The largest tank in the German Army’s pre–World War II arsenal was the PzKpfw IV. Developed in response to a 1934 request from the Weapons Department of the German Army for a medium infantry support tank, its hull was formed of welded plates with a bolted superstructure on top holding the turret ring. The turret was also welded and large enough to accommodate three crew members and permit mounting of larger guns.
Krupp-Gruson began production of the PzKpfw IV in October 1937 and by August 1939 had produced 211 in models Ausf. A through C. The PzKpfw IV was the backbone of Germany’s new panzer divisions. Weighing some 40,600 pounds in its Ausf. A version, it had a 250-hp engine, a speed of 24 mph, a crew of five men, and maximum 15mm armor protection. Subsequent models had a larger 300-hp engine and steadily thicker armor protection (up to 80mm). The PzKpfw IV mounted a short-barreled low-velocity 75mm (2.95-inch) cannon designed for close support, as well as two machine guns. Among the chief advantages of the PzKpfw IV was its 16-wheel suspension system, sprung by elliptic springs, which proved particularly reliable.
The PzKpfw IV offered nothing revolutionary or of special advantage. Its relatively thin armor offered little protection for the crew, and the gun was not especially powerful. Yet this tank more than held its own against all comers through 1941 because it had the right combination of speed, armor, and armament and because its crews understood how to exploit these to the best advantage.
Summary: Produced in response to a 1934 call for a medium infantry support tank, the PzKpfw IV formed the backbone of the German panzer divisions in the Soviet Union and was produced throughout the war. First produced by Krupp-Gruson, it appeared in 10 different models, Ausf. A-J.
Production dates: October 1937–March 1945
Number produced: 8,519 + variants Ausf. A, 35; Ausf. B, 42; Ausf. C, 134; Ausf. D, 229; Ausf. E, 223; Ausf. F, 462; Ausf. F, 175; Ausf. G, 1,687; Ausf. H, 3,774; Ausf. J, 1,758
Manufacturer: Krupp-Gruson, Vomag, Nibelungenwerke
Armament: 75mm KwK37 L/24 main gun (Ausf. A); increased to 75mm KwK40 L/48 (Ausf. H and J); also 2 x 7.92mm MG34 machine guns (coaxial, bow)
Weight: 40,565 lbs. (Ausf. A); 55,100 lbs. (Ausf. H, J)
Armor: maximum 15mm, minimum 5mm (Ausf. A); maximum 80mm, minimum 10mm (Ausf. H, J)
Ammunition storage and type: 87 x 75mm; 3,150 x 7.92mm (Ausf. H and J)
Power plant: Mayback HL108TR 12-cylinder, 250-hp gasoline engine (Ausf. A); Mayback HL120TRM112 12-cylinder 300-hp gasoline engine (Ausf. B and later)
Maximum speed: 24 mph
Range: 126 miles
Fording depth: 3’3”
Vertical obstacle: 2’
Trench crossing: 7’3”
Special characteristics (pos/neg): Despite its considerable increase in weight the PzKpfw IV had an effective power-to- weight ratio and thus good maneuverability. Special models: A wide variety, including submersible; assault gun; self-propelled guns; tank destroyers; self-propelled howitzers; self-propelled antiaircraft gun platforms; armored recovery vehicles; bridge-layers