Categories
WW2 German Panzer IV

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. F

ww2 german tanks Germany (1941) – Medium Support Tank
471 plus 2 chassis
built

The Panzer IV Ausf. F was an important turning point for the whole further Panzer IV development for several reasons. Firstly, it reintroduced the single-piece straight front armor plate, which would become standard on all subsequent Panzer IV tanks. Secondly, it was the last version to be equipped with the short barreled 7.5 cm gun, after which the Germans decided to upgrade the vehicle with longer barreled guns for better anti-tank penetration. The Panzer IV Ausf. F was also supplied to the Hungarians in an attempt to rebuild their armored formations. Lastly, due to the large demands for more vehicles, the Panzer IV Ausf. F, would be also produced by Vomag and Nibelungenwerke beside Krupp-Grusonwerke, which was initially the only manufacturer of the Panzer IV.

The Panzer IV Ausf. F. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

History

By the time the Panzer IV Ausf. E was entering production, some deficiencies were noted for it and previous versions. The most noticeable was the relatively weak armor protection. While it was planned to provide the Ausf. E with 50 mm thick frontal armor, this was not implemented by the time of production. When the Ausf. F entered production in April 1941, it was possible to install the thicker, single-piece armor plates without the need to use two weaker armor plates like it was initially implemented on the previous version. Some structural changes on the superstructure and chassis were also to be implemented on the new Ausf. F. Other than these, the Ausf. F would serve the same purpose as a support tank. It would be allocated to Panzer Divisions as a replacement for the lost vehicles in the previous campaigns.

Production

At the end of 1938, In 6 (Inspektorat 6, the inspectorate for mechanization) issued a request for the production of 129 Panzer IV Ausf. F tanks, which were to be built by Krupp-Grusonwerke. The outbreak of the war in September 1939 changed the initial production plans. Due to the great need for more modern Panzer IVs, the initial order was increased to 500 vehicles in November 1939

In order to increase the production speed, other manufacturers were to be included in the Panzer IV project. These include Vomag and Nibelungenwerk, both of which were to produce 100 new Panzer IV Ausf. F vehicles starting from June 1940. Due to the anticipated invasion of the Soviet Union, these production orders were once again changed to include 300 additional vehicles which were to be assembled at Krupp-Grusonwerke.

The Panzer IV Ausf. F production lasted from April (or May, depending on the source) 1941 to February 1942. By that time, Krupp-Grusonwerke managed to produce 393 tanks plus two chassis which were used as ammunition vehicles for the large Karlgerät. Vomag made 65 and Nibelungenwerk was able to produce only 13 Panzer IV tanks. In total, some 471 Panzer IV Ausf. F plus the two chassis were built. The main reason why the production goal was not reached was the sudden decision to drop the use of the shorter gun and focus on the production of the longer 7.5 cm gun.

Specifications

While the Panzer IV Ausf. F represented a further development of the previous version, it incorporated a number of improvements.

The Engine

While the Panzer IV Ausf. F had the same engine as the previous version, it received a much shorter exhaust muffler. To its left, a small auxiliary engine muffler was added. The engine top cover was also completely redesigned, adding two large radiator ventilation grilles.

The engine compartment received a new top cover which included two radiator ventilation grilles. Source: K. Hjermstad Panzer IV
The Panzer IV Ausf. F received a small auxiliary engine muffler which was added to the left of the shorter exhaust muffler. The box with the Balkenkreuz to the left of the engine compartment is actually a smoke grenade rack system (Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung). Source: Source: P. Thomas Panzers at War 1939-45

The Hull

The hull received some minor modifications. One of these was the installation of armored covers for the ventilation vents on the hull frontal brake access hatches. In order to increase the operational range and to reduce the dependency on auxiliary fuel supply vehicles, after April 1941, Panzer IV Ausf. F (like all other Panzer IVs) tanks were equipped with a tow hitch and fuel trailers. These were primarily used during the first year of the invasion of the Soviet Union but proved to be more of a hindrance and their use after that generally declined.

