The first Panther (PzKpfw V) production variant, produced from January 1943 through September 1943 was called the Ausf.D. (see below)

The PzKpfw V Ausf.D - credit: _www.Tanks-Encyclopedia.com_

The second Panther production variant, produced from August '43 - August '44, was called the Ausf.A. (see below)

The PzKpfw V Ausf.A - credit: -www.Tanks-Encyclopedia.com_

The third Panther production variant, producued from March '44 to April '45, was called the Ausf.G (see below)

The PzKpfw V Ausf.G - credit: _www.Tanks-Encyclopedia.com_


Why were the model variant designators D, A, and G used out of alphabetical order? The main Wiki article on the Panther Tank, as well as the Wiki article on the Panzer V variants, and the Panzer V Panther reference article on the Tanks-Encyclopedia.com page all reference the naming order out of sequence from the production order without an explanation as to why that happened.

Earlier Panzer types (e.g. PzKpfw III and IV) used alphanumeric sequential nomenclature for the variants which matched the production order. For example the PzKpfw IV variants were called the Ausf.A, B, C, D, E, F1, F2, G, H, and J in conjunction with the production order (note that "I" is almost always skipped in engineering nomenclature to avoid potential confusion with a similar-looking "1").

Is there a documented reason why the Panzer V (Panther) variants were named out of order?


Some very good information has been provided in the Answers and Comments below, but no clear documented case has yet been presented. The information presented is plausible but it still appears no clear answer is available. I doubt there are any first-hand witnesses remaining who could answer from personal knowledge (?)

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    I've long wondered this myself. Obvious answer would be that variants were named in design order, and reversed in production - but I can find no evidence of this at all. Neither can I find any evidence that the letters D, A, and G are acronyms. Looking forward to seeing who can track this puzzle down, and what the answer is. – Pieter Geerkens Aug 30 '18 at 23:53
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    Just to really add to the confusion, a version F was planned after G (in 1945) but never realised. I have a possible idea from reading some of the German sites on the tank, but I'm not sure it's too speculative for an answer. – Marakai Aug 31 '18 at 8:19
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    Same with the PzKpfWg VI Tiger (which appeared earlier than the PzKpfWg V), first as Ausf. H and then as Ausf. E.... There are rumors this was meant to foil Allied intelligence. Others say it was to not give the crews the feeling that they were basically beta-testing a new design (although that would not explain the Panther Ausf. A). Yet others say that since there were various companies involved, one (slower) design team might have finished their Ausf. A only when another (faster) design team had already iterated to Ausf. D. But one thing all sources seem to agree on -- no-one really knows. – DevSolar Aug 31 '18 at 14:05
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    Accepting an answer will reduce interest by contributors in researching the question. Don't feel any compulsion to accept an answer "just because it's been a while". Who knows what someone might turn up next week, or next month, or even next year. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 28 '18 at 13:36
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    My copy of German Tanks of World War Two arrived and it has a definitive answer for why they started with Ausf D. My answer has been updated. – Schwern May 12 at 4:26

UPDATE I have found a definitive answer to at least the first part, thanks to Steven J Flebbe on Patreon. This comes from German Tanks In World War Two In Action by George Forty, former director of the Bovington Tank Museum.

The first 20 Panthers to come off the production line at MAN from November 1942 onwards were designated Ausf A in the normal manner, although as we shall see, this designation was later changed. The Ausf B was to have been a version to be fitted with the Maybach-Olvar gearbox instead of the specially-designed ZFAK 7-200, but this proved abortive and the designation was never used. It could be said that the original 20 Ausf As were really pre-production models as they did not have any of the design improvements which had been proposed following the pilot model trials... What happened to the designation Ausf C remains a mystery, but it was presumably allocated to another model that never left the drawing board, so the first full production model was designated Ausf D. To try to keep the records straight the Ausf A batch was later given the designation Ausf D1, while the Ausf D was sometimes called Ausf D2.

That explains why the first production models were called Ausf D.

However, no explanation for why they went back to Ausf A.

The next production model was for some reason designated as Ausf A instead of the expected Ausf E.

UPDATE I asked Curator David Willey, of The Tank Museum, and he answered in the April 2021 Patreon Q&A.

I have never found a straight answer to why the first production models are coming out as D's.

Good work, you've stumped The Tank Museum.

However, he references Germany's Panther Tank by Thomas Jentz (the same mentioned by Marakai) to offer a theory. Unlike American A, B, C or British Mark 1, 2, 3 which designate a production number, Ausführung letters designate separate designs. If Ausführung D is ready first, that's what goes into production as Ausführung D. Furthermore, troops did not tend to refer to Ausführung letters except for repair and maintenance.

There was no particular order to the Panther's Ausführung letters. There's no evidence of a Panther Ausführung B, C, nor E ever existing. My own speculation is D stood for something like Tiger Ausf. H is for Henshel. It's not the designer, that was Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (MAN).

