Panzer 3

Germany-flagGerman medium battle tank Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf G, H, J with 5cm KwK L/42 gun.
History, development, service, specifications, statistics, pictures and 3D model.

Panzer 3 in street fightings.

Panzer 3 with 5cm KwK L/42 in street fightings in the Ukraine in summer of 1941.

Panzerkampfwagen III
Type: medium battle tank.


The Panzer 3 (PzKpfw III or Panzerkampfwagen III) had been the most significant tank model operated by the Wehrmacht during the first 2 years of WW2. It had been the Panzer 3 in excess of every other tank model that dominated the campaigns in the West in 1940 and during the Balkans campaign and in Russia in 1941, and brought the Wehrmacht to the edge of strategic triumph in Ww2.

In the middle of the 1930s German planning about the kinds of tanks required for the upcoming tank divisions had selected a pair of standard designs, one light tank (the Panzer 2) and one medium (the upcoming Panzer 4).
It had been imagined that the light tank, equipped with a 2cm gun, could be fast and in a position to combat against opposing forces armour along with undertaking reconnaissance functions. The medium tanks could be more slow, further highly armoured, and have a sizeable calibre weapon very effective at shooting powerful high explosive shots. These types of tanks would grant close support and also be very effective at engaging anti-tank guns of the infantry sited in the battlefield.

Nevertheless, Wehrmacht manoeuvres along with other research efforts eventually revealed that the inadequately equipped and thinly armoured light tanks wouldn’t be successful in tank against tank combat. It turned out to be obvious that a tank type was necessary anywhere between the other two. This additional ‘medium tank’ is required to be equipped with an effectively potent weapon to fight against the vast majority of types of adversary armour, be relatively properly protected, and also be manoeuvrable enough to take advantage of any sort of breakthrough options. This became most likely the initial awareness of what’s famous nowadays as a MBT = ‘Main Battle Tank’.

The Panzer 3 was made to become the upcoming panzer division’s main battle tank. Guderian and the Inspectorate of Armoured Troops wished this additional fresh tank to install a 5cm gun, however the Heereswaffenamt thought a 3.7cm gun adequate, reasoning due to standardisation with the infantry’s 3.7cm Pak 36 anti-tank gun.
In the form of concession the Panzer 3 was developed having a large enough turret ring to be able to install larger weapons afterwards.

The first true ‘Main Battle Tank’

However, the genuine improvement in the Panzer 3, and the spot in which it had been way in advance of its competitors, was in the ergonomics and tank crew layout . From the beginning Panzer 3 was designed mainly for tank versus tank battle (and also as it was, fighting in most cases).
The crew of 5 had been obviously huge for any medium tank with simply just one turret. They incorporated the commander, gunner, loader, MG/radio operator, and driver.

The magic formula was a 3-man turret, with the commander elevated in a perfect placement between the loader and gunner, along with an all-round vision cupola. He owned not any other job than to control the tank and manage its activities with assisting tanks of the platoon by using helpful radio communications. He wasn’t diverted by additionally to be the loader, the gunner, or even both, as had been the situation in the majority of existing Russian and Western Allied tanks in these days.

Panzer 3 Ausf A

Panzer 3 Ausf A

The requirements for the Panzer 3 were provided in 1935 having various prototypes being tested the year after. The Daimler-Benz pattern had been picked for manufacturing with 10 Panzer 3 Ausf A being built in 1937. The Panzer 3A got 15mm of starting armour, the 3.7cm KwK L/46.5 weapon, 5 road wheels dampened by coil springs, and 2 return rollers. Efforts to strengthen the tank, particularly the suspension, quickly followed. The Panzer 3 Ausf B, C as well as D all got 8 wheels on both sides, split into layouts using leaf spring suspension.

As many as just sixty semi-experimental Panzer 3 Ausf B, C and D tanks had been manufactured from 1937 to June 1938, all featuring somewhat small 15mm basic armour.

It wasn’t until December 1938 that the Panzer 3E came out, which looked like the prolonged manufacturing form of the Panzer 3. The suspension issues had been fixed by way of separate torsion bar suspension, 6 wheels on both sides, as well as 3 return rollers. The superior suspension made it possible for putting on weight to 19.5 tons, therefore the armour had been now increased to 30mm basic; a decent degree of safety in 1939-40.

As many as simply Ninety-six Panzer 3E had been built up to October 1939. The sluggish manufacturing speed resulted in just Ninety-eight Panzer III tanks within the Wehrmacht troops on September 1, 1939, and it remained to the Panzer 2 to make the backbone of the German armoured divisions throughout the Polish campaign.

