Ideal German tank?

So with the knowledge that Germany learned through the war through its own tanks and the tanks of its enemies...
How would you think the Reich's perfect tank look like in 1945?
Now of course in 1945 the Reich was pretty much kaputt, so let us ignore those stupid restraints like resources or the war and and give the Germans the endless fields of the simple drawing board.

How close to a first gen MBT do you think it would be?
 
I would say something in the region of the VK30.01/30.02 (D) had it continued development

Something in the 35 ton range - with an 75mm L70 gun - shoot anyone who suggests putting an 88 in it

Eliminate the bow MG/RTO position (AAA commander or loaders MG instead plus coax) - have the '5th' position for additional ammo

Have no river crossing capability to keep it simple and use a known and trusted powerplant / transmission

Do not try to build it out of unobtanium - accept the strategic limitations on resources

Optimised for crew survivability - big hatches and good observation - good range / large fuel load

So it should have a good road range, be reliable (for a German cat), good enough gun with sufficient ammunition with increase crew survivability emphasised on the design allowing the crew to evacuate quickly allowing retention of experienced and trained crews.

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The Panther style of tank sniper was probably the best option for the Germans considering the strategic situation. If they have metal stock for alloying, the whole issue with brittle armor plates goes away but they would still be vulnerable to 122 mm HE. Of course, the Soviets always tried to keep their IS tanks away from German panzer forces because the IS had issues in tank combat and was better suited to infantry support.

The Panther's main automotive trouble was with the final drives, and the best way to fix that is to use the Tiger I's planetary-gear final drives instead of the OTL spur gear drives (spur gears were an inherent shortcoming and the bad alloying didn't help). Functionally speaking, the Germans did not figure out the scientific basis behind steel alloying until they were taught it in the 1950s. Keeping a 700 hp engine puts the weight limit around 45 tons to maintain 15 hp/ton, so the Panther is already at the top end of that. The gun is a good choice for improving over the 8.8 cm KwK 36, although the extra penetration is only about 10 mm. The 7.5 cm HE round has 0.65 kg of filler compared to 0.9 kg of filler in the 8.8 cm HE round.

There were plenty of relatively smaller problems with the tank that could also be solved. Working on the transmission was always a problem, so my preference would be to cut a giant hole in the lower front glacis and replace it with a bolted transmission cover so the transmission can be pulled straight out the front. The commander's hatch was slow and cumbersome to open because of the screw-driven low protected position. The gunner's primary sight would preferably be placed on top of the turret rather than in the mantlet. The loader and hull gunner should have better vision devices, and the gunner should also have periscopes.

The problem with calling the Panther a main battle tank is that the MBT role is applicable only with a doctrine that focuses on pushing tanks as far forward in the screening element as possible. The German army used the Panzer III, Panzer IV, Panther, M47 Patton, and M48 Patton is essentially the same role as their primary combat tank (rather than a main battle tank) and only assigned medium tanks to Panzer Recon Battalions when they started getting faster Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 tanks. People tend to call the Centurion a main battle tank but the British did not use their medium tanks (Centurion, Chieftain, Challenger) in the scouting role and persisted with large armored cars and eventually CVR(T) light tanks. The United States only used M60 tanks in the divisional cavalry squadrons after the failure of the Sheridan light tank.

Personally, I would classify main battle tanks as primary combat tanks (combined assault/exploitation role and most common in TOE) designed primarily for fighting enemy tanks rather than supporting infantry with low-velocity howitzers.
1st Generation: pre-war origin mediums like Pz III, Pz IV, Crusader, Cromwell, Sherman, T-34
2nd Generation: late-war origin tanks like the M26 Pershing, Centurion, and Panther
3rd Generation: early post-war tanks like the M46/M47/M48 Patton and T-55
4th Generation: ultimate evolution of war-time designs like M60, Leopard 1, Chieftain, and T-62
5th Generation: introduce Western smoothbores, composite armor, and very big engines like Abrams, Leopard 2, and Leclerc

We are currently in the very late stage of the 5th Generation, so we probably can't exactly define what a 6th generation tank will be and whether new tanks like the Type 10, K2 Black Panther, and T-14 Armata are 5th or 6th generation tanks. The main force multipliers are going to be systems like networking and electro-optical systems, but they can be retrofitted on 5th gen tanks.
 
