Evolution of the Tiger, the Panzerkampfwagen VII Tiger II chassis incorporated a longer, sloping armor and a gun speed. The initial project was commissioned to companies Porsche and Henschel. The first, thinking he would win the competition produced several vehicles, but they were unsuccessful in favor of the model Henschel, simpler production. The towers have been adapted to the chassis manufactured Henschel, starting production in January 1944. Formidable opponent, suffered, however, the same limitations as its predecessor: low speed, mobility and propensity to breakage, especially of the whole suspension, supercharged.
German heavy tank development began as early as 1937 with the German Armaments Ministry issuing a specification for a new heavy tank to Daimler-Benz, Henschel, MAN and Porsche. The project however was ignored as the Panzer III and IV had so far proved effective tanks and served well in combat. It was not until spring 1941 that the project was revived after Hitler was impressed with heavy allied tanks, such as the French Char B1 and British Matilda 1 during the campaign in the west.
At a meeting with Hitler on 26 May 1941, the planning for the development of a new heavy tank begun. During that meeting, Hitler ordered for the creation of heavy Panzers which were to have an increased effectiveness to penetrate enemy tanks; possess heavier armor than was previously achieved; and attain a maximum speed of at least 40 km/h. These key decisions led to the development of a new heavy tank, the Tiger 1 tank and ultimately the King Tiger. However, no clearly defined objectives or action plans were laid out for the succession of the Tiger 1 tank until January 1943 when the order was given for a new design which was to replace the existing Tiger 1.
Although the designation implies that the Tiger II is a succession of the Tiger 1, it is in effect a completely different tank. The first design consideration for the new tank was the selection of a more effective main gun. As with the Tiger tank, it was to mount an 88mm anti tank gun but the main gun on the Tiger II was far more powerful than that on the Tiger 1. For the development of the chassis, two firms were contracted to come up with the designs namely Henschel and Sohn of Kassel and Porsche of Stuttgart. Both firms Henschel and Porsche were responsible for only the chassis and automotive designs. Turret design was awarded to another firm Krupp of Essen.
Officially designated Panzerkampfwagen VII Sd.Kfz 182, the King Tiger was
placed into service early 1944. It served in the western and eastern front notably in the battle of Normandy, operation "Market Garden" in Holland, and the offensive in Ardennes. It also served in various other operations in Poland, Hungary, Minsk and a small number also defended Berlin in April and May 1945. With its great firepower and thick armor, it proved to be more than an opponent for any tank the allied forces could field. However, the size and weight of the King Tiger had its share of problems. It suffered mechanically with many breakdowns and had poor maneuverability. Many roads and especially bridges were not suitable for a tank this size and the fuel requirements was enormous. Many were abandoned due to lack of fuel rather than being destroyed during the offensive in the Ardennes. Production also suffered with the bombing of the Henschel factory and there simply weren’t enough of these around. The King Tiger was a case of too late and too few in number to make a difference in the outcome of the war.
However, the great firepower and armor of the King Tiger created the impression of a powerful armored force with almost invulnerable tanks. Able to destroy enemy tanks at extreme ranges and impervious to those same tanks made the King Tiger more than a match for any allied tank. Indeed for the allied forces, the sight of a King Tiger on the battlefield was terrifying and did great physical and morale damage to the enemy. This fame and almost mystical fascination helped it earn its reputation as the most feared weapon of World War 2. For the German forces, it was the hallmark of German armored might and restored morale even in the last days of the war. Due to the havoc it wreaked during the Ardennes offensive, the allies advancing into Berlin would fear the King Tiger up to the very last day of the war.
- Model: PzKpfw VI Ausf. B
- Weight: 68 tons.
- Garrison: 5 men
- Engine: Maybach HL 230 P30, V12 (700 hp)
- Maximum speed: 38 km / h (road) and 17 km / h (off road)
- Range: 120 km (highway) and 80 km (off-road)
- Radio: FuG 5
- Length: 10.28 m (total) / 7.26 m (chassis)
- Width: 3.75 m
- Height: 3.09 m
- Main Armament: Cannon KwK 43 of 88 mm/L71
- Secondary armament: 3 MG 34 machine guns of 7.92 mm (hull and coaxial dome)
- Ammunition: 80 grenades, 88 mm (Porsche turret) or 86 (Krupp turret) and 5850 rounds of 7.92 mm
- Hoof Shield100 mm (front), 80mm (side and rear) and 25–40 mm (top and bottom)
- Tower Shield180 mm (front), 80mm (side and aft) and 40 mm (roof)
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