Soviet Panthers

As with the German tanks that came before it, the Soviets gave the Panther an index derived from the German index, but with the awkward PzKpfw. V (try writing that on a Cyrillic typewriter) replaced with a much more easily palatable T-5. As with the other tanks, the index was sometimes written Type 5, T-V (or T-У, when the V character wasn’t available). The tank was also commonly known by the Russian word for Panther: Pantera (Пантера).

Following the revelation of the T-5 premium tank, this article is going to take a look at the Panther as viewed and used by the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army during WWII.

Officially, the Panther was not particularly beloved by the Red Army. 4th Tank Army commander Lieutenant-General Lelyushenko wrote to GABTU KA:

“At this time, I do not think it reasonable to create units from captured Panther tanks.

The tanks are difficult to use and repair. There are no spare parts, which complicates service. In order to fuel them, a constant supply of high quality aircraft gasoline is needed.

Futhermore, the army does not have ammunition for the model 1942 75 mm tank gun in sufficient quantities, as ammunition from the model 1940 gun is unusable in the Panther tank. I recommend the T-4 type tank as more suitable for covert operations, as it is simpler in use and maintenance, and widely used in the German army.”

Ironically, the 4th Tank Army was the only one that CAMD RF contains records for gathering any Panther tanks for the formation of a captured tank unit, according to M. Svirin’s research.

Scientists, engineers, and military analysts did not see anything exceptionally interesting in the Panther either. The information compendium titled “New types of German tanks and assault guns, part 1: Tanks” assembled after Kursk dedicated only 19 pages to the newfound Panther tanks, 29 of which were examined by the commission. In comparison, the 9 PzKpfw. III Ausf. M tanks took up 47 pages. Combat reports on the tanks were devoid of the typical fluff about “heroic actions of the defenders”, and are rather bland in comparison to what you would see written about a Tiger or a Ferdinand. (M. Svirin, “Pantera” PzKpfw V, Exprint, 1995)

Now that we’re past all the boring paperwork stuff, let’s get to the good part: combat use!

Captured Panther tanks used by Guards Lieutenant Sotnikov's company, near Prague, 1945.

Captured Panther tanks used by Guards Lieutenant Sotnikov’s tank company.

The above is one of the few photographs of Soviet-used Panthers. The insignia that can be seen in the rear of the turret indicates that they are assigned to the 8th Guards Tank Corps, likely in the 62nd Guards Heavy Tank Regiment.

Yuri Pasholok posted a document stating the condition of the 51st Independent Motorcycle Regiment as of July 5th, 1944. The regiment, aside from domestic and Lend-Lease vehicles, is in possession of 5 Tiger tanks (1 needing repairs) and 2 Panther tanks, “in working order, following by railroad”. The Panther’s poor reliability was known to the Soviets. 150 km of final drive lifetime on average meant that the tanks had to be handled carefully.

However, Soviet mechanics, with the aid of “a sizeable mallet and some kind of mother” (c), managed to get a Panther to drive through 600 km worth of marches, including battles, after which it caught fire and died. The regiment was in a perfect position to solve the problems with supplying Panthers that were stated above: since they were composed entirely of Valentine tanks, they had access to all the gasoline in the world, and capturing a second Panther left them with a source of parts and ammunition a typical unit would not have.

A brief manual on the operation of a Panther was published in 1944. It is available (in Russian, of course) here. I won’t translate it here, but it may, perhaps, be the subject of another article. The presence of a manual did not indicate frequent use, since new manuals were issued for PzIIIs and Pz38(t)s in that same year.

Most Panthers ended up dragged off to trophy collection points, then salvage yards. An idea came up to solve the lack of armament by re-arming them with 85 mm guns, but the idea didn’t go very far before the end of the war.

There is one myth that I would like to do away with, the idea that Panthers were given as rewards to tankers for excellent performance. There are several problems with that statement. First of all, Panthers used German radios, which communicate on a different frequency. The ace tank crew would be left unable to communicate with their other tanks (which is why captured tanks are always formed together into one unit). Second, even if the radio station is replaced, no ace is important enough to cart around high octane gasoline and special parts shipments just for one crew. Finally, veteran memoirs illustrate just one use of captured Panthers: as last ditch resorts, used only when no other tank is available. Compare the above Panthers to something like captured PzIIIs and PzIVs; the insignia is neatly applied with stencils, as opposed to hastily scrawled freehand.

With a surplus of its own tanks, the Soviet Union had no use for Panthers post-war. They ended up being recycled or sent to museums. A number of functional Panthers exist on the territory of the former Soviet Union to this very day.

72 thoughts on “Soviet Panthers

  1. Nice! After seeing the last article with the pics of the Captured Panzers in-game, i was looking forward to an article about them themselves :)

  2. Fuck the WOT niggers.

    Garbage programming, garbage MM.

    Useless SerB cocksucker is lazy.

        • Knowing WG the captured KV-1′s ridiculous armor will be melt like butter and its gun will shoot rubber bands.

          But then again I’m fairly biased in my tanks.

      • Isn’t this just like a Soviet version of Panther M10(minus all the vismod, of course) as far as game is concerned?

        Or is this going to get the 85mm gun from T-34-85(highly unlikely)?

