- 1943 modifications
- July 1944 modifications
- Post-war modifications
Surely you know of the mighty StuG III? It’s the German made amazing and powerful assault gun and tank-destroyer. Total of 59 of these vehicles were sold to Finland, where they served all the way to 1966 and few as static defenses into the 1980s. Below I will tell their modification history, but leaving out some very minor details, like moving the showel etc. as those can be found from the sources and there are lots of photos of these. Many of them have survived to this day and some have been modified back to represent their earlier modifications.
Crew - 4
Top speed - 40km/h
Gun - 7.5 cm KwK 40
-Front - 80mm (+??)*
-Side - 30mm (+15mm)*
-Rear - 50mm
In the Winter-War the Finnish Army had captured numerous T-26, BT-5 and BT-7 tanks. The latter proved unsuitable for Finnish needs, but the T-26s were widely used together with the similar Vickers E tanks when Finnish forces liberated Karelia in 1941. During the offence Finnish captured just a few T-34 and KV-1 tanks, leaving their armored forces grow more and more obsolecent as the Finnish front stalled into a completely static state.
For a long time the Germans were reluctant to sell armor and other heavy equipment into Finland and for the Finns there just weren’t other options where to buy from. Finally in 1943 they managed to purcase 30 brand new StuG 40 Ausf.G assault guns. There were minor differences between these vehicles as it was a mixed batch of Alkett and MIAG build vehicles and a single unit build on a Panzer III Ausf.M chassis by M.A.N. All of these vehicles had the old blocky gun mantlet.
It is said the Finnish soldiers got to relax during this time, but the assault gun forces were always training. During this time few modifications were done to these vehicles, like moving the wheel racks, mounting a new large storage box to the back and making a new shield for the DT machine gun on top. It is said these new machine gun shields were build from scrapped BT-7 armor plates. Few photos also show the DT machine gun could be mounted without the shield. The original schürzen side plates were also removed, likely due to their clumsiness in the forested terrain.
July 1944 modifications
In June 1944 the Finnish StuGs went into hard battles against the large scale Soviet offense. During these battles they destroyed numberous T-34-76, T-34-85, ISU-152 and even IS-2 tanks. However in these first fights they also suffered some losses, which most likely lead into the protection upgrades:
-reinforced concrete to the front
-large driver’s visor
-extra plate welded in front of loader’s station
-spare tracks to the lower front plate
-logs onto superstructure sides
-15mm plate bolted between tracks with 30mm gap to the hull
-deflecting plates in front of commader’s cupola
-storage box and spare wheels moved
Not all of these upgrades were mounted right at the same time, but exact dates and what upgrade went into which units is not that accurately recorted. At any rate it appears all of the frontline serving StuGs received these during July and August. There are photos of German StuGs with a concrete add-on armor as well, but as far as I know, those were never standardised. I would guess the 15mm add-on armor was also cut from BT-5 and BT-7 tanks.
During these battles a batch of 29 StuGs arrived into Finland. Many of these had the cast “saukopf” "pig’s head gun mantlet. I would recommend to add this as a distinct feature to the late 1944 and post-war modified StuGs. It appears Alkett had switched production completely to the cast manlet and the 24 Alkett produced StuGs of this batch all had it, while the 5 MIAG units still had the old bolted mantlet.
When the hostilities with Soviets ended, the StuGs were also send into the Lapland War to push Germans out of Finland, but they saw little to no combat as the terrain was extremely ill suited for tanks. So far I haven’t found exact date when the StuGs were modified again, though somewhere before 4.6.1951, when they took part in a parade in Helsinki.
-track links from lower hull moved
-small track link parts added between tracks on a new rack
-new storage boxes and bins to sides and front corner
We still don’t know the thickness of these add-on armors:
-loader’s front plate
-commader’s deflector plate
The Finnish armoured vehicles 1918 - 1997, Esa Muikku & Jukka Purhonen, 1998
Laguksen rynnäkkötykit, Erkki Käkelä, 1996
Suomalaisten rynnäkkötykkien kohtalot, Erkki Käkelä & Andreas Lärka, 2006