Because my vacations, I'll show another old project, but a very representative vehicle of Gremans in WWII: the Panzer III Ausf G - Sd.Kfz. 141.
Panzer III was a medium tank developed in the 1930s by Germany and was used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen III Sd.Kfz. 141 (abbreviated PzKpfw III) translating as "armoured fighting vehicle". It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and serve alongside the support Panzer IV; however, as the Germans faced the formidable T-34, stronger anti-tank guns were needed.
Since the Panzer IV had a bigger turret ring, the roles were reversed. The Panzer 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. However, the Panzer III's capable chassis provided hulls for the Sturmgeschütz III assault gun until the end of the war.
|T-34 russian tank|
|Stug III Ausf A in Russia|
On January 11, 1934, following specifications laid down by Heinz Guderian, the Army Weapons Department drew up plans for a medium tank with a maximum weight of 24,000 kg and a top speed of 35 km/h. It was intended as the main tank of the German Panzer divisions, capable of engaging and destroying opposing tank forces.
At the time, it was widely held that tanks would be used in two ways. The first use was, of course, direct combat against other tanks and other armoured vehicles, requiring the tank to fire armour piercing (AP) shells. The second use was protecting other tanks against anti-tank guns and infantry, firing high-explosive shells at such soft targets. It was the infantry, in prepared defences and equipped with anti-tank guns, that was thought to present the biggest threat to armour. Tanks designed to operate with friendly infantry against the enemy generally carried more armour and were heavier. A separate class, known as cruisers or mediums, was intended to exploit gaps in the enemy lines where opposition had been removed, moving through and attacking the enemy's unprotected lines of communication and the rear areas. These designs were lighter and faster. The Panzer III was built to this lighter standard, and was intended to be paired with the Panzer IV. The infantry-support role was provided by the turretless Sturmgeschütz assault gun, which mounted a short-barrelled gun on a Panzer III chassis.
Daimler-Benz, Krupp, MAN, and Rheinmetall all produced prototypes. Testing of these took place in 1936 and 1937, leading to the Daimler-Benz design being chosen for production. The first model of the Panzer III, the Ausführung A. (Ausf. A), came off the assembly line in May 1937; ten, two of which were unarmed, were produced in that year. Mass production of the Ausf. F version began in 1939. Between 1937 and 1940, attempts were made to standardize parts between Krupp's Panzer IV and Daimler-Benz's Panzer III.
Much of the early development work on the Panzer III was a quest for a suitable suspension. Several varieties of leaf-spring suspensions were tried on Ausf. A through Ausf. D, usually using eight relatively small-diameter road wheels before the torsion-bar suspension of the Ausf. E was standardized, using the six road wheel design that became standard.
The Panzer III, along with the Soviet KV heavy tank, was one of the first tanks to use this suspension design.
The Panzer III, along with the Soviet KV heavy tank, was one of the first tanks to use this suspension design.
A distinct feature of the Panzer III, influenced by British Vickers tanks (1924), was the three-man turret. This meant that the commander was not distracted with another role in the tank (e.g. as gunner or loader) and could fully concentrate on maintaining awareness of the situation and directing the tank.
Most tanks of the time did not have this capability, providing the Panzer III with a combat advantage versus such tanks. For example, the French Somua S-35 only had a one-man turret crew, and the Soviet T-34 originally had a two-man turret crew.
|British Vickers Mk I tank|
|Somua S-35 one-man turret interior...Very, very tight ...|
|T-34 captured by Finns. The two-men turret|
was a very tight environment ...
The Panzer III, as opposed to the Panzer IV, had no turret basket, merely a foot rest platform for the gunner.
The Panzer III was intended as the primary battle tank of the German forces. However, when it initially met the KV-1 and T-34 tanks it proved to be inferior in both armour and gun power. To meet the growing need to counter these tanks, the Panzer III was up-gunned with a longer, more powerful 50mm gun and received more armour although this failed to effectively address the problem caused by the KV tank designs. As a result, production of self-propelled guns, as well as the up-gunning of the Panzer IV was initiated.
