Sd Kfz 182 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf B (E1952.33)

Sd Kfz 182 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf B
Sd Kfz 182 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf B
vehicle info
Precise Name
Sd Kfz 182 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf B
Other Name
Tiger II; VK4503; Königstiger; Pz Kpfw Tiger Ausf B; King Tiger; Royal Tiger
Main Utility Type
Heavy
Country of Use
Germany
production
Manufactured
1944, Henschel & Sohn, Germany
Era
World War 2
Nationality
German
location in the museum
The Tiger Collection
Known variously as the Tiger Ausf. B, Tiger II or Königstiger (the British also referred to it as the `Royal Tiger’), 489 Tiger IIs, were produced at the Henschel assembly plant, between January 1944 and March 1945. However, despite lacking in numbers, and being prone to mechanical and mobility issues based on its size and weight, the Tiger IIs combination of devastating firepower, and thick sloped armour plate, made it a formidable adversary for Allied forces on the rare occasions it was encountered on the battlefield.

In May 1942 the German Ordnance Department Waffenprüfamt 6 (weapons Proving Office) identified the key characteristics of the tank design which was intended to replace the Tiger I. It was identified as having a gun capable of defeating 100mm of rolled homogenous armour at 1,500m, armour protection of 150mm front, and 80mm side and rear, and the mobility to move at 40kph.

Both the Henschel and Porsche designs teams were tasked with working on this project and they developed two different prototypes VK45.01(H) and VK45.02(P) respectively (VK refers to Volketten – fully tracked). Flaws in these two designs; VK45.01(H) a 45 tonne design mounting a tapered bored gun which used increasingly rare tungsten ammunition was cancelled, and the Porsche design; VK45.02(P) was based on the earlier rejected design for the Tiger I with enhanced armament, Rheinmetall-Borisg’s 8.8cm Flak 41 L/74 gun. The Porsche design was also rejected due to issues over mechanical reliability, its electric drive train, and the use of scarce materials. Improving on their original design, and hitting the design criteria, Henschel’s VK45.03 (H) design was subsequently chosen incorporating the new 8.8cm KwK 43 L/71 gun.

Construction of turrets and hulls were undertaken by Krupp, with Dortmund Hörder Hutten Verein and Skoda Works of Czechoslovakia producing armour components. Turrets were assembled at Wegmann and Company before arrival at Henschel’s assembly plant for marrying up with the hulls. Although an order for 1,500 Tiger IIs was tendered the impact of RAF bombing from October 1943 onwards had a severe impact on Henschel’s facilities and production was limited to less than a third of this figure.

Designed and produced by Krupp, the Tiger IIs longer more powerful 8.8cm KwK 43 L/71 gun had been developed to increase its armour piercing effectiveness at longer ranges over that of the original 8.8cm KwK 36 L/56 gun fitted to the Tiger I. Using a sectional Monobloc design, which simplified manufacturing and improved barrel wear, the KwK 43 gun had been redesigned to fit inside the tank turret and featured improvements to its recoil system, fume evacuation and breech.

Firing at a higher velocity, and on a flatter trajectory, the penetration figures for the Tiger IIs gun show that using Pzgr. 39/43 armour piercing ammunition the 8.8cm KwK 43 L/71 gun was capable of penetrating the frontal armour of a Sherman, Cromwell, Churchill and T-34-85 tank at ranges out to at least 2,600 metres.

The first fifty Tiger IIs were fitted with the Porsche and Krupp designed turrets from the abandoned VK 45.02 (P) project, following that a new, simpler production design was introduced to enable mass production. This turret, frequently, and incorrectly named, the ‘Henschel’ turret, was much easier to build as it eliminated many of the complicated curved forgings and extensive machining which the original turret had demanded. The slightly sloped front plate of this new turret also eliminated the shot trap which had existed on the old design and had the benefit of providing greater internal turret room space allowing 86 rounds of ammunition to the Porsche designed turret’s 80.