From September 1939 to July 1940, 435 Panzer 3F had been manufactured. Finally the Germans had began to mass produce the main battle tank. The Panzer 3F had been basically the identical to the Panzer 3 E, besides roughly A hundred of the last manufacturing tanks were equipped with the latest external gun mantlet and the stronger 5cm KwK L/42 tank weapon.

On May 10, 1940, 348 Panzer 3 (together with a handful of Panzer 3G) had been operating with the 7 armoured divisions in the West. However the Panzer 2 continued to be more significant by numbers, its low striking power to handle adversary tanks or dug in AT gun positions required the majority of the assaults fell to the Panzer 3 usually in the 1940 French campaign.
Subsequent to the experience in the Western campaign, in August 1940 plenty of Panzer 3F had been re-equipped using the stronger 5cm weapon, and extra 30mm armour plates had been welded to the superstructure and hull. Between June 22 and July 4, 1941, still 274 Panzer 3 having 3.7cm weapons had been used against the Russians. These vehicles still had not been re-equipped with the bigger 5cm gun and had been mainly Panzer 3 F.

Panzer 3 Ausf G

Panzer 3 Ausf G in factory

Panzer 3 Ausf G ready in factory. All vehicles have the redesigned cupola and driver’s visor. The third vehicle along mounts the 5cm KwK L/42 gun, while the others have still the previous 3.7cm KwK L/46.5.

During April 1940 manufacturing of the Panzer 3 Ausf G began. The Ausf G had been equipped using the 5cm KwK L/42 weapon as ordinary, improved basic armour on the vehicles rear, and also on late-production vehicles a fresh developed turret cupola.


An original request for 1,250, ordered in January 1939, was in fact decreased to 800 by May 1939, once the Panzer 38(t) manufacturing became usable in Czechoslovakia.
The complete series was to equipped with the 3.7cm KwK, however the experience realized in Poland and France sped up the use of the 5cm KwK L/42 gun, therefore the vast majority of the Ausf G became this weapon.

The primary variations from earlier versions had been the rise from 21 mm to 30mm in the armour thickness of the hull rear, as well as the creation of a fresh pivoting visor for the driver. The turret had been altered to incorporate an exhaust fan installed on the roof, and one signal port had been removed.

 new cupola used on Panzer 3 Ausf G

The new cupola used on Panzer 3 Ausf G, H, J, L, M and N; as well on Panzer IV Ausf E, F and G.

In mid-production, a newly­ developed cupola was placed, and, close to the end of the line, larger 40cm tracks were introduced. Around 50 Ausf G had been armed with the 3.7cm KwK L/46.5 having internal mantlet. The rest got the 5cm KwK L/42 with external mantlet. From August 1940 until 1942, a lot of those which had the 3.7cm KwK had been up-gunned to the 5cm KwK L/42 as well as up-armoured. The sight for the original 3.7cm KwK was the TZF5a.


Initial Panzer 3 Ausf G manufactured from April to June 1940, had been sent as replacements for tank losses at the Western front. Contrary to public opinion, all Panzer 3 in action in France were armed with the 3.7cm KwK. Panzer 3 armed with the 5cm KwK L/42 had been initially manufactured in July 1940.

Panzer 3 Ausf H

Panzer 3 Ausf H in Sofia (Bulgaria) in 1941.

Coming from October 1940 the Panzer 3H was built simultaneously and had a remodeled lengthier turret for better space have capacity for the larger sized 5cm weapon; as well as extra 30mm armour plates attached to the hull and superstructure fronts.
The Panzer 3 finally carried up to 30mm on the sides and 60mm of armour on the front.
The Panzer 3H had also been the pioneer vehicle to become equipped with a turret basket, so that the turret’s floor moves together with the turret, which even more improving the performance of the vehicles crew. Remarkably, absolutely no Russian tank in WW2 had been equipped with a turret basket, even though the Germans discovered it beneficial to retrofit the Panzer 3 Ausf E, F and G by using turret baskets.

As many as 908 Panzer 3G and H were manufactured between April 1940 and April 1941. These types of tanks consequently were the majority of Panzer 3 existing at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941. From June 22 to July 4, 1941, a total of 717 Panzer 3 having 5cm guns had been operating versus the Russians, mainly Panzer 3G and H.

