Köningtiger ( SdKfz 182)
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The Royal Tiger or the monster of war :
There are mythical engines concerning all subjects, things which have not to be described in order to make people saying : “ Ah ! Yes, this is ...” These engines exist either in civilian than in military sphere.
Let’s take the military sphere, because this is what we are interested in. There are aircrafts, ships or vehicles which are universally known among historians or passionately fond of militaria. I’d like to give as an example the Spitfire for aircrafts, the Bismark for warships or the T34 for tanks. But if people know its name and have kept in mind the picture of the engine, few are those who know exactly its story. That’s what I’d like to do in this article devoted to the monster of war above all others, the Royal Tiger.
This tank is the heavyweight rating champion. It has fought during WWII and it has got a prestige reputation. Let’s say that it is the alone heavyweighted tank produced in series which has been used during WWII in its category. There was also the JS III but this one has not really fought during WWII.
Tank genesis :
First of all PzKfw VI Tiger II Auf Köning Tiger (SdKFz 182) VK 4503(H) was the heaviest tank built and fighting during WWII. Not any other engine in the allied forces have been built to counter it German troops invaded USSR in june 1941 confident with their material and they quickly achieved initial successes. But these victories were hidding a serious problem which will quicky appear. If the soviets have got lots of light tanks such as T26, they also have ( and this will be a total surprise for the germans) two other types of tanks, the KV category tank and the T34 category. Germans tanks collided with those tanks and they couldn’t do anything. The germans had to urgently improvise before new tanks can be available on the field.
These new tanks are called “Tiger I” the study of which has been started before june 1941 punch, and before the “Panther” conceived according to lessons learnt from the first hours of Barbarossa operation. These two tanks silhouettes are besides very different. But they are equipped with a gun powerfull enough to pierce the new tanks armour.Preliminary studies about the Tiger successor start very early in may 1941 before the arrival of Tiger I in the units. It’s Var 4502 P project. But this period of victories is not very inciting to research and the project is put aside, all the more because Tiger I was arriving in the units. The wake-up will be hard and the studies start again quickly. Tiger I defects are obvious, more particularly with right angle armours and a turret too wide.
The studies take a direction towards an inclined plane armour same as on the T34, which must decrease armour piercing capability of the antitank shell impact. This will be done from the begining with the Panther. End of 1942 the studies restart in order to find a successor to Tiger I. Hitler himself decided in january 1943 that the new tank should be armed with a 88mm gun and must have a 15mm front armour and a 8mm side armour. Engineers satrt to work and result in an engine which has some thing a little bit in common with a Panther but much bigger.
As usual, two manufacturers come forward, Henschel and Porsche. Henschel use at the most components which are already existing in the Panther I and II. Its prototype is quickly built and is baptized VK 4502 (H.)
October 20th 1943 is presented to Hitler a wooden model of a machine having something in common with the Panther specially with a turret in the middle, and this on the occasion of Hitler’s visit to Orzysk. More, in eastern Prussia every-thing is ready for a mass production.
Porsche, for its part, certain to have friends in the nazi apparatus, propose two machines, the V 4502 (P) type 180 with a built-in turret (Turm Vorme) and type 180 (Turm Histen) with a rear-turret a little bit as the Mercava at the present time.
As usual with this manufacturer the materiel is composed with parts which are rather fragile and complicated to be maintained.
However only one model is produced. But, certain to be choosen, Porsche makes Krupp building 50 turrets called later on Porsche Turret. This anticipated production of turrets suits the german HQ which had already choosen the Henschel tank project, but without any turret quickly available. And that is how Porsche turrets were assembled upon the Henschel frame.
The building started in december 1943 with three prototypes. The normal pro-duction line started in january 1944 and continued untill march 1945. It has been produced in all 489 tanks split up as follows :
december 1943 : 12 tanks,
from january to december 1944 : 377 tanks,
from january to march 1945 : 100 yanks to which must be added the 3 prototypes V1, V2, V3.
Kassel plants being regularly bombed, the production continues in scattered sites.
All the tanks produced until september 1944 are “Zimmerited.” Some tanks produced in june 1944 were capable to cross deep damp rivers.
