I do not think I have played any vehicle in World of Tanks where I have had so many winning and losing streaks as the Jagdpanther. I began my career in this rather notable tank destroyer with a seven game losing streak. Later on I had a nine game losing streak. I have also had winning streaks of eight games, and two of six games. If it was a rather disheartening introduction to the vehicle it has since been a rather fun journey.
The stock vehicle, of course, has its weaknesses. The gun you inherit from the Jagdpanzer IV is a bit weak for the tanks you will face. That said it is not entirely helpless. The top priority for research however should be the next gun. The top engine is also researchable from the VK3601H, and should be fitted immediately if you have done so. In my case the engine was unresearched, and was my second research priority after the guns. The stock tracks fortunately have enough weight allowance so you can basically leave them to last. Unless you have specialised in the tank destroyer line you will also most likely have researched the radio before playing this vehicle.
In many respects the Jagdpanther continues the same theme of tank destroyers that started with the Hetzer back at Tier IV. Just as an aside, this is not a historical line of development. Historically the Tier V Stug III’s development is actually pre-war, whilst the Tier IV Hetzer, Tier VI Jagdpanzer IV, and Tier VII Jagdpather (and Tier IX Jagdtiger) all started production in 1944, and were more or less developed concurrently. In terms of basic gameplay however there is essentially the same overall theme of generally low profile, angled armour, good mobility, and a heavy punch. If one just looks at a Jagdpanther it looks something like a larger Hetzer, with its heavily angled frontal slope.
That angled front is of vital importance for the Jagdpanther, because if one looks at the base numbers for its armour – 80/50/40 – it hardly seems sufficient for a Tier VII battle. That heavily sloped front however massively increases the effective armour, especially at range. Given AP shells lose penetration the further distance they travel, once you are a few hundred metres away it becomes quite possible to bounce enemy shots, especially if you make what use you can of the depression of the gun to increase that effective angle even further. You do not have the gun depression to do hull-down tactics quite like one of the US tanks, but those small bumps in the ground and gentle slopes can be surprisingly useful even so. Once an enemy gets up close, however, the armour is much less effective – and once you are flanked everything you meet will be able to inflict a lot of pain through your thinly armoured sides and rear. Keeping the enemy to the front is therefore quite important.
This is made easier by the fact, with the upgraded engine, the Jagdpanther is actually a very manoeuvrable vehicle. It is not uncommon to outpace other tanks, or to keep pace with some of the mediums. While it is not as speedy as the Stug III, it is still quite easy to over-expose yourself. Indeed, I would say this attribute is the chief cause for many of my struggles in the Jagdpanther. I am still not as good as I should be at dialling back the aggressiveness a little. Those heavies have the heavy armour for a reason, so it is good idea to let them take the enemy shots. This is not to say one cannot be aggressive with the Jagdpanther, but one has to calibrate and choose one’s moments. A dash to a good opening position is all very well, but too far forward is lethal. Far better to still be alive and then, later in the game, dash to a new position that helps flank an enemy heavy. In a more purely defensive setting it also allows you to firebrigade to some extent – to relocate to where you are needed most at that particular time.
One also has to remember that you are still quite a large tank destroyer – essentially a Panther hull without the turret. Not so large that you cannot hide effectively in bushes, but not every bush will cover you. Likewise you are a reasonable target for artillery, so moving once detected is generally a good idea. The Jagdpanther is the first tank in which I have the commander trained with the Sixth Sense perk, and there is no doubt it greatly helped by games when it came into play. I thoroughly recommend researching that skill. Otherwise the camouflage skill is also useful, but for the commander I would probably recommend Recon of the second skill as view range is vital. To increase mobility Off-Road Driving is something to consider for the driver, but would perhaps be less useful in a dedicated sniper.
The Jagdpanther has two very good top-tier guns, and it really is personal preference as to which one to play with. One delivers a higher rate of damage per minute, the other has much higher alpha, while penetration between the two is almost identical. The 8.8cm PaK 43 L/71 can fire faster than 11 rounds a minute with good skills and equipment, and does about 240 damage average. The 10.5cm PaK 45 L/52 can manage over eight rounds a minute with the same skills and equipment, but in comparison does 320 average damage. There is one other difference – shells for the 8.8cm cost 252 credits, compared to 1030 credits for the 10.5cm. The 8.8cm is also fractionally more accurate (3.2 to 3.4) but has a longer aim time than the 10.5cm (2.3 to 1.7).
Your intended tactics, I think, generally dictate which of these guns you should use. If you intend to be more of a pure sniper then the 8.8 cm is the superior alternative. You have the better accuracy while the longer aim time is somewhat less of a factor. Also ammo costs are far less, which is a good thing since at range you are likely to be having more misses and bounces. Meanwhile if you are intending to fight at closer ranges the extra punch of the 10.5cm feels more comfortable. That extra damage is more likely to destroy an already damaged enemy tank, and intimidate those not destroyed into playing coy. Accuracy is less important at close ranges, and the quicker aim time means less time feeling vulnerable. After playing around with both I eventually chose the 10.5cm, simply for the larger alpha. If in doubt I also think this is probably the better choice since sniping is still very much an option with it – you will just miss a few more times over the course of several matches than you would with the 8.8cm. Regardless of which gun you choose, however, you should be able to damage anything you encounter – though the higher tier tanks require some flanking and so on.
I had a fairly successful record in the Jagdpanther – 161 matches with 90 victories (which puts my win rate in this vehicle more or less in line with my global win rate) and 202 enemy tanks destroyed. Along the way I earned 1 Defender, 6 Sniper, 3 Confederate, and 2 Top Gun medals. While that sounds good, there is a sense in which I find myself a little disappointed. I have never had a match where I really felt I was fully realising this tank’s capabilities. One symptom of this is that I never got the Ace Tanker award, even though I know there is a certain amount of luck involved with that. No battle really stands out though. I only realised this just now when I started to write a sentence that began “my favourite moments in the Jagdpanther were…” and never got around to completing it. I have had quite a few good moments, but nothing consistent. The more I look back on those 161 battles I think the more I realise I should have stepped back and done this sort of thinking whilst still playing the tank. Lesson to learn for the future.
Despite all of this the Jagdpanther was quite a fun tank to play, even on my exceptional losing streaks. I am expecting the Ferdinand (the next German TD I am going to play) will be rather different.