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The Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III) assault gun was Germany's most created armored fighting vehicle during WW2. It was built on the chassis of the proven Panzer III tank. Initially intended as a mobile, armored light gun for infantry support, the StuG was continually modified and was widely employed as a tank destroyer.The Sturmgeschütz 3 came from German encounters in World War I when it was discovered that during the offensives on the western front the infantry lacked the means to effectively engage fortifications. The artillery of the time was heavy and not mobile enough to keep up with the advancing infantry to eliminate bunkers, pillboxes, and other minor obstructions with direct-fire.  Although the problem was well-known in the German army, it was General Erich von Manstein who is considered the father of the Sturmartillerie. This is because the initial proposal was from (then) Colonel Erich von Manstein and submitted to General Ludwig Beck in 1935, suggesting that Sturmartillerie ("assault artillery") units should be used in a direct-fire support role for infantry divisions. On June 15, 1936, Daimler-Benz  AG been given an order to develop an armored infantry support vehicle capable of mounting a 75 mm (2.95 in) artillery piece. The gun was to have a limited traverse of a minimum of 25° and be mounted in an enclosed superstructure that provided overhead protection for the crew. The height of the vehicle was not to exceed that of the regular man.  Daimler-Benz AG used the chassis and running gear of its recently engineered Pz.Kpfw. III medium tank as a basis for the new vehicle. Prototype manufacture was passed over to Alkett, which produced five examples in 1937 of the experimental 0-series StuG based upon the Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. B. These prototypes featured a mild steel superstructure and Krupp’s short-barreled 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 cannon. This model was known as the Sturmgeschütz Ausführung A.While the StuG III was considered self-propelled artillery it was not initially clear which arm of the Wehrmacht  would handle the new weapon. The Panzer arm, who was the natural user of tracked fighting vehicles, had no resources to spare for the formation of StuG units, and neither did the infantry branch. It was agreed, after a discussion, it would best be employed as part of the artillery arm. The StuGs were organised into battalions (later renamed "brigades" for disinformation purposes) and followed their own specific doctrine. Infantry support using direct-fire was its intended role. Later there was also a strong emphasis on destroying enemy armor whenever encountered.As the StuG III was designed to fill an infantry close support combat role, early models were fitted with a low-velocity 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 gun to destroy soft-skin targets and fortifications. After the Germans encountered the Soviet KV-1 and T-34 tanks, the StuG III was equipped with a high-velocity 75 mm StuK 40 L/43 main gun (Spring 1942) and later – the 75 mm StuK 40 L/48 (Autumn 1942) anti-tank gun. These versions were known as the Sturmgeschütz 40 Ausführung F, Ausf. F/8 and Ausf. G.  When the StuG IV entered production in late 1943 and early 1944, the "III" was added to the name to separate it from the Panzer IV-based assault guns. All previous and following models were thereafter known as Sturmgeschütz III.  Beginning with the StuG III Ausf. G, a 7.92 mm MG34 could be mounted on a shield on top of the superstructure for added anti-infantry protection from December 1942. Some of the F/8 models were retrofitted with a shield as well. Many of the later StuG III Ausf. G models were equipped with an additional coaxial 7.92 mm MG34.
The vehicles of the Sturmgeschütz series were cheaper and faster to build than contemporary German tanks; at 82,500 RM, a StuG III Ausf G was cheaper than a Panzer III Ausf. M, which cost 103,163 RM. This was due to the omission of the turret, which greatly simplified manufacture and allowed the chassis to carry a larger gun than it could otherwise. By the end of the war, 10,619 StuG IIIs and StuH 42s had been built.Overall, Sturmgeschütz series assault guns proved very successful and served on all fronts as assault guns and tank destroyers. Although Tigers and Panthers have earned a greater notoriety, assault guns collectively destroyed more tanks. Because of their low silhouette, StuG IIIs were easy to camouflage and a difficult target. Sturmgeschütz  crews were considered to be the elite of the artillery units. Sturmgeschütz  units held a very impressive record of tank kills – some 20,000 enemy tanks by the spring of 1944.2  As of April 10, 1945, there were 1,053 StuG IIIs and 277 StuH 42s in service. Approximately 9,500 StuG IIIs of various types were produced until March 1945 by Alkett and a small number by MIAG.12  In terms of the resources expended in their construction, the StuG assault guns were extremely cost-effective compared to the heavier German tanks, though in the anti-tank role, it was best used defensively, as the lack of a turret would be a severe disadvantage out in the open. As the German military situation deteriorated later in WW 2, more and more StuG guns were constructed in comparison to tanks, in an effort to replace losses and bolster defences against the encroaching Allied forces.
