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The Panther Tank's bad reliability

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by Wolfy, Jun 29, 2009.

  1. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    How much more reliable were the later model A and model G types and were their mechanical reliability still a significant hindrance?

    The Panther D deputed at the Battle of Kursk:

    Here's their record:

    184 Panthers deployed

    44 removed because of mechanical failure

    56 removed because of damage caused by AT mines and enemy fire

    58 Panthers completely lost by the end of Citadel

    -By Day 3 of the operation, only 40 out of 184 Panthers were operational
    -By Day 6 of the operation, only 10 out of 184 Panthers were operational

    Soviets launch counteroffensive and Panthers defend. 96 new Model D Panthers are delivered. German Panther strength in the East Front is now ~222.

    98 more Panthers are lost by the end of the Soviet counter offensive, mostly due to abandonment rather than enemy fire.
     
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    The French Army rated the Panthers they ran postwar with 150KM between major Drivetrain overhaul/rebuild. There were definitely some persistent issues with overstress in that department.
    The first D's were certainly self-igniters, though more an issue of their rushed introduction and maybe a bit of a slur on the overall design (more Adolf's fault for rushing things), it's still an issue that you read of cropping up with the later marks though.

    Drivetrain seems to have been the main issue, that and the difficulty of servicing larger failures in the field (need for turret removal to properly get at broken drives).

    Kevin Wheatcroft seems to have found a fair bit of sabotage evidence in his Panthers too, fag-butts jammed into oil pipes, loosened hidden bolts etc. - You pay slave wages...

    ~A
     
  3. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    The Panther D (and A)
    When the Panther D tank was to be built, Guderian asked for a tank with superior mobility to the T-34. However, what he ended up with was a 45 ton tank with a petrol engine, front wheel drive, and poor suspension. They opted for a complex set of interleaved road wheels, which were quick to clog up with mud, and made it very difficult to change an inner wheel as you would have to take off other wheels. In 1943 no panzer unit equipped with Panther D and early model Panther A tanks were able to sustain an operational readiness rate above 35%. More Panthers were lost to mechanical problems in 1943 than to enemy combat. The transmission system was also poor as 5 percent broke within 100km and almost 90 percent broke down within 1,500km. The final drive on the Panther D was so bad that it could not even turn the tank while backing up. It fuel pumps were also a huge problem, they would often leak and cause massive engine fires. The Panther D and A tanks were so prone to breakdown that they had to transport them by train along with the Tiger I. When some Panther A tanks were first being distributed to the SS-Leibstandarte in Italy, September 1943, they were so poor that every one was rejected for service. In summary, the Panther D was a 45 ton tank running on a chassis built for a 24 ton vehicle with very poor mobility and reliability.

    The Panther G
    The Panther G tanks were not much better. They had very poor fuel consumption rates (a topic I forgot to mention when discussing the Panther D and A but surly prevailing to those two tanks as well). The Panther G could get 60-80 miles on road and 40-50 miles cross country with about 190 gallons of gasoline (To put that into perspective the M4A3 Sherman could get 100 miles on road and about 65 miles cross country with 168 gallons of gasoline). The suspension was improved slightly but still remained a problem. The suspension allowed it to "turn on a dime" but was badly overstressed and suffered from premature stripping of the third gear. Also its single teeth spur gears would often strip very readily. In 1944 during the time of the Battle of the Bulge, in outfits equipped with Panther G tanks, 35-40 percent of them were unavailable due to mechanical problems. This was probably made greater by the lack of fuel and spare parts at that point in the war for Germany. These tanks would often brake down but were so complex that nobody knew how to fix them. And again, similarly to the Panther D, these were shipped by train as long marches with Panthers were not encouraged.
     
  4. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    Interesting stuff. I didn't know that the model G was was unreliable as well. If you read accounts of German armor deployment in mid 1944, you'll find that there were constantly sizable numbers of the Panther force in repair and maintenance. But 2/3rds of the force in the shop? That's pretty disadvantageous.
     
  5. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    You have a great post with alot of information i didnt know. However i think all the Panthers and Tigers had gasoline engines.

    You are correct that these two tanks broke down after a relatively few miles especially when compared to say, a Sherman, which was nothing if not relatively reliable - however transporting tanks and other heavy tracked vehicles by train or even by truck, is generally done whenever possible when not actually in combat, even today, by armies that have the resources to do it. Since not only does driving tanks make them wear out and break faster, they also tear up and ruin most paved roads.
     
  6. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I too thought that they were all gasoline powered, but when I looked up the V-12 Maybach HL230P30 engines used in some of the Panthers, they listed the P30 version as a diesel. However, I don't recall seeing if those were used in all of, part of, or only some versions of the Panther. A diesel would complicate the fuel suppy problem for the Panzer corps, which is why I always assumed the Nazis dropped that concept in reality.

    See:

    http://www.wwiivehicles.com/germany/engines.asp

    The biggest problem the Panther (and both Tigers) had was the final drive weakness in their straight cut gears. The Sherman had helical cut gears which were about twice the strenght at the same weight expense. The reason for the Germans NOT using helical cut gears is a mystery to myself as they were such fine engineers and manufacturers of heavy equipment in other areas. Perhaps it is/was a combination of speed/cost of production?
     
