The role of a self-propelled gun came from combat experiences in World War I and from Von Manstein’s “Sturmartillerie” concept. During the German offensives on the Allied front, infantry lacked artillery support against fortifications in places out-ranged by their heavy artillery behind the lines. A need for a mobile artillery piece was necessary to keep up with the German infantry and fight enemy fortifications with a direct-fire assault role.
On June 15, 1936, Daimler-Benz AG was ordered to develop a support vehicle mounting the 75 mm howitzer as its armament in a casemate structure with a traverse of 25 degrees. The vehicle was to provide full protection for its crew and be no taller than an average soldier. Daimler-Benz repurposed the chassis and running gear of their Panzer III design for the role. These new vehicles were named the Sturmgeschütz III, and the finished designs were sent to Alkett for prototype production and five were produced in 1937.
These prototypes were made of mild steel and had the 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 cannon, an adaption of the original 75 mm KwK 37 cannon on the Panzer IV. This gun would be featured on the StuG III variants Ausf. A to Ausf. E.
The StuG III entered production from January 1940 to the end of the war on April 1945 due to the many upgrades done on the vehicle to increase serviceability and its low cost. At about a total production of 11,300 StuG III and its variants, the StuG III design was the most produced armoured fighting vehicle in German service.
Only 36 Ausf.As were produced by Daimler-Benz AG between January and May 1940.
The Ausf.C was nearly identical to previous versions and was only produced for a single month.
The Ausf.D was virtually identical, only receiving an on-board intercom. 150 were delivered between May and September 1941. It was simply an upgrade of the C on the production line.
The Ausf.F was an huge improvement and to counter the new Soviet tanks AFV had an urgent need for high velocity guns. It appeared on the production line in March 1942. it had the new 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/43. This 3.3 m had a muzzle velocity of 740 m/s when fed with the armor-piercing Panzergranat-Patrone 39. This new StuG was enough to destroy the most common T-34 tanks and saw the role of the StuG shifting from an infantry support vehicle to the famous tank destroyer.
Another change was the exhaust fan added to the rooftop. By June 1942, with the production rate increasing, 30 mm appliqué armor was bolted to the lower frontal plate, while the gun was upgraded to the StuK 40 L/48. In total, 366 were produced until September 1942.
The Ausf.F8 appeared in September 1942 and 250 vehicles were built up to December. The name was derived from the chassis version of the Panzer III it was based on, the 8th, or Ausf.J/L, which had increased rear armor. The hull was characterized by towing hook holes extended from the side walls. It was armed, with the 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48. After October, 30 mm of appliqué armor were bolted on to the front during the production run. Some were later retrofitted with side skirt armor (shurtzen).
The Ausf G stood apart from the other production versions. It was, in essence, the main production run for the entire StuG series, with more than 8400 rolling of the line from December 1942 to April 1945. to reduce costs the G was simplification and standardization. with a new simplified superstructure. the casemate sides were extended for extra storage allowed to store even more rounds and the side sloped armored boxes were eliminated The engine/fighting compartment rear wall was strengthened, the ventilation fan relocated further back and appliqué armor was standardized. Furthermore, the upper MG 34 was factory-fitted, protected by a squared mask.
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