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The Schmalturm and planned Modifications


A view of a Schmalturm picked up at Daimler-Benz at Berlin-Marienfelde and shipped to England for study. Remnants retrieved from a firing range are located at the Tank Museum in Bovington, England. 

The Schmalturm and planned Modifications

The following prioritized three lists of the development emergency programme dated 20 February 1945 reveals which inventions were under production, and, if all went well, when the development of new modifications were expected to be completed. The first list contained those inventions that could have a decisive impact in the near future and were to be given top priority. The dates given in the lists are the dates that the designs were to have been completed, not the later dates when the modification would be ready to enter series production.


Sketch of a Panther Ausf.F fitted with the Schmalturm and the 7,5 cm KwK44/1 L/70.

Innovations for the Panther series that were included in the first list were:

  • A Mehrladeeinrichtung (automatic loader) 7,5 cm KwK42/2 (L/70) (to be completed in April 1945)

  • Stabilised gunsights (to be completed in April 1945)

  • Biwa infra-red scope and searchlight and a built-in range finder (to be completed in April 1945)

  • Gummisparende Laufrollen (rubber saving steel-tyred roadwheels) for all Panzers (to be completed in May 1945)

  • Dreschflegelpanzer (mine-clearing flaill tank) (not before May 1945)

  • A 900 metric horsepower Maybach-Motor HL 234 engine (to be completed in August 1945)

The second list consisted of inventions that held promise of special advantages in the future. These projects could not be abandoned without considerable loss of technical and development work and this work was unlikely to be quickly recouped. These were all long-term projects that had no chance of being implemented in the near future. 

The third list consisted of inventions for which development work was to cease immediately. There was only one invention on the third list from the Panther series: the s.F.H.18 auf Panther-Bauteilen (15 cm howitzer self-propelled chassis designed with Panther components).

As mentioned above: the dates mentioned are the dates that the designs were to have been completed, not the later dates when the modification would be ready to enter series production. By the end of the war, most of these modifications had not advanced beyond drawings and models. Other design projects, such as diesel and other engines, were not considered to be sufficiently advanced for inclusion in this top priority list.


8.8 cm KW.K.43 L/71 IN A MODIFIED PANTHER-SCHMALTURM


In a meeting of the Entwicklungskommission Panzer on 23 January 1945, Oberst Holzhaeuer (Wa Pruef 6) reported that development of a Panther with the 8.8 cm KwK L/71 in a Panther- Schmalturm was to be accomplished by Daimler-Benz. The turret ring diameter was to be 100 mm larger than the current Panther turret with an increase in weight of about one metric ton.

Ammunition stowage amounted to 56 rounds in comparison to 103 rounds previously stowed in the Panther. A wooden model had been completed. An experimental model in soft steel had yet to be fabricated. General-Major Thomale (Insp.Gen.d.Pz.Tr.) stated that the Umlaufseitenvorgelege (planetary gear final drive) was absolutely necessary for a Panther with the 8.8 cm KwK L/71 and that it would be necessary to conduct studies on ammunition stowage and loading in the soft steel model.


The Krupp proposal for fitting the 8,8 cm KwK43 L/71 into the Panther Schmalturm on basis of the Panther II chassis. (Hln E142, 17.Nov.1944)

Krupp had previously created a sketch of an 8.8 cm KwK43 L/71 in a Panther-Schmalturm that had been modified as little as possible (drawing number HIn-130 dated 18 October 1944). Krupp was awarded a development contract by Wa Pruef 6 on 4 December 1944. In a letter to Wa Pruef 6 dated 12 February 1945, Krupp explained that as a basis for their proposal, whenever possible, the Panther-Schmalturm with accessories had been left unchanged. The 8,8 cm KwK43 gun could be installed if the trunnions on the carriage were moved further back 350 mm (i.e. the gun moved forward 350 mm). Since the width of the gun was about the same as the 7,5 cm KwK, the openings for the optics and the machinegun could remain unchanged. The aperture in the turret front plate and the size of the armored cover were fitted for the 8,8 cm KwK43. To learn if further development could advance in the proposed direction, Krupp asked Wa Pruef 6 to state their position on the following questions:

  • Is their sufficient space for the loader? Krupp proposed to mount a wooden model of the breach of an 8,8 KwK43 in a Panther turret and perform loading experiments.

  • Is the shape of the armored cover in the turret front plate acceptable?

  • Is relocating the center of balance about 200 mm forward plus a weight increase of 900 kg bearable? Krupp proposed to test a turret with an off-center load.


Drawing No. Hln B-130 dated 18 October 1944 was created by Krupp as a proposal for fitting the 8,8 cm KwK43 L/71 into a Panther Schmalturm with minimal modification. There was very limited space available for loading the long (1167 mm) high explosive round. (Hilary Doyle)

During a meeting on 20 February 1945 attended by Wa Pruef 6, Wa Pruef 4, Daimler-Benz and Krupp representatives, the Daimler-Benz and Krupp proposals were compared. Daimler had mounted an 8,8 cm KwK with the recoil cylinder underneath the gun in a new Panther turret with the inside turret ring diameter increased by 100 mm. Therefore, a new ball bearing turret race would be necessary. The Krupp proposal featured the normal 8,8 cm KwK43 with repositioned trunnions, mounted in an unmodified Panther-Schmalturm. Wa Pruef 6 stated that the basis for the Krupp proposal, an expedient method for quickly mounting a 8,8 cm KwK43 in a Panther turret, was not acute. A new proposal was to be developed utilizing the larger turret ring diameter and the 8,8 cm KwK43 modified only by relocating the trunnions. Daimler-Benz was responsible for developing the turret and Krupp was responsible for the gun.

