Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf J (5cm KwK L/42)

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The Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf J (5cm KwK L/42) saw the frontal and rear armour of the Panzer III increased in thickness from 30mm to 50mm, and was produced with the 5cm KwK L/42 from the start.

Panzer III Ausf H or J, Libya 1942

Panzer III Ausf H or J,
Libya 1942

The thicker armour was used on the front and rear of the hull and superstructure. The extra thickness of the armour forced a redesign of the driver’s visor, the use of single-piece access hatches in place of the two part hatches used in earlier versions and the installation of a ball mounting for the machine gun in the superstructure. The air intakes at the front of the tank also had to be modified. Tanks produced after April 1942 also had 20mm of spaced armour added to the gun mantlet and sometimes to the front of the superstructure.

Panzer III Ausf J (5cm KwK L/42) in Soviet Service
Panzer III Ausf J (5cm KwK L/42) in Soviet Service

The Ausf J with 5cm KwK L/42 entered service with the 2nd and 5th Panzer Divisions in September 1941. After that they were sent to the front to replace the 1,400 Panzer IIIs lost during the first year of the fighting in Russia – the equivalent of losing every single example of every earlier model of the Panzer III combined.

This version of the Ausf J had a relatively short lifespan. Hitler had ordered the Panzer III to be equipped with the longer 5cm KWK39 L/60, but a shortage of this gun and the initial success of the L/42 meant that this was not done. When Hitler discovered this he insisted that the new gun was installed, and production of the long-gun armed Ausf J began in December 1941. Existing tanks also had the gun replaced, with the result that by June 1942 only 500 of the short-gun armed Ausf Js remained on the Eastern Front. By the summer of 1943 a combination of battle losses and conversions had reduced that figure to only 141.

Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf J
Sd Kfz 141
8 Serie Zugführerwagen/ 8 Serie ZW

Number produced: 1,549
Produced: March 1941-July 1942
Hull Length: 5.52m/ 18ft 1in
Hull Width: 2.95m/ 9ft 8in
Height: 2.50m/ 8ft 2in
Crew: 5 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver, radio operator)
Weight: 21.5 tons
Engine: Maybach HL120TRM
Max Speed: 40km/hr/ 24mph
Max Range: 155km/ 96 miles
Armament: One 5cm KwK L/42, plus one 7.92mm MG 34 in turret and one in front of superstructure






Top/ Bottom


30mm/ 1.2in

30mm/ 1.2in

30mm/ 1.2in

10mm/ 0.4in


50mm/ 2 in

30mm/ 1.2in

50mm/ 2 in

17mm/ 0.66in


50mm/ 2 in

30mm/ 1.2in

50mm/ 2 in

16mm/ 0.62in

Gun mantlet

50mm/ 2 in




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 (24 April 2008), Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf J (5cm KwK L/42) ,

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