The Panzerkampfwagen III was a medium tank massively deployed by the Wehrmacht during World War II. Fast and mechanically reliable, it was the workhorse of the German armoured divisions in the Polish campaign and Battle of France in the first two years of the war. Until the introduction of the Panzer IV Ausf F2 in March 1942, the Panzer III had been the only German tank fitted out with a gun designed to perforate enemy armour. The German, official designation was Sd Kfz 141. Although it had become obsolete by 1943, the Panzer III continued to be used as an infantry support armoured vehicle until 1945.
In 1934, the Army Weapons Department began to draw up plans for a medium tank with a maximum weight of 24 tons and a top speed of 21.75 mph. According to Heinz Guderian directives, it had to be capable of engaging and destroying enemy tanks, for it was to be the main tank of the German Panzer divisions. Work on the Panzer III began in 1936, when Rheinmetall, Daimler-Benz, Krupp, and MAN produced prototypes for a tank in the 15-25 ton category. The Panzer III would be the main anti-tank weapon, firing armor-piercing projectiles from its 37mm gun. Daimler-Benz design was chosen for production.
Production of the Panzer III, the Ausf. A, began in May 1937, with a total of ten that year, two of which were unarmed. But the mass production of the Panzer III, the Ausf. F version, started in 1939. The Panzer III had a 12-cylinder Maybach HL 120 TRM 296 hp engine at the rear and the gearbox at the front, and could drive at a top speed of 25 miles per hour. The Panzer III Ausf. A, B, and C had 15mm steel armor on all sides with 10mm on the top. Soon, in the Ausf. D, E, F, and G models, the armor was upgraded to 30mm on the front, sides and rear , with the H model having a second 30mm-layer of hardened steel plate added to the front and rear hull. The Ausf. J model had a solid 50mm plate on the front and rear, while the Ausf. J¹, L, and the M models had an additional layer of 20mm of armor on the front hull and turret. The additional frontal armor, which had been added after the first two years of combat experience, gave the Panzer III frontal protection from most British and Soviet anti-tank guns.
The Panzer III was the best tank of the time during the first one and half year of the war. Nevertheless, when it met the Soviet KV and T-34 tank designs in combat on Eastern Front, it proved to be inferior. To counter the new Soviet threats, the Panzer III was upgraded with a more powerful and longer 50mm cannon, and received more armor. In 1942, the last version of the Panzer III, the Ausf. N, was built with a 75mm KwK 37 L/24 cannon, which was a low-velocity gun designed for infantry-support task. For defensive purposes, the Ausf. N was equipped with rounds of hollow charge ammunition which could pierce 70mm of armor.
Type: medium tank
Length: 5.56 m
Width: 2.9 m
Height: 2.5 m
Weight: 23 tons
Maximum speed: 40 km/h
Range: 155 km
Depending on the variant, it was armed with one 3.7 cm Kwk 36 or one 5 cm Kwk 38 (Ausf F-J) or one 7.5 cm Kwk 37 (Ausf N); two 7.92mm machine guns.