  3. could you please tell me how your soviet mastersoldiers managed to drive 600km when the “final drives” broke down so frequently?

    • This and the linked article implies that the regiment had just one Panther to care for and the second Panther was cannibalized for parts
      Plus the Panther’s battle participation doesn’t seem so active (“gunners not knowing how to operate pneumatic gun”)
      So 600km might just be doable with enough hammer bashing

      • There’s a term called “Percussive Maintenance”, and believe it or not, it often works.

    • They oiled it with Stalin’s personal made OIL. It’s so powerful OIL it really did smoothed the transmission

      • It was not one drive of 600km .. it was a “total” service of 600km .. So they changed the final drive 4 times i guess :P or towed it ….by donkey.

        • Oh look Kello and EnsignExpendable isnt it sweet.
          You could also call it: How two commies found love on For the Record.

    • 150 km is the average based on French post-war testing. The key word being “average”. An individual tank can somewhat difference performance, especially if you have plentiful spares.

  4. What a useless tank, not just unreliable but a nightmare to repair, no wonder the Germans lost the Panther’s so fast.

    • the panther actually wasn’t that unreliable, early models had some teething issues certainly but the later ones fixed most of that. the main issue with the panther wasn’t so much reliability and more to do with the fact that they were maintenance intensive, it took roughly 2 hours to service the final drives on a panther compared to 30mins on an M4 sherman, because the final drives in the panther were located behind a lot of other stuff (ie the radioman’s equipment and the driver’s seat had to be removed for access) where as the Sherman had a removable bustle on the front of the hull that contained all of the final drives, making it much easier to change. the main reason they have a reputation for being unreliable is because some of their parts did not have a long service life (ie the final drives) and the German army did not have the logistics capability to supply the required parts to keep the ones in the field well maintained nor did the German economy have the resources to produce enough of the more highly engineered parts (like the final drives)

      • Short form would be “the final drive was crap and needed changing unduly often, which was time-consuming and a logistical PIA ergo the Panther got a deserved reputation as an unreliable hangar queen”.

  5. what about an article about captured tigers and/or even those you mentioned – pzIIIs and IVs, but also tds. Their use not just by soviets but other nations as well, could be a good topic to mention.

    • Iron Maiden tops it, IMO ;) ;) But still, metal is the way to go \m/ no matter what band it is! :)

  6. Maybe I’m wrong, but German tank engines didn’t mostly use 80 octane gasoline, because they could make it aritifcially from coal?
    100 octane gasoline was the privilige of the fighter aircrafts if I remember correctly.

  7. So… Can we expect the captured Panther ingame to mount an 85 mm gun or the original 7.5 cm?

    • If it is russian then probably 122mm D-25T. Every russian tank has it. And if it does not has it then it will be fixed in upcoming patches due to ‘historical accuracy’.

      • T-34-3 icon shows it with the 100 mm gun, but ingame they gave it a 122 mm instead. Won’t be surprised if the T-5 icon shows the L/70, but ingame its a 85 mm instead.

  8. I bet that soviet panther tanks with 85mm will be better that original panther! i wont be surprised about this WG shit

  9. Nice article, I very much look forward 2 captured tanks in the future, I just cant wait for the captured KV-1. :P

  10. “a sizeable mallet and some kind of mother”

    Russian engineering at its finest :D

  11. How about “Cuckoo Panther” of British?

    It’s the Panther tank that captured in the barn of some farm by british army and they use it in the armor battalion.

    As i heard before , the british love it so much and still keep using it until the panther ran out of fuel, ammo and spare parts then they later abandoned it.

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  13. Wel, to write down with Cyrillic characters PzKpfw. V could (?) been difficult, albeit complete useless. While the Germans use the term Panzer for tanks, used the Sovjets the term Tank for the same armored vehicles on caterpillars. However it is quite stunning, that “fine, young Sovjet” tankist were able to drove those Panthers 600km while the poor Germans could do that just 150km long. Oh my God! Wouw it was a miracle the party, the Comsomol, the trade union ans of course Commerad Stalin was very-very pride on those tankist!

  14. I’m guessing that in WoT with its Russian bias, that the “Glorious” Soviet star, once painted on a German Panther will fix all armor problems leading it to bounce crazy shots and suddenly make the L/70 do 250+ damage. oh and the engine wont ever catch fire ;)

    (in-case it wasn’t too obvious, and believe me someone will take this seriously and get pissed , I’m joking)

  15. No unsurprising that they weren’t used often. Having tanks like that vastly complicates logistics. I can only imagine the German’s situation with like dozens of different kinds of armored vehicles……

    Pz3,Pz4, Panther, Tiger, Tiger II, Pz38′s, Pz I, Pz 2′s etc just to mention a few. Musta been a complete nightmare….

    • That’s still easy. Something of an extreme case would probably be the 21. Panzer in Normandy, which had just about all of its mechanised support (and Panzergrenadiers) mounted on a hodgepodge of conversions of captured (and by ’44 quite worn out) French vehicles… I understand not only the dedicated rear-area repair staff but also the crews themselves were obliged to become quite the MacGuyvers to keep “Rommel’s Zirkus” operational.

  16. Great article, and a ballin’ photo. Bonus points if you find any unofficial crew opinions in the future – would be interesting to compare against British experiences with “Cuckoo”.