German tanks and SPGs of the second half of WW2 are often praised as "wonder weapons". Based on what is written about them, one can only come to the conclusion that Germany lost WW2 by accident. This is often said about the "big cats": the Tiger, Panther, and so on. Indeed, Germany's tank industry took a lead in 1943. Thanks to a sudden jump forward, one can argue that Germany had the best heavy and medium tanks. However, it was in the second half of 1943 that the Germans began to lose their grasp on the Eastern Front. A year later, German tank industry was no longer in the lead. The issues it faced were systematic, and despite an arguable second plate in the tank race, the Germans had no future when it came to either the tanks or their armament.
No control and no future
Like other tank building nations, Germany was in crisis at the start of WW2. One can claim that they had a reasonable lineup of tanks, but only without any knowledge of what was going on behind the scenes. Suffice it to say that the Pz.Kpfw.II, the most numerous German tank of the early war (at least among those armed with something bigger than a machine gun), appeared by accident, simply because it was impossible to put either a 20 mm autocannon or a radio operator in the Kleintraktor aka La.S. tank. The result was a completely new tank, with the added twist that the suspension initially designed by MAN was poor and starting with the Pz.Kpfw.II Ausf.c the tank had an independent leaf spring suspension.
|Up until the end of the war, the Pz.Kpfw.IV was one of the main German tanks. Funnily enough, Krupp initially only developed the turret, the rest of the tank sprouted out from that.
|An attempt to design a high speed tank resulted in a situation where only about 50 Pz.Kpfw.III tanks were ready for battle at the start of the Polish campaign. This tank was still relatively uncommon by 1940. There were no consequences for this.
|When the contractor is a perfect match for his client. This is a Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.F tank with 80 mm of front armour and only two machine guns for armament.
|A Panther crew prays for a swift death to inventors of the Maybach HL 230 engine.
|An attempt at modernizing the armament of the Pz.Kpfw.IV, November 1944. This idea had no future without a modernization of the chassis, which was refused many times over.
|An overloaded chassis was a typical feature of late war German tanks. The result was predictable.
|The E-100 was a good demonstration of the Germans' abilities by the end of the war. This was a grandiose project built for unclear reasons with no chance at mass production.
|The biggest producer of the Pz.Kpfw.IV was in Austria, not Germany.
|Nonstop bombings played a role in the failure of German production plans.
|Maybach HL 295, a further development of the HL 234. It never made it into production.
|Simmering-Graz-Pauker Sla 16, an X-shaped tank diesel developed by Porsche K.G.
|A gas turbine developed and built in Dresden on Soviet orders. It was based on a design developed for German tanks.
|The Germans stopped working on truly new tank guns by the end of 1942. Even if they created something new in early 1945, they would still need a year-year and a half to develop it.
|The famous German horseshoe turret. The turret without a bustle was a calling card of the German tank design school and not a feature one could be proud of.
|German tanks gained turret bustles after their creators familiarized themselves with the T-34.
|Victims of observation device optimization. These Panther tanks were shot from the right, where the completely blind loader was located.
|The French were the only ones to build on German tank developments, although without much result.