The brake access hatches received armored covers for the ventilation vents. Source: Walter J. SpielbergerPanzer IV and its Variants
Due to the large size of the Soviet Union, in the hope of increasing the operational range and reducing the dependency on auxiliary fuel supply vehicles, the Germans provided the Panzer IV (note this is not an Ausf. F) with fuel trailers. Source: P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition
On many occasions in the German Army (and in other armies as well), the crews would make additional modifications to suit their needs. For example, they added extra storage boxes where equipment could be stored. This Panzer IV had an unusual front-mounted storage box. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

The Superstructure

The Panzer IV Ausf. F’s superstructure reintroduced the completely straight front superstructure armor plate. The use of a single plate made the front armor stronger structurally, but also made production somewhat easier. This was not new, as it had been used on the Ausf. B and C versions, but had been discarded on the Ausf. D and Ausf. E versions. Other changes included the installation of the completely new and better machine gun ball-mount (Kugelblende 50). The driver visor port was replaced with a slightly thicker Fagrersehklappe 50 model.

The Panzer IV Ausf. F received a completely new ball mount for the machine gun and a thicker machine gun port cover. Source: warspot.ru

The Turret

The turret design on the Ausf. F received new two-part side doors taken from the Panzer III Ausf. E. The forward door had an observation port, while the second door had a small pistol port. The pistol and visor ports were also taken from the same Panzer III. The visor ports were 30 mm thick and further protected by a 90 mm armored glass block.

A side view of the Panzer IV Ausf. F, where the new two-part turret doors can be seen. Source: Pinterest
The difference in turret doors designs are quite obvious between the older (upper) and the newer (lower) version used on the Ausf. F. Source Walter J. SpielbergerPanzer IV and its Variants,

Suspension and Running Gear

The added armor protection and other changes lead to a slight increase in weight, from 22 to 22.3 tonnes. To prevent this from affecting the overall drive performance, some changes were implemented on the Panzer IV Ausf. F’s suspension. The tracks were widened to 40 mm, which necessitated the widening of the road wheels. The front-drive sprocket was slightly redesigned to be able to accommodate the wider tracks. The rear idler wheel was replaced with a new much simpler and easier to produce design.

While, visually, the Ausf. F suspension was the same as on the previous versions, there were a number of changes, such as wider tracks and a new rear idler. Source: warspot.ru
Difference between the older (left) and the new (right) idler design. The new idler was built using welded tubes. It was much simpler in construction, saving time and resources. Source Walter J. SpielbergerPanzer IV and its Variants

Armor Protection

The Polish and Western campaigns showed that the Panzer IV was not sufficiently protected. To resolve this issue, the Panzer IV Ausf. F was meant to have improved armor protection that would be able to frontally resist 3.7 cm anti-tank rounds. For this reason, the front hull, superstructure, and turret (including the gun mantlet) were reinforced. These were now 50 mm thick face hardened armor plates. In addition, the overall side armor was increased to 30 mm. During production, some vehicles received side armor plates that were also face-hardened.

The Panzer IV Ausf. F was also equipped with the smoke grenade rack system (Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung). This was discarded from use after 1942, being mostly replaced with a new one that was mounted on the turret sides. Some vehicles were equipped with 5 mm thick armor plates (Schürzen) covering the side of the vehicle. These served to protect the tank from Soviet anti-tank rifles.

Some Ausf. F tanks were equipped with 5 mm thick armor plates. These covered the turret and hull sides and their meaning was to provide protection against Soviet anti-tank rifle fire. Source: unknown

A number of vehicles were equipped with the 20 mm thick front-spaced armor (Vorpanzer). Its primary function was to provide protection from tungsten and hollow-charge rounds. The crews would often add whatever they had to the tank for protection. This usually consisted of various track types (taken from other German or even captured vehicles), spare wheels, etcetera, in the hope to increase the survivability of their vehicles.