In 1944, the Finnish Army received 59 StuG III Ausf. Gs from Germany (30 Stu 40 Ausf.G and 29 StuG III Ausf. G) and used them against the Soviet Union. These destroyed at least 87 enemy tanks for a loss of only 8 StuGs2 (some of these were destroyed by their crews to avoid capture). After the war, they were the main combat vehicles of the Finnish Army until the early 1960s. These StuGs gained the nickname "Sturmi" which can be found in some plastic kit models.  100 StuG III Ausf. G were delivered to Romania in the autumn of 1943. They were officially known as TAs (or TAs T3 to avoid confusion with TAs T4) in the army inventory. By February 1945, 13 units were still in use with the 2nd armored Regiment. None of this initial batch survived the end of the war.3 31 TAs were on the army inventory in November 1947. Most of them were probably StuG III G and a small number of Panzer IV/70 (V), known as TAs T4. These TAs were supplied by the Red Army or were damaged units repaired by the Romanian Army.4 All German equipment was scrapped in 1954 because the Army's decision to use Soviet armor.    * StuG III Ausf. 0 (Experimental; 1937, 5 produced): By Dec 1937 two vehicles were in service with Panzer Regiment 1 in Erfurt. 0 series had 8 road wheels per side with narrow 360mm tracks. These pre-production vehicles had only 14.5mm thick soft steel superstructure and the 7.5 cm StuK 37 L/24 gun. These never saw combat as they were built with soft-steel superstructure. However, they were used for training purposes as late as 1941.
    * StuG III Ausf. A (Sd.Kfz. 142; Jan 1940-May 1940, 30+20 produced): First used in the Battle of France, the StuG III Ausf. A used the chassis of the Panzer III Ausf. F. Front armor increased to 50mm. Daimler-Benz produced first 30. Additional 20 were built by Alkett along with Ausf.B. These 20 are often added to the production numbers of Ausf.B. However these 20 are unique in that they were produced with Ausf.B, but mechanically more similar to Ausf.A. They are converted from Panzer III chassis with 30mm armor. 20mm armor was added to meet the spec of 50mm. They also have Panzer III's escape hatches on either side, which are not present in other models. These Alkette 20 had same 10 speed transmission as Ausf.A, narrow 360mm tracks of Ausf.A, also return roller position was same as Ausf.A.
    * StuG III Ausf. B: (Sd.Kfz 142; June 1940-May 1941, 300 produced) Widened tracks (38 cm). Two Rubber tires on each roadwheel were accordingly widened from 520x79mm to 520x95mm each. Both types of roadwheels were interchangeable. Troublesome 10 speed transmission was changed to 6 speed. Front most return rollers were re-positioned forward. This reduced vertical movements of tracks before they were fed to drive wheel, hence lessening the chance of tracks being thrown. In the middle of production of Ausf. B. first drive wheel with 8 round holes were changed to a new cast drive wheel with 6 slots. This new drive wheel could take either 380mm tracks or 400mm tracks. 380mm tracks were not exclusive to new drive wheels. Vehicle# 90111 shows older drive wheel with wider 380mm tracks. Additional 20 were converted from Panzer III chassis, which are added to Ausf.A in this article.
    * StuG III Ausf. C: (Sd.Kfz 142; April 1941, 50 produced) Gunner's forward view port above driver's visor was a shot trap and thus eliminated; instead, superstructure top was given an opening for gunner's periscope. Idler wheel was redesigned.