In 1942, the final version of the Panzer III, the Ausf. N, was created with a 75mm KwK 37 L/24 cannon, the same short-barreled howitzer-like gun used for the initial models of the Panzer IV, a low-velocity gun designed for anti-infantry and close-support work. For defensive purposes, the Ausf. N was equipped with rounds of HEAT ammunition that could penetrate 70 to 100mm of armour depending on the round's variant, but these were strictly used for self-defense.
|Panzer III Ausf N in action...|
The Japanese government bought two Panzer IIIs from their German allies during the war (one 50 mm and one 75 mm). Purportedly this was for reverse engineering purposes, since Japan put more emphasis on the development of new military aircraft and naval technology and had been dependent on European influence in designing new tanks. By the time the vehicles were delivered, the Panzer III's technology was obsolete.
The Panzer III Ausf. A through C had 15 mm of rolled homogeneous armour on all sides with 10 mm on the top and 5 mm on the bottom. This was quickly determined to be insufficient, and was upgraded to 30 mm on the front, sides and rear in the Ausf. D, E, F, and G models, with the H model having a second 30 mm layer of face-hardened steel applied to the front and rear hull. The Ausf. J model had a solid 50 mm plate on the front and rear, while the Ausf. J, L, and M models had an additional layer of offset 20 mm homogeneous steel plate on the front hull and turret, with the M model having an additional 5 mm Schürzen spaced armour on the hull sides, and 8 mm on the turret sides and rear. This additional frontal armor gave the Panzer III frontal protection from most British and Soviet anti-tank guns at all but close ranges. However, the sides were still vulnerable to many enemy weapons, including anti-tank rifles at close ranges.
|Panzer III Ausf M with Schürzen spaced armour|
The Panzer III was intended to fight other tanks; in the initial design stage a 50mm gun was specified. However, the infantry at the time were being equipped with the 37mm PaK 36, and it was thought that, in the interest of standardization, the tanks should carry the same armament.
As a compromise, the turret ring was made large enough to accommodate a 50mm gun should a future upgrade be required. This single decision would later assure the Panzer III a prolonged life in the German Army.
|37mm PaK 36 AT gun - Saumur Museum|
The Ausf. A to early Ausf. F were equipped with a 3.7 cm KwK 36 L/45, 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 5 cm KwK 39 L/60 gun 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 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 gun - 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 75 mm gun.
All early models up to and including the Ausf. F had two 7.92mm MG 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.
The Panzer III Ausf. A through C were powered by a 250 PS (184 kW), 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 300 PS (221 kW), 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.
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, Norway, Finland and in Operation Market Garden in 1944.
In the Polish and French campaigns, the Panzer III formed a small part of the German armoured forces. Only a few hundred Ausf. A through F were available in these campaigns, most armed with the 37mm gun. They were the best medium tank available to the Germans and outclassed, in both firepower and armour, most of their opponents, such as the Polish 7TP, French R-35 and H-35 light tanks and the Soviet T-26 light tank and BT cavalry tanks.
|Panzer III Ausf.D in Polen, 1939.|
Around the time of Operation Barbarossa, the Panzer III was numerically the most important German tank. At this time, the majority of the available tanks (including re-armed Ausf. E and F, plus new Ausf. G and H models) had the 50mm KwK 38 L/42 cannon, which also equipped the majority of the tanks in North Africa. Initially, the Panzer IIIs were outclassed by Soviet T-34 and KV tanks. However, the most numerous Soviet tanks were the T-26 and BT tanks. This, along with superior German tactical skill, crew training, and the good ergonomics of the Panzer III all contributed to a rough 6:1 favourable kill ratio for German tanks of all types in 1941.
|Panzer III in Russian front - winter, near Moscow - 1942|
With the appearance of the T-34 and KV tanks, rearming the Panzer III with a longer, more powerful 50mm gun was prioritised. The T-34 was generally invulnerable in frontal engagements with the Panzer III until the 50 mm KwK 39 L/60 gun was introduced on the Panzer III Ausf. J¹ in the spring of 1942 (the gun was based on infantry's 50mm Pak 38 L/60).
