Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf A (Sd Kfz 171) (Zimmerit) - The Panther is considered the best all round tank of the war. It combines an extra-long 7.5cm L/70 gun with thick, well sloped armour and high mobility - pack contains 1 Tank, 1 Tank Commander and 1 Dismounted Crew figures.
When the T-34 tank was first encountered on the eastern front it caused the Germans much trouble, it also inspired new thinking about tank design. The Panther was a result of what was learnt from the Soviet T-34. General Heinz Guderian was one of those who realised that things could be learned from Soviet design.
A team of designers and engineers was sent to the Eastern Front to inspect and test the T-34, with an eye to incorporating useful design features into future German tank designs.
The sloped armour of the T-34 gave much improved shot deflection and increased the armour thickness against penetration, it's wide tracks and large road wheels improved mobility over soft ground, and it's 76.2mm gun, with good armour penetration and an effective high-explosive round, were all seen as key advantages.
Daimler-Benz (DB) and Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg AG (MAN) set about designing a new 30-35-ton tank to be designated VK3002 by April 1942.
The two designs were delivered on time. The Daimler-Benz (DB) design was very close to the T-34, even as far as keeping he engineering simple, much like the Soviet prototype.
It also retained the diesel engine and similar suspension. The MAN design was more Germanic, higher and wider with a larger turret placed further back on the hull, a petrol engine, torsion-bar suspension and a typical German internal crew layout.
The MAN design won out, oddly even though Hitler preferred the more T-34 like DB design. The MAN designs advantage was that it used an already existing Rheinmetall designed turret, while the DB design required a brand new turret to be designed.
A prototype was produced by September 1942 and after testing officially accepted. Though a high priority was put on the new tank production was delayed due to a lack of specialized machine tools needed for the hull. The first tanks came of the production line in December 1942, but suffered from reliability problems.
The Panther was very well armoured. It had thick sloped hull front armour: 80mm @ 55 degrees. The turret front had a semi-circular 100mm mantlet. However the side armour was relatively thin (40-50mm). The thinner side armour was necessary to keep the tank's overall weight down, but it made the Panther vulnerable to attacks from the side by most tank and anti-tank guns. German tactical doctrine for the use of the Panther thus emphasised the importance of flank protection. 5mm skirt armour (Schürzen) was added to the hull sides to provide protection for the lower side hull from Soviet anti-tank rifle fire. Zimmerit anti magnetic mine coating was added to production from the introduction of the Ausf. A until the coating was removed from production in September 1944.
The Panther was armed with the 7.5cm Rheinmetall KwK42 (L/70). It carried 79 rounds in the tank. While the KwK42 didn't quite have the same reputation as the 88 it was, nonetheless, one of the most powerful tank guns of the war. It had a large propellant charge and the long barrel gave it a very high muzzle velocity and excellent armour-penetration. The KwK42 was actually a better anti-tank gun than the 8.8cm KwK36 L/56 gun fitted to the Tiger I, but it was later surpassed by the 8.8cm KwK43 L/71 of the Tiger II and Jagdpanther.
Two MG-34 machine-guns were also fitted, one co-axially with the main gun in the turret and the second in the hull front. The Ausf A models eventually did away with the "letterbox" flap hull MG port and introduced a ball mount.
The Ausf A also introduced a new cast commander's cupola. It featured a steel hoop to which a third MG-34 could be mounted for use in the anti-aircraft role, though usually the hull machine-gun relocated to this position on the march and it wasn't usually fitted in combat.
Panther Ausf. A - General characteristics
Number produced: 2,192
Crew:5 (Driver, radio-operator, commander, gunner, loader)
Length: 6.87 m, 8.66 m with gun forward
Width: 3.42 m
Height: 2.99 m
Weight: 44.8 tonnes
Main armament: 1x7.5cm KwK42 L/70, 79 rounds
Secondary armament: 2×7.92mm Maschinengewehr 34, 5,100 rounds
Power plant: V12 petrol Maybach HL230 P30, 700hp (520kW)
Suspension: double torsion bar, interleaved road wheels
Road speed:55 km/h
Range: 250 km
The Model -
Evan has taken opportunity to re-master the Panther model, it is now a little lower, both the hull and turret reduced slightly in height to bring the model closer to the prototype. It's also a little wider for the same reason. It now has seperate driver and radio-operator's hatches you can leave open if you wish. The model also comes with one piece cupola/hatch castings, one open and one closed, no more knocking your hatch off mid game (don't you hate that, I know I do). A seperate jack, front guards and, finally, you get two mounted crew miniatures. The smaller head and shoulders one can be used in the drivers or radio-operators hatch as well as a commander.
In Flames of War -
A number of Panther A's were used towards the end of the mid war on the eastern front, so they make a great alternative to the Panther D.
In the Late War they saw service in Normandy and Italy. By this time they have all the bugs ironed out of them. They are Fully-tracked with the Wide tracks special rule, making them hard to Bog Down. They have Front armour 10, Side armour 5 and Top armour 1. Their KwK42 gun sends terror through any Allied commander with a Range of 32"/80cm, ROF 2, AT 14 and FP 3+. In addition they have Co-ax and Hull MGs.