The Gotha G.IV was a heavy bomber used by the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) during the First World War. Experience with the Gotha G.III showed that the rear gunner could not efficiently operate both the dorsal and ventral positions. Hans Burkhard's ultimate solution was the “Gotha tunnel,” a trough connecting an aperture in the upper decking with a large opening extending across the bottom of the rear fuselage. The Gotha tunnel allowed a gunner at the dorsal position to depress his gun into the aperture and fire through the fuselage at targets below and behind the bomber. A ventral machine gun could still be mounted, and there was even a provision for a fourth machine gun on a post between the pilot's and bombardier's cockpits, although this was rarely carried due to the weight penalty it imposed on the bombload.
The G.IV introduced other changes. The fuselage was fully skinned in plywood, eliminating the partial fabric covering of the G.III. Although it was not the reason for this modification, it was noted at the time that the plywood skinning enabled the fuselage to float for some time in the event of a water landing. Furthermore, complaints of poor lateral control, particularly on landing, led to the addition of ailerons on the lower wing.
In November 1916, Gothaer received a production order for 35 aircraft; this was subsequently increased to 50 in February 1917. A further 80 aircraft were ordered from the Siemens-Schuckert Werke (SSW) and 100 from Luft-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft (LVG). Compared to the Gothaer aircraft, these license-built aircraft were slightly heavier and slower because Idflieg specified the use of a strengthened airframe. In order to counteract this, SSW built a number of highly-modified examples, including one driven by tractor instead of pusher engines, one with an extra bay added to its wing cellule, two with a new airfoil section for the wings, and one with a supercharger. None of these modifications had been fully evaluated by the end of the war. Late-production SSW G.IVs also usually incorporated the Stossfahrgestell auxiliary nosewheels and Flettner servo tabs developed for the G.V. Responding to a different performance issue, LVG overcame the tail heaviness of its machines by increasing the sweepback of the wings. Late production SSW and LVG built G.IVs were already obsolete as bombers, and many were finished as training aircraft with lower performance engines (Argus As.III or NAG C.III). Additionally, the SSW-built trainers relocated the fuel tanks from the engine nacelles to within the fuselage, as on the G.V.
All other surviving Gotha aircraft were destroyed in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.