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Panzer IV was a Nazi medium tank during WWII.

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Panzer IV tank is the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the late 1930s by Germany and used extensively in World War II. The official German designation of the Panzer IV tank was Panzerkampfwagen IV (abbreviated PzKpfw IV). The Panzer IV tank also had the ordnance inventory designation SdKfz 161.

Panzer IV.
Panzer IV (Ausf. H) - Syrian Panzer IV captured by Israel in the Six-Day War.

The Panzer IV tank was initially designed as an infantry-support medium tank (Begleitwagen, mittlerer Panzer), to work in conjunction with the Panzer III which was intended to engage enemy armor. Later in the war it was up-gunned and up-armored and took over the tank-fighting role while Panzer IIIs were either put into infantry support duties or converted into other vehicles. The Panzer IV was the most common German tank of World War II, and was used as the base for many other fighting vehicles, such as tank destroyers and self-propelled anti-aircraft guns. The Panzer IV has the distinction of being the only German tank to remain in continuous production throughout all of World War II, with over 9,000 produced from 1939 to 1945.

History of the Panzer IV Tank.

The Panzer IV was the workhorse of the German tank corps, being produced and used in all theatres of combat throughout the war. The design was upgraded repeatedly to deal with the increasing threats from enemy forces.

On January 11, 1934, following specifications laid down by Heinz Guderian, the Army Weapons Department drew up plans for a medium tank with a maximum weight of 24,000 kg and a top speed of 35 km/h. It was intended in a support and anti-infantry role, using a low-velocity, large-caliber gun firing high-explosive shells. It was not required to deal with enemy tanks on equal terms.

Krupp, Rheinmetall, and MAN all produced prototypes, which were tested in 1935. As a result of the trials, the Krupp design was selected for full-scale production. The first Panzer IV Ausf. A came off the assembly line in October 1937, with a total of 35 being produced over the next six months.

Between 1937 and 1940, attempts were made to standardize parts between Krupp's Panzer IV and Daimler-Benz's Panzer III. The Panzer IV featured a relatively crude leaf spring suspension, unlike the then-new torsion bar suspension system on the Panzer III. There were several proposals to upgrade the suspension over the years, but none left the drawing board as the Germans dared not interrupt Panzer IV production. There was some resistance to using torsion bar suspensions as evidenced by the consideration of the leaf sprung Daimler-Benz (DB) Panther tank design.

The Panzer IV was originally intended principally to deal with infantry and fortifications, while the Panzer III dealt with enemy armoured units. To this end it was equipped with the 75 mm KwK 37 L/24 gun, which was effective against soft targets and against many light tanks available at the time, but lacked much armour penetration. It had poor accuracy, because the barrel was short (1.8 m), giving a low muzzle velocity. Firing a Panzergranate 39 round the muzzle velocity was 430 m/s, penetrating 40 mm of 30° steel plate at a range of 700 m. For comparison the L/48 gun has a barrel 3.6 m long.

During the invasion of France the Panzer IV did face tank-to-tank combat, the L/24 was found effective against the French Renault and Somua tanks, but notably useless when fired at either the Char Bl or the British Matilda with its front armor of 60 mm. This combat weakness was noted again in Africa later in 1940 during the fighting around Sidi Barrani and then Tobruk.

In March 1941 a prototype Panzer IV Ausf. D was fitted with a Krupp 50 mm L/60, the same type of gun as the late production Panzer III which was effective against most tanks However the 50 mm L/60 was already unable to effectively deal with the new heavier tank designs such as the KV-1 at long range. The prototype did not enter production. Krupp already had a 75 mm L/40 which had 175% better penetration than the L/24. In obedience to the Waffenamt dislike of an overhanging gun this was shortened to produce the 75 mm KwK L/34.5. It was fitted in a single prototype in December, but the reduced performance with the barrel changes and the failure to develop the promised Triebspiegelgeschoss (discarding sabot round) again meant that no production variants were made.

In June 1941 the invasion of the Soviet Union introduced the German tanks to their Russian opponents. The 100 mm plus armor on the KV-1 and the heavily angled 45 mm of the T-34 were both strongly resistant to German fire. The Panzerkommission which was dispatched to examine this problem resulted in the specifications for the Panzer V Panther; it also recommended new suspension, increased armor and a more powerful main gun for the struggling short barreled Panzer IIIs and IVs. The interruption to supply that such changes would cause meant the immediate change would be only the Panzer IV's gun. In November 1941, a 75 mm gun to match the performance of the Rheinmetall's PaK 40 L/46 (80 mm penetrated at 1,000 m with a standard 6.8 kg Panzergranate 39 APCBC shell) was demanded for the Panzer IV from Krupp - with the first models to be in production by March 1942.

