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Panther engine fire question

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by BoltActionSupremacy, Jun 5, 2011.

  1. BoltActionSupremacy

    BoltActionSupremacy Member

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    Apparently if a Panther tank tipped over a certain angle that the engine would catch alight, for some reason my interpretation was that the fuel would slosh to one side of the tank, but the link between this and the fires seems pretty obscure to me

    So is this true? Also what would be the exact cause of the fires?

    Thanks

    Rob
     
  2. CPL Punishment

    CPL Punishment Member

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    The fuel system of the Panther was notoriously leaky, just one of the problems that was never completely fixed in that needlessly complex AFV. Loose fuel would pool under the engine, and would sometimes get into the fighting compartment as well. On a hot day the smell of gasoline would sometimes get so strong inside a Panther that the men would grow faint.

    Perhaps when the tank was tipped strongly to one side pooled fuel could splash on the exhaust manifold and ignite.

    The problem seems to have had its origin in the requirement that the tank could wade a watercourse up to 2 meters deep, and even deeper with preparation. The air intakes on the rear deck were designed to be coupled to a snorkel and the exhaust outlets could be fitted with extensions, otherwise the engine compartment was entirely airtight. Consequently the whole compartment got very hot, which tended to open joints and seams.
     
  3. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The major problem was that the cooling system was inadequite and the engine compartment could get hot enough to auto ignite gasoline. Therefore, any stray gas and you have a fire. A bunch of various fixes were made to get more cooling air directed into the lower part of the engine compartment as a result. These include a small forced air fan (seen as a raised unit on the left side of the engine compartment deck), adding two small pipes on the left exhaust manifold to draw in air, etc. In the end the problem was minimized but never eliminated.
     
  4. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    Everybody above has a lot of the details right. Modern tanks are almost all fueled by diesel fuel (the American M1 tank has a turbine engine that can run on diesel or jet fuel, or even kerosene i think). The russian T 34 was fueled by diesel fuel, which is slightly easier to refine then gasoline and much less dangerous for the tank crew. But all the German heavy tanks of WW2 were gasoline powered. Diesel ignites much less readily then gasoline does, diesel has a flash point of 143 degrees F while gasoline has a flash point of MINUS (-) 43 degrees F. Thus a diesel powered tank is generally preferable to a gasoline powered same, for crew safety when it gets hit by anti-tank fire or mines, and safer handling of the thousands of gallons of fuel that every tank unit requires.

    (The question of diesel vs. gas powered armored vehicles never seems to go away, this was an issue with the American M113 armored personnel carrier used in Vietnam in the 1960's. The M113 was light, had excellent amphibious capability, and was a good all-around armored workhorse. But its armor was aluminum, only about 1 inch thick, and the heaviest hit it could take without destruction was .50 caliber. Worse, the early M113's used in Vietnam had gasoline engines. After a number of crews, too many, burned alive during combat action after relatively light hits from the enemy, the commanding General in Vietnam ordered that all M113's bound for Vietnam be retrofitted with DIESEL engines to help reduce the fire problem).

    To top it off, the Panther had an air-cooled engine, mounted in the air and water-tight compartment as described above - and to top it off it was too underpowered for the heavy vehicles it propelled (The king tiger, which weighed at least 10 tons more then a Panther, used the same engine). Air cooling has proven not to be very practical, in any engine bigger then a VW beetle, let alone a 40 ton Armored fighting vehicle. So you have to wonder what the engineers were thinking when they designed the Panther because this was practically a guaranteed recipe for engine fires

    (Several Panthers had to be abandoned by their crews at the Battle of Kursk in July 5, 1943, before the fighting even started, when it was noticed that FLAMEs were shooting out the exhaust pipes. Source: Citadel by Robin Cross)

    In time the Panther did become a first class fighting vehicle, by the time the "G" model came out, most of the problems had been fixed. The Germans had high hopes for the Panther, judging by the production numbers, it was the most prolific German heavy tank - but the story of the war for the Germans was too little, too late, for just about everything. For any chance at all to reverse the outcome of the war in 1943, the year the Panther was introduced, the Germans would have needed at least 10 times as many tanks as they did produce.

