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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > World War II > Armor in World War II

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Armor in World War II Discuss all aspects & disciplines of World War II Armor here.

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  #46  
Old 04 Jul 17, 18:17
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Originally Posted by Emtos View Post
Actually both the Panther and Tiger were good tanks for their price. Only the King Tiger was clearly not worth his price.
Depends on what Germany could afford
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Old 04 Jul 17, 18:40
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Depends on what Germany could afford
A Panther costed around 1/4-13/3 more than a Pz IV with a far beter gun and armor.
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Old 04 Jul 17, 19:06
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Originally Posted by Emtos View Post
A Panther costed around 1/4-13/3 more than a Pz IV with a far beter gun and armor.
Your figures don't make sense - please clarify
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Old 04 Jul 17, 19:17
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Your figures don't make sense - please clarify
A Pz IV costed around 46 000 $ while a Panther costed around 60 000 $.
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  #50  
Old 04 Jul 17, 20:23
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Originally Posted by Emtos View Post
A Pz IV costed around 46 000 $ while a Panther costed around 60 000 $.
Studies on armor vs. armor fighting showed that gun and armor did not take the fight so that is $14,000 wasted. Armor's main use during the war was also not the anti armor role but the blow stuff up role so the Panther's gun is further a waste.
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Old 05 Jul 17, 04:11
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Actually both the Panther and Tiger were good tanks for their price. Only the King Tiger was clearly not worth his price.
The Panther was a disaster on its debut and took a while to fix; the Mk IV was arguable a better vehicle. The Tiger was mis-employed in 1942 which highlighting its significant shortcomings. Both specially problematic given German issues with spares and POL.

The Tiger had its uses, but turns out to be a replacement for combined-arms operations and rather weds the Pz. Division to a defensive role given its weight, mobility and POL requirements.

It comes down to an operational versus tactical evaluation of 'good', but used in their element by skilled crews, they had their merits.
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Old 05 Jul 17, 04:13
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Originally Posted by JBark View Post
Studies on armor vs. armor fighting showed that gun and armor did not take the fight so that is $14,000 wasted. Armor's main use during the war was also not the anti armor role but the blow stuff up role so the Panther's gun is further a waste.
It would be very interesting to see those studies. Because Allied soldiers on all front had difficulties to deal with big cats. Increase the numbers of old stuff wouldn't have made it.
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Old 05 Jul 17, 05:28
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Originally Posted by Emtos View Post
It would be very interesting to see those studies. Because Allied soldiers on all front had difficulties to deal with big cats. Increase the numbers of old stuff wouldn't have made it.
The studies JBark refers to are here and here. Given that the studies involve less than 1000 items, they are not necessarily statistically probable, but are an indication that factors beyond gun/armour are as relevant to winning an armoured engagement.

What both reports imply is that getting off the first shot is more important, and thus vision devices are as important as gun and armour. It should be noted that German tanks were killing Allied tanks at greater ranges overall, although it was the defenders that usually won, regardless of tank.

This is simply because war is not fair. In the West tank combats were usually not 'jousts', but ambushes, due to the nature of the terrain. This is why hits on a tank were usually the turret front (enemy targeting a hull down defender) or hull sides (defender attacking an enemy moving in the open).

It should be noted that tank combat was slightly different in the East, especially in the more open and flat areas, which is why the hull front was more likely to be hit than the sides, hence the initial armour disposition of the Panther.
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Old 05 Jul 17, 05:33
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I suspect the late war Panzer IV's were another can of worms as far as reliability was concerned. The early to mid-war Pz.IV's had an engine life of 1200-1500 miles, as per the Panzer III, as they had more or less the same engine - the Maybach HL-120. I would think that this figure would have been compromised on the later models, which are practically mounting double the armour.

What the Germans really should have invested money in is tank transporters and general logistical support, rather than more and more rarified tanks. This would have aided their battlefield performance in that it would have enabled them to do a lot more with the tanks they already had. I remember in another thread Cult Icon estimated that the operational state of the typical German Panzer Regiment was about 50% for the entire duration of the war i.e. only half the tanks they ever fielded actually saw combat at any time. They should have been aiming to raise this to as near 100% as they possibly could.
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Old 05 Jul 17, 06:11
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I suspect the late war Panzer IV's were another can of worms as far as reliability was concerned. The early to mid-war Pz.IV's had an engine life of 1200-1500 miles, as per the Panzer III, as they had more or less the same engine - the Maybach HL-120. I would think that this figure would have been compromised on the later models, which are practically mounting double the armour.

