The front of the turret was a curved 100 mm thick cast armor mantlet. Its transverse-cylindrical shape meant that it was more likely to deflect shells, but the lower section created a shot trap. If a non-penetrating hit bounced downwards off its lower section, it could penetrate the thin forward hull roof armor, and plunge down into the front hull compartment. Penetrations of this nature could have catastrophic results, since the compartment housed the driver and radio operator sitting along both sides of the massive gearbox and steering unit; more importantly, four magazines containing main gun ammunition were located between the driver/radio operator seats and the turret, directly underneath the gun mantlet when the turret was facing forward.
From September 1944, a slightly redesigned mantlet with a flattened and much thicker lower "chin" design started to be fitted to Panther Ausf G models, the chin being intended to prevent such deflections. Conversion to the "chin" design was gradual, and Panthers continued to be produced to the end of the war with the rounded gun mantlet.
In most cases the Panther's gun mantlet could not be penetrated by the M4s 75 mm gun, the T-34s 76.2 mm gun, or the T-34-85s 85 mm gun. But it could be penetrated by well-aimed shots at 100 m by the 76mm M1A1 gun used on certain models of the M4, at 500 m by the Soviet A-19 122 mm gun on the IS-2 and at over 2500 yards (2286 m) by the British Ordnance QF 17 pounder using APDS ammunition. The side turret armor of 45 mm (1.8 in) was vulnerable to penetration at long range by almost all Allied tank guns, including the M4's 75 mm gun which could penetrate it at 1,500 m (0.93 mi). These were the main reasons for continued work on a redesigned Panther turret, the Schmalturm.
The Ausf A model introduced a new cast armor commander's cupola, replacing the more difficult to manufacture forged cupola. It featured a steel hoop to which a third MG 34 or either the coaxial or the bow machine gun could be mounted for use in the anti-aircraft role, though it was rare for this to be used in actual combat situations.
The first Panthers (Ausf D) had a hydraulic motor that could traverse the turret at a maximum rate of one complete revolution in one minute, independent of engine speed. This slow speed was improved in the Ausf A model with a hydraulic traverse that varied with engine speed; one full turn taking 46 seconds at an engine speed of 1,000 rpm but only 15 seconds if the engine was running at 3,000 rpm. This arrangement was a slight weakness, as traversing the Panther's turret rapidly onto a target required close coordination between the gunner and driver who had to run the engine to maximum speed. By comparison, the turret of the M4 Sherman turret traversed at up to 360 degrees in 15 seconds and was independent of engine speed, which gave it an advantage over the Panther in close-quarters combat. As usual for tanks of the period, a hand traverse wheel was provided for the Panther gunner to make fine adjustment of his aim.
After the Panther II project died, a more limited upgrade of the Panther was planned, centered around a re-designed turret. The Ausf F variant was slated for production in April 1945, but the war ended these plans.
The earliest known redesign of the turret was dated November 7, 1943 and featured a narrow gun mantlet behind a 120 mm (4.7 in) thick turret front plate. Another design drawing by Rheinmettall dated March 1, 1944 reduced the width of the turret front even further; this was the Turm-Panther (Schmale Blende) (Panther with narrow gun mantlet).
Several experimental Schmalturm (literally: "narrow turret") were built in 1944 with modified versions of the 75 mm KwK 42 L/70, which were given the designation of KwK 44/1. A few were captured and shipped back to the U.S. and Britain. One is on display at the Bovington Tank Museum.
The Schmalturm had a much narrower front face of 120 mm (4.7 in) armor sloped at 20 degrees; side turret armor was increased to 60 mm (2.4 in) from 45 mm (1.8 in); roof turret armor increased to 40 mm (1.6 in) from 16 mm (0.63 in); and a bell shaped gun mantlet similar to that of the Tiger II was used. This increased armor protection also had a slight weight saving due to the overall smaller size of the turret.
The Panther Ausf F would have had the Schmalturm, with its better ballistic protection, and an extended front hull roof which was slightly thicker. The Ausf F's Schmalturm was to have a built-in stereoscopic rangefinder and lower weight than the original turrets. A number of Ausf F hulls were built at Daimler-Benz and Ruhrstahl-Hattingen steelworks; however there is no evidence that any completed Ausf F saw service before the end of the war.
Proposals to equip the Schmalturm with the 88mm KwK 43 L/71 were made from January through March 1945. These would have likely equipped future German tanks but none were built, as the war ended.
The Panther was the third most produced German armored fighting vehicle.
0 blog comments below