Why the Panther couldn't replace the Pz.Kpfw.IV and why the Germans spent the whole war with two medium tanks.
The German tank building school was among the best in WW2. One could say it finished in second place overall. For instance, the Panther was a very competitive medium tank. The T-34 and Medium Tank M4 had advantages over it in production qualities and modernization potential, but the Panther surpassed them in armour and firepower while maintaining decent mobility. This tank was supposed to become Germany's main tank. It became the most numerous tank in the Germany army by the second half of 1944. Three factories built this tank, putting out 350 units monthly at the peak of production in the summer of 1944. The Panther was also a key part of the future of German tank building. This tank was supposed to be the only medium tank remaining in production by the second half of 1945. It would even be developed further. The Panther Ausf.F with improved frontal protection was supposed to become the main variant.
|Three German medium tanks in one shot, July 1943. The Pz.Kpfw.III was on its way out, the Pz.Kpfw.IV was here to stay, and the Panther that couldn't quite replace it.
|Krupp's Grosstraktor and Leichttraktor were both failures. The USSR received more benefit from these designs than Germany. For instance, the Grosstraktor suspension went straight on the T-28.
|Krupp received contracts for Z.W. and B.W. turrets. The second project ended up more than just a turret, as Krupp managed to sell their entire tank.
|The result was a comical situation where the Germans had two medium tanks. The "niche" Pz.Kpfw.IV was clearly better than the "main" Pz.Kpfw.III.
|At the start of WW2 the Pz.Kpfw.IV was the most numerous German medium tank. They were praised, while the Pz.Kpfw.III received less favourable reviews.
|In this case the designation "support tank" is almost cynical.
|Panther V2. Officially, it weighed 35 tons. In reality, clearly more.
|A famous photograph of the first production Panther tanks demonstrated to Speer. What wasn't recorded on this photograph was that 6 out of the 13 tanks broke down.
|Broken Panthers were a common sight at Kursk.
|The last attempt to modernize the Pz.Kpfw.IV, November 15th, 1944. The suspension would not be able to hold up such a turret. The Germans were not only unable to carry out this modernization, but didn't even want to.
|The Panther and Pz.Kpfw.IV fought shoulder to shoulder until the end of the war. Even their losses were close: 3101 Pz.Kpfw.IV and 2803 Panthers were lost in 1944.