On Panzer IV Ausf.H Turret Spaced Armor

Hello everyone,

this is not really a new issue, just never got the time to write. But the day before yesterday, I was talking to a friend who brought this up and I realized, it’s actually still a valid question. Check this out:

Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. H_12-17-56

This is the model of the Panzer IV Ausf.H in the game, with its elite turret, featuring spaced armor belt. Spaced armor on German tanks was developed to counter the anti-tank rifles, that were used en-masse by the Soviet forces. Contrary to their reputation, these weapons were quite nasty and could penetrate the side armor of various Panzers (including, in some cases, Panthers), damaging the internal parts and wounding or even killing the crew. Various methods of fighting this menace were considered by German engineers from 1941 onwards, including simply making the side armor thicker (that was the main raison d’être of the Panther II project), but in the end it was discovered that placing a spaced armor plate at certain distance from the vehicle has the same effect than creating a whole new tank model with improved side armor. From 1942 or so onwards, various tanks were equipped with the “Schurzen” and this protection on some models included the turret.

On the model above, the spaced armor around the turret is 8mm thick, with 16mm near the gap in the armor (and that’s what this post is about). With the tank in question however, there is a problem. As you can see, a portion of the armor is “missing” (there is a hole over the hatch), simply because the tank was modelled with the retractable parts of the spaced armor open (hence the 16mm, that’s to simulate the “doors” forming the second layer):

panzer 4

The question is, why was the tank modelled with the spaced armor doors open?

I mean, it’s not really logical. The crew hatch is not thicker than the rest of the armor and even if it was, in combat the doors would be closed to offer maxium protection of the crew. Personally, I think that (like many things), the decision to model it with the doors open was an arbitrary one, not a balancing one – they simply gave modellers some photos and the modellers picked the ones with the doors open.

In a way it is logical. Most photos of German tanks come from two different situations: non-combat (propaganda, repairs, shots when the fighting stopped and the tanks are moving) and destroyed Panzer IV tanks.

The first situation can be seen for example here, a crew working on their Ausf.H. It’s logical that the spaced armor doors are open, there is no reason for them to be closed, the crew needs to access the compartment and the tank is not in combat.


With the destroyed tanks, it’s really logical – obviously the crew was trying to escape (and apparently succeeded). I’ve heard of an argument that the doors were kept open sometimes for easier crew escape, but I haven’t seen any mention of that in any book I’ve read. Not saying it didn’t happen, but it certainly wasn’t something recommended (after all, there was a reason the spaced armor doors were there in the first place).

Here, a Panzer IV drives in combat with the doors closed:


Obviously, World of Tanks is not based on reality and crew issues and safety are not considered – in WoT fantasy world, the crew escapes every time anyway (in order to keep the game rating favourable) and so there is no real logical reason to have the doors opened. 8mm of armor won’t save you from most tank guns (neither does 16mm on a thin strip), but it could detonate HE shells and low-grade HEAT and that’s already something worth considering.

47 thoughts on “On Panzer IV Ausf.H Turret Spaced Armor

  1. I always wondered why the hell do they put that hole in the side turret armor, it was a fail, I know schurzen german tanks from Panzer General games and they didn’t have that gap.

    Somebody needs to do something about it, but sadly WG doesn’t listen to players, even to you SS.

      • It’s driven me mad since day one – I didn’t even care about the armour model so much as the fact that it just looks stupid. You don’t see open driver’s hatches on tanks, so why would you see this? It looks 10x better with the closed ‘door’ sections!

        • When it was introduced I saw someone write that it’s like a T-34 driving around with the driver’s hatch open.

          • Wouldn’t it be nice to have the option of opened/closed hatches, like open commanders hatch for better field of view at the price of commanders vulnerability. Or drivers hatch open to allow better mobility, again, some increase in the chance of losing a driver.

            Even without the visual representation it would be fun, more so if you could see the hatch open, with the ability to use HE rounds to hurt the enemy.

            That would add some dept to the game. As if they would bother.