What the Germans really should have invested money in is tank transporters and general logistical support, rather than more and more rarified tanks. This would have aided their battlefield performance in that it would have enabled them to do a lot more with the tanks they already had. I remember in another thread Cult Icon estimated that the operational state of the typical German Panzer Regiment was about 50% for the entire duration of the war i.e. only half the tanks they ever fielded actually saw combat at any time. They should have been aiming to raise this to as near 100% as they possibly could.
US intelligences reports indicate that even when tank transporters were available they were not used for battle field recovery as loading was deemed to take too long and they were very slow if used off road. Battlefield recovery followed these processes.
  • The repair section would patrol the battlefield and prepare any tanks to be recovered for towing. This might include jacking them up and placing skids under the tracks
  • The recovery platoon would then tow them off the battlefield using turretless tanks (bergepanzer) to a collection area (usually near a good road)
  • If the cause of the tank breakdown was a relatively simple mechanical failure it would be repaired on the spot in the collection area by the repair section and possibly men from the repair platoons
  • If the problem was more severe but the tank was deemed still worth saving (and there was time) it would then be loaded on a trailer and taken to the regimental workshop. Where possible these would be concealed in existing commercial/industrial buildings. Increasingly in NW Europe this was done at night because of Allied fighter bomber patrols
  • If the tank had to be abandoned because there was not time to repair it or move it back to the workshop it would be "scuttled". If the enemy was getting close this was done by draining the fluid from the main gun recoil and then firing a round. If time permitted demolition charges would be used.

The main bottleneck for recovery appears not to have been the shortage of transporters but that of bergepanzers. Whilst panzer III and IVs were converted the majority of these were old Panthers. Increasing the number of bergepanzers available would have required building more Panthers! What producing more transporters would have done was to reduce the need for long tank treks where the rail network was either damaged or didn't go where the tanks were wanted. This would have reduced wear and tear on the tanks.
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Old 05 Jul 17, 08:51
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Yes, reducing the need for tanks to undertake long route marches on their own tracks was what I was thinking of.

The other thing the Germans should have prioritised was increasing the durability of the automotive components in their tanks, especially the engines and transmissions. One advantage here is that even if a tank is quickly knocked out, these components can be recovered and used as spares.
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Old 05 Jul 17, 09:32
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Yes, reducing the need for tanks to undertake long route marches on their own tracks was what I was thinking of.

The other thing the Germans should have prioritised was increasing the durability of the automotive components in their tanks, especially the engines and transmissions. One advantage here is that even if a tank is quickly knocked out, these components can be recovered and used as spares.
There may have been a problem with the availability of specialist steels. As was the case in WW1 Germany had problems with lack of access to sources of nickel, chrome etc - alloying metals needed to make such steels. Whilst they had had about two years worth stockpiled in 1914 I can find no evidence of similar stockpiling in advance of 1939. Germany did get a boost from the French stockpile after 1940 but this could not be renewed and whilst tungsten (Wolfram) was bought in Portugal and covertly shipped through Spain to the French border British pressure on the Salazar regime coupled with a good deal of undercover skulduggery eventually choked it off. AFAIK these special extra tough and hard steels were reserved for aero-engines and things like artillery where ordinary steels were no substitute. Thanks to Swedish iron ore and her own coal industry (as well as that of France and Poland) Germany could produce enough 'ordinary' steels and these could be used for some automotive components that specialised steels would have been better for even if they did wear out and break more frequently than would otherwise have been the case.
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Old 05 Jul 17, 17:05
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There may have been a problem with the availability of specialist steels. As was the case in WW1 Germany had problems with lack of access to sources of nickel, chrome etc - alloying metals needed to make such steels. Whilst they had had about two years worth stockpiled in 1914 I can find no evidence of similar stockpiling in advance of 1939. Germany did get a boost from the French stockpile after 1940 but this could not be renewed and whilst tungsten (Wolfram) was bought in Portugal and covertly shipped through Spain to the French border British pressure on the Salazar regime coupled with a good deal of undercover skulduggery eventually choked it off. AFAIK these special extra tough and hard steels were reserved for aero-engines and things like artillery where ordinary steels were no substitute. Thanks to Swedish iron ore and her own coal industry (as well as that of France and Poland) Germany could produce enough 'ordinary' steels and these could be used for some automotive components that specialised steels would have been better for even if they did wear out and break more frequently than would otherwise have been the case.
Some very excellent points here, but the Panthers real problem lay in its final drive. This could have been remedied, and with existing tech, but never was.