This could penetrate the T-34 frontally at ranges under 500 metres. Against the KV tanks, it was a threat if armed with special high velocity tungsten rounds. In addition, to counter anti-tank rifles, in 1943 the Ausf. L version began the use of spaced armour skirts (Schürzen) around the turret and on the hull sides. However, due to the introduction of the upgunned and uparmoured Panzer IV, the Panzer III was, after the Battle of Kursk, relegated to secondary roles, such as training, and it was replaced as the main German medium tank by the Panzer IV and the Panther.
|Pak 38 L/60 AT gun towing by tractor in Russian front|
The Panzer III chassis was the basis for the turretless Sturmgeschütz III assault gun, one of the most successful self-propelled guns of the war, and the single most-produced German armoured fighting vehicle design of World War II.
By the end of the war, the Panzer III saw almost no frontline use and many vehicles had been returned to the factories for conversion into StuG assault guns, which were in high demand due to the defensive warfare style adopted by the German Army by then.
Variants and production:
Panzerkampfwagen III production - Medium tanks
|Produced||10||10||15||25 + 5||96||450||594||286||1521||1470||517||614|
|Command tanks||Flame tank|
- Panzer III Ausf. A - Prototype; only 8 armed and saw service in Poland. Armed with 3.7 cm KwK 36 L/46.5 main gun, 250 PS HL 108 engine.
- Panzer III Ausf. B - Prototype; some saw service in Poland.
- Panzer III Ausf. C - Prototype; some saw service in Poland.
- Panzer III Ausf. D - Prototype; some saw service in Poland and Norway.
- Panzer III Ausf. E - Suspension redesigned, switching from leaf-springs to torsion-bars, now using 6 larger roadwheels per side. 300 PS HL 120 engine.
- Panzer III Ausf. F - improved Ausf. E, first mass-production version with 37mm gun; late production armed with 50mm KwK 38 L/42 main gun.
- Panzer III Ausf. G - More armour on gun mantlet. Armed with 3.7 cm KwK 36 L/46.5 (later 5 cm KwK 38 L/42) gun.
- Panzer III Ausf. H - 5 cm KwK 38 L/42 as standard gun. Bolt-on armour added to front and rear hull (30 mm base + 30 mm plates).
- Panzer III Ausf. I - Variant mentioned in Allied intelligence reports but not an actual existing vehicle. Possible confusion with Ausf. J.
- Panzer III Ausf. J - Hull and turret front armour increased to solid 50 mm plate. Some were produced with 5 cm KwK 39 L/60 gun and later redesignated Ausf. L.
- Panzer III Ausf. K - Panzerbefehlswagen command tank variant with a modified turret. Carried actual main armament rather than a dummy gun as found on other Panzer III command versions.
- Panzer III Ausf. L - Redesignated Aus. J equipped with long 5 cm gun, 20 mm stand-off armour plates on hull and turret front.
- Panzer III Ausf. M - Minor modifications of the ausf. L such as deep-wading exhaust and Schürzen side-armour panels.
- Panzer III Ausf. N - Infantry support tank, armed with a short-barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 gun.
Designs based on chassis:
- Panzerbeobachtungswagen III - From February of 1942 to April of 1944, 262 Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf E/F/Gs were up-armored and converted into Artillerie Panzerbeobachtungswagen III (Sd.Kfz.143) – observation vehicles which served with Wespe and Hummel batteries until the end of the war. Panzerbeobachtungswagen III had a dummy gun mounted and in the place of original gun, Kugelblende (ballmount) for a 7.92mm MG34 machine gun was installed. Sd.Kfz.143 had a crew of five and was equipped with powerful radio equipment.
