Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf A (Sd Kfz 141)

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The Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf A was the first developmental version of the Panzer III, but even though only ten were produced the type still saw active service in Poland in 1939. Serious work on the Panzer III began in 1936, when a number of German arms manufacturers produced prototypes for a tank in the 15 ton category. The Daimler-Benz design was judged to be the best, and early in 1937 the company was ordered to produce a developmental series.

The Panzer III was laid out in the same way as the earlier Panzer I and II, with the engine at the rear and the gearbox at the front. The turret was an enlarged version of the one used on the Panzer II, now carrying three of the crew of five (commander, gunner and loader), an arrangement that dramatically improved the fighting power of the tank by increasing the rate of fire and allowing each member of the crew to concentrate on one job.

The Ausf A was armed with one 3.7cm gun and two 7.92mm coaxial machine guns in the turret and a third machine gun in the superstructure (fired by the radio operator). Armour on all of the development versions of the Panzer III was only 15mm thick, enough to block armour-piercing rounds from contemporary anti-tank rifles, but vulnerable to heavier fire.

It would be the track system that saw the most changes during the development process. All versions of the Panzer III had the drive wheels at the front and the idler at the rear. The Ausf A used five large road wheels with coil spring suspension, and two return rollers. This arrangement would prove to be unsatisfactory.

By May 1937 the first five Panzer III Ausf As were complete, and were issued to the panzer regiments as the 1 Serie Zugführerwagen (1st Series Platoon Commander’s Vehicle). Although ten were built, it is possible that not all of them were completed. Those that were saw service in Poland before being withdrawn in February 1940 because of their poor suspension and thin armour.

Names
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf A
Sd Kfz 141
1 Serie Zugführerwagen/ 1 Serie ZW

Stats
Number produced: 10
Produced: 1937
Hull Length: 5.69m/ 18ft
Hull Width: 2.81m/ 9ft 3in
Height: 2.34m/ 7ft 8in
Crew: 5 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver, radio operator)
Weight: 15.4 tons
Engine: Maybach HL108TR V-12
Max Speed: 35km/hr/ 21mph
Max Range: 165km/ 102 miles
Armament: One 3.7cm KwK L/46.5, plus two 7.92mm MG 34 in turret and one in front of superstructure

Armour


Armour

Front

Side

Rear

Top/ Bottom

Turret

15mm/ .6in

15mm/ .6in

15mm/ .6in

10mm/ .4in

Superstructure

15mm/ .6in

15mm/ .6in

15mm/ .6in

10mm/ .4in

Hull

15mm/ .6in

15mm/ .6in

15mm/ .6in

5mm/ .2in

Gun mantlet

15mm/ .6in

 

 

 

Panzerkampfwagen III Medium Tank 1936-44, Bryan Perrett. A good introduction for anyone interesting in the Panzer III, this book covers the development of the tank, the structure of the German panzer forces, and its military career, which saw the Panzer III go from being the Third Reich's main battle tank to being under-gunned and under-armoured [see more] cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 April 2008), Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf A (Sd Kfz 141), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_panzer_III_ausf_A.html

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