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Weapons of World War Two

The First Battle of El Alamein (Jul 1942)

Panzerkampfwagen IV

Version depicted: Ausf E

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf E

The history of this armored element, like that of many German weapons from the Second World War, dates back to the mid 1930s, when the new Germany, raised by the National Socialism, was immersed in an armamentistic race. The technicians assigned to the planification of armored forces believed that there was no tank able to accompany the lightest ones, with exception of those studied along with the Soviet technicians in the tank school of Kazan, in Russia. This strange union had arisen from the necessity of the Russian of learning about the technique and the utilization of armored elements from those who were already experts in the subject. Their ex-allies from the Great War frowned upon the new revolutionary Communist government; besides, England had provided weapons to the "white" ones, the counter-revolutionary, and there was not much to expect from their part. On the contrary, Germany, which was oppressed by the Versailles Treaty, which denied even the most minimal autonomy to them, possessed the technology, but the means to develop and maintain it had been forbidden to them. Thus this semi-clandestine school, which operated between the late 1920s and the early 1930s, was born. In Kazan the German developed many projects, among which there was one for a heavy tank, but this one did not give satisfactory results. At last, the technicians from Krupp, MAN and Rheinmetall began to search for a new formula outside the outdated schemes and which were adequate to the necessities of the military. Among the projects ellaborated, in 1935 it was chosen that from Krupp, which in 1936 was already able to deliver a first lot of tanks. At the outbreak of the war the Wehrmacht possessed a certain number of these tanks, denominated Panzerkampfwagen IV, which they "tested" with optimal results in the campaign of Poland. This tank, which was something like the "big brother" of the Panzerkampfwagen III, would constitute the backbone of the Panzerwaffe until the last days of the war, even if exceptional armored elements, such as the Tiger and the Panther, would later enter action. It was a tank whose bodywork had been made through welding. Its armor, of up to 30 millimeters in the first models, would be increased to up to 80 millimeters, with more than 18 millimeters of additional armor in the last ones. Also the armament would suffer a strong evolution, going from the initial 75/24 cannon - still used in the Ausf E version - to the 75/48 used in the last versions. The engine was a Maybach HL 120 TRM of twelve cylinders in V, with a capacity of 11867 cubic centimeters and a power of 300 horsepower. The interior of the tank had been carefully designed: the seats were lined, every sharp edge was padded, there was enough space and the walls, painted in clear tones, contributed to reduce to the minimum the sense of oppression which the idea of being inside a steel coffin can give to whoever is inside a tank. About 9000 exemplars of this tank would be produced, of which more than 8000 would be of the most robust versions (F, G, H and J). The active life of this tank would have a curious appendix: in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, the Syrian Army used, seemingly with modest results, some exemplars of the PzKpfw IV J, which is a clear exponent of the validity and effectiveness of the German technicians who had designed it thirty years before.

Year: 1940

Weight: 23 tonnes

Length: 5.89 meters

Width: 2.86 meters

Height: 2.68 meters

Ground clearance: 40 centimeters

Maximum armor: 50 millimeters

Engine: Maybach HL 120 TRM of 300 horsepower

Maximum speed on road: 40 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed on countryside: 16 kilometers/hour

Operational range on road: 200 kilometers

Operational range on countryside: 150 kilometers

Crew: 5

Armament: One 75-millimeter cannon; two or three 7.92-millimeter machine guns

Ammunitions: 80 of 75 millimeters; 2700 of 7.92 millimeters

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.45 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 60 centimeters

Maximum surmountable slope: 30 degrees

Fording: 1.00 meters

Also in Weapons of World War Two

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