SMS Panther was one of six Iltis-class gunboats of the Kaiserliche Marine and, like its sister ships, served in Germany's overseas colonies. The ship was launched on 1 April 1901 in the Kaiserliche Werft, Danzig. It had a crew of 9 officers and 121 men.
Panther was 66.9 meters (219 ft) long overall and had a beam of 9.7 m (32 ft) and a draft of 3.54 m (11.6 ft) forward. She displaced 1,193 metric tons (1,174 long tons; 1,315 short tons) at full load. Her propulsion system consisted of a pair of vertical triple-expansion steam engines each driving a single screw propeller, with steam supplied by four coal-fired Thornycroft boilers. Panther could steam at a top speed of 13.7 knots (25.4 km/h; 15.8 mph) at 1,344 indicated horsepower (1,002 kW). The ship had a cruising radius of about 3,400 nautical miles (6,300 km; 3,900 mi) at a speed of 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph). She had a crew of between 9 officers and 121 enlisted men. Panther was armed with a main battery of two 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/40 guns, with 482 rounds of ammunition. She also carried six machine guns.
In September 1902, after the Haitian rebel ship Crête-à-Pierrot hijacked the German steamer Markomannia and seized weapons destined for the Haitian government, Germany sent Panther to Haiti. Panther found the rebel ship. The rebel Admiral Killick evacuated his crew and blew up Crête-à-Pierrot, which was by then under fire from Panther. There were concerns about how the United States would view the action in the context of the Monroe Doctrine. But despite legal advice describing the sinking as "illegal and excessive", the US State Department endorsed the action. The New York Times declared that "Germany was quite within its rights in doing a little housecleaning on her own account".
Some months later in December 1902, the Panther participated in the German naval contingent during the Naval Blockade of Venezuela and bombarded the settlement of Fort San Carlos, near Maracaibo. The shallow waters that connected lake Maracaibo with the sea were passable for major ships only in the strait that separated San Carlos from the island of Zapara, yet even there it needed the help of a local pilot to avoid the sand banks and shallow waters of the passage. The battle started when the fort's gunners opened fire as Panther was crossing the bar. Panther returned fire, but the shallow waters limited its effectiveness. Inside the fort, two gunners (Manuel Quevedo and Carlos José Cárdenas) managed to score several hits on Panther with their 80-millimeter Krupp gun, causing considerable damage. After half an hour of exchanging fire, the Germans retreated.
In 1905, Panther was deployed to the Brazilian Port of Itajahy, where its crew conducted an unauthorized search, to capture a German deserter Hassman, but they ended up kidnapping, inexplicably, the German Fritz Steinhoff. This incident became known as the "Panther Affair" ("Caso Panther").
Panther became notorious in 1911 when it was deployed to the Moroccan port of Agadir during the "Agadir Crisis" (also called the "Second Moroccan Crisis"). Panther was supposedly sent to protect German citizens in the port. (A German sales representative, Hermann Wilberg, had been sent to Agadir on behalf of the Foreign office, but only arrived three days after Panther.) The ship's actual mission was to apply pressure on the French, as the latter attempted to colonize Morocco, to extract territorial compensation in French Equatorial Africa. This was an example of "gunboat diplomacy". The incident contributed to the international tensions that would lead to the First World War.
The ship was scrapped in 1931.