Saturday, March 28, 2015

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf F (Sd Kfz 161)

The initial Ausf F order was given to Krupp-Gruson for 500 in the 7th Series BW. This was later increased when Vomag received an order to produce 100 and Nibelungenwerke, 25. Before these series were completed the OKH issued an order to mount the 7.5cm KwK40 L/43 as quickly as possible, resulting in each series being completed as Ausf F2. Twenty-five of the Ausf F1, which had been fitted originally with the short 7.5cm KwK37, were converted to Ausf F2 by mounting the 7.5cm KwK40 L/43, before being issued to the troops.

The major improvement with the Ausf F was the increase of the armour thickness on most surfaces. Minor improvements included 40cm wide tracks with the accompanying dished sprocket and tubular idler, air-intake cowl on the glacis hatches to cool the steering brakes, and new muffler designs for the main and auxiliary engines. The vision ports, pistol ports, driver's visor, hull machine-gun mount and turret doors were all changed from previous models because of the increased armour thicknesses.

The Ausf F1, which equipped several new units and refitted the 2nd and 5th Panzer Divisions, was mainly issued piecemeal to units at the front, to replace losses. About 208 Ausf B to F1 were available with units in Russia when the summer offensive started in June 1942. This was reduced to 60 available on the entire Eastern front at the time of the offensive at Kursk in July 1943.

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