    * StuG III Ausf. D: (Sd.Kfz 142; May-Sep 1941, 150 produced) Simply a contract extension on Ausf. C. On-board intercom installed, otherwise identical to Ausf. C.
    * StuG III Ausf. E: (Sd.Kfz 142; Sep 1941-Feb 1942, 284 produced) Superstructure sides added extended rectangular armored boxes for radio equipments. Increased space allowed room for 6 additional ammunition (maximum raised to 50) plus a machine gun. One MG 34 and 7 drum-type magazines were carried in the right rear side of the fighting compartment to protect the vehicle from enemy infantry. Tank commanders were officially provided with SF14Z stereoscopic scissor periscopes. Stereoscopic scissor type periscopes for artillery spotters may have been used by vehicle commanders from the start.
    * StuG III Ausf. F: (Sd.Kfz 142/1; Mar-Sep 1942, 366 produced) The first real upgunning of the StuG, this version uses the longer 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/43 gun. Firing armor piercing Panzergranat-Patrone 39, Stuk 40 L/43 could penetrate 91mm of armor inclined 30 degrees from vertical at 500m, 82mm at 1000m, 72mm at 1500m, 63mm at 2000m, allowing Ausf. F to engage most Soviet armors at normal combat ranges. This change marked the StuG as being more of a tank destroyer than an infantry support vehicle. Exhaust fan was added to the rooftop to excavate fumes from spent shells, to enable firing of continuous shots. Additional 30mm armor plates were welded to the 50mm frontal armor from June 1942, making frontal armors 80mm thick. From June 1942, Ausf. F were mounted with approximately 13 inch (334mm to be exact) longer 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 gun. Firing above mentioned ammunition, longer L48 could penetrate 96mm, 85mm, 74mm, 64mm respectively (30 degrees from vertical).

    * StuG III Ausf. F/8: (Sd.Kfz 142/1; Sep-Dec 1942, 250 produced) Introduction of an improved hull design similar to that used for the Panzer III Ausf. J / L with increased rear armor. This was 8th version of Panzer III hulls, thus the designation "F/8." This hull has towing hook holes extending from side walls. From Oct 1942, 30mm additional armors were bolted on to speed up the production line. From F/8, 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 gun becomes common until the very last of the Ausf. G. Due to lack of double baffle muzzle brakes, few L48 guns mounted on F/8 were fitted with single baffle ball type muzzle brake found in Panzer IV Ausf. F2.
    * StuG III Ausf. G (Sd.Kfz. 142/1; Dec 1942– Apr 1945, 7,720 produced, 173 converted from Pz.Kpfw. III chassis): The final, and by far the most common, of the StuG series. The Ausf. G used the hull of the Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. M. Upper superstructure was widened: welded boxes on either sides were abandoned. This new superstructure design increased its height to 2160mm. Backside wall of the fighting compartment got straightened, and ventilation fan on top of the superstructure was relocated to the back of fighting compartment. From March 1943, driver's periscope was abandoned. From May 1943, side hull skirts (schurzen) were fitted to G models for added armor protection particularly against anti-tank rifles. Side skirts were retro-fitted to some Ausf. F/8 models. Side skirts were also to be fitted to all front line StuGs and other tanks by June 1943 in preparation for the battle of Kursk. Mountings for side skirts proved inadequate, many were lost in the field. From March 44, improved mounting was introduced, as a result side skirts are more often seen with late model Ausf G. From May 1943, 80mm thick plates were used for frontal armor instead of two plates of 50mm+30mm. However, backlog of completed 50mm armors exited. For those, 30mm additional armors still had to be welded or bolted on, until Oct 1943.  A rotating cupola with periscopes was added for the commander for Ausf G. However, from Sep 1943, lack of ball bearings (resulting from bombing of Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission) forced cupolas to be welded on. Ball bearings were once again installed from Aug 1944. Shot deflectors for cupolas were first installed from Oct 1943 from one factory, to be installed on all StuGs from Feb 1944 during WW 2. Some vehicles without shot deflectors carried several track pieces wired around the cupola for added protection.  