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Panzerkampfwagen III Medium Tank

Discussion in 'German Motorised Weapons' started by Jim, Dec 8, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    It was envisaged in the mid-1930s that each German tank battalion would have three companies of relatively light medium tanks and one company of better armed and armoured medium tanks. The former eventually became the Panzerkampfwagen III (PzkPfw III) or SdKfz 141, while the latter became the Panzerkampfwagen IV (PzKpfw IV) which was to remain in production throughout WWII. In 1935 the Weapons Department issued contracts for the construction of prototype vehicles against the lighter concept to Daimler-Benz, Krupp, MAN and Rheinmetall-Borsig At an early stage it was decided to arm the tank with a 37mm gun which would fire the same ammunition as that used by the infantry anti-tank gun, but provision was made that the turret ring diameter be large enough to permit the upgrading of the vehicle to 50mm if this should be required. Following trials with the prototype vehicles the Daimler-Benz model was selected, although the first three production models, the PzKpfw III Ausf A, PzKpfw III Ausf B and PzKpfw III Ausf C were built only in small numbers, differing from each other mainly in suspension details. In September 1939 the vehicle was formally adopted for service, and mass production was soon under way. The PzKpfw III was first used in combat during the invasion of Poland. The next production models were the PzKpfw III Ausf D and PzKpfw III Ausf F, the former with thicker armour and a revised cupola, and the latter with an updated engine and only six road wheels. In 1939 it was decided to push ahead with the 50mm model and this entered production in 1940 under the designation PzKpfw III Ausf F. This was followed by the PzKpfw III Ausf G version with similar armament but more powerful engine. For operations in North Africa the vehicles were fitted with a tropical kit, while for the proposed invasion of England a special version for deep wading was developed. The latter were never used for their intended role but some were successfully used during the invasion of the USSR in 1941. The PzKpfw Aus H introduced wider tracks and a number of important improvements.

    A Panzer III with accompanying infantry during 1942. By this time the German tanks had come up against the excellent Soviet T-34, and armour and armament were being increased.

    [​IMG]


    The 50mm L/42 gun was inadequate to cope with the Soviet T-34 tank, so the longer-barrelled KwK 39L/60 weapon was installed. This had a higher muzzle velocity, and vehicles fitted with the weapon were designated PzKpfw III Ausf J. Many vehicles were retrofitted with the 50mm gun, and by early 1942 the 37mm version had almost disappeared from front-line service. The next model was the PzKpfw III Ausf L, which had greater armour protection, pushing its weight up to just over 22 tonnes, almost 50 per cent more than the weight of the original prototype. The PzKpfw III Ausf M and PzKpfw III Ausf N were fitted with the 75mm L/24 gun which had been installed in the PzKpfw IV; a total of 64 rounds of ammunition were carried for this gun. Production of the PzKpfw III was finally completed in August 1943. The chassis was also used as the basis for the 75mm assault gun (Gepanzerte Selbstahrlafette fur Sturmgeschutz 7.5cm Kanone or SdKfz 142), of which a few were used in the invasion of France in 1941; production of improved SP guns on PzKpfw III chassis continued until the end of WWII. Other variants included an armoured recovery vehicle, an armoured observation vehicle (Panzerbeobachtungswagen) and a command vehicle (Panzerbefehlswagen III). A total of 15,000 chassis was produced for both the tank and assault gun applications. The layout of the PzKpfw III was basically the same in all vehicles, with the driver at the front of the hull on the left and the machine-gunner/radio operator to his right. The three-man turret was in the centre of the hull, the commander having a cupola in the centre of the roof at the rear. The engine was at the rear of the hull, and the suspension, which was of the torsion-bar type from the PzKpfw III Ausf E, consisted on each side of six small road wheels, with the drive sprocket at the front and the idler at the rear; there were three track-return rollers.

    PzKpfw Ausf G, as used by the Afrika Korps. Tropicalized, and with a 50mm gun, the German tank proved effective against the lighter British tanks, and was much more mobile than the heavy infantry tanks.
    [​IMG]

    Specification PzKpfw Ausf M [​IMG]

    Crew: 5
    Weight: 22300kg (49.160lb)
    Dimensions: length (including armament) 6.41m (21ft 0in)
    Length: (hull) 5.52m (18ft 1.5in);
    Width: 2.95m (9ft 8in)
    Height: 2.50m (8ft 2.5in)
    Engine: One Maybach HL 120 TRM 12-cylinder petrol engine developing 300hp (224 kW)
    Performance: maximum road speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
    Maximum road range: 175 km (110 miles)
     

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