PzKpfw Tiger Ausf. B 'Tiger II'
|Manufacturer||Henschel und Sohn GmbH, Kassel, Germany|
|Primary Role||Heavy Tank|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
ww2dbaseNo sooner had the Tiger I tank gone into service than a fresh design was demanded in order to counter the recently up-gunned Soviet T34 tank. The new specification called for the use of the more powerful 88mm L/71 gun, a weapon capable of penetrating 185mm of armour at 2,000m (6,416ft) range. Both Porsche and Henschel were asked to submit prototypes for evaluation. The resultant designs, which were presented in October 1943, were clearly heavily influenced by the success of the PzKpfw V Panther and apart from sheer size, the two tanks were very similar in appearance using sloped armour, in much the same manner. Dr. Porsche was so confident of winning the order that he began manufacturing turrets, but the Henschel design was eventually selected, and so, when production of the first fifty machines began in December 1943, they were fitted with the Porsche turret. Thereafter the Tiger II design was wholly produced by Henschel.
ww2dbaseOfficially designated Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B, these new heavy tanks were informally referred to as Tiger II or Königstiger, which was German for Bengal Tiger. The German word Königstiger was also often translated into English as King Tiger or Royal Tiger.
ww2dbaseSo far as gun power and protection went the King Tiger tank was the unquestionably the best tank of the war, but it paid for this in its lack of speed (17 km/h cross-country) and poor mobility due to its 69.7 ton weight. The engine (which was the same 12-cylinder, 700 hp HL230 P30N engine as used in the 25-ton lighter Panther tank) was grossly underpowered due to a low power-to-weight ratio, and the transmission was also greatly overstressed. Its armour was the thickest yet known on a tank, 150mm at the front and sloped much like that of the Russian T34 medium tank. Suspension was similar to that employed on the Panther tank, but with some of the wheels doubled, while the intervening axles carried spaced ones overlapping the others. This made for good stability, though at the price of extra maintenance. The gearbox gave eight forward speeds with a pre-selector and the clutch was much the same as the Merritt-Brown system employed on British tanks. All this meant that the Tiger II tank was surprisingly easy to control, a pleasure to drive, and contained more good engineering than most people at the time suspected.
ww2dbaseThe main problem with the King Tiger tank, however, was its reliability. Many were simply abandoned by their crews when they broke down or ran out of fuel, for their sheer bulk made them difficult to move or conceal. Despite being underpowered and difficult to manoeuvre, particularly when crossing bridges, the Tiger II tank, when properly handled, could dominate the battlefield. The formidable 8.8cm KwK 43 gun (with a muzzle velocity of 1130 mps) coupled with the tank's heavy armour made it practically impenetrable to most Allied weapons of the day. Indeed the Tiger II tank's gun with its extra long barrel could knock out anything that the Allies could bring against it from a range of more than 2,000 yards. A Churchill or Sherman tank with a 75mm gun would be lucky to disable it even at a range of a couple of furlongs.
ww2dbaseRushed into service, the King Tiger tank first saw action on the Eastern Front in May 1944 and in the autumn of that year numbers were thrown into the battles in Normandy, France. The Tiger II tank wholly replaced the Tiger I tank in production in August 1944, although it took the production facilities needed for two Panther tanks, a tank the German soldier preferred, to manufacture one Tiger II tank.
ww2dbaseFortunately for the Allies, the Tiger II tank was manufactured under the most difficult circumstances: Allied bombing of factories and the sources of essential materials produced a series of delays which limited the total production of the Tiger II to just 485 machines completed before the war came to a close.
Ian V.Hogg and John Weeks, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Military Vehicles (Hamlyn, 1980)
Philip Trewhitt, Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Dempsey-Parr, 1999)
Bruce Quarrie, Panzers in North-West Europe (Patrick Stephens, 1979)
A. J. Smithers, Rude Mechanicals (Grafton Books, 1989)
John Larminie, "German Tanks 1914-45", War Monthly Magazine (Marshall-Cavendish)
Andrew Kershaw, The Tank Story (Purnell's History of the World Wars, 1972)
Last Major Revision: Oct 2011
PzKpfw Tiger Ausf. B
|Machinery||One 23,095cc Maybach HL 230 P30 V-12 water-cooled petrol engine rated at 700bhp at 3,000rpm|
|Armament||1x88mm L/71 KwK gun (84 rounds), 1x7.92mm coaxial MG34 machine gun, 1x7.92mm front hull MG34 machine gun|
|Armor||100mm hull front, 80mm hull rear/sides, 40mm hull top/bottom, 180mm turret front, 80mm turret rear/sides, 44mm turret top|
|Speed||15 km/h off-road; 38 km/h on-road|
|Range||110 km off-road; 170 km on-road|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939