A group of Ausf. F tanks with the added front-spaced armor. Source: warspot.ru
The crew of this vehicle added a huge number of track links on their vehicle. While most are Panzer IV track links, at least one (above the drive visor port) is from a Soviet T-34. Also note that the left turret Schürzen is missing. Source: Unknown

The Armament

The main armament was unchanged and consisted of the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 with 80 rounds of ammunition. The secondary armament consisted of two 7.92 mm MG 34 machine guns. The ammunition load for these two machine guns was stored in 21 belt sacks, each with 150 rounds (with 3,150 rounds in total).

The 7.5 cm gun could fire high-explosive, smoke or anti-tank rounds. Experience during the first years in the Soviet Union had shown that the 7.5 cm was not up to the task of effectively countering enemy tanks. As a quick solution, in December 1941, Adolf Hitler issued an order that the production of the 7.5 cm GrPatr 38 (shaped-charge round) should begin as soon as possible. While this ammunition was developed in 1940, its actual production began only in early 1942. The 7.5 cm Gr.Patr. 38 could penetrate 75 mm of armor regardless of the combat range. It had a low velocity of 450 m/s, which greatly affected its precision. Another issue was that, when hitting enemy tanks, the shaped-charge would not always penetrate the enemy armor, as it would sometimes simply bounce off. Later models would greatly improve the overall performance.

The armament from the previous version was unchanged. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

In Combat

Being produced after April 1941, the Panzer IV Ausf. F would mostly see action in the Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, in North Africa. Some were used against the Yugoslav Partisans up to the war’s end.

In North Africa

In the North African theater of war, during 1941 and early 1942, the short-barreled Panzer IV would see service in small numbers. The more dominant German tank at that time was the Panzer III.
On 23rd August 1942, there were only 8 operational Panzer IVs available at El Alamein. There were initially 40 Panzer IVs in service with the Deutsche Afrika Korps (DAK) [Eng. German Africa Corps].

While the short-barreled Panzer IV were used by the Germans in North Africa, their actual numbers were quite limited. This Panzer IV Ausf. F was destroyed probably by an external ammunition explosion, probably caused by an enemy hit… Source: K. Hjermstad Panzer IV

In the Soviet Union

By the time of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the number of Panzer IVs was around 517 (or 531 according to some sources). Each Panzer Division possessed in their inventory, on average, around 30 such vehicles. Of these, some 70 were the Ausf. F version. Sadly, it is quite difficult to pinpoint the precise combat operations of individual Panzer IV versions, as the sources do not distinguish between the short barrel versions. Those Panzer IV Ausf. Fs that were produced after June 1941 were usually distributed to various Panzer Divisions in smaller numbers to supplement their losses.

The overall performance of the Panzer IV Ausf. F was not that much different from the previous versions. Its gun was sufficient (despite originally not being intended to) and was quite effective against the lightly armored BT and T-26 series. Against the KVs and T-34s, the Panzer IV had much lower chances of success. The stronger 50 mm frontal armor could provide good protection against the 45 mm Soviet guns, but the stronger 76 mm could effectively pierce it.

The harsh winter, poor mechanical condition and stiff Soviet resistance led to huge tank losses by the end of 1941. The 5th Panzer Division, for example, had some 20 Panzer IVs in December 1941. This number fell to 14 Panzer IVs by February 1942. While some would survive up to 1943, their numbers would be greatly reduced.

A column of German tanks, with a Panzer IV Ausf. F in the front, during the winter of 1941. Source: warspot.ru
A Panzer IV Ausf.F from the 5th Panzer Division somewhere in the Soviet Union. Source: K. Hjermstad Panzer IV

In the Balkans

The Axis forces defeated Yugoslavia in April of 1941. The territory of Yugoslavia was then divided between Germany and its Allies. Due to their harsh occupation policy, two resistance movements emerged to resist the invaders. To counter these movements and to secure their vital supply lines to Greece, the Germans had to send additional forces and even some armored vehicles. These were mostly obsolete or even captured vehicles. In 1944, a small number of Panzer IV Ausf. Fs were allocated to the 13th Reinforced Police Tank Company (Verstärkt Polizei Panzer Kompanie). These were used in fighting against the communist partisans up to the war’s end.