- Bergepanzer III - In 1944, 176 Panzer IIIs were converted to armoured recovery vehicles. Mostly issued to formations with Tiger I tanks.
|Bergepanzer III (SdKfz 144) with Panzerbergeanker|
- Flammpanzer III Ausf. M / Panzer III (Fl) - Flamethrower tank. 100 built on new Ausf. M chassis.
|Panzer III Ausf M Flammpanzer|
- Minenräumer III - Mineclearing vehicle based on a Panzer III chassis with a very highly raised suspension. (Prototype only.)
- Panzerbefehlswagen III - Command tank with long-range radios. Ausf. D, E and H: dummy main gun; Ausf. J and K: armed with 5 cm gun.
- Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33B - A close-support assault gun. Armed with a 15 cm sIG 33, 24 built. 12 used and lost in Stalingrad.
|Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33B in russian front|
- Sturmgeschütz III - Assault gun/tank destroyer armed with (various) 75mm gun. Built in many versions, from 1940 to 1945 (+10.000 units).
|Sturmgeschütz (Stug) III with infantry|
- Soviet SU-76i self-propelled gun was based on the chassis of captured German Panzer III and StuG III. About 201 of these vehicles, many captured in the battle of Stalingrad, were converted at Factory No. 37 in 1943 for Red Army service by removing the turret, constructing a fixed casemate, and installing a 76.2mm S-1 gun (cheaper version of the F-34) in a limited-traverse mount. The armour was 35mm thick on the casemate front, 50mm in the hull front, and 30mm on the hull side. It was issued to tank and self-propelled gun units starting in autumn 1943 and withdrawn to training use in early 1944. Two SU-76i survive: one on a monument in the Ukrainian town of Sarny and a second on display in a museum on Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow. It should not be confused with the Soviet SU-76 series.
|Soviet SU-76i SPG|
- Tauchpanzer III - Some tanks were converted to amphibious tanks for Operation Sea Lion. Unusually, they were designed to be able to stay underwater rather than to float. The idea was that they would be launched near to the invasion shore and then drive to dry land on the sea bottom. The tank was waterproofed, the exhaust was fitted with a one-way valve and air intake was through a hose.
|Tauchpanzer III under avaliation|
|Place of origin||Nazi Germany|
|Used by||Nazi Germany|
Kingdom of Romania
Kingdom of Hungary
Independent State of Croatia
|Wars||World War II|
|Number built||5,774 (excluding StuG III)|
|Weight||23.0 tonnes (25.4 short tons)|
|Crew||5 (commander, gunner, loader, driver, radio operator/bow machine-gunner)|
|1 × 3.7 cm KwK 36 Ausf. A-F|
1 × 5 cm KwK 38 Ausf. F-J
1 × 5 cm KwK 39 Ausf. J¹-M
1 × 7.5 cm KwK 37 Ausf. N
|2–3 × 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34|
|Engine||12-cylinder Maybach HL 120 TRM|
300 PS (296 hp, 220 kW)
|Speed||Road: 40 km/h|
Off-road: 20 km/h
For this project, I used the old (1997) kit PzKpfw. III Ausf. G - Afrika Korps from Dragon (# 9032), an ancient relich of my closet. My intention was to reproduce the vehicle "red-114" from this photo:
|Panzer III Ausf G "red-114" in desert, 1941.|
And the cover model of this book:
A swift project, just for fun...
|PE from Dragon kit|
|Wheels...the age of kit in detail...|
|putty...no big deal...|
|Return rollers under repositioning, according to the booklet.|
Another feature of the kit old ...
|The lower hull and suspension were from Stug. Another feature of Dragon...|
|The turret rack has no front wall... Thin plasticard and putty to fix this flaw...|
|Aerial made with acupuncture needle...|
|Old kits, big flaws...|
|opening the fenders apertures...|
|Desert colors. Shades in desert-yellow...|
|Deutsche Afrika Korps|
|Chipping...desert is an abrasive enviroment...|
|Planning details for my "red-114"|
|tracing paper + PVA glue + jerry-cans...|
| Panzer III Ausf G "Red-114" from Pz.Regt. 5, 5th Liechte Panzer Division |
Afrika Korps, North Africa 1941.
See you soon, Kommandanten