Complementing the Tiger IIs formidable gun was the use of 150mm thick sloped armour plates for the glacis plate (including a cut-out in the plate for the driver’s periscope), as well as 180mm of armour for the turret, factoring in the angled plate and the increased chance of ricochets, the Tiger IIs armour was thick enough to make it effectively invulnerable to frontal penetration (although theoretically the 17-pdr firing APDS could penetrate it). Consequently, Allied forces had to target the weaker side and rear armour plates, which were 80mm thick, if they were to stand a chance of overmatching the Tiger IIs armour protection.

Modifications to the Tiger during its production run included the application of Zimmeritt paste, a turret ring guard, hangers for spare track links, and a monocular TZF 9d Telescopic Sight.

Unfortunately, the enhanced armour protection afforded to the Tiger II had helped to increase in size and the (combat) weight of the design to 69.8 tonnes. This had a detrimental effect on the Tiger II in terms of its strategic mobility; that is its ability to cross obstacles such as bridges, and transportation to the battlefield. Moreover once on the battlefield the Tiger IIs weight size meant that manoeuvrability through unsuitable country, such as close and boggy terrain, tended to slow or hamper the Tiger IIs battlefield mobility, a situation which was compounded by mechanical problems, and the lack of a suitable armoured recovery vehicle to assist in recovery, which either meant trying to recover the vehicle with another Tiger II or destroying the vehicle.

Tiger IIs were issued to existing independent heavy tank battalions (Schwere Panzer-Abteilung) of the Army and Waffen SS and in small numbers to the Panzer Lehr trials unit and the Feldherrnhalle Division. Ideally these independent heavy tank battalions would be organised with 45 Tiger IIs in three companies of 14 Tiger IIs each with the remaining 3 Tiger IIs making up the headquarters. The first Tiger II heavy tank battalion to engage in combat was the Army’s 503rd Schwere Panzer-Abteilung in Normandy on the 11th July 1944 with the 501st Schwere Panzer-Abteilung being the first to employ Tiger IIs on the Eastern Front. No Tiger IIs were deployed to the fighting in Italy.

This Tiger II was the second prototype of three built by Henschel, with the Chassis Number V2 (Versuchs-Fahrgestell No. V2 (Trial Chassis V2)), and completed in January 1944. It was not issued to a combat unit, remaining with Henschel were it was used for various trials. It was later captured by the British at the Henschel testing area in Haustenbeck, Germany at the end of the War. It is still fitted with a modified exhaust pipe that Henschel were using to test exhaust pressure.

The turret rear was designed to be removable to allow the removal and refitting of the 8.8 cm KwK 43 gun. On our example the rear wall was removed and lost at some time Post-War and it has been replaced with a wooden panel. Also lost, presumably at the same time, was the commander’s cupola.

After its capture the vehicle had its original tracks replaced with a set of Kgs 73/800/152 single link cross-country tracks removed from a second Tiger Ausf. B (Chassis Number 280009 or 280012) that was also on site at Haustenbeck. These tracks had only been introduced in March 1945.

References:
Higgins, D.R. King Tiger vs IS-2 Osprey Duel Series
Jentz, T.L. and Doyle H.L, Germany's Tiger Tanks: VK45.02 to Tiger II Design, Production & Modifications
Jentz, T.L. Germany's Tiger Tanks:Tiger I&II: Combat Tactics
Trojca, W. and Trojca G., Terchnical and Operational History Tiger Ausf. B Königstiger
VEHICLES Features
Full Tracked
Tracks/Wheels
Gun - 8.8 mm Gun KwK43 L/71
Armament - Main Weapon Type
2* MG 34 7.92mm Machine Guns
Armament - Secondary Weapon Type
Maybach HL230P30, water cooled
Engine
8 Forward, 4 Reverse
Transmission
Torsion bar
Suspension
Vehicle Statistics
5
Number (Crew)
68.5tons
Weight (Overall)
38kph
Maximum (Speed - Road)
Petrol
Type (Fuel)
150mm
Maximum (Armour Thickness - Hull)
88mm
Calibre (Main Gun)
700bhp
Power (Engine Output)
860ltr
Volume (Fuel)
170km
Radius (Range)
72rounds
Number (Projectile)
10.3m
Length (Overall)
3.76m
Width (Overall)
3.08m
Height (Overall)