The rifled barrel was identical to the Rheinmetall gun at 2.47 m, but it needed both a shorter recoil and shorter rounds in order to fit in the Panzer IV turret and be operable. A larger, but shorter, loading chamber and fatter rounds produced the KwK 40 L/43. To further retard the recoil a distinctive two-port muzzle brake was also standard. The first production guns were finished in late March, although just eighteen examples were made in that month.

The up-gunned Panzer IV was needed as soon as possible so, instead of waiting for production start of the new Ausf. G in autumn 1942, production was ordered to start immediately within the Ausf. F production contract. This required a change in naming conventions: the new Version with the long 75 mm KwK 40 L/43 gun was named Panzer IV Ausf. F2 (Sd. Kfz. 161/1) and the previous one with the short L/24 gun Ausf. F1. The Ausf. F2 was later renamed Ausf. G and production continued under this designation with minor improvements. The KwK 40 L/43 armed tanks did not have an especially long production life, in March 1943 a new version of the KwK 40 with a 48 caliber barrel was fitted to new models, the 75 mm KwK 40 L/48. Early model Panzer IV tanks were often upgraded for increased combat efficiency. From 1943, for example, surviving Panzer IV models E/F were given additional armor and the 75 mm KwK 40 L/48 gun.

The aforementioned upgrades allowed the Panzer IV to keep its advantage Allied designs such as the M4 Sherman and the T-34. Production continued and was stepped up even while the more effective Panther medium tank was in service, because of the Panzer IV's low cost and greater reliability; since the design was already in use and tested in the battlefield they could be upgraded and problems removed, while the Panther was a relatively new model.

Small numbers of Panzer IV were supplied by Germany to its allies. Hungary received ten and Romania eleven in September 1942. Italy twelve and Turkey fifteen in May 1943. Spain was gifted twenty in November 1943. From February 1943 to August 1944 Bulgaria received a total of 91 vehicles, enough to equip an entire battalion, and used them against Germans in late 1944. Romania was given a further 127 Panzer IVs in the same period as the supplies to Bulgaria. In the final months of 1944 another 52 were sent to Hungary.

Finland bought 22 Panzer IV Ausf. Js, of which 15 arrived, all too late to fight against the Soviets in the Continuation War (1941-44) or against German troops in the following Lapland War (1944-45) and served as training vehicles until 1962.

In 1950s/1960s Syria bought several dozens of Panzer IVs from the USSR, France, Czechoslovakia and Spain and employed them in the 1965 conflict over Jordan headwaters (often referred to as Water War) and in the Six Days War (1967).

Production of the Panzer IV Tank.

Panzer IV.
Maybach HL 120 engine used in the Panzer IV.

Three firms assembled Panzer IVs, Krupp (Magdeburg), Vomag (Plauen), and Nibelungenwerk (St. Valentin). Turrets and armoured hulls were supplied to the assembly firms by Krupp (Essen), Eisenwerke Oberdonau (Linz) and Boehler (Kapfenberg). The engines came from Maybach in Friedrichshafen, but were also assembled by MAN, MBA, and Nordbau. Transmissions were built by three ZF factories. The gun was largely constructed by Krupp, but ten other firms were involved in various parts of the complete gun unit.

In 1941 production averaged 39 units per month, this increased to 83 in 1942 but it was not until 1943 that production was properly managed. During that year production averaged 252 per month. This peaked at 300 per month in mid-1944; Krupp ceased Panzer IV manufacture in December 1943 and Vomag in early 1944, leaving just Nibelungenwerk. It was not until late 1944 that production began to be disrupted, Nibelungenwerk was heavily damaged by bombing in October 1944 and steel supplies had begun to fall. Production fell to 170 in January 1945 and in March-April 1945 total production was around 100 units.

Armor for the Panzer IV Tank.

The Panzer IV Ausf. A had 30 mm of slightly sloped (10-25°s) homogeneous steel armor on the turret front and hull front, with 15 mm on the turret and hull sides, 10 mm of armor on the turret top and 10 mm on the belly. This was deemed sufficient, as the Panzer IV was intended for anti-infantry work, while Panzer IIIs were to deal with opposing tanks.

In practice, Panzer IVs would frequently face enemy tanks and anti-tank guns unsupported, and the armor was upgraded to 30 mm on the front hull of the Ausf. B, 50 mm in the Ausf. E, and 50+30 mm in the Ausf. G, with armor on the sides and rear being increased as well. From June, 1943 all new Panzer IVs, Ausf H and later, were produced with 80 mm of front armor, rather than having additional plates added, though the turret armor remained 50mm thick. Panzer IVs frequently had armor skirting (Schürzen) or additional layers of armor added in the field. From late 1943 until September 1944, Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste was also a common addition

Armament of the Panzer IV tank.

