Panzer 3

German 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 fighting 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 2 cm gun, could be fast and in a position to combat against opposing forces armor along with undertaking reconnaissance functions. The medium tanks could be more slow, further highly armored, and have a sizeable caliber 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 maneuvers along with other research efforts eventually revealed that the inadequately equipped and thinly armored 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 armor, be relatively properly protected, and also be maneuverable enough to take advantage of any sort of breakthrough options. This became most likely the initial awareness of what’s famous nowadays as an MBT = ‘Main Battle Tank’.

The Panzer 3 was made to become the upcoming panzer division’s main battle tank. Guderian and the Inspectorate of Armored Troops wished this additional fresh tank to install a 5 cm gun, however the Heereswaffenamt thought a 3.7 cm gun adequate, reasoning due to standardization with the infantry’s 3.7 cm 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.

Supremacy 1914

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 15 mm of starting armor, the 3.7 cm 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 15 mm basic armor.

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, and 3 return rollers. The superior suspension made it possible for putting on weight to 19.5 tons, therefore the armor had been now increased to 30 mm 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 armored divisions throughout the Polish campaign.

From September 1939 to July 1940, 435 Panzer 3F had been manufactured. Finally, the Germans had begun 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 mantle and the stronger 5 cm 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 armored 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.
After the experience in the Western campaign, in August 1940 plenty of Panzer 3F had been re-equipped using the stronger 5 cm weapon, and extra 30 mm armor plates had been welded to the superstructure and hull. Between June 22 and July 4, 1941, still 274 Panzer 3 having 3.7 cm weapons had been used against the Russians. These vehicles still had not been re-equipped with the bigger 5 cm 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 5 cm KwK L/42 gun, while the others have still the previous 3.7 cm KwK L/46.5.

During April 1940 manufacturing of the Panzer 3 Ausf G began. The Ausf G had been equipped using the 5 cm KwK L/42 weapon as ordinary, improved basic armor 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 3.7 cm KwK, however the experience realized in Poland and France sped up the use of the 5 cm 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 30 mm 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 40 cm tracks were introduced. Around 50 Ausf G had been armed with the 3.7 cm KwK L/46.5 having internal mantle. The rest got the 5 cm KwK L/42 with external mantle. From August 1940 until 1942, a lot of those which had the 3.7 cm KwK had been up-gunned to the 5 cm KwK L/42 as well as up-armored. The sight for the original 3.7 cm 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 3.7 cm KwK. Panzer 3 armed with the 5 cm 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 5 cm weapon; as well as extra 30 mm armor plates attached to the hull and superstructure fronts.
The Panzer 3 finally carried up to 30 mm on the sides and 60 mm of armor 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 5 cm 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 5 cm KwK L/42, but retains the old type of cupola.

In August 1940 – a while before Operation BarbarossaHitler watched the Panzer 3 armed with the 5 cm KwK L/42 gun during a military parade. He ordered future Panzer 3 manufacturing to use the brand-new 5 cm KwK L/60 weapon which in fact had a greater muzzle velocity so because of this superior anti-armor 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 5 cm 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 5 cm KwK L/60 had been a modern weapon at this time and barrels had been essential for the latest 5 cm 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 caliber 28-50 mm 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 5 cm KwK L/60 gun would definitely have been more severe. It would have resulted in considerably less Panzer 3 having 5 cm 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 5 cm KwK L/60 simply penetrated 11 mm additional armor at 500 meters compared to 5 cm KwK L/42. This amount dumped just to 8 mm at 1,000 meters. For that reason, at the most combat ranges between 400 and 1,000 meters, the 5 cm 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 5 cm 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 5 cm KwK L/60 compared to the 5 cm KwK L/42 at typical fighting distances.

Panzer 3J with 5cm KwK L/42 gun
Panzer 3 Ausf J with short 5 cm 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 armor had been at this point 50 mm frontally (instead of 30+30 mm on the Panzer 3H, which isn’t so effective as one plate with same thickness) as well as 30 mm on the sides.
The Panzer 3J manufactured until December 1941 used still the 5 cm 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 5 cm KwK39 L/60, delivery finished at the MAN plant in Nuremberg.

