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Panther, T-34 or Sherman - best design of the war?

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What are the arguments to be made in favour or against each of these tanks?


- superb tank killing gun

- impenetrable front armour

- expensive to build, 45,000 man hours

- not good cross country - better than other German tanks

- weighs 45 tonnes so really a heavy tank by Allied standards

-produced late in war really 1944 before design got kinks ironed out


- superb cross country

- produced early - 1940

- innovative design

- good armour and upgraded

- good GP gun

- plus 57mm tank killer version

- plus 85mm late war upgrade

- poor build quality

-vision poor for crew

- two man turret in early models

-optimised for mass production

- cheap to build 20,000 man hours (some say 3000)


-cheap to build

- poor cross country

- good selection of guns

- better guns as war progressed

-excellent build quality

- well designed but rather late

-outclassed almost as soon as it apeared but a good GP tank

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Discuss whatever date you like, whatever variant you like. After all a late war tank is going to be 'better' than an early war one. But a good design, like all these are, is going to be able to adapt to its changing environment. For instance the T34 was outclassed by mid '43 which was a strategic decision to freeze the design in order to increase production. But then in '44 the T34-85 came along and they caught up.

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I'm pretty sure we've never had this discussion on this forum before. Ever.

Anyhoo, the T-34 FTW. No, it was far from perfect, but don't forget the first vehicles rolled off the factory floor in 1940. What tanks were other nations building in 1940?

If we ignore such details as cost, ease of maintenance etc. the Panther wins; Good gun, good armour, good mobility.

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Discuss whatever date you like, whatever variant you like. After all a late war tank is going to be 'better' than an early war one. But a good design, like all these are, is going to be able to adapt to its changing environment. For instance the T34 was outclassed by mid '43 which was a strategic decision to freeze the design in order to increase production. But then in '44 the T34-85 came along and they caught up.

As far as turret design and weaponry goes. But the hull design remained unchanged, and 45mm at 60 degree angle (in front) is woefully lacking in 1944 when there's 75mm PaK's, KwK's and StuK's or Panzerschrecks or Panzerfausts everywhere. T-43 and especially T-44 were the real Panther killers, but although T-44 entered mass production, it never saw battle against Germans. Kind of a bummer, really.


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The sherman is not a good choice to take on the other tanks chosen in this thread, unless of course we are talking about the 17pdr/76mm Firefly. The shermans standard 75mm although capable of knocking out both of the other tanks was not generally used to take on the heavier tanks like the Panther, that was the Firefly's job. The sherman however was probably the most changed varient of any tanks of the war, being used as DD's, minesweeps, dozers, flammerthrowers, as well as all the funnies used on D'day.

While the panther was designed to counter the T-34 both the 76 and the 85. Good cross country capability due to the wide tracks and better in the mechanics side of the things compared to the other german heavy tanks such as the Tiger or the Elephant.

But very capable of stopping any Russian or American tank.

But she was far from invincible and here frontal armour didn't matter if she came up against an IS heavy tanks. This RUssian tank had the capability to blow the turrent right of the top of the panther, even if the shell didn't penetrate the armour.

The T-34 was probably the best all round tank of the war, especially in her role as a medium tank. She was fast, well defended with the sloped armour and very reliable just like the sherman. Many could be made and if I am not mistaken that number was around an estimated 64,000 at wars end through all variants.

You cant compare the Panther to the sherman or the T-34, since it was a heavy tank, it is like comparing a Tiger to a t-34, they are wrong weights, there fore different armour, main guns, crew, and naturally differnet roles.

But if I had to chose between one, it would be the panther.

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I agree it is a great tank and my personal favourite to go to war in.

But was it the tank that Germany needed at that stage of the war?

Hi tech = using lots of scarce resources

Expensive = especially if you end up losing them because you lose the battlefield after the battle and cannot recover them.

Able to kill enemy tanks at 2000m+ = great but the enemy has lots of tanks and infantry and you cannot be everywhere.

