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"Solution B"


One of the main problems encountered with the "commander only", or Solution A, infra-red configuration was the commander alone had night-vision. The driver relied on the commander for instructions to not only keep the tank on course, but away from obstacles as well. Numerous references have made a passing mention (some with diagrams) of an alternate configuration of three standard IR sighting equipment: one for the commander (as before), one for the gunner (on the mantelet in front of the gun sight apeture), and one for the driver (on the front hull). This arrangement would give all vital crew members the advantage of infra-red sights. Unfortunately there had been only scattered reports of Solution B being utilized on Panthers, and there were no photographs of any tank so equipped, until the publication of the new Concord Panther book.

In the text of the Concord book, the author details that Solution B could be used on Panther Ausf. A's or D's because the binocular sight could be replaced with two monocular sights. One could be used during the day and one at night (as the IR equipment would hypothetically obscure vision through the sight during the day). A photograph of a Solution B Panther Ausf. D is included on page 63 of the book as evidence (along with two photos of a destroyed Panther Ausf. D with welding marks where the gunner's sight would be on page 65). Unfortunately, as detailed below, the photograph on page 63 is an unmittigated (and very poor quality) fabrication. It is very unfortunate that the author did not spend more time examining his photos as the inclusion of the fake ruins an otherwise credible investigation into Solution B.

Photo Comparison
Photo credited to W. Schneider from Panther
Photo credited to F. Schmidt from Panther

Does this mean that Solution B didn't exist? Not necissarily, the text in the Panther book does give some more information regarding the arrangement. A veteran of Panzer Regiment 24 details the practice of attaching live stick grenades to the IR sets which could be detonated destroying the IR equipment if capture of the vehicle was imminent. There are also apparently some British reports in which Solution B Panthers are reported.

I only have two problems with the analysis which has been performed to date on Solution B (aside from the use of a fake photograph). One, the Panthers to be utilized were the Ausf. D and early Ausf. A Panthers. Given the rate of attrition on the Eastern Front, and the general unreliability of the early Panther models, it seems unusual that such an extensive conversion program would have been undertaken with these (by this point) old and tired tanks. Furthermore, it is unclear how many early Panthers were still in working order at that point. Second, the spacing of the binocular sight used in the early model Panthers is very close if you examine the mantelet. It is very likely that the external sight would obscure vision through the "daytime" sight as well (thus making the emphasis on early Panthers unnecissary). If the infra-red sighting device did indeed effectively cover both apetures in the mantelet of a Panther D or A, then the most likely vehicle to be fitted with Solution B IR would be the Ausf. G which was in production right up until the end of the war. Furthermore, if the IR equipped Panthers were to be used during the day, the fragile, at least as compared to other fittings on a tank's exterior, IR equipment was most likely removed during day operations. This would, once again, make the use of an Ausf. D or Ausf. A unnecissary.


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