Panzer IV Ausf
Panzer IV (continuation)
Panzer IVs fitted with a 75-mm howitzer were designated Ausf A through F-1. These variants saw service in all German theaters of operation between 1939 and 1942. It was not until the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 that the Germans realized how poorly armed the early versions of the Panzer IV were against the more modern Soviet medium and heavy tanks. In response to more potent threats, the Germans modified the Panzer IV turrets to accept a 75-mm gun, capable of firing both high-explosive and armor-piercing rounds. Extra armor was also added to the hull and turret for protection from more powerful enemy tank and antitank guns. The added weight required wider tracks to keep ground pressure within reasonable limits. With this upgrade, the Panzer IV Ausf F-2 entered production in March 1942. Two hundred Ausf F-2s rolled out of German factories before the next version entered production.
Today, sophisticated target acquisition systems instantly calculate target distance and other important variables. During World War II, tank commanders and gunners had to quickly estimate the range to a target and the effects of wind, relative elevation, and other variables on the trajectory of a projectile. For longer-range targets, this imprecise technique usually resulted in the gunner firing a few trial rounds before hitting the target.
German tank crews enjoyed a marked advantage in the process of acquiring targets due to the superiority of their optics devices. This superiority allowed them to identify and open fire on opposing tanks long before an enemy tanker could respond. A World War II U.S. Army sergeant reported his impression of German tank-mounted optic devices: "The German telescopic sight mounted in their tanks is superior to ours. In particular it is more powerfull - in fact all of their optical equipment is superior to ours."
Most versions of the Panzer IV used an electric motor to traverse the heavy three-man turret. The electric motor received its power from a small two-cycle gasoline engine generator located within the hull of the vehicle. A hand-operated traverse system provided emergency backup in case the motor or generator failed. This same turret traverse system was employed on other German tanks such as the Panther medium tank.
Panzer IV Ausf G, H, and I versions followed the Ausf F-2. German tank industry built 1,687 of the Ausf G version between May 1942 and June 1943. The Ausf H, featuring a more powerful high-velocity long-barreled 75-mm gun, was the most common version of the Panzer IV with 3,774 produced between April 1943 and July 1944. The Ausf J was the final production version of the Panzer IV. It was produced between June 1944 and March 1945 with a production run of 1,758 vehicles.
The Panzer IV Ausf J weighed over 26 tons. This was a gain of almost 9 tons from the original Panzer IV. Most of the weight gain came from additional armor. To this day, the balance between armor weight and vehicle mobility is a continual compromise with all tank designs.
Selected Panzer IV Variants
Modified Panzer IV chassis were employed by the German army for a wide range of special purposes including command vehicles, antiaircraft platforms, and ammunition carriers. The best-known Panzer IV-based weapon systems were self-propelled howitzers and tank destroyers.
The slightly lengthened chassis of the Panzer IV was a nearly ideal carrier for heavy artillery pieces such as howitzers. One of the two major German artillery systems, the Hummel (Bumblebee), entered service in 1941. The Hummel fit into the German Panzerartillerie category.
Hummel armament was a limited-traverse 150-mm howitzer that fired a 95.9-pound high-explosive round to a maximum range of 14,572 yards. The five-man gun crew was protected by thin armor plates on the front and sides. Due to space constraints, the vehicle could only carry 18 rounds of howitzer ammunition. Additional ammunition was brought forward by a resupply version of the Hummel.
The other major Panzer IV -based artillery system was the Sturmpanzer IV, also known as the Brummbar (Grizzly Bear). It was armed with a limited-traverse 150-mm howitzer enclosed in a fully armored box-like superstructure. Unlike the indirect-fire Hummel, the short-range howitzer on the Brummbar was used as a close-range direct-fire weapon to support infantry units. German industry would build 306 of the vehicles between April 1943 and March 1945.
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