In 1944 the Panther production was 3,700 compared with almost 5,000 StuG, 3,000 PzIVs and 1,700 Hetzer. Germany was really short of infantry, finding it hard to hold the Eastern Front even in Belarus.

What German needed was a good medium tank able to be built in substantial numbers that had good strategic mobility. The Panther had good tactical mobility but being heavy (about the same weight as the KV-1) it found it hard to move long distances, due to inadequate bridges, roads and maintenance. So perhaps Germany needed a lighter tank,around 35 tonnes with good cross country ability, a good gun, simply designed and easy to be built in real numbers. So the inevitable weaker armour would have been offset by their numbers. Able to be in more places, able to get to trouble spots quicker, it might have been close enough to choke off Soviet offensives before they got up a head of steam.

Maybe the nearest thing the Germans got to this was the StuG?

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The StuG was in no way a tank it was classed as a SPG not a tank which means it could never be an effective medium tank, although it did great as a tank destroyer later in the war. The Pz IV would be the tank you are referring to, good variations of it, good gun especially in the later models, good armour for a medium tank and all round a good tank. It was even built in good numbers but too few to take on so much of the enemy at once.

The Pz III and Pz IV were both built from the beginning of the war all the way through and proved both effective tank and infantry killers. The Pz III during Barborossa did lack the large gun to take on the T-34 at any range, but that was quickly upgunned to the 50mm, while the Pz IV's calibre was upped quickly after the fall of France.

So all and all the Pz IV would have been the best choice for Germany in terms of a medium tank, while they should have left the Tiger, King tigers, Jadgtigers, and the elephants and produced more Pz IV's and other tank destroyers like the Jadgpanther, hetzer, stug, or the even more 88mm AT, and AA variant field guns.

This topic should really be Sherman vs Pz IV vs T-34. Since they are all in the same class.

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"And that is what you need if you are to counter Soviet armoured breakthroughs before they get into the strategic hinterland."

Yes, agree completely, guess you also need a tank that does less than 7.3 litres a km (twice that of a Pz IV) when your country is suffering from fuel shortages. Also, talking of mobility you might want to design a tank that can be moved more than 100km, without recourse to rail transportation, especially when you are losing the battle for air superiority.

So absolutely, the Panther for the wargames table/computer simulation and tactical battle the others for an operational/strategic victory.

All facts courtesy of Ospreys Panther v's T-34 1943, yes, I know, Osprey fact-lite, not for real historians, but all the same a refreshingly different perspective/conclusion. The Panther's advantages were outweighed by its disadvantages, whereas the the T-34 had plenty of disadvantages, but these were off set by its advantages.

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The big unknown, or semi-known, here are the "crew effectiveness modifiers".

The T-34 didn't only have poor visibility. It just sucked for the crew in every way. My understanding is that a Panther, incorporating years of experience of actual war usage, could fit the crew like a good glove and be a precision instrument in every respect (as long as it doesn't break down).

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The problem with the PzIV is simply that it lacks mobility, either tactically or strategically. And that is what you need if you are to counter Soviet armoured breakthroughs before they get into the strategic hinterland. Doubly so in winter.

How does it lack in mobility? It has an average road speed of 43km/h compared to the standard StuG III's 43, it also has the advantage of a turrnet compared to the StuG, it was also robust and reliable, so how does it lack in those regards? Much like the sherman or the t-34 it was a good all round tank deployed, and its combat records prove that.

If you want high speed and good gun go with the puma, with its 50mm canon, but for a tank it will either be the Pz IV or III.

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Yes you are right the StuG and PzIV both has around the same mobility. I only mentioned the StuG because many of the jobs of a defender do not need a tank but can get away with a SP gun.

The point I am making is that the PzIV mobility was poor both cross country (thin tracks, higher ground pressure) and moving from point to point (needing railway tracks) compared to either the Panther or the T-34. A ficticious 'ideal' tank for late war Germany needed both these things.

Good point about fuel economy, in fact Germany should have produced the worlds first coal burning tank!