As the Panzer IV was intended to fill an anti-infantry combat role, early models were fitted with a low-velocity 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 gun, firing high-explosive shells. After the Germans encountered heavy tank designs such as the Soviet KV-1, the Panzer IV Ausf. F2 and G were armed with the high-velocity 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/43 tank gun. Later IV G models, and all subsequent Panzer IVs, were armed with the longer 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 tank gun. The gun could be manually elevated between -10° to +20°, with the turret, under hand or electrical power, have a full 360° traverse. The gunner aimed through an articulated telescope with a limited 25 ° view and 2.5x magnification. The German army considered the gun to be effective up to 1,000 m, expecting 70% first-shot hits at this range and 100% hits at 500 m. Firing at extreme range, 3,000 m, 4% of shots were expected to hit (in controlled tests only 17% of shots struck their target at 3,000 m as opposed to 99% at 1,000 m)

All models of the Panzer IV had a Maschinengewehr 34 7.92 mm coaxial machine gun mounted in the turret. All except the Ausf. B and C also had a second MG34 in a ball mount in the front plate, it had elevation similar to the main gun but could traverse only 15° to left or right.

With the KwK 40 L/43 and L/48 the tank carried 87 rounds. The standard Panzergranate 39 APCBC shell weighed 6.8 kg, had a muzzle velocity of 750 m/s and could penetrate 85 mm of rolled homogeneous armor plate at 60 degrees from horizontal at 1,000 m. The specialised anti-tank tungsten-core Panzergranate 40 APCR shot weighed 4.1 kg had a muzzle velocity of 930 m/s and could penetrate 100 mm of angled plate at 1,000 m. The recommended ammunition load-out was, in 1943, 50/50 between anti-tank and high-explosive (later a combined role hollow-charge shell was available, the Gr.38 HL). The expensive Panzergranate 40 although rare was available in a limited quantity to the Panzer IV.

For the two machine guns 3,000 rounds were carried, divided into 150-round bags.

Mobility of the Panzer IV tank.

The Panzer IV A was powered by a 250 PS (247 hp, 184 kW), 12-cylinder Maybach HL 108 TR engine. All later models were powered by the reliable 300 PS (296 hp, 221 kW), 12-cylinder Maybach HL 120 TRM engine. It was found that the engines would often overheat in tropical climates and so a modifcation called the HL-120 TRM-T (tropische) diverted about 10 HP from the rated output of the motor to provide additional cooling. The power was distributed through a six-speed Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen SSG 76 transmission to the front-mounted drive sprockets. The tracks were 380 mm wide in early versions, giving a ground pressure of 0.89 kg/cm².

Top speed varied among models, depending on the transmission, armor, and gun. Early models could reach up to 30 km/h on a road, while later models reached around 40 km/h. The radius of action was 130 km cross-country and up to 210 km on roads. The Ausf J, with an additional fuel tank giving 680 litres total capacity, added 100 km to either of these ranges. The tank could cross a 2.3 m trench and climb a 30° slope.

Like all of Germany's World War II tanks, the Panzer IV used gasoline (petrol) engines.

Variants of the Panzer IV tank.

Panzer IV.
Panzer IV (Ausf J) in Finnish Tank Museum, Parola.
Panzer IV in Normandy.
British officers inspecting knocked out Panzer IV in Normandy.

"Ausf" is an abbreviation of Ausführung, which means "version".