Like this Paper Panzer unified III/IV
IMG_6851.jpg
though maybe with wider tracks
advantages:
It's close to what Krupp was making already
simple, cheap leaf spring suspension that gives acceptable ride, while easy to service, and slightly larger wheels aid in that
Some sloped armor to increase protection, but not to the degree of making too much unusable interior space, problems with Panther and T-34

Downsides,, would need side hull hatches like the Mk III had, and another in the turret,
You want to be able to get out of a vehicle easily, not like the T-34, so improve ergonomics over the above, give the rest of the crew besides the TC, periscopes to aid in situational awareness

Last, a different engine design than the Maybach. Go for something that runs at lower RPM, for more reliability and engine life, even at the cost of larger displacement .
Those engines aren't as efficient.
Diesel if possible, I'm a fan of the Tatra aircooled W18
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Garrison

Donor
So with the knowledge that Germany learned through the war through its own tanks and the tanks of its enemies...
How would you think the Reich's perfect tank look like in 1945?
Now of course in 1945 the Reich was pretty much kaputt, so let us ignore those stupid restraints like resources or the war and and give the Germans the endless fields of the simple drawing board.

How close to a first gen MBT do you think it would be?
Not very because we know what the Reich's idea of an ideal tank looked like:

Whatever they come up with will almost inevitably be overengineered and unnecessarily complicated.
 
And it has the same stupidly complicated overlapping wheel arrangement as the Panther. Also the OP was talking about 1945 by which time the trends in German tank design are quite clear. And frankly if the VK 30.01 were easier and cheaper to build than the Panther that's not saying a lot.
Without the Schachtellaufwerk, of course.

Trends in German tank designs were due to specific industrial decisions and intervening circumstances made by a variety of actors of which Hitler and the Wa Pruf 6 were only a relatively small part of. They were by no means inevitable.

The VK 30.02 (DB) adopted several features of the T-34 over and above those specified by the army (sloped armour, large roadwheels, and overhanging gun) by using a diesel engine with rear transmission and jettisonable external fuel tanks. The design used leaf springs rather than more expensive torsion bar suspension.[4] While the VK 30.01(D) could have been cheaper and easier to produce, the German government preferred the roomier turret and more modern suspension of the MAN prototype, which went on to be the production Panther. The VK 30.02(MAN) also shared the same engine as the Tiger, which would help with production and maintenance, it also had larger tracks, which would help with its ground pressure on soft ground.[5] While the Panther was similar to the T-34 in shape, the VK30.01 (DB)'s sloped front was similar, but overall, it was closer to earlier German tanks. Some sources say that one prototype was produced, others say that Daimler Benz produced three slightly different versions.[3] The VK 30.01(D) was a fast, nimble tank weighing 35 tonnes (34 long tons; 39 short tons),[1] with a top speed of 56 km/h (35 mph) and a cruising range of 195 km (121 mi). Its main armament was the 7.5 cm (3.0 in) KwK 42 L/70 gun. It had a crew of 5 (driver, commander, gunner, bow gunner/radio operator, and the loader), and its armour ranged between 16 and 80 mm (0.63 and 3.15 in).[1]
 
And it has the same stupidly complicated overlapping wheel arrangement as the Panther. Also the OP was talking about 1945 by which time the trends in German tank design are quite clear. And frankly if the VK 30.01 were easier and cheaper to build than the Panther that's not saying a lot.
How do you resolve that situation? They need big road wheels to provide off-road mobility but they needed eight sets of torsion bars to hold up the weight and expected accelerations.
 

Garrison

Donor
Without the Schachtellaufwerk, of course.

Trends in German tank designs were due to specific industrial decisions and intervening circumstances made by a variety of actors of which Hitler and the Wa Pruf 6 were only a relatively small part of. They were by no means inevitable.
They are when you are talking about Nazi Germany where the problems are systemic. When look at German tank production up close most of it was a waste of resources and/or wildly overengineered. The Panzer IV wasn't built to accommodate the long barrelled 75mm, so it was 'nose heavy' when one was fitted. The Panther was overcomplicated and horrible to maintain. The Tiger was a pure waste of time and looking at all of this Hitler decided that the King Tiger, Maus, and the E-100 were good ideas. The claims that the VK30.01/2 would have been better seems to be base off a single prototype that no one got to test after the war. The odds are that when they tried to turn it into a production vehicle the weight would have crept up and the performance down because that is what happened with all the German late war tanks.
 