And unlike the well-ordered US system, the German system is inconsistent over time and project.

He quotes Jentz (parenthesis are Curator Willey's interjections)...

...the Ausführung letter designation was not used when issuing Panthers to unit nor was the Ausführung used in making decisions relating to tactical employment. (Just because you've got G's and they've got A's or something makes no difference to the troops.) The original use of the Ausführung designation was for specific identification by the designers. The assembly firms also used the Ausführung designation stipulating in their contracts the delivery of a specified number of each Ausführung. As used by the troops the Ausführung designation was used to identify compatible repair parts and identification of differences to aid in maintenance. The original records do not contain a single reference to an Ausführung B, C, or E nor is it a logical assumption that these three letters were ever used. The Ausführung letter was a modifier applied to the designation "PzK Panther".

Curator Willey goes on to explain...

...what I think he's really trying to say is that actually as a Ausführung it's a specific set of drawings for a model. Not necessarily we always start with this model A, model B. And if the model as we think the model D is kind of been worked up and is ready ahead of what we might have logically said was an A... then that is the one that is chosen and why it's going into production that way.

This is my own speculation before I heard from Curator Willey.

Once you start looking into wartime German model names you realize it's a big mess.

David Willey, curator of The Tank Museum, mentions this in Tank Chats #16.

The actual first model is not Ausführung A, the model A, as we normally would consider them. They work down the letters in the German system. The first model that goes into production is actually the model D.

Obviously this contradicts how earlier Panzer models go, like the Panzer IV going from A to J. Those were all pre-war designs. Perhaps this is a wartime change, though I can't imagine why.

This also doesn't explain why they started with D, and why there's a later Ausf. F and G. Unless they hit A and had to start again from the top. Seems pretty short sighted to start with D.

When we look into the Tiger tanks we also see a mess. The Tiger I started out as PzKpfw VI Ausf H1, H for Henschel, the designer, in contrast to Porche's competing prototype. It's possible Panther began with Ausf D for Daimler whose prototype was considered superior, but Hitler chose the MAN design instead.

By the end of the war the Tiger I was PzKpfw Tiger Ausf E. While the Tiger II was PzKpfw Tiger Ausf B. They're both models of PzKpfw Tiger but in reality they are totally different tanks.

To add to the confusion, Tiger I began as SdKfz 182, but was later retroactively changed to SdKfz 181 when the Tiger II became SdKfz 182.

I've seen several references to an order by Hitler on 27 Feb 1944 to change PzKpfw VI to PzKpfw Tiger and PzKpfw V to PzKpfw Panther. This may account for the change in model numbers. But I've been unable to find this order.

My educated guess is they started with a simple, orderly pre-war system (PzKpfw I, II, III... Ausf A, B, C...) which broke down in the increasing chaos of wartime production, competing industrial concerns, and ego stroking. They started making it up as they went along (the first Tiger is not Ausf A but Ausf H for Henschel) then had to retroactively deal with the consequences (I guess we'll count backwards), and every once in a while Hitler throws a spanner into the works (it's not the PzKpfw VI it's the PzKpfw Tiger, and this utterly new tank over here is also PzKpfw Tiger). By the time Panther comes around in 1943 this mess has stuck.

UPDATE Nicholas Moran "The Chieftain" fielded this in his Q&A #10 @ 55:11.

As for why D than A, technically A then D then A, there are multiple theories, none of which with any documentary evidence behind them. So your guess is as good as mine.

  • Hitler's order to drop the V and the VI from the Panther and Tiger designations came after they had already been in production, so it had no effect on the already named Panther Ausf.D and Ausf.A model variants. It seems this puzzle may have no clear documented answer but I'll consider the confusion of the war, as you postulate, as a potential candidate unless some more information comes forth through additional research. – Kerry L Sep 1 '18 at 23:25
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    @KerryL I'd suggest contacting Bovington Tank Museum. If you do, be sure to let us know what they say. – Schwern Sep 2 '18 at 4:44
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    Von Senger und Etterlin (in his German vehicle book) mentions the first production model as 'now known as... Ausf D' but provides no further insight into this either. – Matt Balent Sep 4 '18 at 11:42

Panther variants designation is a highly controversial topic. There are many conflicting pieces of information, some sources are based on Allied intelligence reports and many info has just been invented postwar to make some sense of the whole Panther versioning mess.

First, you must appreciate that the Panther tank was constantly changing. There are several different variants inside each of 3 major versions (D, A, G). Also, all versions were used in parallel and it was not unusual that on repairs older models were fitted with newer parts creating even more confusing hybrids.

Second, as you probably know the Panther tank was intended to be used in Operation Citadel e.g. attack on the Kursk salient on the Eastern front. As Panther was in the prototype and early production stage at the time many things got rushed, some requirements couldn't be made at all, some couldn't be made on time for the Citadel, some were unified etc...

