at the expense of huge losses of men and vehicles. The fighting in the Eastern Front generally became a constant flight of the Germans at the fastest possible speed, but the few occasions when the Panthers could launch the counterattack, caused real carnage among the Soviet armor. This happened in August 1944 when the 4th SS Panzerkorps annihilated the 2nd Belarusian Tank Army northeast of Warsaw.