Panzer III is one of those weapons that went from state of the art, to obsolete over the course of the War.
Let’s take a look at the final form of this medium tank.
At the start of the War, Panzer III and Panzer IV were the Wehrmacht’s new, modern AFVs. They were in very short supply at first, but represented the sharpest point of the spear.
The initial Panzer III was meant to be the tank killer. Early models used the same 37 mm anti-tank gun as Wehrmacht Infantry Divisions. It was envisioned this might not always be enough gun, so the turret ring was intentionally left big enough to mount a 50 mm anti-tank gun. At this time, the Panzer IV was envisioned as an infantry support weapon and was built to carry a short barrel 75 mm howitzer.
Of course that meant the Panzer IV was a little bigger. But the Panzer III was a very useful platform, rugged, reliable and quick. This led to the less sophisticated Stug III, classified “mobile artillery” as opposed to armor, being developed from the same platform.
After the Battle of France, it was observed the 37 mm gun was indeed inadequate against the biggest tanks (British Matilda, French Char B) it was decided to switch to the 50 on later models and even re-arm older tanks. But Summer of 1941 showed even this escalation was not enough. The 50 mm was too small to be reliable against the Matilda and American M3 Lee being faced in North Africa; and even more so against the Soviet T-34 and KV-1. So a 75 mm anti-tank gun was mounted on the larger Panzer IV, and even the Stug III. While the Panzer III became the infantry support tank and got a short barrel 75 mm howitzer. Complete role reversal.
By Summer 1942 the Panzer III Ausf N was being produced, or actually rebuilt from older Panzer III. That is the version seen here with the 75 mm howitzer. One source puts the total at 699 for this model/conversion, I’d always add the qualifier that conversions are notoriously hard to accurately account for. Production of both the Ausf M (the last long barrel version) and Ausf N ended in early 1943. Most of these models were delivered with the armored “Schurzen”, skirts for the turret and tracks that were meant to provide protection from new low velocity shaped-charge anti-tank weapons (American Bazooka, British Piat, Russian RPG, even the German’s own Panzerfaust). The skirt would detonate the round away from the main armor so it would dissipate energy and not penetrate.
This particular tank was a part of the 2nd Panzer Division in the Summer of 1943. That means it was a part of Army Group Centre during the Battle of Kursk. I have no particular information on how it faired, apart from mentioning that was the largest armor battle in history and it did not end well for the Germans. The Panzer III was no longer supported as a front line weapon afterwards. That doesn’t mean they all just disappeared! The Wehrmacht tended to continue using older vehicles as long as they could be kept running. So how long it survived is unknown to me.
This is the Tamiya kit.