Several other modifications were made but they will not change the tank external aspect or its efficiency because they were brought to a stronger cylinder head gasket, or to stronger tracks, etc...
The different types of Tiger II :
There are two types of Tiger II : Porsche type and Henschel type. The only dif-ference between both of them applies to the turret.Let’s study the Porsche turret : whatever is the turret, the tank has got a 5 men crew as follows : a tank commander, a gunman, a loader, a tank driver and a radio machine-gunner. First of all the tank with a Porsche turret weights only 68,500 tons instead of 69,800 tons. Its lines are more rounded than the serial type particularly in the gun screen. The tank commander’s turret is situated on the left and sticks slightly out the turret. Its main defect rests in the turret screen which is a perfect shell trap. The gun assembled in the Porsche turret is a 88mmcomposed with only one part, when the gun assembled in the Henschel turret is also a 88mm but composed with two parts
The Porsche Turret.
Fitted out like this with the Porsche turret, the tank can carry off only 80 shells instead of 86 when it is fitted with the Henschel type, because 25 % of the shells are stowed in the turret, and the Posche turret is smaller !!
The Henschel turret :
In order to cure the shell trap which is the problem of the Porsche turret, Henschel has been entrusted with a new turret tuning. It has been built by Krupp.The gun is hold on a front armour plate acting as the turret mass. The tank commander is always on the left, but his hatch doesn’t stick any more out the turret . The turret is moved by an electric engine, but it can be also manually handled by the gunman.
The tank propelling
The tank is propelled by a 12 cylinders Maybach HL 230 P engine, the same as the engine which fits out Panther II. It has got a gearbox OLVAR EG 4012 with 8 front ratios and 4 rear ratios. More, Henschel has tuned a new L 801 steering which allows the tank to pivot on the spot. The frame is fitted out with the same torsion bars and bogie as in the Tiger and the Panther with interpolated wheels. This bearing system is always remaining as the weak side point of this tank which sometimes carries away this bogie sticking when there is an accumulation of ice or mud.Not any system has been efficient in order to solve this problem. More, the system brings about a tracks primature wear. Tiger II is fitted out with two types of tracks, the combat tracks the width of which is 80 cm, and the transport tracks which width is 60 cm.
However the tanks suffered from different problems because it was too heavy for the engine which propelled it and its fuel consumption was terrifying ( it posed a lot of problems to the tanks acting in the Ardennes offensive.) Actually it consumed 500 l for 100 km. So it was short legged and its range was only 120 km on road and 80 km all-terrain. In addition to that the maintenance should have been regular in order to use to a maximum this tank capabilities.
The tank weapon system :The tank is armed with an exceptional part, I mean the 88 gun KwK43L71 which was the longest arm having been set up in a german tank.This 71 calibers gun has got a range of 10kms and it is event coupled withe a first class fire system in a first step the fire system was a TZF9 B binocular which has been remplaced by a telescopic aim system baptized TZF9 D .
The tube sight was raising from +19° to -8°.
This weapon could fire all kinds of burst shells ( Sprenggranaten ) efficient against bunkers : 2 kinds of anti-tank shells :
Panzergranate 39 ( double charge shell ) in which a steel core allows the armour piercing before the charge explodes,
Panzergranate 39 which is a High velocity shell with a tungte core in order to piece armour . But lack of raw materials made this shell very rare.
The was also the standard Anti tank HEAT shell less efficient than panzergranate.You must know that Tiger I and II didn’t accept the same shells. The standard ammunition load provided for a mix between Sprenggranaten and Panzergranate abreast of 50 %.
The fire sequence was applied as follows : the target was choosen by the tank commander who gave out to the the gunman the kind of target, the ammunition and the estimated range. Once the round was gone the requisite corrections were done by the vehicle commander. However the shells quite heavy (20 kg) limited the firing rate, and the quick muzzle velocity of the shells worn out prematurely the tube. But you must know that every tank situated less than 4 km was in mortal danger. Tiger II was also equiped with a close-in defence weapon, the Nahverteidigunswaffe (90 mm NbK 39.)
|Nahverteidigunswaffe (90 mm NbK 39.)
