On August 3rd of 1942, Waffenamt decided to use Panzerkampfwagen V Panther‘s chassis and components to develop a new Sturmgeschutz (tank destroyer/assault gun) armed with newly developed long 88mm gun. At the time, development of new Panther tank was well under way and Krupp was put in charge of designing this new Sturmgeschutz. Plans and technical documentation for this new vehicle were to be completed by January of 1943. It was originally planned that first production vehicle will be manufactured in June and full production will start in July of 1943. On October 15th of 1942, Albert Speer decided that Daimler-Benz would continue the further development, since production was take place at Daimler-Benz plant number 40 in Berlin, in the summer of 1943. Krupp received the assisting role with main focus on armament and its mount. In November of 1942, wooden mock-up was made but its overall design was very different from the final Jagdpanther design. On January 5th of 1943, Daimler-Benz finished pre-final design of 8.8cm Sturmgeschutz (Sd.Kfz.172) and preparation continued until on May 1st of 1943, when final design (later known as Jagdpanther) was finished. On May 24th of 1943, production was transferred to MIAG (Muhlenbau-Industrie AG) in Braunschweig, because of limited space available at Daimler-Benz’s plant in Berlin. In June of 1943, full-scale model was transported to MIAG in preparations for the production. On October 20th, this model was presented to Adolf Hitler at Arys (Orzysz) in East Prussia, along with wooden models of Tiger II and Jagdtiger. In late October, MIAG produced first prototype (Versuchs-Jagdpanther) of Jagdpanther, followed by second one in November. In November, new vehicle known as schwere Panzerjaeger 8.8 cm auf Panther I (Sd.Kfz.173) received its suggested name – Jagdpanther.
January – December 1944
January – May 1945
After tests of prototypes, it was then ordered to start the full-scale production in December of 1943. Jagdpanther’s production at MIAG (Muhlenbau-Industrie AG) in Braunschweig started in January of 1944, while at MNH (Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsischen-Hanover) in Hannover in November of 1944. During the production, third assembly plant – MBA (Maschinenbau und Bahnbedarf) in Postdam-Brewitz also started producing Jagdpanthers. It was planned that production will reach output of 150 vehicles per month, but the highest output was in January of 1945, when 72 were produced. Overall from December of 1943 to March of 1945, only 392 were produced (chassis numbers 300001 to unknown and 303001 to unknown), although some sources state that about 413 to 417 were made since production continued until April of 1945 or 425 until May of 1945. The total number of Jagdpanthers produced was a direct result of Allied bomber raids, which caused much destruction and disruption at two production centers (MIAG and MNH).
Early Panzerjäger Jagdpanther
Jagdpanther was based on standard Panther chassis with superstructure being an extension of the upper front hull (80mm thick armor) and side (50mm thick armor) plates. The new superstructure housed the fighting compartment with main hatch in the rear wall that was used by the crew to enter and exit the vehicle as well to load the ammunition. Two other hatches were mounted on the roof of the superstructure. Jagdpanther’s equipment differed from Panther‘s, only in hatch covers and small number of other components. The vehicle weighted 46 tons and was powered by 12 cylinder Maybach HL 230 P30 23.1 liter gasoline engine capable of making Jagdpanther reach maximum speed of 46km/h (average road speed was 25km/h). Its fuel capacity was 700 liters and maximum range on road was 160km. Jagdpanther used Zahnradfabrik AK 7-200 transmission (7 forward and 1 reverse gear), later upgraded with newer and strengthened AK 7-400.
Jagdpanther was operated by five men crew – commander, gunner, loader, driver and radio operator. The driver sat at the front left and radio-operator/machine gunner on the other side of the gun. Behind them both sat the gunner and the loader, while at the rear of the fighting compartment sat the commander.
The driver had a periscope in the front superstructure next to the gun mount. Early models were mounted with two vision slots for the driver, while mid and late models produced starting February of 1944 had single vision slot. Other periscopes were mounted on the roof of the superstructure and were used by commander and loader.
Mid production model Jagdpanther.
Imperial War Museum in London, England.
Photos provided by Dmitry Pyatakhin.
Jagdpanther was armed with excellent, long barrelled 88mm Pak 43/3 L/71 gun (similar to that used on Tiger II) and single 7.92mm MG34 or MG42 machine gun mounted in the same ball mount as Panther Ausf A. The 88mm gun was fitted with Sfl.Z.F.1a (5×8) gun sight and was capable of destroying enemy tanks at ranges of 3000 meters. Both weapons were mounted in a well-sloped frontal plate (80mm at 55 degrees). The main 88mm gun was protected by massive 100mm "saukopf" (pig’s head) type mantlet. The limited traverse (11 degrees to the left and right) and elevation (-8 to +14 degrees) of the main gun was a severe disadvantage when it came to a mobile battle, since the crew was forced to maneouver the vehicle to face the target.
"The 8.8cm high velocity gun, comparatively thick, well sloped armour and more than average speed, make it a very formidable proposition as a tank destroyer, and it is believed that that Germans intend, as soon as Panther production is well enough advanced to bring it into service on a considerable scale." – British Intelligence Report (DRAC Tech Int Digest No.3 Appendix E).