From Dec 1942, a square machine gun shield for loader was installed, making MG 34 "installed" on StuG for the first time. F/8 models had machine gun shields retro-fitted from early 1943. Machine gun shield for the loader was later replaced by rotating machine gun mount that could be operated by loader inside the vehicle by a periscope. On April 1944, 27 of them were being field tested on the Eastern front. Favorable report lead to installation of these "remote" machine gun mounts from summer of 1944.  Later G versions from Nov 1943, were fitted with the Topfblende (pot mantlet) (often erroneously called Saukopf (Pig's head)) gun mantlet without coaxial mount. This casted mantlet with organic shape was more effective at deflecting shots than the original boxy mantlet armor of varying thickness between 45mm and 50mm. Lack of large castings meant that boxy mantlet was also produced until the very end. Coaxial machine gun was added first to boxy mantlets from June 1944, cast Topfblende from Oct 1944, in the middle of "Topfblende" mantlet production. StuGs carried two MG 34 machine guns from fall of 1944. Some previously completed StuGs with boxy mantlet had a coaxial machine gun hole drilled to retrofit a coaxial machine gun, while Topfblende manufactured from Nov. 1943-Oct 1944, without machine gun opening could not be tampered. Also from Nov.1943, all metal return rollers of a few different types were used due to lack of rubber supply. Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating to protect vehicles from magnetic mines were used from Sep 1943-Sep 1944 only.In 1942, a variant of the StuG III Ausf. F was designed with a 105 mm (4.1 in) howitzer instead of the 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/43 cannon. These new vehicles, designated StuH 42 (Sturmhaubitze 42, Sd.Kfz 142/2), were designed to provide infantry support with the increased number of StuG III Ausf. F/8 and Ausf. Gs being used in the anti-tank role. The StuH 42 mounted a variant of the 10.5 cm leFH 18 howitzer, modified to be electrically fired and fitted with a muzzle brake. Later models were built from StuG III Ausf. G chassis as well as StuG III Ausf. F and Ausf. F/8 chassis. The muzzle brake was often omitted due to the scarcity of resources later in the war. 1,211 StuH 42 were produced from October 1942 to 1945. In 1943, 10 StuG IIIs were converted to StuG III (Flamm) configuration by replacing the main gun with a Schwade flamethrower. These chassis were all refurbished at the depot level and were a variety of pre-Ausf. F models. There are no reports to indicate any of these were used in combat and all were returned to Ausf. G standard at depot level by 1944.
In late 1941 the StuG III chassis was selected to carry the 15 cm sIG 33 heavy infantry gun. These vehicles were known as Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33B. Twenty-four were built of which twelve vehicles saw combat in the Battle of Stalingrad where they were destroyed or captured. Some StuG III were also made from a Panzer III chassis but fitted the bogie suspension system of the Panzer IV tank. Only about 20 were manufactured. The intention was to simplify field repairs but this did not work out as planned and the model was canceled.  Due to dwindling supply of rubber, rubber saving road wheels were tested during 8-14th November 1942, but did not see production.  Bombing raids on Alkett factory resulted in significant drops in StuG III production in November 1943. To make up for the loss of production, Krupp displayed a substitution StuG on Panzer IV chassis to Hitler on 16-17 December 1943. From January 1944, the StuG IV, based on the Panzer IV chassis and with a slightly modified StuG III superstructure entered production. Field modifications were made to increase the vehicle's survivability, resulting in diversity to already numerous variants: cement plastered on front superstructure, older Ausf.C/D retrofitted with a Kwk40 L48 gun, Ausf.G mounting Panzer IV cupola, a coaxial MG34 through a hole drilled on a boxy mantlet. The Soviet SU-76i self-propelled gun was based on captured StuG III and Panzer III vehicles2 In total, Factory #37 in Sverdlovsk manufactured 181 SU-76i plus 20 commander SU-76i for Red Army service by adding an enclosed superstructure and the 76.2 mm S-1 tank gun.


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