Hitlers orders ignored

Panzer 3 Ausf G in North Africa

Panzer 3 Ausf G in North Africa with the 5cm KwK L/42, but retains the old type of cupola.

In August 1940 – a while before Operation Barbarossa – Hitler watched the Panzer 3 armed with the 5cm KwK L/42 gun during a military parade. He ordered future Panzer 3 manufacturing to use the brand-new 5cm KwK L/60 weapon which in fact had a greater muzzle velocity so because of this superior anti-armour penetration.
Having said that in an unusual matter of disobedience the Heereswaffenamt overlooked this order for causes of logistics and most probably improved manufacturing. Sadly, for the German Army in this case Hitler seemed to be right since the 5cm KwK L/42 quickly turned out insufficient versus the latest Russian vehicles in 1941: particularly the T-34 medium and KV-1 heavy tanks.

This has inspired some experts to say that the inability to use the better weapon earlier shared noticeably to Operation Barbarossa’s final disaster.

Nevertheless this statement disregards a number of extremely essential points:

The 5cm KwK L/60 had been a modern weapon at this time and barrels had been essential for the latest 5cm Panzerabwehrkanone 38 (PaK 38) anti-tank gun. Although the PaK 38 (L/60) received production priority, just 812 Pak 38s had been delivered to the German units at the Russian Front between June 22 and July 4, 1941. This consists of just nine per-cent of the around 9,150 AT-guns from calibre 28-50mm available.
In contrast to widespread misconception, the vast majority of tanks in WW2 had not been knocked-out by other tanks and Operation Barbarossa wasn’t any different. The great bulk of Russian tanks wiped out in the battles of 1941 had been wrecked by anti-tank guns of the German infantry. This incorporates T-34 and KV vehicles.

Postponing Panzer 3 manufacturing for the 5cm KwK L/60 gun would definitely have been more severe. It would have resulted in considerably less Panzer 3 having 5cm guns being on hand in June 1941 than had been historically your truth. It would also have resulted in a lower number of PaK 38 anti-tank guns being released to the infantry in June 1941, and it was AT guns that were wiping out the majority of the Russian vehicles.

Taking standard Pzgr39 rounds, the 5cm KwK L/60 simply penetrated 11mm additional armour at 500 metres compared to 5cm KwK L/42. This amount dumped just to 8mm at 1,000 meters. For that reason, at the most combat ranges between 400 and 1,000 meters, the 5cm KwK L/42 had been without difficulty capable of killing 94 per-cent of the available Russian tank stock in June 1941.

The existence of restricted amounts of T-34 and KV vehicles was without a considerable influence on German Panzer 3 actions throughout Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Most of the time one on one fight involving Panzer 3 Ausf G and H versus T-34 and KV tanks had been unusual, as well as in the vast majority of situations the existence of 5cm KwK L/60 guns on the Panzer 3 would’ve created minor changes.
The Germans would have undoubtedly always used different tactical­-operational techniques to wipe out these types of tanks. Such as heavy 88-mm flak guns, direct-firing artillery, Ju 87 Stukas, and close assaulting infantry.
The KV-1 heavy tank especially was not more vulnerable to the 5cm KwK L/60 compared to the 5cm KwK L/42 at typical fighting distances.

Panzer 3J with 5cm KwK L/42 gun

Panzer 3 Ausf J with short 5cm KwK L/42 gun in Russia in winter 1941-42.

During March 1941 manufacturing of the Panzer 3 Ausf J began. In addition to a number of modest changes, the basic armour had been at this point 50mm frontally (instead of 30+30mm on the Panzer 3H, which isn’t so effective as one plate with same thickness) as well as 30mm on the sides.
The Panzer 3J manufactured until December 1941 used still the 5cm KwK L/42, and also in 1941 several have been dispatched as replacements for Panzer 3 losses on the Russian Front. These Panzer 3J had been furthermore employed to prepare the 2nd and 5th Panzer Divisions shifted east in September 1941, in addition to the 203rd Panzer Regiment sent east in December 1941.

Panzer 3J (SdKfz 141/1) with longer 5cm KwK39 L/60

Panzer 3 Ausf J (SdKfz 141/1) with longer 5cm KwK39 L/60, elivery finished at the MAN plant in Nuremberg.

From December 1941 the Panzer 3 Ausf J had been equipped using the stronger 5cm KwK L/60 gun as common as was designated SdKfz 141/1 (instead SdKfz 141 of the common type). Overall, 2,616 Panzer 3J tanks had been manufactured from March 1941 to July 1942, of those 1,067 had been equipped using the longer 5cm KwK L/60 gun.

