Panzerfaust 3

Panzerfaust 3

The Panzerfaust 3 (lit. “armor fist” or “tank fist”) is a modern semi-disposable recoilless anti-tank weapon, which was developed between 1978 and 1985 and first entered service with the Bundeswehr in 1987 (although they did not officially adopt it until 1992). It was first ordered in 1973 to provide West German infantry with an effective weapon against contemporary Soviet armor, thereby replacing West Germany’s aging PzF 44 Light Lanze launchers and the heavy Carl Gustaf 84 mm anti-tank recoilless rifle manufactured in Sweden.

The Panzerfaust 3 is operated by at least 11 countries and has seen combat in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Principle

The Panzerfaust 3 series of launchers is a compact, lightweight, shoulder-fired, unguided antitank weapon series. It consists of a disposable canister with a 110-mm warhead and reusable firing and sighting device. The DM12 and DM12A1 projectile consists of a shaped-charge warhead and is filled with Octol 7030. The tandem DM22 warheads are made of PBX octogene (ca. 95% β-HMX) including the propulsion unit. The penetration performance of the Panzerfaust 3 is due to the shaped charge principle and the quick response of the percussion fuse; the effect on the target does not depend on the impact velocity.

The Panzerfaust 3 is light enough to be carried and fired by one person. However, earlier variants were described as being excessively cumbersome and uncomfortable. Furthermore, the firing mechanism was prone to jamming. It can be fired from enclosed spaces since it does not have a significant backblast. The rear of the tube, filled with plastic granulate, minimizes the blast effect by the so-called recoilless countermass principle.

The booster propellant for the projectile in its tube is ignited by a bolt via a spring mechanism. Once ejected from the launcher, the projectile coasts a safe distance and then the rocket motor is ignited, boosting it to its maximum speed, after which it coasts until impact. The gunner carries at least two rounds, while the assistant grenadier carries another three rounds.

The ergonomic design of the controls, such as handles, launcher, barrel shape and optical sight, is a predefined standard. All controls are easy to handle in all shooting positions (lying, kneeling, or standing). After the weapon is fired, the firing mechanism with the attached optical sight is removed and the barrel thrown away, the firing mechanism is reusable. The effective combat range of the Panzerfaust 3 is from 15 to 300 meters against moving targets and up to 600 meters against static ones. An optical sight with line pattern fixed to the reusable firing mechanism enables it to engage moving or static targets. To ensure night combat ability, a night-vision device or residual light amplifier can be set up in front of the optical sight.

 
A JGSDF soldier in the 36th Infantry Regiment with the Panzerfaust 3, 2018.

As a safety precaution, the built-in fuse for the warhead is released by a safety mechanism. This arms the warhead after a flight distance of approximately five meters. Once armed, the warhead detonates on impact or when the propellant is exhausted, thus safeguarding against future unexploded ordenance hazards.

Further development

A new sight called Dynarange is currently being procured as part of the German Infantryman of the Future project. Essentially, this is a computer controlled aiming sight with range finder. It is meant to cope with the fact that some soldiers have had difficulties with the regular sight, as its scope is quite complex to the untrained eye. It would increase the weapon’s effective range to 600 m (2,000 ft) against moving and stationary targets. Dynarange is already in service with the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps and the Dutch Army.

Specifications

Mass – Hollow charge warhead: 12.9 kg (28 lb 7 oz)
Tandem hollow charge warhead: 13.3 kg (29 lb 5 oz)
– Bunker-buster warhead: 13.3 kg (29 lb 5 oz)

– Unloaded firing unit: 2.3 kg (5 lb 1 oz)
-Ready to fire: 15.2 – 15.6 kg (34 lb 6 oz)
Length 950 mm (3 ft 1 in)

Caliber 60 mm (2.4 in) barrel, 110 mm (4.3 in) warhead
Muzzle velocity 115.0 m/s (377 ft/s)
Maximum firing range 920 m (3,020 ft) (automatic self-destructs once beyond the range)
Sights UP-7V Telescopic sight

Users

  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Iraq
  • Italian Army: 2,000 launchers with 17,000 rockets delivered since middle ’90s; 7,100 Panzerfaust 3-T (PZF3-T) delivered in 2007
  •  Japan
  • Netherlands
  • Peru: 1,700 Panzerfaust 3 rockets and 181 launchers.
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine: Supplied by the Netherlands and Germany during 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
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