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date of publication: 13-03-2013


German Tank Panzer IV

Panzer III Ausf L

In 1934, having gained valuable experience with the early design work on the Panzer I, and after long debate about the types of tanks needed, the issued design requirements for a new medium tank. The tank was to have a five-man crew and weigh less than 24 tons. Armament was to consist of a large-caliber gun in a rotating turret. These requirements eventually produced the highly versatile tank designated Panzer IV.

Panzer IV

German industry built almost 9,000 Panzer IVs between 1936 and early 1945. During that time the Panzer IV served as the backbone of the German tank forces. The Panzer IV was designed from the start to allow for continual upgrades during production.

This farsighted design concept acknowledged that the German army knew it could not accurately predict its future needs. In contrast, the failure of the Allies to provide for growth in their tank designs resulted in the wholesale obsolescence of many Allied tanks in the early part of World War II.

Panzer IV Ausf F1

The long-term success of one tank design over another can generally be ascribed to the balance between three important military characteristics: firepower, mobility, and protection. These factors are always in conflict with one another. Added to the mix are constraints of overall size and weight imposed by the necessity for road, rail, and water transport. Dozens of other constraints result in a final design that is always a compromise.

Fortunately for the German military and tank-producing industry, the design of the Panzer IV was heavily influenced by the ideas of General Heinz Guderian. Considered the father of the German military's tank forces, Guderian established the order of priorities for all German tank designs as: 1) mobility, 2) firepower, 3) armor protection, and 4) communications (radios). These priorities were successfully translated into the final design of the Panzer IV.

Panzer IV Ausf D

The suspension system on the Panzer IV consisted of 16 bogie wheels, eight on either side of the hull. The bogie wheels were paired together in suspension assemblies, four on either side of the hull. The suspension assemblies were attached to longitudinal twin quarter-elliptic leaf springs bolted to the vehicle's hull. Above the bogie wheels were eight track return rollers, four on either side of the hull.

Guderian was also convinced that the best-designed tank in the world is not a truly effective weapon system unless a highly trained and motivated crew operates it. To this end, Guderian insisted that only the most promising men be recruited into the Panzertruppen (tank forces). This elite tank force was unmatched during most of World War II. It was the high quality of crews that often gave them a winning advantage even when seriously outnumbered and outgunned.

Panzer IV Ausf G

Compared with other tanks of the day, the Panzer IV had a large turret. This design feature allowed for a five-man crew, three of which were in the turret. The turret crew consisted of the vehicle commander, a gunner, and a loader. The addition of a gunner in the turret allowed the vehicle commander to concentrate on the battlefield situation rather than on firing the gun. The British army first pioneered the three-man turret crew. Other armies stuck with the far less satisfactory practice of having only one or two men in a tank turret. Eventually, the superiority of the three-man turret crew became evident and was adopted by other tank-producing countries during World War II.

The driver and the radio operator of the were located in the front of the hull. The radio operator also manned the 7.92-mm machine gun. Crew communication within the vehicle was through an intercom system consisting of earphones and throat microphones. This same system was employed in other German tanks during World War II. The five-man crew division of labor within the Panzer IV would be copied in all subsequent German World War II tanks.

German Panzer IV Ausf G

When first conceived, the German army saw the Panzer IV medium tank as a support vehicle for the more numerous Panzer II . The vehicle was originally designed to carry a low-ve-locity short-barreled 75-mm howitzer. It could fire a high-explosive round out to a fair range. However, this weapon was not effective against tank armor.

When first conceived, the German army saw the Panzer IV medium tank as a support vehicle for the more numerous Panzer II light tanks. The vehicle was originally designed to carry a low-ve-locity short-barreled 75-mm howitzer. It could fire a high-explosive round out to a fair range. However, this weapon was not effective against tank armor.

The Germans originally designed the Panzer IV to deal with enemy machine gun and antitank gun the Fired only a non-explosive round. This meant its usefulness was limited, since it required a direct hit to do any damage at all. High-explosive rounds were able to damage anything within their blast effect range.