Panzer 3 with the 3.7cm KwK had been removed from the front line in Russia after 1941. The vast majority of survivors equipped with the 3.7cm KwK had been modified to install the 5cm KwK L/42 gun, however 54 of them continued to be on the Wehrmacht stock as late as September 1944.

As of June 1942, the Panzer 3 Ausf L followed in production.

Users: Germany, Hungary, Spain, Turkey (for all variants).

Animated 3D model Panzer 3 Ausf G

Specifications for Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf G (SdKfz 141)

Specification Ausf G Ausf H Ausf J
Type medium battle tank
Engine Maybach HL 120 TRM gasoline engine with 300 hp at 3,000 rpm
Gearbox 10 forward, 4 reverse 6 forward, 1 reverse
Crew 5
Turret crew 3 (with 360° commanders cupola)
Length 6.51 metres 5.41 metres 5.52 meters
Width 2.95 meters
Height 2.44 meters 2.44 meters 2.50 meters
Weight 20.3 tons 21.8 tons 21.5 tons
Maximum speed 25 mph
Cross-country speed 11 mph
Fuel consumption per 100 km 200 liters on road; 330 liters cross-country 220 liters on road, 330 liters cross-country
Fuel 320 liters
Road radius 160-165 km 140-165 km 140-155 km
Cross-country radius 100 km 90 km
Vertical obstacle 0.60 meters
Trench crossing 2.30 meters
Fording depth 1.30 meters
Turning circle 5.85 meters
Climbing power 30°
mm – angle Ausf G Ausf H Ausf J
Turret front 30 (15°) 30 (13°) 30 (15°)
Turret side 30 (25°) 30 (25°) 30 (25°)
Turret rear 30 (0-21°) 30 (13°) 30 (12°)
Turret top 12 (83-90°) 10 (85-90°) 10 (83-90°)
Superstructure front 30; later 30+30 (9°) 30+30 (9°) 50 (9°)
Superstructure side 30 (0°) 30 (0°) 30 (0°)
Superstructure rear 30 (30°) 30 (30°) 50 (15°)
Superstructure top 17 (77-90°) 17 (77-90°) 17 (75-90°)
Hull front 30; later 30+30 (21°) 30+30 (23°) 50 (21°)
Hull side 30 (0°) 30 (0°) 30 (0°)
Hull rear 30 (10°) 30+30 (8°) 50 (10°)
Hull bottom 16 (90°) 16 (90°) 16 (90°)
Gun mantlet 37 (0-45°) 37 (0-45°) 50 (0-45°)
Armament and Equipment
Panzer 3 Ausf G,H,J Specification
Main armament 5 cm KwK39 L/42
Rounds 99
Traverse 360° (by hand)
Elevation -10° to +20°
Muzzle velocity Pzgr39 685 m/s
Muzzle velocity Pzgr40 1,060 m/s
Shell weight Pzgr39 2.06 kg
Shell weight Pzgr40 0.925 kg
Secondary armament one 7.92mm MG 34 coaxially to gun, one 7.92mm MG 34 in front hull (together 2,700 rounds)
Radio FuG5 (4 km range)
Telescopic sight TZF5d (3,000 metres range; 2.4 Mag; 25° field of view )
Penetration mm at 30° armour plates of the gun
Range Pzgr Pzgr40 (available only limited numbers)
Penetration 100 meters 54 mm 96 mm
Penetration 500 meters 46 mm 58 mm
Penetration 1000 meters 36 mm
Penetration 1500 meters 28 mm
Penetration 2000 meters 22 mm
Data Ausf G Ausf H Ausf J
Production April 1940 – February 1941 October 1940 – April 1941 March 1941 – July 1942
Price per tank RM 96,200 (early models) – RM 103,163 (Ausf M) [= c.$43,290-46,423 = c.£9,172-9,835]
Total production figure 600 308 1,549 (+1,067 with KwK39 L/60 since Dec. 1941)
Service statistics of all Panzer 3 variants
Year Available Production Losses
before 1939 71
1939 98 (1.9.) 206 ?
1940 348 (10.5.) 858 ?
1941 1,440 (1.6.) 1,713 782
1942 1,849 (1.1.) 2,608 1,501
1943 2,944 (1.1.) 315 2,458
1944 950 (1.1.) 134
1945 - -
Total - 5,771 4,875 (only Jan 41 – Jan 45)

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