So a new tank with most of the characteristics of the PzIV but with improved suspension, drive train etc would have been the best approach. But I suppose that was just not the way the German designers were heading. They were more Porsche 911 people than Ford Pick up truck ones.

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Hmm, I can't agree with certain points on from begin with:

Mass Production. If you take a look on the stats in http://www.wwiivehicles.com/wwii/production.asp you'll notice that the USSR and USA outproduced Germany in tanks by far, additionally neither the US nor the USSR suffered under an strategic bombing campaign. Would the US be faced with a situation in competing against 1 against 3, it would be also on lost ground. Bearing in mind that the Kill Ratio of Tiger and Panther against allied tanks are 1:5 or more, things look very different.

Armoring: Next of, the armor quality of German and American/Soviet tanks differed quite a lot. While in German vehicles mostly face hardened or at least rolled homogenous armor were used, American or Soviet tanks used extensively cast armor for fastening the production. In combat cast armor proved to be inferior to RHA. Soviet Shells proved to be weak even against non sloped german armoring (i get into that in Firepower).

Mobility: The Panther was one of the best among mobility, faster then the Sherman in all aspects and on par with the T-34 on Road. As a comparism, here are the track widths of the 3 tanks (M4 Sherman: 420mm, T-34: 550mm, PzKpfW V Panther: 660mm)

Firepower: The 76,2mm F-34 gun of early T-34 showed the weakest penetration, plus it was hindered by it's ammunition which had no penetration cap. Therefore the face hardened plates of PzKpfw III & IV, same as of Tiger I oftenly shattered incoming soviet shells. The 85mm D-5T tank gun showed better performance, but still suffered under ammunition without penetration cap. The american shells APC M61 & APC M62 for 75mm and 76,2mm Guns oftenly malfunctioned, as the explosive filler went off during the process of penetrating the armor (especially on spaced armor as on PzKpfw III & IV). Since that the British removed the explosive filler from Sherman ammunition stocks they received. The 75mm KwK 42 of Panther along with its PzGr. 39/42 outclassed both Guns.

In that aspect the Panther is without a doubt the best of all 3, though in my opinion it would be like comparing an M1A1 Abrams or Leopard 2A6 with an T-72 or T-55. In combat situations though still I'd favour the Tiger over the Panther.

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Kamui, your point about mobility is true, on paper the Panther has good mobility, but alas battles are not fought on paper (unless you play Squad Leader!). The Panther needed to get into 7th gear to exceed the T-34, which in combat was rare, more typically the respective tanks would be using third gear, in which case the T-34 was twice as fast. Similarly the weak drive train handicapped the Panther, seriously reducing its theoretical capabilities, as for the Russian armour, low nickel content was the main problem causing non penetrating rounds to produce spalling.

Panthers you leave to the supporting SU's, tactical air, infantry tank hunters, mines AT guns etc. Who cares if you lose 5-8 for every Panther, if you encounter any, there are plenty more T-34's behind and they can move quickly, under their own engine power to mass at decisive points to win the operational battle. Our Cold-War perspective on the 1943-45 Eastern front has been fixated on the tactical accounts of tank battles since the Germans demonstrated superior tactics and often triumphed, even in 45. In the end the T-34 was fit for purpose, ie it suited the Russian operational/strategic requirements, it was quick to build using a minimum of resources, fast to deploy, had excellent mobility and reliability.

Yes, the Panther looks like a German tank, efficient, menacing and boasting very impressive statistics and theoretical capabilities, but it was a failure as an operational weapon as it placed far too much strain on a weakened economy to produce and its design severely limited in its operational deployment. As for the Tiger, read Wilbeck's "Sledgehammers" which shows the operational costs inflicted on the Germans when they designed and deployed the Tiger.

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So the Comet gets ignored : (

As always a fairly pointless argument as the winning criteria "best" is not defined. Refining it to tactical, or which tank on a one to one basis would you like to be in on a battlefield is the base level and the answer would have to be Panther every time.

