Sd Kfz 173 Jagdpanther (E1951.24)
The turreted Panther tank mounted a 75mm gun but, by eliminating the turret and adding a fixed superstructure it proved possible to mount a larger gun, the Tiger's formidable 88mm. The Jagdpanther was also renowned for the exceptional use of sloped armour and it remains a modern, sleek looking design. Even so there were problems. Since the gun had limited traverse the driver often had to swing the entire vehicle to bring the gun to bear and after a while this resulted a period of final drive gear failures. Once this was remedied it turned out to be a fearsome weapon; in a well selected ambush location, for which the camouflage shown on our exhibit was typical, the Jagdpanther could destroy a number of opponents before being discovered and attacked. Although issued to anti-tank battalions to start with these vehicles later found their way into tank units who generally would have prefered turreted vehicles.
This Jagdpanther was one of a batch found partly completed on the production lines at MNH (Hannover) after the German surrender and completed under supervision by REME.
Precise Name: Jagdpanther
Other Names: SdKfz 173, Panzerjager fur 8.8cm PaK43 auf Fgst Panther I, Pz Jag Panther, 8.8cm Pak 43(L/71) auf Pz Jag Panther
Development of a Panzerjager, (literally ‘tank hunter’), based on the chassis of the Panzerkampfwagen V or Panther I (see E1949.338) started in October 1942. The new vehicle was to mount a high velocity, 8.8cm anti-tank gun 71 calibres long, the PaK43/3. Krupp, Daimler Benz and MIAG (of Braunschweig) all had design responsibility at different stages of the development. A prototype was ready by December 1943 and the first production model was completed in January 1944.
A Panzerjaeger is, in essence, a turretless tank. Early Panzerjaegers had open topped hulls, later ones, like the Jagdpanther and the Hetzer (see E1951.20), were fully enclosed The main gun is carried in a limited traverse mounting in the front of the hull. The gun is traversed over large angles by slewing the whole vehicle on its’ tracks.
The main advantages of the Panzerjager configuration are:
- lower first cost and quicker manufacture (turrets are very expensive and complex)
- not having a turret saves weight, allowing a larger gun and/or thicker armour to be carried
- a lower profile than a tank.
The main drawback of the Panzerjaeger is the lack of tactical flexibility inherent in having to move the whole vehicle to aim the gun; this is especially relevant in offensive operations. In contrast its’ other characteristics – a low silhouette making it easy to conceal, a large gun and (perhaps) thick frontal armour - were especially beneficial in the sort of defensive fighting that the German Army was engaged in during the last two years of the war.
It is worth noting that the German Army distinguished between Panzerjaeger and Sturmgeschutze (Assault Guns). The former were seen anti-tank weapons, the latter were conceived as mobile, armoured infantry support guns operated by the artillery branch of the Army.
Called the Jagdpanther, (‘Hunting Panther’), the new vehicle was carried on the chassis of the Kampfpanzer V Panther I and had the same running gear, tracks and Maybach petrol engine. The drive train was enhanced by the installation of a heavy-duty ZF transmission. The five members of the crew were fully enclosed in the all welded hull. The armour forming the front of the superstructure was 8cms thick, sloped at 55 degrees to improve its’ resistance to enemy fire.
The 8.8cm PaK 43 was a formidable weapon. Installed in the front plate of the superstructure it had a muzzle velocity of 1,000 metres/sec, was extremely accurate and could penetrate 16.5cms of armour plate sloped at 30 degrees at a range of 1,000 metres. All contemporary British, American and Soviet tanks were vulnerable to its’ fire at ranges of up to 2,000 yards.
Fortunately for the Allies, German industry was only able to build the Jagdpanther in limited quantities due to shortages of raw materials and parts and because of the disruption caused by Allied bombing.
In all about 400 were made between January 1944 and March 1945, (different sources quote numbers between 392 and 415 vehicles). Production was shared between MIAG (270), MNH in Hannover (112) and MBA (37).
They were first issued to the 559th and 654th Panzerjaegerabteilung. The latter unit was the only one to have a full complement of 42 vehicles, the other Abteilung having to make do with a single Kompanie of 10 –14 Jagdpanthers. Small numbers were also issued to seven Panzer Divisions, the Fuhrer Panzer Grenadier Division and a single tank Brigade. Jagdpanthers fought on the eastern front, in Normandy and the Ardennes offensive (December-January 1945).
The Tank Museum’s Jagdpanther is a late production model, distinguished from early vehicles by the bolted collar around the gun mantlet and a two piece gun barrel. Like the Museum’s Panther Aus G it has the curious distinction of being built for the British Army after the end of the war. It was one of a batch found incomplete on the production line at MNH (Hannover) after the German surrender and was finished under the supervision of troops from the Royal Mechanical and Electrical Engineers.
The world’s armies largely neglected the Panzerjaeger type of vehicle after World War II. The Soviet Union continued to produce the SU100 (see E1958.21), and the Swedish Army adopted a turretless tank, the Stridsvagen S103 in the 1960s (see E1995.105). The British and Germans jointly developed an experimental turretless Chieftain in the 1970s that resembled the Jagdpanther; it was unofficially called ‘Jagd Chieftain’. It was found to be inferior to a turreted tank in tests.
Summary text by Mike Garth V1.0