The Jagdpanzer IV (SdKfz 162) was a dedicated tank destroyer of the German Army during World War 2, developed as an improved version of the tank-killing StuG III series vehicles (detailed elsewhere on this site). The need for armor-defeating weapons was driven home by the appearance of heavier-armored Soviet tanks along the East Front (particularly at the Battle of Stalingrad). The new Jagdpanzer IV carried a 7.5cm anti-tank gun within a fixed superstructure atop the chassis of the Panzer IV Medium Tank. Before the end of the war, the vehicle would representd one of the best tank destroyer offerings found on any side of the conflict. It was superseded along the Vomag production lines by the Panzer IV/70(V) 75mm-armed vehicles.
The new tank's full designation was Sturmgeschutz neuer Art mit 7.5cm PaK L/48 auf Fahrgestell PzKpfW IV (SdKfz 162). However, over its service run, it became simply known as the "Jagdpanzer IV".
The Jagdpanzer IV relied on the in-service, proven workings of the Panzer IV and to this was added a low-profile, fixed superstructure which encompassed the crew, ammunition supplies and main gun. The gun was set within the forward facing of the superstructure and given a heavy mantlet at its base. The driver sat at front-left in the hull which pushed the main gun to be installed at front-right. The running gear of the Panzer IV tank was retained as was its rear-mounted engine. Side "skirt" armor was added to better protect the upper track regions and suspension system from damage. Spare track sections were carried along the rear of the vehicle and typically over the glacis plate. Armor protection reached 80mm at the frontal facing which was of particular importance to warplanners after the events of Stalingrad. To either side of the main gun were machine gun ports. Overall weight was 28.5 tons (short).
Power to the vehicle was from a Maybach HL120 TRM engine of 300 horsepower. Road speeds reached 22 miles per hour and operational ranges were out to 133 miles.
The main gun was originally the 7.5cm (75mm) PaK 39 L/43 anti-tank gun seen in pre-series vehicles though production models fitted the 7.5cm PaK 42 L/48 weapon instead . Fifty-five rounds were carried aboard the tank. The gun sat at the front of the vehicle, offset to right, and its mounting hardware only allowed for small adjustments - otherwise the vehicle was turned into the direction of fire, a tactical disadvantage in the heat of battle. Secondary armament was 7.92mm MG34 machine guns with 600 rounds afforded though only one installation was eventually seen in wartime offerings.
In its early guise, the vehicle sported rounded frontal corners at the superstructure but this was dropped on production vehicles which adopted a sharper, angled armor approach. Sloped armor added inherent ballistics protection and did away with the shot "trap" encountered with the vertical facings on vehicles such as the earlier StuG III assault gun series. "Zimmerit" anti-magnetic mine paste was applied to the hull superstructure to combat the effects of "sticky bombs" but this feature was not always seen in late-war production tanks.
The Jagdpanzer IV series saw vital work by Vomag engineers begin in late-1942 and, in March of 1943, the left-front machine gun port was deleted. In May of that year the design was shown to Hitler and approval was forthcoming for serial production which began in January of 1944. In time the muzzle lost its large brake assembly as a new, larger recoil mechanism was introduced. Late-war vehicles also lost a track return roller at each hull side and "spark-arresting" mufflers became standard at the hull rear face during September of 1944.
The JagdpanzerIV's saw combat service almost as soon as it was introduced - such was the need for tank-killers going forward. It saw first-battles in the Italian Front and was present during the Normandy invasion of northern France. From there it was deployed throughout the East Front and saw considerable combat in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 - January 1945) where about 137 of the tank-killers were present. As tank-killers, particularly when operating as defensive set-pieces, the vehicles were lethal foes but their value dropped considerably when relied upon as dedicated assault guns or called upon to directly engage enemy tanks one-on-one.
Production of Jagdpanzer IVs spanned from December 1943 until April 1945 and some 2,000 units were delivered. By April 1945, only 285 of the type remained in service. The "Befehlswagen" was a command version of the vehicle with additional communications equipment and an extra crewmember.
The Panzer IV/70(V) and Panzer IV/70(A) were related Jagdpanzer IV offshoots developed by Vomag and Alkett respectively. These fitted the PaK 42 L/70 anti-tank guns instead but were limited in production totals (940 and 278 respectively).