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The Panzer IV saw service in all combat theaters involving Germany and was the only German tank to remain in continuous production throughout the war. It received various upgrades and design modifications, intended to counter new threats, extending its service life. Generally, these involved increasing the Panzer IV's armor protection or upgrading its weapons, although during the last months of the war, with Germany's pressing need for rapid replacement of losses, design changes also included simplifications to speed up the manufacturing process.
The Panzer IV was partially succeeded by the Panther medium tank, which was introduced to counter the Soviet T , although the Panzer IV continued as a significant component of German armoured formations to the end of the war. To support the Panzer III, which would be armed with a millimetre 1. Development was carried out under the name Begleitwagen "accompanying vehicle" ,  or BW, to disguise its actual purpose, given that Germany was still theoretically bound by the Treaty of Versailles ban on tanks.
The chassis had originally been designed with a six-wheeled Schachtellaufwerk interleaved-roadwheel suspension as German half-tracks had already adopted , but the German Army amended this to a torsion bar system. Permitting greater vertical deflection of the roadwheels, this was intended to improve performance and crew comfort both on- and off-road. The prototype required a crew of five men; the hull contained the engine bay to the rear, with the driver and radio operator, who doubled as the hull machine gunner, seated at the front-left and front-right, respectively.
1/35 German Panzer.IV Ausf.H Late/Ausf.J Turret Armour for all
In the turret , the tank commander sat beneath his roof hatch, while the gunner was situated to the left of the gun breech and the loader to the right. The turret was offset This allowed the torque shaft to clear the rotary base junction, which provided electrical power to turn the turret, while connecting to the transmission box mounted in the hull between the driver and radio operator. Due to the asymmetric layout, the right side of the tank contained the bulk of its stowage volume, which was taken up by ready-use ammunition lockers.
Accepted into service as the Versuchskraftfahrzeug Vs. Krupp Grusonwerk AG factory at Magdeburg. A was protected by This was only capable of stopping artillery fragments , small-arms fire, and light anti-tank projectiles. After manufacturing 35 tanks of the A version, in production moved to the Ausf.
A and Ausf.
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B chassis starting in August Bs were manufactured before the introduction of the Ausf. C in The last of the Ausf. Cs was produced in August , and production changed to the Ausf. However, with the rapid German victory in France, the original order of 80 tanks was cancelled before they entered production. In October , the Ausf. E was introduced. This had 30 millimetres 1. G, was relocated forward on the turret eliminating the bulge underneath the cupola. Es were produced between October and April F started. The wider tracks also facilitated the fitting of track shoe "ice sprags ", and the rear idler wheel and front sprocket were modified.
F was changed in the meantime to Ausf. F1, after the distinct new model, the Ausf.
F2, appeared. A total of Ausf. F later temporarily called F1 tanks were produced from April to March On 26 May , mere weeks before Operation Barbarossa , during a conference with Hitler, it was decided to improve the Panzer IV's main armament. The first prototype was to be delivered by 15 November Because the recoil length was too great for the tank's turret, the recoil mechanism and chamber were shortened.
This resulted in the millimetre 2. The longer 7. In spite of the designers' efforts to conserve weight, the new weapon made the vehicle nose-heavy to such an extent that the forward suspension springs were under constant compression. The Ausf. F2 with the designation Sd. The tank increased in weight to Differences between the Ausf.
F1 and the Ausf. F2 was renamed Ausf. G went through further modifications, including another armor upgrade which consisted of a millimetre 1. Complementing this, brackets for seven spare track links were added to the glacis plate.
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.G, H and J –45 by Tom Jentz
For operation in high temperatures, the engine's ventilation was improved by creating slits over the engine deck to the rear of the chassis, and cold weather performance was boosted by adding a device to heat the engine's coolant, as well as a starter fluid injector. A new light replaced the original headlight and the signal port on the turret was removed. The next version, the Ausf. H, began production in June  and received the designation Sd.