But the most common timeline of events goes something like this.

The very first version vas actually Ausf A.

This was the designation for so-called Null-serie of 20 prototype vehicles. They had weaker HL 210 engine, an earlier version of Kwk42 gun (single chamber muzzle brake) and maybe just 60 mm front hull armor (but some says it was already upgraded to 80 mm). They were never used in combat.

Some designate this batch as A1 to differentiate them from later Ausf "A after D" versions. Some say that this batch was later redesignated to D1 - but read on.

Ausf D

Production apparently started on Dec 1942 and this was tank intended to be used at Kursk. First 250 vehicles were fitted with HL 210 engine. It has 80 mm hull front armor, standard gun (double chamber muzzle brake).

This version got famous at Kursk for poor reliability.

It is usually designated as D1 to differentiate them from later versions with the HL230 engine.

Later Ausf D that some designates as D2 was fitted with final HL 230 engine and have many reliability improvements either on the production floor or in the field. Some designate as D2 only the variants with Schürzen side skirt upgrades. Production of this model was ordered stopped on July 1943 but last ones rolled off on September 1943.

Ausf A

That was the first actual production version. Production started on August 1943 with many reliability changes, redesigned turret, MG mountings etc... Some 2.200 vehicles were produced until May 1944 (or maybe even later)

Now, the exact reason why it was designated as "A" instead of logical E is not known. But we can assume that this was intentional "political" decision and not some kind of error.

Possible reasons might be:

  1. This model finally incorporated all the requirements dating back to the autumn of 1942 without shortcuts being made because of the Kursk deadline
  2. A bad reputation of Ausf D might be the factor to discard the whole "Ausf D" batch as a kind of prototype/experimental vehicles and to start over.

Since the "Ausf E" is later skipped, my theory is that "Ausf A" was originally supposed to be "Ausf E".

Some designate this variant also as Ausf A2.

Ausf F

This variant was linked to the Panther II project. It was started around Jan-Mar 1943 when Hitler requested to increase hull armor to 100 mm and that couldn't be incorporated into the original Panther design. Panther II project was dragged on and quietly shut down.

It made several advances that wanted to be incorporated into the existing Panther design.

Most major of this was Schmalturm or small turret. Basic idea was to create smaller turret with a minimized frontal area that would reduce weight but keep the same level of protection. It was never finished, and there were just a few prototypes but some other things from Panther II were later incorporated into Ausf G. There were also experiments of Ausf F powered with gas turbine (GT-101 version of BMW003 jet engine), ideas to mount Jagdpather's 88mm Kwk43/L71 gun and so on.

As Panther II started in early 1943 and the earliest date for start of Ausf G project I could find was May 1943 (and this seems a little too early for me) the Ausf F was probably started somewhere during the spring of 1943.

and finally

Ausf G

The most common, most known and most produced version that started the production on March 1944. I won't write about it here as it is easily found all around the internet.

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    Hi Loki - welcome to History SE (StackExchange)! Thank you for some really good information on this Question! Can you provide some sources? (Links to on-line sources or books, authors, page references)? That would improve your answer and you would get some Up-votes with sources added. Thanks! – Kerry L Sep 13 '18 at 13:09
  • Thanks on the welcome :) I have added some links but you have already mentioned some of them in your question. There are many derivative pages and basically, it all comes down from 3-4 known books all mentioned in Wiki article. Also, there are many discussions in forums but they could be found through google and I don't see the need to post forum links here – Loki Sep 13 '18 at 16:12
  • Thanks Loki! - I'm curious if you can provide some documentation to the following statements in your answer: "Ausf.A That was the first actual production version..." since it started production in Aug 43, after the D in Dec 42 or Jan 43, how could the A be "first"? And: "we can be certain this was intentional..." then following that up with "Possible reasons that might be..." Can you clarify the source of the certainty, if only possible reasons can be suggested? Please don't misunderstand, I think the info you have provided is possible ad plausible... (cont'd) – Kerry L Sep 13 '18 at 18:17
  • (cont'd) ... I'm just hoping sources can be provided which can substantiate your reasonable explanations. Thanks again. – Kerry L Sep 13 '18 at 18:18
  • Well if I had some exact sources I would most definitely mention them. About "Ausf A after Ausf D" - giving the omission of E, and later usage of F and G I have little doubt that this isn't a high level "political decision". Knowing the timeline we can even put the time frame when it was made - probably on Jun-July 1943. On Tanks encyl. link there is claim that Hitler ordered Ausf D production to stop on July 1943 so "Ausf A" decision was probably made on that meeting or sometime close to it. It would take some serious archive digging to shed some more light on this subject. (cont'd) – Loki Sep 14 '18 at 10:25

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