    German medium and heavy tank production figures (approximate - anzer Mark III excluded)

    Panzer Mark IV: 8,000
    Tiger 1: 1011
    Tiger 2: 450
    Panther: over 5,000
    .
     
  5. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Excuse me? The Maybach engine which powered both the "Tiger" and "Panther" were liquid cooled, not air-cooled. I will supply you with data as to cooling if you need to have it "marc780", see below.

    Goto:

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

     
  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The Maybach engine was water cooled but the engine compartment itself was very cramped and the bottom protion poorly ventilated. This caused heat to build up in the compartment and auto ignite any stray gasoline. The most common fix is the addition of the two small pipes on the left exhaust casing. These drew air into the lower engine compartment and forced turn over of the air there keeping the bottom area cooler. It wasn't a perfect fix but it helped.
     
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  7. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I read a report of a Panther batallion loosing two brand new vehicles to fire, one a total loss, while being moved by train to the front (will try to find it again), IMO this looks more like sabotage than anything else. Was "slave labour" used in panther construction?
     
  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Foreign labor was but not slave per se. Alot of Polish, French and, workers of other nationalities were used in German factories as paid workers. Their loyality was often dubious at best. There is an episode of Tank Overhaul where they are rebuilding a Panther. The restoration crew finds loose bolts and even cigarette butts in the final drive assembly for example.
     
  9. RAM

    RAM Member

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    That happens not only during war time manufacturing. Way back in the sixties my father owned a Peugeot 404 Sedan. After being left outdoor with open side windows during a rain shower, it was an arduous job to remove the interior for drying. Under the floor carpet he found several french coins and cigarette butts! He gave the coins to me, and I think I still have them somewhere among my belongings.
     
  10. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    OK i stand corrected, post has been edited.
     
  11. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    No wonder they can't sell any cars here anymore.
     
  12. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

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  13. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

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    Actually, air-cooling works fine for a 40 ton or more Armored Fighting Vehicle as evidenced by the Continental Motors gasoline AV1790 and diesel AVDS1790 with powered the M-46, M-47, M-48, and M-60 tanks and are still in US service in the M-88 and Hercules tank recovery vehicle. The same engine has also seen extensive service with Israel in the Sho't (upgraded centurion) and Merkava mark 1-3.
     
  14. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    thanks for the correction on the engine cooling issue i will edit it sometime with corrections per that site.
     
  15. ptimms

    ptimms Member

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    The Panther's all breakdown and catch fire seems to be another internet legend, if you read Guderians report which is quoted extensively in Jentz shows that most fell out due to suspension damage (and this was mostly down to mines unsuprisingly).
    Admittedly after seven days only 10 were in the field (out of 200). 25 were burnt out (23 from enemy action and 2 burnt out from fuel pump failiures on the approach). 100 were in need of repair (56 from hits and mines and 44 from breakdown). 60% of the breakdowns were noted as easy repairs and about 40 had already been repaired and were on the way back to the front. 25 were still to be recovered from the field.

    The report states the most common mechanical issue was the fuel pump leaking which did cause fires and when on steep slopes caused fires. However the fires were extinguished by the crew or the automatic fire extinguisher system. Only 3 were lost to fuel fires. Motor failiures were high totalling about 50 but this fell off as the battle progressed and was put down as being rushed into action without them being run in properly.

    On the 20th of July of 200 vehicles
    41 were operational
    85 were repairable by regimental repair facilities
    16 needed to go back to Germany for repair
    56 had been destroyed to prevent capture after damage of some sort
    7 had been burnt out by enemy action but not blown up (captured?)
    2 burnt out with fuel fires before the battle

    Hardly the disasterous start often mentioned. Guderian was pleased overall with the unit.
     

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