| When the German command planned the offensive on the
Kursk Salient in the summer of 1943, it attached a lot of hopes to the
new tanks: heavy Pz.Kpfw.T-VI Tiger
and medium Pz.Kpfw.T-V Panther.
principle, had been thought as an imitation of the Soviet T-34. Originally, German commanders
with frontline experience proposed to copy the Soviet tank, but it
turned out that Germany did not possess adequate technologies. On 25
November 1941 the Ministry of Armaments placed orders with Daimler-Benz and MAN companies for the prototype of
a tank with armour and armament superior to T-34. Daimler-Benz had proposed a tank
closely resembling T-34 by
shape and arrangement, with the engine and traction wheels placed in
the rear. Nevertheless, more successful was the MAN's project with the traditional
German arrangement: engine in the rear, and traction wheels and
transmission in the front. It allowed to move the turret closer to the
rear and fit it with a long-barrel gun. Each road wheel had individual
The MAN's project was tested
September 1942. After all necessary alterations, in January 1943 it
to mass production simultaneously by several companies. There the haste
in design had manifested itself in a variety of "infantile disorders":
first Panthers more often
broke down in
result of various failures than from the enemy shells. Starting
of August 1943 the
Ausf. A model
introduced a new cast armor commander's cupola, glacis machine gun in a
ball-mount, and improved chassis. In March 1944 they were replaced by
the model Ausf. G with a
slightly modified design of the hull (with thicker armour). Observation
instruments had been moved to the top of the driver's compartment, and
the tanks of the last models used the same wheels as on the Tigers. Panthers also had the same engines
as the Tigers. Altogether,
there were produced about 6 thousand tanks.
Constructors, who designed the Panther,
had to meet the following requirements: to ensure
efficient use of
powerful weaponry and the crew's comfort. Armour-piercing
projectiles of its 75mm gun of 70 calibers length (the initial velocity
1,120mpsec) from the distance of 1,000m was piercing armour plates up
to 160mm thick. A relatively small calibre of the gun enabled a high
practical rate of fire and increased allowance of ammunition (81
unitary shells on T-VG). The
turret with a solid turret ring turned round through hydraulic drive.
To reduce contamination of the
fighting compartment with propellant gases there was provided a device
air through the gun barrel after firing. Transmission
allowed turns with different radii depending on the gear, as well as
fast turning around, while making tracks move in opposite directions.
Hydraulic brake control made the driver's work easier. Interleaved
wheels distributed the load on tracks evenly, but were vulnerable to
frozen mud getting in-between and stalling the motion.
the best German tank, and one of the best tanks of the Second World
War, was a dangerous
opponent. Neither the British, nor the Americans were able to oppose it
with an equivalent machine. The
disadvantages of the Panther
were the complexity of production, difficulties of maintenance, and
relatively low technical reliability. Its chassis had been used since
the end of 1943 to build tank-destroyers Sd.Kfz.173 Jagdpanther; a total of
vehicles was produced.
To accommodate a 88mm-calibre gun, the glacis plate and sloped sides of
the Jagdpanther were extended up into an integral, turretless
fixed casemate as part of the main hull itself to provide a roomy
interior to facilitate crew's operation. Its armour-piercing
projectiles were able to penetrate armour plates up to 200mm from
1,000m distance. It was the best gun-carrier in the German army, and
one of the best ones of the Second World War.
As a response to the introduction of new German tanks, the Soviet
armoured forces received in 1944 new powerful machines - medium tank T-34-85 and heavy tank IS-2. But the Soviet constructors
did not dwell on achievements; with the experience of combat deployment
of the IS-2 in mind, the
construction bureau of Nikolay Dukhov and Mikhail Balzhi conducted
works on even more powerful heavy tank. They paid special attention to
strengthening of the armour
protection. Thus, at the end of 1944 appeared the heavy tank IS-3, whose hull had a completely
new form and was entirely welded as opposed to IS-2.
Its armour plates were mounted under high angles of slopping, and the
side faces of the hull were beveled. The
thickness of the front plates remained the same as that of the IS-2, while the
side plates became thicker. Also thicker became the armour of the
turret, which acquired hemispherical shape. Those
structural innovations helped to improve significantly the resistance
to the armour-piercing shells without significant increase of the mass
of the tank.
The IS-3 was fitted with same
122mm gun as its predecessor, but the fire control system
was improved: the crew commander had his own, independent from the
horizontal traverse mechanism. That reduced the time
of aiming the gun at the target detected by the commander. Ammunition
was the same as that of the IS-2:
28 rounds of separate
load. And the anti-aircraft DShK
machine-gun could be manned by either the loader, or the commander.
Absence of the commander's cupola, as well as smaller clearance allowed
to reduce the height of the tank by 30cm as compared to the IS-2. Driver's seat was placed on
the axis of the hull. The troops started to receive IS-3s since the beginning of 1945.
Parallel production of the IS-2s
and IS-3s was going on
without decrease in the output of the former.
IS-3 did not take
part in fighting
in Europe. It was the last Soviet tank commissioned for the Red Army
during the Second World War. After the war it had long been considered
a model in the design of heavy tanks. Even as far back as 1956, it was
considered one of the most powerful tanks of that time, and though it
was a little heavier than the American M48 Patton medium tank, it mounted
a more powerful 122mm gun. American constructors copied it in the
design of the M103 heavy
tank, and the British - in the development of the heavy tank FV-214 Conqueror.