Garrison

Donor
How do you resolve that situation? They need big road wheels to provide off-road mobility but they needed eight sets of torsion bars to hold up the weight and expected accelerations.
Well other nations managed an acceptable solution without the interleaving. The T-34 didn't have them, nor did the Panzer IV for that matter. Consider what happened when you had to get at the suspension on the Panther, especially when the bolts on those wheels had a bad habit of shearing or threading in battlefield conditions. The fact is the Panther is a great example of bad engineering, so focused on one aspect of the desired performance that all the others suffered. Not a purely German problem, see the Covenanter, but the Germans had less resources and it tended to be recurring problem.
 
They are when you are talking about Nazi Germany where the problems are systemic. When look at German tank production up close most of it was a waste of resources and/or wildly overengineered. The Panzer IV wasn't built to accommodate the long barrelled 75mm, so it was 'nose heavy' when one was fitted. The Panther was overcomplicated and horrible to maintain. The Tiger was a pure waste of time and looking at all of this Hitler decided that the King Tiger, Maus, and the E-100 were good ideas. The claims that the VK30.01/2 would have been better seems to be base off a single prototype that no one got to test after the war. The odds are that when they tried to turn it into a production vehicle the weight would have crept up and the performance down because that is what happened with all the German late war tanks.
As Robert A. Forczyk writes in Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front, 1941-1945, "A good 30–35-ton tank with a diesel engine and a long 7.5cm gun was needed that could be built in quantity for the Panzer-Divisionen to meet the operational requirements of Bewegungskrieg.", going on to write that there is no obvious indication that the development of the VK30 would have progressed in exactly the same way as the Panther, as you are implying here. According to him, late-war German tank design became flawed due to this:

Furthermore, the Germans learned the wrong lessons about tank warfare at Kursk – that it was a tank gunnery contest and that the side that outgunned the other won. The Tigers had done very well during Zitadelle , inflicting greatly disproportionate losses on the enemy and absorbing enormous punishment. Only 11 of 117 Tigers were destroyed during Zitadelle , although their operational readiness rate was very low so it was rare for more than a few Tigers to be involved in any given action. Increasingly, the Germans placed their faith in long 7.5cm and 8.8cm guns, at the expense of manoeuvreability. The Pz III had generally been kept in the background during Zitadelle and the Pz IV was now regarded as second-rate. Despite its shabby performance, Hitler and the OKH believed that the Panther would eventually counter-balance the Soviet numerical superiority in tanks. New heavy tanks, like the 68-ton King Tiger under development, were regarded as the answer to Soviet numbers, not trying to build a better medium tank. Effectively, after Kursk the Wehrmacht abandoned its interest in building more or better 30-ton tanks and settled on the fantasy that smaller numbers of super-heavy tanks would alter the trajectory of a lost war.
He bursts the negative perception surrounding the long-gunned Panzer IV, writing that its critics clearly fail to recognize that:

In the Panzer-Divisionen, the PzKpfw IV Ausf. G was introduced in April 1942 with the long-barrelled 7.5cm KwK 40 L/43 gun, while the PzKpfw III Ausf. J and Ausf. L models were equipped with the 5cm KwK 39 L/60 gun.1 Both upgraded tanks offered much-improved lethality against the T-34, with better range and penetration than the previous models.
 

Garrison

Donor
As Robert A. Forczyk writes in Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front, 1941-1945, "A good 30–35-ton tank with a diesel engine and a long 7.5cm gun was needed that could be built in quantity for the Panzer-Divisionen to meet the operational requirements of Bewegungskrieg.", going on to write that there is no obvious indication that the development of the VK30 would have progressed in exactly the same way as the Panther, as you are implying here. According to him, late-war German tank design became flawed due to this:


He bursts the negative perception surrounding the long-gunned Panzer IV, writing that its critics clearly fail to recognize that:
Well then they learned the wrong lesson, because what the Americans realized was that it was whoever got off the first shot who usually won. Also yes the bigger guns worked, but the Panzer IV wasn't designed to fit one and suffered accordingly performance wise. And the early Panzer III was outperformed on the metrics of firepower and protection by the Matilda II, never mind the T-34.
 
