German Panzer III Medium Tank

German Vehicle Designations

German Panzer III Ausf. L medium tank

Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. L painted 7021 Schwarzgrau using Tamiya XF63 mixed with 30% white for scale effect. The Matchbox vehicle may be used as an earlier Ausf. J (late model) which was outwardly very similar. Wargamers might convert the vehicle to an Ausf. N support vehicle, using a spare 7,5 cm L.24 gun taken from the Airfix Panzer IV Ausf. F1/F2 model kit, even if the applique armour on the hull front and gun mantlet is incorrect for the Ausf. N configuration. The Sturmpanzer III conversion is not realy necessary, because ESCI and Nitto offer an Ausf. N in 1:72 and 1:76 scale respectively.

Panzer III became a support vehicle when the Panzer IV took over the role of main battle tank. Panzer IV and Panzer III actually switched roles: Panzer III Ausf. N received the short 7.5 cm L.24 of the Panzer IV Ausf. F1 support vehicle, which in turn was converted to Panzer IV Ausf. F2 with the long 7.5 cm L.43 gun. Production of the Panzer III ceased in 1943. Available chassis of the Panzer III were used for a variety of tank-destroyer and assault artillery conversions, and spare turrets from these converted vehicles were used as gun emplacements along the Atlantic Wall.

The table lists vehicle the designations of 5644 Panzerkampfwagen III, Flammpanzer III and Sturmpanzer III tanks produced for service in the German and Romanian army.