I do think the OP and overall combat worth of the MK V are two different issues. In Normandy, the Panthers strengths of HV gun, great main gun sight, and thick sloping hull front armour was mitigated/negated by terrain. Reliability was almost irrelevant, and most Panthers were knocked out by 75mm Shermans in the sides, or at close ranges.
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Old 06 Jul 17, 07:54
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I do think the OP and overall combat worth of the MK V are two different issues. In Normandy, the Panthers strengths of HV gun, great main gun sight, and thick sloping hull front armour was mitigated/negated by terrain. Reliability was almost irrelevant, and most Panthers were knocked out by 75mm Shermans in the sides, or at close ranges.
I keep on trying to make this point, but are you not conflating the tactical advantages of a Panther in full workings order (rare until 1944) with operational issues of dealing with its terrible reliabiliy.

The former is good in a Top Trump way, the later is a problem in terms of Corps / Army command. As turned out at Kursk, Mius, Dnieper (though it had improved a little by then). The need for recovery and repair being crucially linked to MTBF, where the Panther was appalling (to say nothing of the spares situation and its fuel-consumption, which was also poor). Normandy was a shallow front by comparison, but the issues still exists.

Given the discussion on recovery and transport issues - in which the IV was markedly superior - I am still mystified as to why the V is viewed as inherently superior to the IV long 75 when it came actually to employing Pz. Divisions until about mid-44.
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Old 06 Jul 17, 10:20
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I have been looking at a number of accounts of the Panther and in all but one case there seems to be a consensus that there was a problem with the transmission and in particular 3rd gear. There is less agreement as to the cause. The one dissenting voice is from a group reporting on the restoration of a Panther who reported finding no problem.
It is possible I think to combine all of these into a plausible narrative.

The reasons given for the issues can be summarised as falling into three categories
  • Inadequate design
  • Driver inexperience/inadequate training
  • Inferior materials

Inadequate design
The third gear design is said to have received less time and attention than any of the others because of time pressures to get the Panther into service and on the grounds that third gear would be the one used least. In reality third gear was the one used most.

Driver inexperience/inadequate training
The reason given for the excessive use of third gear is attributed to lack of driver skill in the Panther. This is put down to a number of reasons. Initially the Panther was new so nobody had experience in it and pressure to get it into action meant that training was skimped. Increasing fuel shortages continued to restrict driver training.

Inferior materials
It has been suggested that the ball and roller bearings used were inferior and frequently failed. The restoration group sent theirs away for testing and reported that they were well up to standard. However it should be noted that the bearings produced in Germany were chrome nickel steel and Germany was desperately short of both chrome and nickel. Further more there had been production problems ever since ball bearing manufacture had been dispersed to avoid further Allied air raids. Germany was forced to rely increasingly on Swedish ball and roller bearings which were probably the best in the world and it is possible that the bearings in the restoration Panther were Swedish, However the 3rd Reich relied heavily on Swiss Banks for hard currency to pay for imports (as the war progressed the RM became anything but a hard currency and Germany's credit rating was falling as her eventual defeat seemed ever more inevitable). Currency loans had to have gold as a collateral and Germany was rapidly exhausting the gold she had looted, stolen and otherwise extorted from her victims - so there would be a limit on what she could buy from Sweden. That ball bearings were recognised as a problem in the Panther is shown by a project to redesign the transmission to use sleeve bearings instead and retro fit all existing Panthers. However doing what amounts to a product recall in the middle of a war is somewhat unrealistic and the German surrender arrived first.

So if we posit a badly designed transmission component on which extra strain is thrown through driver inexperience and in which inferior materials may have been used we have a recipe for unreliability

Some useful sources
Bob Carruthers The Panther V in Combat: Guderian's Problem Child
Michael Green Gladys Green Panzers at War
Michael Green Gladys Green Panther: Germany’s quest for combat dominance
Christian Leitz Nazi Germany and Neutral Europe During the Second World War
Steve Zaloga Panther vs Sherman: Battle of the Bulge 1944 (Duel)
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