Also yes the bigger guns worked, but the Panzer IV wasn't designed to fit one and suffered accordingly performance wise.
According to Forczyk, the performance of the Panzer IV actually improved, giving a table showing sharply declining German tank losses throughout the spring of 1942 due to decreasing numbers of mechanical breakdowns/failures as well as decreasing combat losses against Soviet tanks as definitive proof that the long gun gamble on the Panzer IV actually did end up working out, after all.

And the early Panzer III was outperformed on the metrics of firepower and protection by the Matilda II, never mind the T-34.
The Panzer III was an evolutionary dead end that demonstrated the follies of diverting production towards manufacturing two medium tanks instead of just one.
 
Well other nations managed an acceptable solution without the interleaving. The T-34 didn't have them, nor did the Panzer IV for that matter. Consider what happened when you had to get at the suspension on the Panther, especially when the bolts on those wheels had a bad habit of shearing or threading in battlefield conditions. The fact is the Panther is a great example of bad engineering, so focused on one aspect of the desired performance that all the others suffered. Not a purely German problem, see the Covenanter, but the Germans had less resources and it tended to be recurring problem.
The T-34 was 2/3rds the weight of the Panther. The Christie-style coil spring suspension will top out around 30 tons. The Panzer IV as designed was less than half the weight. Leaf spring suspensions will max out around 25 tons. These are not comparable vehicles. Looking at tanks like the M26, Centurion, and KV, which are similar in weight, and basically everything at the time used torsion bars or huge bogie systems, and only torsion bars can support the speed the Panther and its more powerful engine were capable of. Without American or Soviet metallurgy, the Germans can't make torsion bars strong enough to only fit 6 pairs on a tank that large. You have about 5,000 mm of track run to fit your road wheels, so it would be possible to fit 5 x 86 cm standard wheels. It might be possible to get away with 6 x 80 cm Tiger II wheels, but that is going to leave 40 mm gaps between the wheels so may not be viable. Using 66 cm wheels like the M60 might be able to fit 7 wheels on each side with 60 mm gaps. You would need even smaller wheels to fit in the eight you need.
 

Garrison

Donor
The T-34 was 2/3rds the weight of the Panther. The Christie-style coil spring suspension will top out around 30 tons. The Panzer IV as designed was less than half the weight. Leaf spring suspensions will max out around 25 tons. These are not comparable vehicles. Looking at tanks like the M26, Centurion, and KV, which are similar in weight, and basically everything at the time used torsion bars or huge bogie systems, and only torsion bars can support the speed the Panther and its more powerful engine were capable of. Without American or Soviet metallurgy, the Germans can't make torsion bars strong enough to only fit 6 pairs on a tank that large. You have about 5,000 mm of track run to fit your road wheels, so it would be possible to fit 5 x 86 cm standard wheels. It might be possible to get away with 6 x 80 cm Tiger II wheels, but that is going to leave 40 mm gaps between the wheels so may not be viable. Using 66 cm wheels like the M60 might be able to fit 7 wheels on each side with 60 mm gaps. You would need even smaller wheels to fit in the eight you need.
All true but the solution created a whole different set of problems and of course the question is did the Wehrmacht really need the Panther? It was based on the optimistic belief that if the Wehrmacht couldn't match its enemies in numbers it could redress the balance with quality. Problem being that the Panther and Tiger had so many issues that they didn't really offer superior quality out in the battlefield. Anyway as I originally stated based on the trends of German tank designs in the later half of the war, from the Tiger, to the King Tiger, to the E100 I firmly believe that what the Germans saw as 'ideal' was ever bigger harder to kill tanks that could counter the numerical superiority of the Soviets and the Western Allies. Which in practice would have led to monstrosities that were utterly impractical on scale that made the Tiger I look like the Sherman for ease of production and operation. And I think I will just leave things there.
 
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