Why Germany’s WWII Panther Tank Is So Polarizing To Experts

Like many new designs — and especially one as rushed as the Panther V — the tank wasn’t without a few bugs that needed ironing out. Some examples of the running changes included the fitting of a second machine gun and a searchlight, a re-designed road wheel, and the elimination of a hatch in the turret in favor of a periscope. In spite of these improvements, there were other reliability concerns with the Panther V that couldn’t be remedied as easily, or at all.

Perhaps the weakest link was the Panther V’s final drive assembly, which connects the engine to the wheels that turn the massive treads. A study conducted by French experts after the war estimated that the final drive assembly could only travel 150 kilometers before failing. 

The French also remarked that the Panther V’s engine wasn’t altogether reliable either, with issues such as overheating, fuel leaks, and a total lifespan of only 1,000 kilometers. The report wasn’t all negative however, as the Panther V’s main gun, frontal armor, and outward visibility was praised.

In sharp contrast to the French study, a German document stated that the Panther V could easily travel 1,500 to 2,000 kilometers between engine overhauls. This boast could simply be dismissed as propaganda, but another explanation is that the Germans assessed reliability using well-trained and careful crews, something that might not be duplicated in the field where both soldiers and equipment were being hurried into service.

[Featured image by Unknown via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 3.0 DE]

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