  7. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    I am sorry that is my mistake. I meant to say petrol engine, but Brndirt you are correct, there were some diesel versions. It was originally planned to have a diesel engine but the idea was dropped in favor of the Petrol (I believe). You also highlight a very good point about the weakness of the Panther's final drive. This is a topic I touched on when discussing the Panther A but should have also discussed when talking about the G. In the Panther G and A the final drive was so bad that it had an average life expectancy of about 1,500km but was sometimes even as low as 150km! Furthermore, the pivot turning system I discussed earlier accelerated the failure of the final drive in the hands of an inexperienced driver.

    Just some more technical info on the different versions of the Panther:

    PANTHER AUSF A

    Vehicles Produced: 2,200
    Combat Weight: 44.8 metric tons
    Engine: Maybach HL 230 P 30 12-cylinder Petrol engine
    Power: 600hp at 2,500rpm
    Fuel Capacity: 720 liters
    Ground Pressure: 0.73kg/cm2
    Max Road Speed: 55kph
    Max Cross Country Speed: 30kph
    Operational Range (road): 250km
    Operational Range (cross-country): 100km
    Fuel Consumption (road): 2.8 liters/km
    Fuel Consumption (cross-country): 7.3 liters/km
    Cost: RM 129,000 ($51,600)

    PANTHER AUSF G

    Combat Weight: 44.8 metric tons
    Engine: Mayabach HL 230 P 30 12-cylinder gasoline engine
    Power: 700hp at 3,000 rpm
    Fuel Capacity: 720 liters
    Ground Pressure: 0.88 bar
    Max Road Speed: 55 km/h
    Max Cross Country Speed: 30 km/h
    Operational Range: 70-130 km
    Fuel Consumption (road/cross country): 2.8 to 7 liters per km
     
  8. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Cannot remember the source but recall reading where steel additives were harder to get during later Panther production so obtaining a hardened steel was made difficult. It would not necessarily affect reliability but made the hull, mantle and turret more vulnerable . I never understood why all Panzer's were not diesel as the Germans were pioneers in the field and made huge numbers of diesels of all sizes.....GB
     
  9. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    That is correct. The German production of steel decreased signifigantly in the final year of the war (along with many other major industrial products). In 1944 Germany produced 25.8 million metric tons of steel but in 1945 they only produced 1.4 million metric tons.
     
  10. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Test with captured Panthers showed that armour quality was very uneven, the Soviet's 85mm failed to penetrate in early test with the but had no trouble when they were repeated against a later production vehicle. So it's quite possible the weakness of the final drive was due more to quality assurance than design, this would actually make a G more likely to fail than the earlier models. (but the D had bigger problems than the final drive).
     
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  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The US had diesel Shermans but they went to either the Marines or the Soviets. The rational was they only wanted to ship one type of fuel to a unit. It greatly simplifies logistics. The Germans may have made a similar decision.
     
  12. Vet

    Vet Dishonorably Discharged

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    Based on what I have read after the initial mechanical failures were correct the Panther was a very good tank. They just made a mistake rushing them into duty at Kursk without proper testing.
     
  13. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    That is incorrect, the final drive design was a flaw which was NEVER resolved in the Panther.

    See:

    Tank Overhaul: The Panther: Part 2 : Video : The Military Channel

    Not that it wasn't a damn fine tank in the end, but some of it's design shortcomings were never properly addressed nor corrected.
     
  14. wokelly

    wokelly Member

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    Discovery wasnt doing itself any favors by calling neutral steering on modern tanks a "legacy" of the Panther given the British implemented it on all their new tanks starting with the Churchill in 1940, and the French in fact had either neutral steering or counterrotational steering on their 1930's Char heavy tank to allow for accurate gun laying of its hull gun.

    That said they were right about the US getting into the game quite late, and no Sherman variants had netural steering, and actually had a quite large turning radius. There was no hydraulic steering of any sort, it was all manual power which meant the shermans minimal turn radius was based on the strength of the drive. Had the hulk been the driver you could probably have gotten very sharp turns, with your average man the turn radius was around 30 feet or so. I don't believe it was until the M48 Patton series the US had a tank with neutral steering, which was a nice feature in Korea.
     
  15. delta36

    delta36 Member

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    I knew panzers were gas guzzlers, and that Tiger tanks need alot of repairing, but I never knew any of this
     
  16. phantom

    phantom Member

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  17. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Perhaps Discovery didn't in that case, however I posted the link to show the spur gears in the final drive of the Panther, rather than double helical "herringbone" of the Sherman. That show happened to be the best example of that spur gear arrangement I could find.
     
  18. wokelly

    wokelly Member

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    No nothing was wrong with you posting that video, it is the best thing I have seen that clearly explains to me the transmission problems of the Panther. I was just merely commenting on the rather absurd comment made in that clip that modern tank steering is the "legacy" of the Panther when it is more correctly the "legacy" of the French Char Bis 1 tank.
     
  19. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I suppose one must keep in mind the educational sophistication of the normal Discovery Channel viewer. If they tune into that channel, and then even watched the Panther tear-down and rebuild, they would probably remember that tank and its part in WW2, but be totally "gob-smacked" by the mention of the Char Bis 1 tank of the French if it was included.
     
  20. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Interesting numbers. Do you have sources? I am not questioning your, but I do recall that the 35-40% was the deadline rate, not readiness. Now, this is none too good for what essentially were zero-hour tanks and the number of losses to mechanical failure after the battle was reportedly gigantic, but still, a big difference.
     

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