In January 1942 Daimler-Benz and MAN submitted designs.
Henschel's prototype, DW 1, weighed 30 tons and was similar to the PzKpfw IV. However, it had large bogies as opposed to the smaller ones in the existing tanks. These resulted in longer life of the tires.
On April 2, 1937, the DW 2 was ordered by the Army Weapons Department. The contracts for this were issued on September 9, 1938. It had 50 mm armor and weighed 32 tons. It was to have the Maybach HL 116 which gave it a maximum speed of 25 kph. Eight prototypes were delivered at the beginning of 1940. Krupp made the first turret in 1940 as well.
The VK3001(H) was the prototype from Henschel. Next came the 4 VK 3001 (H) prototypes. Two were completed in each March and October 1941. This had medium sized bogies with 3 return rollers. It had hydraulic steering. The first 2 were converted by Rheinmetall-Borsig into self-propelled guns with 128 mm guns to attack fortifications and fight the heavy tanks that they expected Britain and USA to have. This could only carry 15 rounds. They were delivered in August 1941 and used in Russia during 1942.
The VK3001(P) was Porsche's prototype that was completed by 1941.
Porsche was instructed at the end of 1939 to develop a heavy tank between 25 and 30 tons with the 7.5 cm KwK L/24 gun, and possibly later have the 10.5 cm KwK installed. Nicknamed the Leopard within Porsche. It had twin engines. Nibelungenwerke in St. Valentin built 2 prototypes in 1940.
The T-34 Influences Design
When the Russian T-34/76 was first encountered near Minsk on July 2, 1941, the design program was sped up.
In October 1941, T-34s caused heavy casualties with the 4th Panzer Division.
In November 1941, General Guderian (commander of Panzergruppe II in Russia) wrote a report suggesting that a commission should be formed immediately to design a tank to be able to gain supremacy over Russian T-34 tanks. The Armaments Ministry sent a commission to the Russian front to study the T-34, and on November 15, 1941, it's initial report stated that the T-34 was superior because of sloped armor, large road wheels and tracks, and a large caliber gun.
On November 25, 1941, the Armaments Ministry put out requirements to Daimler-Benz and MAN for a new tank that would have:
- Sloped armor of 60 mm front and 40 mm sides
- Large road wheels for a stable ride and allow speeds up to 55 kph
- Overhanging long barrel gun
- Limited in weight of 35 tons
VK 3002 MAN
The VK 3002 (VK 3002-MAN) was MAN's design. MAN had a design ready by April 1942 and presented it to the Army Weapons Department. A mild steel version was ready by September 1942, and was put through trials at Nuremberg. A second prototype went to Kummersdorf. MAN was chosen to develop production vehicles.
The MAN design had the turret placed towards the rear to allow for minimal overhang with the long barrel 75 mm gun. The suspension used interleaved road wheels with torsion bars.
The engine for the MAN design started out as a gasoline Maybach HL 210 V-12, but this was later changed to the Maybach HL 230 P 30 with a AK 7-200 gearbox.
During VK 3002's (MAN) development it was unofficially known as the Panther. It was considered too heavy and too tall to be a medium tank to replace the PzKpfw IV. However, the design specifications were changed to 43 tons. Twenty vehicles were initially produced with 60 mm frontal armor, this was increased to 80 mm.
VK 3002 DB
The Daimler-Benz version, VK 3002 (DB), was presented to the Waffenprüfamt 6 in April 1942. It had a maximum weight of 34 tons and could go 54 kph. Prototypes were tested and 200 were initially ordered but this order was withdrawn.
The Daimler-Benz was an almost exact copy of the Russian T-34/76. It had a similar hull shape and the turret was placed well forward. The driver sat within the turret cage and drove with hydraulic steering. A MB507 diesel engine was installed with transmission to rear sprockets. The bogies were steel (saved on rubber) and suspended in pairs by leaf springs (easier to produce than torsion bars). Escape hatches were installed on the hull sides along with jettisonable fuel tanks in the rear.
These 2 designs were shown to Hitler in April 1942 and he was impressed by the Daimler-Benz design, however suggesting the 75 mm L/48 be replaced by L/70 gun. An order for 200 were placed and production started. The Waffenprüfamt 6 ("Panther committee") decided on the MAN design and placed an order for 200 while they rescinded the order for the Daimler-Benz models.
The prototypes were delivered in September 1942, and production started 2 months later. Daimler-Benz then started production, and in February and March of 1943 Henschel and Maschinenfabrik Niedersachen joined in production. Later in war other production (aircraft) was cut back to free up facilities to manufacture parts for Panthers.
The initial vehicles were tested at Erlangen and Grafenwöhr, and many faults were found. With the excessive weight, the gears and shafts wore down quickly. Guderian emphasized these problems to Hitler in March 1943, telling him that the Panther's should not enter service earlier than July 1943. Despite these warnings, Hitler insisted they be used in Operation Citadel.
As of February 27, 1944, Hitler ordered that the tank only be known as Panther.