  • Ausf. A (1937-1938, 35 produced).
  • Ausf. B (1938, 42 produced): Thicker armor, larger engine..
  • Ausf. C (1938-1939, 138 produced): Minor improvements..
  • Ausf. D (1939-1940, 229 produced): Thicker side armor. First model intended for combat..
  • Ausf. E (1940-1941, 223 produced): Thicker front and side armor..
  • Ausf. F1 (1941-1942, 462 produced): Simplified construction..
  • Ausf. F2 (1942, 175 produced): Armed with a new, longer-barreled 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/43 gun..
  • Ausf. G (1942-1943, 1687 produced): Thicker turret armor, winter combat modifications. Some late Ausf. Gs were fitted with 'Schürzen', side skirts, thin metal plates attached to the hull sides and turret via mounting brackets for protection against Soviet anti-tank rifles as well as hollow-charge rounds..
  • Ausf. H (1943-1944, 3774 produced): Longer 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 gun and thicker armor. Radio antenna moved to left rear of hull..
  • Ausf. J (1944-1945, 1758 produced): Turret traverse engine replaced with an extra fuel tank. later ausf Js had simplified vertical exhaust mufflers and the use of 3 instead of 4 track return rollers. Very late ausf J's used wire mesh side-skirts (Drahtgeflecht Schürzen) in place of solid metal plates to conserve strategic materials and reduce overall weight..
  • Tauchpanzer (1940, 42 converted): A "diving tank". Ausf. D converted in anticipation of Operation Sealion. All openings were sealed, commander's cupola, gun mantlet and machine gun mount covered with rubber sheeting, turret ring protected by inflatable rubber ring. Exhausts were fitted with non-return valves. Air was supplied via a flexible 18-meter hose held on the surface by a buoy. Maximum safe depth was about 15 meters, maximum underwater speed about 3 mph (5 km/h). Some were used by the 18th Panzer Regiment during River Bug crossing in Operation Barbarossa..
  • Panzerbefehlswagen IV (PzBefWg. IV) (1944, 97 converted): Ausf H converted to command vehicle, were fitted with second radio..
  • Panzerbeobachtungwagen IV (PzBeogWg. IV) (1944-1945, 96 converted): Pz IV, mostly Ausf. J, converted to Panzerartillerie Forward Observation Officer's vehicle. Were fitted with additional periscope to the left of the commander's cupola and with additional radios. .

Designs based on chassis.

US Army Ordnance Museum.
Heuschrecke on display at the US Army Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen.
  • Sturmpanzer IV: Heavy assault gun with 15 cm sIG 33 infantry gun..
  • Jagdpanzer IV: Tank destroyer armed with 7.5 cm L/48 (early) and L/70 (later) guns.
  • Sturmgeschütz IV: Assault gun based on Ausf H/J chassis with a modified StuG III superstructure..
  • Möbelwagen: 3.7 cm Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun in an open-topped superstructure..
  • Wirbelwind: Quad 2 cm Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun in a fully rotating open turret..
  • Ostwind: 3.7 cm Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun in a fully rotating open turret..
  • Kugelblitz: Twin 3 cm Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun in an enclosed ball turret. Very limited production..
  • 10.5 cm K18 auf Panzer Selbstfahrlafette IVa: Assault gun / tank destroyer. Two prototypes built were used on the Eastern Front..
  • 10.5 cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb (SdKfz 165/1) (1942): 10.5 cm self-propelled howitzer. The howitzer was mounted in an open-topped turret with traverse 70 degrees to each side on a shortened Panzer IV chassis. Eight prototypes were produced by Krupp in November 1942 and sent to the Eastern Front for trials..
  • 10.5 cm leFH 18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger GW IVb, nicknamed Heuschrecke (Grasshopper) (1943, 3 prototypes built): 105 mm self-propelled howitzer. The howitzer was mounted in a turret with full-round traverse on a slightly lengthened Panzer IV chassis. The turret could be removed by means of a lifting gantry and placed on a concrete base or on a wheeled carriage carried on the vehicle, while the vehicle itself could act as an ammunition carrier..
  • Brückenlegepanzer IV / Brückenleger IV: Bridgelayer based on Ausf. C/D. Nine-meter bridge had a 28-ton capacity. The vehicle was found to be too heavy for the suspension and the design was canceled in 1941. 20 units produced were used by the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 10th Panzer Divisions in the 1940 campaign..
  • Infanterie Sturmsteg: Infantry Assault Bridge, Panzer IV chassis carrying a telescopic catwalk. 2 units produced were used during the 1940 campaign and during the Operation Barbarossa..
  • Munitionspanzerwagen IV: Ammunition carrier..
  • Munitionsschlepper für Karlgerät: Ammunition carrier rounds for the Karl 600 mm mortar based on Ausf D. Could carry 3 rounds. Was fitted with a 3-ton electric crane..
  • Bergepanzer (1944, 36 produced): A recovery vehicle, essentially a turretless Panzer IV chassis fitted with a crane..
  • Land-Wasser Schlepper / Panzerfähre: An amphibious tractor based on Panzer IV chassis which carried a large pontoon and a cabin..
  • Geschützwagen III/IV, a lengthened chassis based on that of Panzer IV with Panzer III components, was used for the Nashorn tank destroyer, Hummel 15 cm self-propelled howitzer and Leichte PzH 18/40/2 auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sf) 10.5 cm self-propelled howitzer..
  • SG-122A: one Panzer IV was rebuilt as a Soviet prototype self-propelled artillery, equipped with 122 mm howitzer .

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