  2. I can’t believe I never noticed this…
    I used to have a model of this tank, and I chose to build it with the doors closed. In your picture, ALL the visible IV H’s have them closed.
    Seems to me that they should simply fix this… for everyone else. ( I hate the tank myself, and will never drive it again.) :P

  3. This is probably the reason they’ve hired some armor experts to help with the modeling.

    Though this doesn’t explain why the top turret of T37 has the commanders periscope rotated 45 degrees to the right.

  4. I’d like to see the side skirts of the Pz 4. S modelled rather than just being graphical…

    • Are you talking about the Mesh?
      If so, mesh was used as side skirts, on the Pz IVJ. The model after the Pz IVH. Since the PZIVS would have came after the PZIVJ, it is reasonable it would have got the Mesh side skirts as well.

      • I think he means that the Thoma screens are not yet functional in game. I imagine when it gets remodeled they will be.

        • Oh ok yeah. They did say when the PZIVS is made HD this would be addressed awhile back.

  5. Hi Guys(Specially SS),
    I want to ask a Question,But its not related to the Topic,
    And now the Question:
    The tanks on the Personal Missions are premium or just regular tanks!?
    I mean they earn more money like T34 or they are Normal tanks like T32!?

  6. I had no idea those things were supposed to be one full segment.

    Thanks, SS, this newb in tank history just learned that bit more.

    • Do you mean in game or in reality? In game they will eat the HEAT shells. In reality i guess it depends on the HEAT shell in question. I would imagine some would be rendered useless by the early detonation while with the more powerful shells the streams might still reach the rather feeble turret armour before being dispersed enough to be harmless.

    • I think it was mentioned in the operation think tank videos that in some cases the schurzen could actually improve the penetration of HEAT warheads because these early HEAT versions often didn’t detonate at the optimal distance by themselves, and the schurzen would sort of rectify this flaw.

  7. Why can’t I just chop those things off. It’s not like they have that much of an impact with 50ish side armor and would make the tank much sexier. I need to test with some HE and HEAT though.
    Oh yes, thanks for the article!

  8. These plates were protecting the tank even against some HE and HEAT shells. When HEAT shells were activated some decimetres far from actual armor and the stream of thermite was not concentrated into one line, it only heated up the armor (sure, it depends on caliber, higher caliber can penetrate armor anyway). In WarThunder for example this makes me angry when i shoot HEAT with my howitzer and i hit tracks (or another spaced armor), it does not count as penetration. But these schuerzen were making problems in bad terrain.

    • After the word “thermite” I stopped reading. Then I also saw “heated up” and I knew that you have NO clue what you’re talking about.

  9. I always wondered why there was a gap there, I love the look of my Pz IVH but I’d really love to close that gap still.

  10. well, after all its a german tank – and to be honest, is it really whishable that a german tank has some functioning spaced armour on their favour? Possibly reflecting some shots from the mighty T34? This is not historical correct! lol

  11. Gonna be honest: Pz IV pisses me off when i’m in my KV-2. Because when i get to shoot its side, i’m pretty sure i’ll have to shoot twice, while i’ll one shot front.

    Damn Schürzen.

  12. I noticed the doors when they first put in the turret with the armour skirts, but I’d always figured that they left them open so lower tier guns with crap penetration could still have a chance of shooting the hatch weak spots, after all it was back in the era when WG were keen on intentional weakspots (ie insisting that the MG mounts remain weak points so that tanks could be penetrated from the front ect)

  13. ^This.
    Finally, an intelligent, non-butthurt-WG-is-satan reply.

    It’s obvious that this is a game-balance issue, a weakspot for the -2 Tier tanks to aim for.

  14. A better question is why does it act as spaced armor at all? It was designed not to STOP the anti-tank rifle round, but to make it tumble and then fail to penetrate the tank’s hull or turret. It couldn’t STOP an anti-tank rifle round. It was thin mild steel. It was insufficient to even act as a decapping plate against larger anti-tank rounds.. It’s ability to even pre-detonate shaped charges has even been called into question recently.

    Anything bigger than the rounds from the Browning M2 wouldn’t even flinch.

    That’s always bothered me. Both about the armor scheme and the way ‘spaced armor’ works in this game.