If you asked me to move an armoured division 150 miles then it would be a Sherman [Comet] etc etc

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> Vark

I can't judge shifting the gears now, as I don't have more detailed info on the subject. The thing though is, comparing the mentioned tanks directly with each other. Not 1 Panther vs 5 T-34 or 8 Shermans but 1 Panther vs 1 T-34 vs 1 M4 Sherman.

One have to think that one Panther weighted 45 tons, an T-34 weighted about 30 tons. So if you calculate for taking out 45 tons, the Soviet needed 150 - 240 tons?

Once more on the armor:


Certainly the US had the expertise and facilities to produce

cast AFV hulls and turrets. As another poster detailed, most of the

many M4s we produced had cast turrets, and a majority had cast

hulls. Castings, though, have certain inherent disadvantages. No

matter how metallurgically sophisticated a nation is, the physics

dictates that grain orientation cannot be controlled, and grain growth

is mostly uncontrollable, in large castings. Thus even the most

elegant tool steel alloys are not particularly strong as raw castings,

without work hardening to make a fine grain structure. Casting's main

advantages, once the tooling is built, are production rate and lower

(not higher!) technological requirements. A casting

facility--especially one that works with simple alloys--can be not

much more than a big building, an overhead crane and a furnace.

Rolled plate, on the other hand, may not be perfect, but it can offer

fairly good and consistent grain size, work hardening, and especially

grain orientation. Welding of fabricated plate sections, if done

properly, does not compromise these advantages. The gains from plate's

metallurgical advantages more than offset the small trigonometric

differences in effective thickness from small angles of incidence of

shell impact against angled sections of cast hulls and

turrets. Sophisticated heat treating can be combined with rolling to

make very strong steel. But good rolled plate requires a very, very

expensive and complicated mill. There are not many in the world. I

believe the reason the Russians did not make tanks of plate is that

they simply did not have the mill capability.

As for the soviet Shells, you can check on this site http://www.battlefield.ru/content/category/10/44/64/lang,en/ In all my researches i found only that Soviets didn't used Penetration caps for their rounds, but only ballistic caps.

Since these informations, the Panther is the best. And as I said before, neither the Soviet Union, nor the USA would have stand a chance in a similar condition if the enemy is producing 5 times more tanks. Whatever tank they had produced, it would be an operational failure if it's not made from paper, cost 1$ a piece and kills enemies from 5km.

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Kamui, the original poster said "What are the arguments to be made in favour or against each of these tanks?" You automatically take a 1 for 1 basis, I prefer to look at the argument this way. The T-34 fitted the Soviet operational/strategic direction, both militarily and economically, the Panther did not. The T-34 was never designed to take on the Panther, there is a reason the respective ammo loadouts were 70 HE versus 30HE, looking for a 1 to 1 basis misses the point, the T-34 was all about operational success, not small scale tactical victories.

Put it another way, it does not matter if your tanks main gun is twice as powerful/accurate as mine, if my tanks operational success means you are fearful of re-supplying your ammo so have to limit your targets. It does not matter if I cannot penetrate your front armour and you can from 2000m, if you knock yourself out by your fragile drive train, unreliable powerpack, over complex suspension system and inability to recover yourself without specialist recovery equipment (Bergpanther) or running a risk of the towing tank(s) burning out gear boxes. I don't care if your command Panther has three types of radio and my tank has a radio that is unreliable whilst moving, if your tanks have to respond to my operational breakthroughs so rapidly that they cannot establish a proper radio net.

For every abandoned Panther I pass, in my advancing T-34, is a kill to my side. It reminds me of the captions to photographs in 70's-80's uber German Panzer books, "these German tanks were not destroyed by the enemy but were abandoned after they broke down". It does not matter what happened to your Panther, if it is not there ready for battle it is a 'kill' to me.

All these arguments for the T-34 can be applied to the Sherman, a much maligned tank.

Finally, now if the poster had said which tank looks cooler to go into battle then I'd say an ambush camoed Panther, everytime!

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