At a meeting on 27 February 1945, Wa Pruef 6 discussed the Panther-Schmalturm with 8,8 cm KwK43 with Daimler-Benz. Only an experimental turret fabricated from soft steel was to be completed. The design specifications were:

  • Elevation from minus 8 through plus 15 degrees.

  • Only the previous 8,8 cm KwK43 developed for the Tiger II was acceptable. The recoil and return cylinders were to be mounted above the gun with the bore evacuation cylinder in the middle. The muzzle brake was to be dropped. The trunnions were to be relocated.

  • A smooth armor plate for the turret front with the small possible apertures for the main gun and machinegun. The iddle of the trunnions were to be located on the forward edge of the front plate.

  • A rangefinder was to be included. An attempt was to be made to use the already available 1,32 m or 1,65 m rangefinders designed for Panzerkampfwagen.

  • Special value was placed on a low turret height.

  • The free turret ring diameter was to be 1750 mm to provide the loader the necessary room to maneuver.

  • Ammunition had to be easily accessible in ready racks in the turret.

  • The commander's cupola and turret traverse gear were to be the same as in the current Panther-Schmalturm.

  • Consideration was to be given to mounting the SZF2 or SZF3 stabilized gunsights.

  • The rear wall of the turret was to be sloped, instead of upright as was the case in the first wooden model from Daimler-Benz

On 8 March 1945, Oberst Crohn (Wa Pruef 6) requested that Krupp complete a design for the armor shell of a Panther Ausf.F turret mounting an 8,8 cm KwK43 by 12 March 1945.


Sketch of the Panther II fitted with the Schmalturm and the 8,8 cm KwK43 L/71 (Spielberger proposal)


On 14 March 1945, further development of the Panther was discussed with the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen. A new situation had been presented as a result of the excellent work by the Waffenamt in designing an 8,8 cm KwK L/ 71 (Tiger II gun) in a Panther. 15 main gun rounds were accessible in the turret along with about 50-54 rounds stored in the hull. With a rangefinder protected by armor and a gun sight with a stabilized view, it was about the same as the Panther-Schmalturm. Weight was about one metric ton heavier than the current Panther. Wa Pruef 6 was to be especially thanked for development of this Panther. If production of the "8,8 cm Panther" was successfully started, Wa Pruef 6 was to make preparations for the future to convert all available Panthers that underwent major overhaul to mounting an 8,8 cm turret. The Versuchs-Panther in soft steel was to be completed by early June. lf the necessary support was provided, series production was to start in the last quarter of 1945.

On 14 March 1945, the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen requested that Wa Pruef 6 provide a Versuchs-Panther with an 8,8 cm KwK L/71 completed in accordance with the wooden model from Daimler-Benz that had been displayed on 12 December 1944. Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen agreed to a normal Panther hull with a modified superstructure and turret in soft steel. Wa Pruef 6 was requested to expedite completion and to ensure the timely display of the Versuchs-Panther.

On 23 March 1945, Speer relayed the request that Hitler wanted a Panther with an 8,8 cm KwK to be displayed about mid April 1945 along with other weapons.

When interrogated after the war, representatives from Daimler-Benz stated that plans had been made to eventually mount the 8,8 cm KwK43 L./71 with a stabilized gun sight in the Schmalturm, but this project was not far advanced. In August 1945, a wooden mock-up was still located at the Daimler-Benz assembly plant.


MAYBACH HIL 234 MOTOR


At the meeting of the Entwicklungskommission Panzer on 23 January 1945, Oberst Holzhaeuer (Wa Pruef 6) stated that already two years ago the carburetor of the HL 230 had been recognized as a weakness and attempts to convert to fuel injection had been initiated. The Maybach HL 234 had been created from these developments and according to the latest reports from Maybach, achieved 900 metric horsepower. Fully loaded down, fuel consumption was 220 grams/metric horsepower, partially loaded, somewhat improved over the HL 230. Also the head gaskets, connecting rod bearings, and main crankshaft bearings had been improved. In all details, the HL 234 motor could replace the HL 230 motor. Dr. von Heydekampf injected that a report on the trials was not yet available and that the HL 234 motor had not been tested in a Panzerkampfwagen. Because of the stated advantages, the decision was unanimous for the HL 234 to be immediately included in the motor design and procurement program.


MINE CLEARING FLAIL


On 30 March 1945, Oberst Crohn (Wa Pruef 6) reported on the status of the development of the Minenraeumgeraet Dreschflegel (mine clearing flail). The last trial, conducted in Kummersdorf on 26 January 1945, failed due to overtaxing the drive for the flail roller. A strengthened model of the experimental device was being built at Hegesse. Stronger roller chains were immediately available. Six large and six smaller gears were being fabricated. After completion of the gears, about fourteen days were needed for assembly since only two or three workers were available. lf all went smoothly, it was estimated that trials could begin again on 1 May 1945.


Source


Thomas L. Jentz "Der Panther - Entwicklung, Ausführungen, Varianten, Charakteristische Merkmale, Kampfwert" Podzun-Pallas Verlag 1997



The DesertFox: Panzer: The Panther

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