A column of armored vehicles belonging to the German 13th Verstärkt Polizei Panzer Kompanie. In the background, three captured Italian tank destroyers can be seen. Source: Bojan B. Dumitrijević and Dragan Savić Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu
A Panzer IV Ausf. F captured by the Yugoslav Partisans near the end of the war. Source: Vojna Knjižara

Other modifications

The Panzer IV Ausf. F was used for several different test projects. These went into two different directions, either using the whole vehicle but with a different armament, or using the chassis for various modifications.

Panzer IV Ausf. G (F2)

In an attempt to counter the Soviet T-34 and KV tanks, in early 1942, the Germans began to up-gun their Panzer IVs with longer L/43 guns. These provided much better armor penetration. The Panzer IV Ausf. F was used as the base for this modification. In order to distinguish them from the short barrel armed vehicles, these were initially marked as Ausf. F2. After July 1942, these were all renamed Ausf. G. Some sources also note that some 25 newly produced Panzer IV Ausf. F tanks were rearmed with the longer gun, replacing the shorter barrel guns.

The Panzer IV Ausf. G, which was initially based on the Ausf. F. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info
A Panzer IV Ausf. F armed with the longer 7.5 cm gun, possibly used as a training vehicle. Source: P. Thomas Panzers at War 1939-45

Panzer IV Ausf. F mit Waffe 0725

The Germans were experimenting with increasing the firepower of the Panzer IV. One such experiment included the installation of the Waffe 0725. This was actually an experimental taper-bore gun with a 75/55 mm caliber firing a tungsten round. Due to a shortage of tungsten, this particular gun was never introduced into service.

The Panzer IV Ausf. F with a Waffe 0725 75/55 mm wooden mock-up. Source: warspot.ru

Panzerfähre

The Panzerfähre was a specially designed vehicle based on the Panzer IV Ausf. F chassis that was interned to transport German tanks over water. In theory, two Panzerfähre would be connected by a raft on which a tank or any other vehicle would be placed. Then, the two Panzerfähre basically acted as a ferry to transport the cargo from shore to shore. While not clear, it appears that, in practice, this did not work and no production orders were placed. Beside the two prototypes, no more were built.

The two experimental Panzerfähre vehicles. Source: http://www.panzerbaer.de/types/wh_panzerfaehre-a.htm

Munitionsschlepper für Karlgerät

An unknown number of different Panzer IV chassis (including the Ausf. F) were modified to be used as ammunition supply vehicles for the huge self-propelled siege mortars codenamed ‘Karlgerät’. Depending on the source, the number of modified Ausf. F chassis ranges between 2 and 13 vehicles.

Munitionsschlepper für Karlgerät next to the huge self propelled vehicle. Source: https://www.armedconflicts.com/Munitionsschlepper-fuer-Karl-Geraet-municne-vozidlo-t29710

Fahrschulpanzer IV Ausf. E

Some Panzer IV Ausf. Fs were given to tank training schools. While new vehicles were certainly used, others may have been returned from the frontline for repairs and were reused for this purpose too.

The Germans paid great attention to Panzer crew training programs. This exercise served to help train the crew to abandon the vehicle in case of an outbreak of fire inside the vehicle. In this case, a smoke emitter serves to simulate fire in the vehicle. Source: P. Thomas Panzers at War 1939-45

Sturmpanzer IV

Damaged Panzer IV Ausf. E and F tanks that were returned to Germany for repairs were reused for the Sturmpanzer IV program. The precise number of modified chassis is difficult to know precisely.

