With the success of the StuG III in the tank destroyer role, the Heers Waffenamt decided to use the chassis of existing armored fighting vehicles as the basis for self-propelled guns. German tank destroyers of World War II lacked turrets, using fixed, limited traverse guns instead, and as a result they were capable of mounting larger caliber guns than on turreted AFVs on the same chassis. The lack of turrets also reduced their production time and cost, as fewer complex components needed to be manufactured. In some of the early vehicles removing the turret also saved weight.
Jagdpanzer IV L/48 and L/70
The Jagdpanzer IV used Panzer IV chassis 7 (known as BW7), but the almost-vertical front hull plate was replaced by sloped armor plates. Internally, the layout was changed to accommodate the new superstructure, moving the fuel tanks and ammunition racks[clarification needed]. Since the Jagdpanzer lacked a turret, the engine which originally powered the Panzer IV's turret could be eliminated.
The new superstructure had 80 mm thick sloped armour, which gives a much greater armor protection than a vertical armor of 100 mm. To make the manufacturing process as simple as possible, the superstructure was made out of large, interlocking plates which were welded together.
Armament consisted of a 7.5 cm main gun, originally intended to be the PaK 42 L/70, but shortages meant that for the preproduction and the first production run different older guns were used, the 7.5 cm PaK 39 L/48. These were shorter and less powerful than the PaK 42.
Installing the much heavier PaK 42 meant that the Jagdpanzer IV was nose heavy, especially with the heavy frontal armor. This made them less mobile and more difficult to operate in rough terrain, leading their crews to nickname them Guderian-Ente "Guderian's duck". To prevent the rubber rims of the roadwheels being dislocated by the weight of the vehicle, some later versions had steel roadwheels installed on the front.
The final prototype of the Jagdpanzer IV was presented in December 1943 and production started in January 1944, with the PaK 39 L/48 armed variant staying in production until November. Production of the PaK 42 L/70 armed variants started in August and continued until March/April 1945.
On August 19–22, 1943, after the Battle of Kursk, Hitler received reports that StuG IIIs performed better than Panzer IV within certain restraints of how they were deployed. It was thus intended to stop production of the Panzer IV itself at the end of 1944 to concentrate solely on production of the Jagdpanzer IV, but the Panzer IV was in production all the way until the end of the conflict along with Jagdpanzer IV.
Jagdpanzer IV with 7.5 cm PaK 39 L/43: a small number of these were built as the preproduction (0) series.
Jagdpanzer IV with 7.5 cm PaK 39 L/48, official name Sturmgeschütz neuer Art mit 7.5 cm PaK L/48 auf Fahrgestell PzKpfw IV. Some 780 or so were produced in 1944.
Jagdpanzer IV/70 (V) (Sd.Kfz.162/1) was one of two variants armed with the PaK 42 L/70 gun. Some 940 were built in 1944 and 1945. The (V) stands for the builder, Vomag.
Jagdpanzer IV/70 (A) (Sd.Kfz.162/1) was the other PaK 42 L/70 armed Jagdpanzer IV. In order to send Pak 42 L/70 armed vehicles to the front as soon as possible, Hitler ordered an interim solution in July 1944. Alkett, a manufacturer of the StuG III, was to immediately produce Jagdpanzer IV to its own design. This differed in that its superstructure was mounted directly on the original Panzer IV chassis and as such lacked the sharp edged nose of the Vomag variant. It was also taller. Only 278 were built in the period from August 1944 to March 1945. The (A) in the designation came from Alkett. This variant is also known as the Zwischenlosung - in translation, the "intermediate solution".
Minor modifications and improvements were made throughout the production runs of all variants, as well as several field improvements, the most common being the addition of armor sideskirts.
Originally the Jagdpanzer IV/48's gun had a muzzle brake installed, but because the gun was so close to the ground, each time it was fired, huge dust clouds would rise up and betray the vehicle's position, leading many crews to remove the muzzle brake in the field. Later variants dispensed with the muzzle brake.
Early L/48 and L/70-armed vehicles had zimmerit applied to the hull to protect against anti-tank grenades, but this was discontinued after about September 1944. Later vehicles had three return rollers rather than the original four, and adopted the twin vertical exhausts typical of the late Panzer IV series. Some late vehicles also had all-steel road wheels on the first couple of bogies on each side.
The Jagdpanzer IV served in the anti-tank sections of Panzer and SS Panzer divisions. They fought in Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and on the Eastern Front (WWII). They were very successful tank destroyers but performed badly when used out of role as substitutes for tanks or assault guns, as most tank destroyers were.
In the later stages of the war however, they were increasingly used as tank substitutes, because there was often nothing else available.
Romania received several Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyers from the Red Army after the war ended. They were officially known as TAs T4 in the army inventory and were used until 1950. All German armour was scrapped in 1954.
One of the more notable Jagdpanzer IV aces was SS-Oberscharführer Roy from the 12th SS Panzerjäger Abteilung of 12th SS Panzer Division. He was killed by an American sniper while looking out of the hatch of his Jagdpanzer IV on December 17, 1944 during the Ardennes Offensive in Belgium.
After the war, West Germany continued the Jagdpanzer concept with the Kanonenjagdpanzer, but few other fixed-casemate self-propelled guns were built postwar.
Jagdpanzer IV L/48 (0-serie) Deutsches Panzermuseum in Munster, Germany. The vehicle is a pre-production model with rounded front plates. It was previously part of the Musée des Blindés in Saumur, France
Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Deutsches Panzermuseum in Munster, Germany. It is an early version with 60 mm armor. This vehicle is on loan from the WTS in Koblenz, Germany, and previously belonged to the United States Army Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, Maryland. It was returned to Germany the 1960s.
Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Musée des Blindés in Saumur, France. It is an early model with 60 mm armor. * Thun Tank Museum in Switzerland. It is a late model with 80 mm front armor. * In storage in a military area in Bulgaria. This is a very early L/48 model, and the only surviving example with the driver's machine gun slot welded over. It was previously part of a defensive line on the Bulgarian border. In February 2008 it was ordered recovered by the Bulgarian Defense Minister to be either preserved in a museum in Bulgaria, or sold to a private collector.
Jagdpanzer IV L/70 (Vomag)
* National Museum of Military History in Sofia, Bulgaria. * Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia. * United States Army Ordnance Museum located in Aberdeen, Maryland. * Patton Museum located at Fort Knox, Kentucky. This vehicle was previously part of the Shrivenham Study Collection in the UK. * Canadian War Museum located in Ottawa, Canada. This vehicle was previously at the Canadian Forces Base/Area Support Unit Shilo in Canada.
Jagdpanzer IV L/70 late (Alkett)
* Musée des Blindés in Saumur, France. The vehicle was used in 1944-45 by Free French forces. The vehicle is displayed with damage resulting from a direct hit by an armor-piercing shell.