From December 1941 the Panzer 3 Ausf J had been equipped using the stronger 5 cm 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 5 cm KwK L/60 gun.

Panzer 3 with the 3.7 cm KwK had been removed from the front line in Russia after 1941. The vast majority of survivors equipped with the 3.7 cm KwK had been modified to install the 5 cm 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)


SpecificationAusf GAusf HAusf J
Typemedium 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
Turret crew 3 (with 360° commanders cupola)
Length6.51 metres5.41 metres5.52 meters
Width2.95 meters
Height2.44 meters2.44 meters2.50 meters
Weight20.3 tons21.8 tons21.5 tons
Maximum speed25 mph
Cross-country speed11 mph
Fuel consumption per 100 km 200 liters on road; 330 liters cross-country 220 liters on road, 330 liters cross-country
Fuel320 liters
Road radius160-165 km140-165 km140-155 km
Cross-country radius100 km90 km
Vertical obstacle0.60 meters
Trench crossing2.30 meters
Fording depth1.30 meters
Turning circle5.85 meters
Climbing power30°


mm - angleAusf GAusf HAusf J
Turret front30 (15°)30 (13°)30 (15°)
Turret side30 (25°)30 (25°)30 (25°)
Turret rear30 (0-21°)30 (13°)30 (12°)
Turret top12 (83-90°)10 (85-90°)10 (83-90°)
Superstructure front30; later 30+30 (9°)30+30 (9°)50 (9°)
Superstructure side30 (0°)30 (0°)30 (0°)
Superstructure rear30 (30°)30 (30°)50 (15°)
Superstructure top17 (77-90°)17 (77-90°)17 (75-90°)
Hull front30; later 30+30 (21°)30+30 (23°)50 (21°)
Hull side30 (0°)30 (0°)30 (0°)
Hull rear30 (10°)30+30 (8°)50 (10°)
Hull bottom16 (90°)16 (90°)16 (90°)
Gun mantlet37 (0-45°)37 (0-45°)50 (0-45°)

Armament and Equipment:

Panzer 3 Ausf G,H,JSpecification
Main armament 5 cm KwK39 L/42
Traverse360° (by hand)
Elevation-10° to +20°
Muzzle velocity Pzgr39685 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)
RadioFuG5 (4 km range)
Telescopic sight TZF5d (3,000 metres range; 2.4 Mag; 25° field of view )

Penetration mm at 30° armor plates of the gun:

RangePzgrPzgr40 (available only limited numbers)
Penetration 100 meters54 mm96 mm
Penetration 500 meters46 mm58 mm
Penetration 1000 meters36 mm-
Penetration 1500 meters28 mm-
Penetration 2000 meters22 mm-


FiguresAusf GAusf HAusf J
ProductionApril 1940 - February 1941October 1940 - April 1941March 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 figure600308 1,549 (+1,067 with KwK39 L/60 since Dec. 1941)

Service statistics of all Panzer 3 variants:

before 1939-71-
193998 (1.9.)206?
1940348 (10.5.)858?
1941 1,440 (1.6.)1,713782
1942 1,849 (1.1.) 2,608 1,501
1943 2,944 (1.1.) 315 2,458
1944 950 (1.1.) -134
Total- 5,771 4,875 (only Jan 41 - Jan 45)

References and literature

Operation Barbarossa: the Complete Organisational and Statistical Analysis, and Military Simulation, Volume I – IIIB (Nigel Askey)
The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II (Chris Bishop)
Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer der Reichswehr, Wehrmacht und Bundeswehr (Werner Oswald)
Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two (P.Chamberlain, H.L.Doyle)
Fire and Movement (RAC Tank Museum)
Panzer und andere Kampffahrzeuge von 1916 bis heute (Christopher F. Foss, John F. Milsom, Colonel John Stafford Weeks, Captain Georffrey Tillotson, Richard M. Ogorkiewicz)
Panzerkampfwagen des 1. und 2. Weltkrieges (Andrew Kershaw)
Krieg der Panzer (Piekalkiewicz)

for sharing:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top