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Friday, January 20, 2012

Introducing the Panther Tank

The Panther Tank, aka Sd Kfz 171, was a medium tank deployed by Germany from mid-1943 onwards. It was designed in 1942 in response to the Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks encountered the previous year during Operation Barbarossa, which were a tough match for the Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs. The Tiger was also built for the same reasons, but it was more difficult and expensive to manufacture and was about 30 tons heavier and slower than the Panther which came in a little under 50 tons. Initially the Panther was designated as Panzer V, but I suppose that because it was released after the Tiger, eventually the V was dropped from the name. The Panther was close to being ready just before the German summer offensive of '43 -what became known as the Battle of Kursk-. The intention was to have another Blitzkrieg type of battle, and with the Germans wanting to have their latest and best tanks play a role in it the offensive was delayed by two months. During this time, the Soviets built several defensive belts, with anti-tank ditches, emplaced anti-tank guns, and they also increased their tank numbers. In the end, the German offensive faltered and of the approximately 200 Panthers that were delivered, most were quickly out of action due to mechanical breakdowns or were knocked out due to the inexperience and insufficient training of the crews. One month after going into action, only 9 remained operational. Eventually the reliability of the tank was improved (although never entirely), however by that time the tide of the war had turned and the German manufacturing industry was already under heavy air attack, which further reduced the number of Panthers as well as the availability of spare parts. So, even though the Panther was a good tank in principle, with a high velocity muzzle firing 75mm projectiles capable of penetrating enemy armor at long ranges, good speed and good frontal armor, it was not enough to turn the tide of the ground war. During the course of the war, over 6000 of them were built, seeing action on both the Eastern and Western fronts, and a few other variations of the vehicle were produced, like the Jagdpanther tank destroyer. As far as Toy Soldier manufacturers go, both Forces of Valor and 21st Century Toys have treated us to some very nice vehicles. Let's take a look.


21st Century Toys Panther Tank
This tank is a nice, good looking model, but it is made entirely out of plastic. I actually have two of these models and one of them already lost its antenna, which broke off going in and out of the shelf. Nonetheless it is a faithful reproduction of the original. One thing to note is the overlapping design of the wheels, first introduced with the Tiger and repeated with the Panther.

Forces of Valor Panther Tank
The FOV Panther comes with the rounded gun mantlet. This was a liability of the design as it allowed shots to be deflected downwards into the hull. Later designs -Ausf G-, like the one from 21C Toys, had a flat mantlet with a 'chin' at the botom, which would help against this problem. A nice thing about the FOV Panther is that is also comes with two infantry figures who can ride the tank, not to mention that it is actually made out of metal, which is a good thing when it comes to tanks.

Click here to see a post about the Panzer III.
Click here to see a post about the Panzer IV.
Click here to see a post about the Tiger I.
Click here to see a post about the Tiger II.




3 comments:

  1. Do you find the 21st Century Panther to be true to scale? I have not done any research, but my 3 Panthers sit on the shelf side-by-side with 2 Tiger Is (1 FOV, 1 21st Century, which are identical in size) and not only are the Panthers the same size, but their main armament is longer than that of the Tiger I ! One would think the medium tank would be a little smaller.

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  2. That is a very interesting observation. My FOV Panther and the 21C one are about the same size. The 21C one is about 1/8th of an in shorter in length, so my guess is that they are close to tru scale. The designation of medium vs heavy was also heavily influenced by the thickness of the armor and the caliber of the gun, which resulted in greater weight, not just the size. I just looked up the lengths of the Panther and the Tiger I and it turns out that the Panther Tank was actually longer than the Tiger: 8.66m vs 8.45m with the gun, 6.87m vs 6.29m for the chassis.

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  3. That is great detective work! So 21st Century did get the length of the Panther right, and it is in the proper scale to the Tiger I!

    Thanks!

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