The German Panzer III aka Panzerkampfwagen III Medium Tank

About The Panzer III

The German Panzer III aka Panzerkampfwagen III Medium Tank was developed during the 1930’s for the anti-tank role, however when Germany invaded Russia and went up-against the T-34 medium tank, larger anti-tank guns were required, but the Mk III couldn’t be fitted with them, however the Mk IV which was serving as the infantry support role could be fitted with these larger anti-tank guns, so the roles for both tanks was swapped.

The Mk IV mounted the long barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 40 gun and engaged in tank-to-tank battles. The Panzer III became obsolete in this role and for most purposes was supplanted by the Panzer IV. From 1942, the last version of Panzer III mounted the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24, better suited for infantry support. Production of the Panzer III ended in 1943.

Panzer III Development

On January 11, 1934 plans were drawn up for a medium tank with a maximum weight of 24 tonne and a top speed of 35 km/h.

Daimler-Benz, Krupp, MAN, and Rheinmetall all produced prototypes. Testing of the prototypes took place in 1936 and 1937, leading to the Daimler-Benz design being chosen for production. The first model of the Panzer III, the Ausf. A, came off the assembly line in May 1937, and a total of ten, two of which were unarmed, were produced in 1937. Mass production of the Ausf. F version began in 1939.

In 1942, the final version of the Panzer III, the Ausf. N, was created with a 75mm KwK 37 L/24, a low-velocity gun designed for anti-infantry and close-support work.

The German Panzer III aka Panzerkampfwagen III Medium Tank

Armour

The Panzer III Ausf. A through C had 15 millimetres (0.59 in) of homogeneous steel armor on all sides with 10 millimetres (0.39 in) on the top and 5 millimetres (0.20 in) on the bottom. This was quickly determined to be insufficient, and was upgraded to 30 millimetres (1.18 in) on the front, sides and rear in the Ausf. D, E, F, and G models, with the H model having a second 30-millimetre (1.18 in) layer of face-hardened steel applied to the front and rear hull. The Ausf. J model had a solid 50-millimetre (1.97 in) plate on the front and rear, while the Ausf. J¹, L, and the M models had an additional layer of 20 millimetres (0.79 in) of armor on the front hull and turret.

Mobility

The Panzer III Ausf. A through C were powered by a 250hp 12-cylinder Maybach HL 108 TR engine, giving a top speed of 32 km/h and a range of 150 km.

All later models were powered by the 300hp 12-cylinder Maybach HL 120 TRM engine. Top speed varied, depending on the transmission and weight, but was around 40 km/h. The range was generally around 155 km.

Firepower

The Ausf. A to early Ausf. F were equipped with a 37mm KwK 36 L/46.5 which proved adequate during the campaigns of 1939 and 1940 but the later Ausf. F to Ausf. J were upgraded with the 5 cm KwK 38 L/42 and the Ausf. J¹ to M with the longer 50mm KwK 39 L/60 cannon in response to increasingly better armed and armoured opponents.

By 1942, the Panzer IV was becoming Germany’s main medium tank because of its better upgrade potential. The Panzer III remained in production as a close support vehicle. The Ausf. N model mounted a low-velocity 75mm KwK 37 L/24 cannon – the same used by the early Panzer IV Ausf. A to Ausf. F models. These guns had originally been fitted to older Panzer IV Ausf A to F1 models and had been placed into storage when those tanks had also been up armed to longer versions of the 75mm gun.

All early models up to and including the Ausf. F had two 7.92mm Maschinengewehr 34 machine guns mounted coaxially with the main gun, and a similar weapon in a hull mount. Models from the Ausf. G and later had a single coaxial MG34 and the hull MG34.

Combat History

The Panzer III was used in the campaigns against Poland, France, the Soviet Union and in North Africa. A handful were still in use in Normandy, Anzio, Finland and in Operation Market Garden in 1944.

The German Panzer III aka Panzerkampfwagen III Medium Tank

Specifications

Designer Daimler-Benz
Designed 1935-1937
Manufacturer Daimler-Benz
Produced 1939 -1943
Number built 5774
Weight 23 tonnes
Length 6.41m
Width 2.90m
Height 2.5m
Crew 5 (commander, gunner, loader, driver, radio operator/bow machine-gunner)
Armour 5 – 70mm
Secondary armament 2 – 3 × 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34
Engine 296hp 12-cylinder Maybach HL 120 TRM
Power/weight 12 hp/tonne
Suspension Torsion-bar suspension
Operational range 155km
Top Speed Road 40km/h

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