The integrity of the glacis armor was improved by manufacturing it as a single millimetre 3. A reinforced final drive with higher gear ratios was introduced. During the Ausf. H's production run, its rubber-tired return rollers were replaced with cast steel, a lighter cast front sprocket and rear idler wheel gradually replaced the previous components,  the hull was fitted with triangular supports for the easily damaged side skirts, the Nebelwurfgeraet was discontinued, and a mount in the turret roof, designed for the Nahverteidigungswaffe , was plugged by a circular armored plate due to initial production shortages of this weapon.
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These modifications meant that the tank's weight increased to 25 tonnes An experimental version of the Ausf H was fitted with a hydrostatic transmission but was not put into production. Despite addressing the mobility problems introduced by the previous model, the final production version of the Panzer IV—the Ausf. J—was considered a retrograde from the Ausf. Born of necessity, to replace heavy losses, it was greatly simplified to speed production. The turret traversing mechanism was modified and fitted with a second gear which made hand-operation easier when the vehicle was on sloping terrain.
F tank design, and partly developed by Rheinmetall from early onwards — to a Panzer IV hull. This failed and confirmed that the chassis had reached the limit of its adaptability in both weight and available volume. The Panzer IV was originally intended to be used only on a limited scale, so initially Krupp was its sole manufacturer. A; 42 Ausf. B; and Ausf. In , an average of 39 tanks per month were built; this rose to 83 in , in , and in These were used to train Italian tank crews while the-then Italian leader Benito Mussolini was deposed shortly after the Allied conquest of Sicily but were then retaken by Germany during its occupation of Italy in mid F1 and 5 Ausf.
G in the autumn of At the time, these were the only German tanks that could defeat T or KV-1 with sheer firepower. The Panzer IV continued to play an important role during operations in , including at the Battle of Kursk. Newer types, such as the Panther, were still experiencing crippling reliability problems that restricted their combat efficiency,  so much of the effort fell to the Panzer IVs that took part in the battle.
German counter-attacks were blunted in the face of Allied artillery, infantry-held anti-tank weapons , tank destroyers and anti-tank guns , as well as the ubiquitous fighter bomber aircraft. German tankers in all theaters were "frustrated by the way these skirts were easily torn off when going through dense brush". The Allies had also been developing lethality improvement programs of their own; the widely used American-designed M4 Sherman medium tank, while mechanically reliable, suffered from thin armor and an inadequate gun. The British up-gunned the Sherman with their highly effective QF 17 pounder anti-tank gun , resulting in the Firefly ;  although this was the only Allied tank capable of dealing with all current German tanks at normal combat ranges, few were available in time for the Normandy invasion.
It was not until July that American Shermans, fitted with the mm 3-inch M1 tank gun , achieved a parity in firepower with the Panzer IV.
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However, despite the general superiority of its armored vehicles, by 29 August , as the last surviving German troops of Fifth Panzer Army and Seventh Army began retreating towards Germany, the twin cataclysms of the Falaise Pocket and the Seine crossing had cost the Wehrmacht dearly. Of the 2, tanks and assault guns it had committed to Normandy including around Panzer IVs  , over 2, had been lost. During the winter of —45, the Panzer IV was one of the most numerous tanks in the Ardennes offensive , where further heavy losses—as often due to fuel shortages as to enemy action—impaired major German armored operations in the West thereafter.
Js issued as reinforcements. Finland bought 15 new Panzer IV Ausf. Js in for 5,, Finnish markkas each. The tanks arrived too late to see action against the Soviet Union but instead ended up being used against Nazi Germany during their withdrawal through Lapland. After the war, they served as training tanks and one portrayed a Soviet KV-1 tank in the movie The Unknown Soldier in The additional weight, going from the A to about 25 tons Ausf. J , of these modifications strained the relatively light chassis. The overloaded and primitive leaf-spring suspension gave its crew a shaky ride, earning the Panzer IV the nickname "Ravistin" "Shaker" in Finnish service.
This not only affected general crew comfort, but also hampered the accurate aiming of the main gun. J such a bad name among Finnish tank crews remains somewhat unclear, but the poor suspension seems to be the most likely suspect. After , Bulgaria incorporated its surviving Panzer IVs into defensive bunkers as gunpoints on its border with Turkey , along with Soviet T turrets. This defensive line, known as the " Krali Marko Line", remained in use until the fall of communism in Twenty Panzer IV Ausf.