Lastly there was also three MG34, one of them coaxial with the gun able to reach targets as far as 1200 m, a second one set up with a knee-joint at the front of the tank but offering unhappily a limited course, and a third one on the top of the turret as an anti-aircraft defence.
The crew was protected by the tank armour : according to the official documents known at the present time not any tank has been destroyed by a direct shot on its front armour. However the tank sides could easily be pierced.
Tiger II in the units :
Tiger tanks were allocated to autonomous heavy tanks units. Besides russians took back this idea during the cold war years with their famous ITBN (Independant Tank Battalion.) These units were the spearhead of the general commanding a division who had at his disposal heavy tanks that he could use everywhere he wanted. Let’s say that each battalion was composed with organic units at its own such as the 4th Kompanie equiped with type 251 half tracks vehicles in different versions of which the 251 / 7, the genius of anti-aircraft vehicles and also a repair and breakdown company rigged up on Bergepanther. Two even three bergepanthers were necessary to repair a Tiger, but often there was only one wrecker in a battalion which explains why the tanks fix each other although it was entirely forbidden.The germans assigned this tank to Schwere Panzer Abteilung of the Wehrmacht or of the Wafen SS which received only 150 to 250 of them. The first tanks were allocated to the german school division of the Panzer Lehr ( Panzer Kompanie Funklenk 316) but they didn’t participate to fights. Their first action took place in may 1944 with the 501 Schwere Panzer Abteilung followed by a second one in july 1944 at Sansomierz in Poland. Then tigers fought in Poland and particu-larly in Hungary during the Balaton Lake offensive and in Budapest.
Some Tigers II fought also in Berlin ruins.
The western front has seen Tigers II in Normandy formed by two heavy tanks companies from 503 Schwere Panzer Abteilung which have all been destroyed during this campain. Another company from 506 Schwere Panzer Abteilung fought in holland during the Market Garden operation and then the 501 Schwere Panzer Abteilung fought in the battle of the Bulge.
History says that the last Tiger II destroyed during the war was a Tiger II from the 503rd, scuttled in Austria on may 10, 1945.
Tiger II variants :
Jagpanzer Jagtiger Auf B (SdKfz 186)
Bergwagen : 18 models would have been produced, but we don’t have any
Klein Tiger : in december 1944 Krupp plant proposed a lightened version of
Tiger II which weighted only 33 t. It would have been propelled by
the Maybach HL 230 P 30 engine with 620 HP. Its armament
would have been a 100 mm gun able to bore an armour of 200 mm.
But it has not been built.
Befehslwagen Tiger II (SdKfz 267 / 268) : commanding tank. Retrofit made by
Wegmann with Fug 8 (SdKfz 268) and Fug 7 (SdKfz 267.) They
carried more than 63 shells. Retrofit ended in february-march 1945 Tiger with 280 mm Kanone 5.
Tiger II with a KwKL / 88 (Krupp project) 105 mm gun.
Surviving tanks :
Bovingtong Porsche turret
Kublinka Henschel turret
La Gleize Henschel turret
Schrivenham (GB) Henschel turret, now at Bovingtong
Saumur Henschel turret. It’s the only one in working order
Patton Museum Henschel turret
Thun (CH) Henschel turret. Present made by France to Switzerland in 1946
Munster Henschel turret.
Plant : Henschel
Weight : 69.8 t
Crew : 5
Lenght : 7.26 m with the 10.28 mm gun
Width : maximum : 3.65 m
Height : 3.75 m
Engine : Maybach HL 230 P – 700 HP. 12 cylinders
Speed : on the road : 40 kph – all-terrain : 17 kph
Range : on the road = 120 km – all-terrain = 80 km
Armament : 1 x 88 KwK 43 L 71 with 80 hots in Porsche version
with 86 hots in Henschel version
One mortar : Nahverteidigunswaffe (90 mm NbK 39)
Three 34 MG with 5850 cartridges (one in the side, one on the ramp, and one on the turret.)
|Model from Jean-Marie BRAMS ( Belgium)
Thank to Oleg
Thank to Vincent
Pictures taken in Saumur Museum : thanks to the museum team.