Panzer III Type 1:72 Model 1:76 Model
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. A
(Sd.Kfz. 141) 1937
10 vehicles of this type were produced in 1937, eight of which were armed with the 3,7 cm L.45 KwK 35. They served with 1., 2. and 3. Panzerdivision during the 1938 Anschluss of the Sudetenland and the 1939 Invasion of Poland. The unarmed vehicles were used for testing.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. B
(Sd.Kfz. 141) 1937
As above, but with a number of refinements. 15 vehicles of this type were produced in 1937, and they served during the Invasion of Poland. Five vehicles were converted to prototypes of the Sturmgeschütz III assault gun in 1940.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. C
(Sd.Kfz. 141) 1937-38
As above, but with a number of additional refinements. 15 Vehicles were produced in 1938 and a number of them served during the Invasion of Poland.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. D
(Sd.Kfz. 141) 1938
As above, but with a number of additional refinements. 55 Vehicles were produced in 1938 and 1939, of which only 30 vehicles were armed to serve in the invasions of Poland and Norway. The remaining 25 vehicles were used for testing.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. E
(Sd.Kfz. 141) 1938-39
Commander Series Hinchliffe 20/155
96 vehicles of this type were produced from December 1938 until October 1939. Ausf. E received the new Maybach HL 120 TR engine and it weighed 19.5 tons compared to only 16 tons of the earlier variants. Between August 1940 and 1942 all remaining Ausf. E received the 5,0 cm L.42 KwK 38 gun which penetrated 69 mm of armour at 100 meters, using A.P. rounds, compared to only 41 mm for the earlier 3,7 cm gun.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. F
(Sd.Kfz. 141) 1939-40
Hinchliffe 20/155A
435 vehicles of this type were produced from September 1939 until July 1940. The last batch of 100 of these vehicles received the 5,0 cm L.42 KwK 38, whereas the earlier production models had been equipped with the 3,7 cm L.45 KwK 35/36. Remaining vehicles of the earlier production were upgraded to the 5,0 cm L.42 KwK 38 between between August 1940 and 1942, and they were also uparmoured at that time. In 1942 and 1943 any remaining Ausf. F were fitted with the long 5,0 cm L.60 KwK 39 which penetrated 99 mm of armour at 100 meters, using A.P. rounds. Upgunned and uparmoured Panzer III Ausf. F served with 116. Panzerdivision in Normandy in 1944. Panzer III Ausf. F had a rack of five smoke grenade dischargers at the turret rear.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. G
(Sd.Kfz. 141) 1940-41
MMS
600 vehicles of this type were produced from April 1940 until February 1941. An early production batch of 50 vehicles received the 3,7 cm L.45 KwK 35/36. Later production vehicles received the more powerful 5,0 cm L.42 KwK 38. Remaining vehicles of the earlier production were upgraded to the 5,0 cm L.42 KwK 38 between between August 1940 and 1942. Panzer III Ausf. G was fitted with a Gepäckkasten stowage box at the turret rear, popularly know as Rommelkiste, which later became standard for all Panzer III variants.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. H
(Sd.Kfz. 141) 1940-41
Admiral Toys
308 vehicles of this type were produced from October 1940 until April 1941. The vehicle mounted the 5,0 cm L.42 KwK 38 in a newly designed turret. The gun mantlet now had 30 mm of armour. Additional 30 mm armour plates were bolted to the superstructure front, hull front and rear. Increased armour protection raised the weight of the Panzer III Ausf. H to 21,8 tons, and the extra weight required an improved suspension system. In 1942 and 1943 the Ausf. H was fitted with the more powerful 5,0 cm L.60 KwK 39.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. J (early)
(Sd.Kfz. 141) 1941-42
SSG 3
1549 vehicles of this type were produced from March 1941 until July 1942. They were equipped with the 5,0 cm L.42 KwK 38. The vehicle was uparmoured to 50 mm frontal armour, and from April 1942, a further 20 mm of applique armour was added to the gun mantlet and superstructure front. This version of the Panzer III J was the last vehicle of the series designated Sd.Kfz 141.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. J (late)
(Sd.Kfz. 141/1) 1941-42
"Mark III Special"
SSG 4
As above, but armed with the more powerful 5,0 cm L.60 KwK 39. This version of the Panzer III J was the first vehicle of the series designated Sd.Kfz. 141/1, and it was nicknamed "Mark III Special" by British troops who first encountered it in North Africa.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. L
(Sd.Kfz. 141/1) 1942
Matchbox 40074
653 vehicles of this type were produced from June 1942 until December 1942. Ausf. L is outwardly similar to the late Ausf. J described above. The turret armour was increased from 30 to 57 mm. The superstructure front received an additional 20 mm of applique armour which was also sometimes applied to the gun mantlet. Vehicles serving in North Afrika received additional air and improved oil filters, and they were designated Ausf. L(Tp). Many Panzer III Ausf. L received hull and turret armour skirts as a stand-off device designed to prematurely detonate panzerfaust and bazooka hollow-charge warheads.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. M
(Sd.Kfz. 141/1) 1942-43
ESCI Nitto
250 vehicles of this type were produced from October 1942 to February 1943. They mounted the 5,0 cm L.60 KwK 39. Panzer III Ausf. M was fitted with improved deep wading equipment which had been developed for the Tauchpanzer III submersible tank. Modified mufflers were mounted high on the hull rear, and the rack of five smoke dischargers at the hull rear was replaced by three 90 mm NbK smoke dischargers mounted on either side of the turret. Vehicles produced in 1943 were fitted with hull and turret armour skirts. Many Ausf. M were later converted to Sturmgeschütz III assault guns or Ausf. N support vehicles.
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. N
Sturmpanzer III
(Sd.Kfz. 141/2) 1942-43
ESCI Nitto
663 vehicles of this type were produced from June 1942 until August 1943, and 37 older Panzer III variants were converted to the Ausf. N configuration. Panzer III Ausf. N was a support vehicle mounting the short 7,5 cm L.24 KwK 37 which had previously been mounted in Panzer IV Ausf. F1. When Panzer IV Ausf. F1 was converted to the F2 main battle tank configuration, the short 7,5 cm gun became available for use in the Panzer III. Support vehicles of this type were also known as Sturmpanzer III assault tanks. Because of the weight of the gun, Panzer III Ausf. N did not received the 20 mm of applique armour which had been used to protect previous variants. The Romanian 1st Armoured Division received 10 Panzer III Ausf. N in October 1942 to replace some of its obsolete Skoda S-11-a tanks, designate R-2 in Romanian service.
Pz.Kpfw. III (Flamm) Ausf. M
Flammpanzer III
(Sd.Kfz. 141/3) 1943
ESCI
100 Panzer III Ausf. M were converted to Flammpanzer III, designated Sd.Kfz. 141/3, between February and April 1943. These vehicles were meant to assist infantry in built-up areas where enemy strongpoints could be very costly to eliminate otherwise. Flammpanzer III did not arrive at the front in time to save the Stalingrad garrison, and the entire design proved faulty when the vehicle finally entered combat. Many Flammpanzer III were reconverted to Ausf. M battle tanks, and only 10 flamethrower tanks remained in service as late as 1945.

The table list 1:72 and 1:76 scale model kits which match the official vehicle designations. Not every Panzerkampfwagen III is available in miniature yet, but it is hoped that the remaining gaps may be filled eventually.

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