Jagdpanthers were equipped with two types of 88mm gun; early type gun was one piece (monobloc) while the later type gun consisted of two parts. Two-piece gun was introduced in May of 1944. The early and mid production Jagdpanthers had a small flush mounted mantlet while late production model had a larger bolted design.
Convenient racking for approximately 60 rounds of 88mm ammunition and 1200 rounds of 7.92mm ammunition made Jagdpanther a very dangerous opponent on the battlefield, especially in a defensive role. Later on, with the introduction of Nahverteidigungswaffe (90mm NbK 39 close-in defence weapon), 16 grenades for the weapon were carried. In addition, inside the vehicle were two 9mm MP40 machine pistols with 384 rounds were carried for the use by the crew.
Various modifications, mainly external were made during production, almost on monthly basis, including: deleting of pistol ports, adaptation of Panther Ausf G components, exhaust arrangements, installation of Nahverteidigungswaffe (90mm NbK 39 close-in defence weapon), strengthening of gun mantlet, new larger self-cleaning idler wheel, Flammvernichter (flame suppressor) mufflers, deleting of rear shock absorbers, installation of cooling fan for crew compartment heater and deleting of rear superstructure stowage bin. Early Jagdpanthers were painted with anti-magnetic Zimmerit, while in September of 1944 this practice was abandoned. In addition, all major modification made to Panzerkampfwagen V Panther tanks were incorporated into production Jagdpanthers.
The Jagdpanther had an excellent intercom system and was equipped with 10 watt Fu 5 USW transmitter and Fu 2 USW receiver sets. Number of Jagdpanthers was mounted with additional antennas and long range 30 watt Fu 8 transmitter/receiver sets and served as command vehicles for battery and Abteilung commanders.
Late model Jagdpanther.
Captured by the US Army in early 1945, Southern Germany.
Jagdpanther In Action !
On July 30th of 1944 near Les Loges in Normandy, three Jagdpanthers from schwere Panzer Jaeger Abteilung 654 ambushed a squadron of British 6th Guards Tank Brigade destroying some 10-11 Churchill tanks in a short period of two minutes.At the same time, other squadron of British 6th Guards Tank Brigade opened fire at three Jagdpanthers causing crews of two of them to abandon their vehicles (because of damaged tracks), while the third one retreated.Jagdpanthers were grouped into independent schwere Panzerjager Abteilungens – heavy anti-tank battalions (with 3 companies with 14 vehicles each and 3 vehicles in battalion HQ) and those that operated as part of Panzer Division. First Jagdpanthers were issued to schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 559 and 654 and reached the frontline in Western Europe in June of 1944. Only 654th had full compliment of 42 vehicles, while 559th had only 10 to 14 vehicles. Majority of Jagdpanthers produced saw service on the Eastern Front, while only single battalion (schwere Panzerjaeger Abteilung 654) saw service during Normandy Battles in the Summer of 1944. In preparations for the Ardennes Offensive, the largest number ever of Jagdpanthers was assembled, including vehicles transferred to the Western Front from the Eastern Front to take part in the offensive. Some 51 Jagdpanther in six battalions took part in the fighting in December of 1944.
Small number of Jagdpanthers was used by Waffen-SS formations and only 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen and 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg (part of the 6th Panzer Army) received company each during relief attempt to rescue encircled garrison of Budapest in January of 1945. Out of original 42 issued to those divisions only 12 were operational on April 1st and eventually took part in the defence of Vienna. From 1945, Jagdpanthers were also issue to Panzer Abteilungs of 7 Panzer Divisions, The Fuehrer Grenadier Regiment and single Panzer Brigade, but using them as substitute tanks was a mistake but a necessity at the time.
In 1944/45, Krupp was working on fitting Jagdpanther with rigidly mounted 88mm Pak 43/1 L/71 gun mounted in rear mounted superstructure. Along with this project, there were plans by Krupp dating back to November 17th of 1944 to install 128mm Pak 80 L/55 gun (in rear mounted small superstructure) in a Jagdpanther II but the end of the war terminated both projects.
After the war number of French Army tank units was equipped with Jagdpanthers, Panthers and Bergepanthers, till 1950s.
Today, early model Jagdpanther can be seen at the Imperial War Museum in England and late model Jagdpanther at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in USA as well as in Thun, Switzerland. Jagdpanthers can be seen in museums in Munster and Sinsheim, Germany. Vehicle at Aberdeen Proving Grounds (chassis number 303018) was produced by MNH in November/December of 1944 and took part in the Ardennes Offensive, where it was captured and eventually taken to USA.
The outstanding firepower of the 88mm gun, excellent mobility and low elegant silhouette made Jagdpanther a formidable opponent when correctly employed. Its combination of protection, firepower and mobility made it a superb tank destroyer. Overall, the Jagdpanther was probably the best tank destroyer produced during the World War II, but it was introduced too late to have any serious impact on the situation.
Late model Jagdpanther at Thun, Switzerland.
Photo provided by Dionisio Garcia Florez.