- For the Steel Division II unit see SD2:Jagdpanther
Jagdpanther is a German Anti-tank unit. It is the most powerful anti-tank unit exclusive to the 352. Infanterie. The Jagdpanther is the result of mounting the infamous Pak 43 gun (also found on the Tiger II) onto the Panther chassis. Turretless, it is mainly suited to long-range open ground warfare where its gun packs a big punch, while its armour gives it adequate protection from a wide range of Allied anti-tank fire. It is a very powerful late-game addition to the German infantry division, in line with the more defensive doctrine of the division and providing a fearful amount of firepower.
A completely new medium tank design, the Panther was the result of a rapid development program meant to reestablish tank parity on the Eastern Front. Although initial work started in 1938, it wasn't until the superior T-34 and KV series tanks demonstrated the need for a new tank capable of fighting them on equal terms. Two competing designs were submitted by Daimler-Benz and MAN, with the contract eventually awarded to the latter. The prototype was completed in September 1942, with the first Panthers rolling off the assembly line in January 1943.
The Panther was conceived in order to counter the Soviet T-34 and to replace the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Nevertheless, it served alongside the Panzer IV and the heavier Tiger I until the end of the war. It is considered one of the best tanks of World War II for its excellent firepower and protection, although its reliability was less impressive due to the tank being rushed in service. Indeed, many early Panthers broke down on their way to the battlefield and mechanical reliability would continue to plague the vehicle until the end of the war.
The characteristics of the Panther was such that the Allies classified the Panther as a heavy tank, while the German designers considered it a medium tank. Mistakenly thought to be only available in little numbers in France, the big cat was not considered to be a real threat to the Americans, and as a result the US Army did not adequately equip their tanks and tank destroyers with guns capable of facing the panther head-on. They preferred to rely on their mainstay Sherman tank, as it had performed well in earlier engagements and introducing a new Sherman variant would complicate logistics (another problem was that the American 76 mm gun was not as effective against soft targets as the 75 mm was). This decision soon proved to be a mistake, as Panthers were produced in much bigger numbers than first anticipated, and Shermans with 76 mm guns had to be hurriedly brought in. The British were better prepared for fighting the Panther, as they readily had 17-pdrs and Fireflies available in the first months after the Normandy invasion.
On the Eastern Front, the Panther's initial performance was abysmal. Operation Zitadelle at Kursk was delayed by two months in order to deploy the first batch of 200 Panthers, allowing the Soviet Union to prepare an intricate system of defenses in depth. Mechanical failures also resulted in a fraction of them being actually committed, which contributed to the dismal failure of the Nazi offensive and forever crippled their ability to conduct strategic offensives. However, once the teething problems were resolved, the Panther became a respectable adversary: Its excellent options and powerful gun enabled it to fight Soviet tanks even while outnumbered and seemingly outgunned.
Jagdpanther or Panzerjäger für 8.8cm PaK43 auf Fgst Panther I, was in essence a Panther G chassis modified to fit the Pak 43 gun, and was produced in small numbers during the last years of Nazi Germany. Ordered in 1942, design was completed in 1943 and production started in January 1944. By the end of the war, only over 400 Jagdpanthers were produced in total, as German industrial power was waning under continual Allied bombing raids.
Those that were completed distinguished themselves on the battlefield as a formidable foe, with excellent firepower provided by the 8.8 cm PaK 43/3 L/71 gun, a thickly armored casemate, mechanical reliability, and excellent weight to power ratio.
Real-life order of battle
Schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 654 brought eight Jagdpanthers to Normandy with their 2. Kompanie arriving in June 29. This unit was the only unit to use Jagdpanther in the Normandy theater. The planned composition was that each Kompanie would get 14 Jagdpanthers and the Abteilung command element would get three command Jagdpanthers. But lack of deliveries of Jagdpanther prevent the rest of 2. Kompanie and 3. Kompanie from training on Jagdpanthers until July 1 when 17 more Jagdpanther were delivered.
Veteran Jagdpanthers become available in phase C, giving the 352. Infanterie access to an expensive yet devastating anti-tank weapon. Its armour, however, is only marginally better than that of a Panther tank, not enough to be completely impervious against the British 17-pdr. This, coupled with the fact that the turretless tank destroyer must rotate its entire tank body in order to shoot, makes the Jagdpanther particularly vulnerable since it is much more prone to revealing its sides to enemy fire. One should best regard the Jagdpanther as a somewhat forgiving glass cannon, though poor management of this unit will rapidly result in its costly destruction.
It is not well-suited for leading armoured thrusts, and fits more in a defensive position, in line with the doctrine of the German division it is attached to. Nevertheless, it is a powerful veteran unit and its accurate gun is capable of destroying any Allied tank with ease, allowing the 352. Infanterie to stay relevant in the late game.