Friday, August 19, 2016

PzKpfw IV, or SdKfz 161

The Panzerkampfwagen IV had the distinction of remaining in production throughout World War II, and formed the backbone of the German armored divisions. In 1934 the Army Weapons Department drew up a requirement for a vehicle under the cover name of the medium tractor (mitteren Traktor) which was to equip the fourth tank company of each German tank battalion.

Rheinmetall Borsig built the VK 2001(Rh) while MAN proposed the VK 2002(MAN) and Krupp the VK 2001(K). In the end Krupp took over total responsibility for the vehicle, which was also known as the Bataillons F├╝hrerwagen (battalion commander's vehicle). This entered production at the Krupp Grusonwerke plant at Magdeburg as the PzKpfw IV Ausf A, or SdKfz 161, as by this time all cover names had been dropped.

This model was armed with a short barrelled 75-mm (2.95-in) gun, coaxial 7.92-mm (0.31-in) machine gun and a similar weapon in the bow. Turret traverse was powered and 122 rounds of 75-mm (2.95-in) and 3,000 rounds of machine gun ammunition were carried. Maximum armor thickness was 20 mm (0.79 in) on the turret and 14.5 mm (0.57 in) on the hull, Only a few of these were built in 1936/7. The next model was the PzKpfw IV Ausf B, which had increased armor protection, more powerful engine and other more minor improvements. Through out the PzKpfw IV's long production life the basic chassis remained unchanged, but as the threat by enemy antitank weapons increased so more armor was added and new weapons were installed. (Other chassis often had to be phased out of production as they were incapable of being upgraded to take into account changes on the battlefield.) The final production model was the PzKpfw IV Ausf J, which appeared in March 1944, Total production of the PzKpfw IV amounted to about 9,000 vehicles.

The chassis of the PzKpfw IV was also used for other, more specialized vehicles including the Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyer, self-propelled anti-aircraft gun systems of various types (including one with four 20-mm cannon and another with one 37-mm cannon), self-propelled guns, armored recovery vehicles and bridge layers to name but a few.

A typical PzKpfw IV was the PzKpfw IV Ausf F2, which had a hull and turret of all welded steel armour construction, the former having a maximum thickness of 60 mm (2.36 in) and the latter of 50 mm (1.47 in), The driver was seated at the front of the hull on the left, with the bow machine gunner/ radio operator to his right. The commander, gunner and loader were seated in the turret in the centre of the hull, with an entrance hatch on each side of the turret and a cupola for the tank commander.

The engine was at the rear of the hull and coupled to a manual transmission with six forward and one reverse gears. Main armament comprised a long barrelled 75-mm (2,95- in) KwK gun fitted with a muzzle brake and which could fire a variety of ammunition including HEAT, smoke, APCR, APCBC and high explosive, the last being used in the infantry support role. A 7.92-mm (0.31-in) MG34 machine-gun was mounted coaxial with and to the right of the main armament, while a similar weapon was mounted in the bow. Totals of 87 rounds of 75 mm (2,95-in) and 3,192 rounds of 7.92-mm (0,31-in) machine gun ammunition were carried. Turret traverse was powered through 360°, though manual controls were provided for emergency use.

The additional armor and heavier armament pushed up the weight until in the final production version it reached 25 tonnes, but the PzKpfw IV still had a respectable power to weight ratio and therefore good mobility characteristics.

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