A few Sturmpanzer IVs were based on Ausf. F rebuilt chassis. Source: Wiki

Jagdpanzer IV wooden prototype

In May 1943, Vomag presented a wooden mock-up of the future Jagdpanzer IV to the German Army. This was based on the Panzer IV Ausf. F chassis.

The Vomag Jagdpanzer IV prototype was presented to Hitler in 1943. This mock-up vehicle was based on the Panzer Ausf. F chassis. Source: warspot.com

Panzer IV Ausf. F Tropen

The Panzer IV Ausf. F, like all German tanks that were used in Africa, was modified by improving the ventilation system to cope with the high temperatures. In addition, sand filters were also added to prevent sand from getting into the engine. These vehicles were given a special designation Tr., which stands for Tropen (Eng. Tropic).

Bergepanzer IV

In late 1944, a few Panzer IV Ausf. F chassis would be modified as Bergepanzers, essentially tank recovery vehicles. On these vehicles, the turret was removed and replaced with simple round wooden planks.

Other operators

In order to help somewhat rebuild the shattered Hungarian Forces that would be needed in the 1942 offensive toward the Caucasus, the Germans provided them with large quantities of armored vehicles. These included some 22 Panzer IV Ausf. Fs. In 1942, these were the best tanks that the Hungarian Army operated on this front. By the end of 1943, due to heavy fighting, nearly all were lost.

Panzer IV Ausf. F in Hungarian Service. Source: Pinterest

Interestingly enough, the Soviets often managed to capture significant quantities of German military equipment that had been left abandoned. This included the Panzer IV Ausf. F, some of which were put into service, possibly as training vehicles.

A Panzer IV Ausf. F next to a Panzer III under Soviet use. Source: http://wio.ru/tank/capt/capt.htm

Surviving vehicles

Today, only one rebuilt Panzer IV Ausf. F exists. It was a restoration project which included a Panzer IV Ausf. F turret and a hull which was rebuilt using some original and some new parts. The vehicle is located at the Moscow Victory Park in Russia.

The sole surviving Panzer IV Ausf. F located in Moscow Victory Park. Source:.shadock.free.

Conclusion

The Panzer IV Ausf. F was the last vehicle of the whole series to be equipped with the short 7.5 cm guns. It had improved armor protection compared to its predecessors. While certainly not special in its overall performance, it had a more important role, being used as a base for newer versions that would implement stronger armor and armament.

Panzer IV Ausf. F of the 5th Panzerregiment, 5th Leichtes Panzerdivision, Tobruk, Libya, March 1941. The camouflage was sand (Gelb braun) and degraded sand over the usual Dunkelgrau basis, forming Grau-Grün patches.
Vorpanzer F, with extra bolted appliqué armor on the sides, gun mantlet, and frontal glacis, with the 5th Panzerdivision, Group Center, USSR, Winter 1941-1942. Both illustrations by David Bocquelet, with modifications by Pavel Alexe

 

Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.92 x 2.88 x 2.68 m (17.7 x 6.11, 8.7 in)
Total weight, battle-ready 22.3 tonnes
Crew 5 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, Radio Operator, and Driver)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TR(M) 265 HP @ 2600 rpm
Speed (road/off-road) 42 km/h, 25 km/h (cross-country)
Range (road/off-road) 210 km, 130 km (cross-country)
Primary Armament 7.5 cm KwK L/24
Secondary Armament Two 7.92 mm MG 34
Elevation -10° to +20°
Turret Armor Front 50 mm, sides 30 mm, rear 30, and top 8-10 mm
Hull Armor Front 30-50 mm, sides 20-30 mm, rear 14.5-20 mm, and the top and bottom 10-11 mm.

Sources

One reply on “Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. F”

Great article! A few typos:

Fahrersehklappe 50 instead of Fagrersehklappe 50

“The tracks were widened to 40 mm, (…).” -> 40 CM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *