Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E
Sd. Kfz. 181
"Wir werden Sieger - durch unsren Tiger"
The development of one of the most famous tanks of World
War II started in 1937 and first massive Tiger I heavy tank emerged in July
of 1942. From 1937 to mid 1941, Henschel produced designs and prototypes
of various medium and heavy tanks such as DW (Durchbruchwagen) I and II, VK 3001, VK3601 and VK 6501. At the same, Dr.Porsche developed his VK 3001 Leopard
medium tank. None of those tanks entered production but provided both companies
with valuable experience in tank design and production, which came to be
useful in working on the Tiger heavy tank.
(We will be victorious - thanks to our Tigers)
On May 26th of 1941, during the meeting concerning the development
of new weaponry, Adolf Hitler ordered both Dr.Porsche and Henschel to supply
their designs for a heavy tank, which was to be ready in the summer of 1942.
Krupp was in charge of supplying main armament and producing turrets for
designs by both Henschel and Porsche. The project was known as the "Tigerprogram".
Henschel Tiger's development was based on previous designs of VK 3001(H) and VK 3601(H), while Porsche Tiger's development was based on previous design of VK 3001(P) Leopard. The new 45-ton panzer was to be armed with a 88mm KwK L/56 mounted in a turret designed by Krupp. Development of Porsche's Tiger
was progressing much faster than that of Henschel since Porsche worked on
an independent project for heavy tank since autumn of 1940. Henschel was
not that advanced and utilized as many already available components from
its previous projects to complete its VK 4501 design. Originally, Krupp
designed the turret for Porsche's VK 4501,
but then it was modified and used by Henschel's VK 4501. The first eight
turrets produced had lower sides and a flat roof with raised centre section
to allow the gun to be depressed through larger arc, while the rest had the
higher sides and slanted roof. In mid 1941, Henschel decided to build two
prototypes - VK 4501(H) H1 and VK 4501(H) H2. Model H1 was to be armed with
88mm KwK 36 L/56 gun, mounted in modified Krupp's turret designed for VK 4501(P).
Model H2 was to be armed with 75mm KwK 42 L/70 (Rheinmetall) gun mounted
in a newly designed turret (similar to that later used on Panther Ausf D1 and Ausf A)
of which only wooden model was made. In late 1941, Henschel decided to concentrate
on model H1 and continued its development and its prototype was ready on
April 17th of 1942. The first Tiger by Henschel known as Versuchsserie Tiger
Nr. V1 was the only one fitted with Vorpanzer (frontal armor shield) to protect
front lower hull and tracks.
Pre-Production Tiger I (Versuchsserie Tiger Nr. V1)
equipped with a snorkeling device and Vorpanzer (frontal armor shield).
Both, Henschel and Porsche's prototypes arrived to a station near
Rastenburg (Ketrzyn) on April 19th of 1942 and then travelled 11km to Rastenburg,
while constantly breaking down. On April 20th of 1942 at 11:00am, both Porsche
and Henschel prototypes (Versuchsserie) were presented to Adolf Hitler (on
his birthday) in Wolfschanze (Wolf's Lair), East Prussia. In July of 1942,
both were put to the extensive tests at the tank school in Berka, Germany.
During the tests, Porsche's VK 4501(P)
was a failure, while Henschel's VK 4501(H) was a great success. In July of
1942, Henschel Tiger - VK 4501(H) was approved and went into production at
Henschel und Sohn plant at Kassel.
SS-Haupsturmfuehrer Michael Wittmann|
"The Tiger Ace"
Tigers equipped special heavy tank companies and battalions
(schwere Panzer Abteilung - sPzAbt) both of the Army and Waffen SS. First
Tiger companies had 9 tanks per company, number increased to 14 by mid 1943.
In 1943, Tiger battalions with 45 tanks were established. Army units (sPzAbt)
were numbered from 501 to 510, while Waffen SS (sSSPzAbt) from 101 to 103.
Three Waffen SS battalions were formed from three heavy tank companies assigned
to panzer regiments of LSSAH, Das Reich and Totenkopf divisions. Tigers
were also issued to a heavy company assigned to the panzer regiment of Grossdeutschland
division and in turn, Grossdeutschland received complete heavy tank battalion.
Tigers were also issued to heavy tank battalion (Funklenk) radio-controlled
- sPzAbt (FKL) 301 and to heavy tank company (Funklenk) radio-controlled
- Pz.Kp.(FKL) 316. Units formed from remnants of larger units and also training
and testing companies also used Tigers. During their service, Tigers saw
service on all fronts - Eastern, African and Western.
The first time Tiger saw action was on August 29th of 1942 and September
21st/22nd at Mga, southeast of Leningrad with 1st company of sPzAbt 502.
The unsuccessful engagements ended in the new Tiger being captured by the
Soviets, who then examined it and exhibited during the captured equipment
exhibition in Moscow's Gorky Park in 1943. The failure of Tigers was attributed
to mechanical problems as well as poor terrain conditions, totally unsuitable
for heavy tanks. In December of 1942, Tigers from sPzAbt 501, saw action
near Tunis in North Africa.
schwere Panzer Abteilungen (heavy tank battalions)
|sPzAbt 501 (424)
|sPzAbt 502 (511)
|sPzAbt 503 (FHH)
|sSSPzAbt 101 (501)
|sSSPzAbt 102 (502)
|sSSPzAbt 103 (503)
"I have inspected the battlefield at Fais Pass in Tunisia, being with the force which retook it. Inspection of our
tanks destroyed there indicated that the 88mm gun penetrated into the turret from the front and
out again in the rear. Few gouges were found indicating that all strikes had made penetrations." -
Report by American Colonel from Tunisia, 1943.
Tiger I heavy tank originally received the designation of Panzerkampfwagen
VI H (8.8 cm) Ausf H1 - Sd.Kfz.182, but then in March of 1943, was redesignated
to Panzerkampfwagen Tiger (8.8 cm L/56) Ausf E - Sd.Kfz.181. It was commonly
referred to as Tiger, Tiger I and PzKpfw VI. Officially there was only
type of Tiger tank produced, but during the duration of production improvements
were carried on. Based on their modifications, Tigers can be divided into
three main production models - early, mid and late (final). Late production
Tigers differed slightly from early models and shared number of common parts
(mechanical) with Panther and King Tiger in order to simplify the production.
Also many older Tigers being rebuild were fitted with newer components.
The first production Tigers were ready in August of 1942 and from July of 1942, Henschel and Wegmann manufactured only 1,355
Tigers until as late as August of 1944 (chassis number 250001 to 251346). Henschel produced the chassis and Wegmann
assembled the turrets, while Henschel did final assembly. Tiger's production reached its highest point in April of 1944,
when 105 were produced. The main reason for the number produced was Tiger's difficult production and its cost. Out the entire
number produced some 500 saw service with sSSPzAbts. On June 7th of 1943, Japanese ambassador in Germany, General Oshima was
shown a Tiger from sPzAbt 502. Single Tiger was then sold to Japan in 1943, but was never delivered due to the war situation
and was loaned by Japan to the German Army (sSSPzAbt 101). Henschel charged Japan 645.000 Reichsmarks for fully equipped Tiger
(with ammunition and radio equipment), while the regular price for the same Tiger was only 300.000 Reichsmarks. Only
3 Tigers were sold to Hungary in July of 1944 and small number was handed over to Hungarians by sPzAbt 503 or 509.
Also some sources state that Spain was interested in acquiring a number of
Tigers but the transaction was never finalized.
"...the Pz Kpfw VI with its heavy armour, dual purpose armament
and fighting ability was basically an excellent tank, and, constituted a considerable
advance on any allied tank..." - British Report from 1943 based on a study of Tiger I captured in Tunisia.
(with full tropical air
filter 'Feifel' system - November 1942 to August 1943)
The First Captured Tiger from sPzAbt 502 on display at Gorky Park in Moscow.
The two Marshals of the Soviet Union - G. Zhukov and K. Voroshilov are inspecting
the first Tiger captured on the Leningrad front. Please note the unusual
location of tool/storage box on the turret. Close to Zhukov is the Chief
of the Weapons Department of Red Army Gen.Col. S. Vannikov.
Photo and information provided by Dmitry Pyatakhin.
Tiger I was armed with powerful 88mm gun (originally developed from 88mm Flak 36 L/56
gun) that made it a very dangerous opponent for any Allied tank, and its
thick (but not shot deflecting) armor made it virtually indestructible. Both
Sherman with 76mm gun and T-34/85
stood a chance against Tiger only at close range. It is reported that in
July of 1944, commander of 3rd company of schwere Panzer Abteilung 506, Captain
Wakker, destroyed Soviet T-34
at the range of 3900 meters. The rule applied by the British concerning the
engagement of Tigers was that five Shermans were needed to destroy a single
Tiger, but only one Sherman was to return from the engagement. Tiger's only
weak spot was its rear armor plate and its engine, which required continuous
maintenance. During their combat service, Tigers destroyed large numbers
of enemy tanks and other equipment, creating the myth of their invincibility
and fearsome power - "Tiger-phobia". Tiger also had tremendous effect on
morale of both German and Allied soldiers, German felt secure, while Allies
thought that every German tank, especially late model PzKpfw IV was a Tiger
! "...and the T-34s and KVs eliminated hundreds of Tigers...", Russian Newspaper
Article about Battle of Kursk, Novosti Press Agency, 1943.
Original 250 Tigers were powered by 12-cylinder Maybach HL 210 P
45 engine with total power of 650hp, which made Tiger badly underpowered
and its off-road performance suffered as a result. To improve that problem
modified 12-cylinder Maybach HL 230 P 45 engine with power increased to 700hp
was installed in all models since May of 1943. The sound of the Tiger engine
starting had a distinctive noise even at the distance and was well known
to the Allied soldiers, who remember it with respect.
The first 500 (495) Tigers were equipped with a snorkelling device
allowing them to travel underwater as deep as 4-5 meters for 2.5 hours. Later
models were provided with wading equipment allowing them to travel underwater
only as deep as 1.3 meters. Tigers produced from November 1942 to August
1943 were fitted with full tropical air filter 'Feifel' system.
Five men crew - commander, gunner, loader, radio operator and driver,
operated tiger. Tiger's interior layout was composed of four compartments
- driver's compartment, gunner/radio operator's compartment, fighting compartment
(turret) and engine compartment. Driver's and gunner/radio operator's compartment
were in one compartment but were divided by transmission and final drive
unit. Driver steered the tank by steering wheel, which controlled hydraulic
power steering system. In case of breakdown, two manual steering levers were
provided. The levers controlled manual steering brakes and were also used
as parking brakes.
Tiger's suspension was composed of driving sprocket, rear idler
and interleaved roadwheels (36 in total). Interleaved roadwheel arrangement
used in Tiger I caused mud, ice and rocks to jam the track mechanism and
as a result immobilize the tank. To overcome this problem, running gear needed
constant attention, especially on the Eastern Front.
Tigers were equipped with two kinds of tracks, 520mm narrow tracks
(used for transportation) and 720mm battle/combat (wider) tracks. In order
to transport Tiger by rail, the outer road wheel was removed from each axle
and tank was fitted with transport tracks. This was done in order for Tiger
tanks to fit on railcars and to meet clearance requirements. This practice
was mainly done in areas with rail traffic, but not often during transport
in open country. Also special railroad flatbed cars were produced in order
to transport and unload Tigers quickly. An experienced crew could change
the tracks in half an hour. The rest of the time was needed to remove or
install the outboard wheels and the side mud guards, and to fold or unfold
the outboard sections of the front and rear mud guards, among other things.
Tiger I - inside the turret, showing breech and gunner's position.
Tiger's turret housed 88mm gun, which was offset to the right and
was mounted on a turret ring with 185cm diameter. The main gun was fired
electrically with a switch on gunner's manual traverse wheel. 92 rounds of
AP (armor-piercing) and HE (high-explosive) ammunition were stored in bins
beneath the turret basket, on the hull floor and on the side of the superstructure.
The large size of the gun divided the turret into two sections - gunner and
commander on the left side and loader on the right. The turret was traversed
by hydraulic power, but for adjustment and elevation handwheels were used.
Armor-piercing rounds usually accounted for half of a Tiger's ammunition
supply, the rest taken up with Sprgr. High-explosive rounds for use against
enemy soft-skinned vehicles and infantry. The hollow-charge Gr.39HL round,
which was less productive at short range, was sometimes exchanged for some
of the HE load despite being less accurate. The Pzgr.39 APCBC (Armor Piercing
Composite Ballistic Cap) round was capable of piercing 100mm of armour at
an angle of 30 degrees within a range of 1000m. The tungsten-cored Pzgr.40
round could easily pierce 171mm of armour at short range and 110mm at 2000m,
while the Gr.39HL round could penetrate 90mm of armour up to 2000m.
During the production, Tiger was constantly modified and improved
almost on monthly bases. Turret's pistol port of early model was replaced
with an escape hatch (also used for loading ammunition) in mid production
model. Gunner's two sight holes (for TZF 9b gun sight) in the gun mantlet
of an early model were reinforced with an armor block in mid production model
and replaced with single sight hole in late model (for TZF 9c gun sight).
Two front Bosch headlights of early version were replaced with single centre
mounted one on late model. Three different types of exhaust covers were used,
two in early and one in late model. In late 1943, commander's drum cupola
was replaced with cast one designed for Tiger II. From February of 1944, Tigers were mounted with steel-rimmed resilient road-wheels just as those of Tiger II and Panther II
tanks. It is reported that some 800 were mounted with such wheels. The wheels
had internal rubber rim and were adapted from those used in Tiger II
tank but were based on wheels used in Soviet KV heavy tanks. The wheels
were introduced because they could stand more weight and allowed the number
of road-wheels per axle to be decreased from three to two. Deutsche Eisenwerke
produced those wheels.
In addition to factory modifications, sPzAbt 501 field modified
their Tigers, while in Tunisia. The modifications included thinner narrow
mudguards without folding sections and Bosch headlights moved from upper
hull plate to the front hull plate (installed on brackets).
Since September of 1943, Tigers were very commonly coated with Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste.
During service in 1944, 84 Tigers were converted to command tanks
- Befehlswagen Tiger I Ausf. E (Sd.Kfz.267/268) fitted with additional radio
equipment. Sd.Kfz.267 was fitted with 30-watt FuG 8 transmitter/receiver
and 10-watt FuG 5 transmitter, while Sd.Kfz.268 with 20-watt FuG 7 transmitter/receiver
and 10-watt FuG 5 transmitter. From August to December of 1944, 18 retired
or battle damaged Tigers were converted to Sturmtigers armed with short-barrelled Raketenwerfer 61 38cm breech-loaded rocket launchers/mortars.
In 1944, three Tigers were field converted by the sPzAbt 509 to recovery
vehicles - Bergepanzer Tiger. In November of 1944, all three were transferred
to the sPzAbt 501. Single mid production Tiger I (pictured above) damaged
near Anzio in Italy was rebuild and converted by the workshop of sPzAbt 508
to a special purpose vehicle. Conversion took place from March 1st to 5th
of 1944. Its gun was removed and the turret traversed to the rear and fixed.
A winch was mounted on the turret's top along with a 10-ton lifting crane.
It was also equipped with other auxiliary equipment. This particular vehicle
was lost between April 20th and May 25th of 1944 and was captured by the
British, who reported it as Bergetiger with a crane. This single Tiger was
not a real Bergetiger but charge laying and clearing vehicle. Bergepanzer
Tiger received SdKfz.185 designation but it is not confirmed since Jagdtiger with 88mm KwK 43 L/71 gun also received the same designation.
There was also experimental mounting of 88mm KwK 43 L/71 gun on Tiger
but it was delayed and abandoned in favour of the development of Tiger II, which eventually was to replace Tiger I.
"It is suggested to the Red Army to use such German tanks as StuG III and Pz IV due to their relability and availability of spare parts. The new German Panther
and Tiger can be used until they broken down without trying to repair them.
They have bad engines, transmission and suspension." - Department of Weaponry of the Red Army, late 1944.
Late production Tiger I at Armour Museum Saumur in France.
This Tiger is fitted with narrow transportation tracks.
Picture provided by Eric Peytavin.
Tiger proved to be an excellent weapon when commanded and operated by aces like SS-Haupsturmfuehrer Michael Wittmann and 1st Lieutenant Otto Carius.
Adolf Hitler himself said in 1944 that "One battalion of Tigers is worth
a normal Panzer Division...", a fully justified statement when examining
actions of SS-Haupsturmfuehrer Michael Wittmann at Villers Bocage and 1st Lieutenant Otto Carius at Malinava.
Tiger in Action !
On July 7th of 1943, single Tiger tank commanded by
SS-Oberscharfuehrer Franz Staudegger from 2nd Platoon of 13th Panzer Company
of 1st SS Panzer Grenadier Division "LSSAH" engaged Soviet group of some
50 T-34 tanks around Psyolknee (southern sector of the Kursk salient). Staudegger
used up his entire ammunition after destroying some 22 Soviet tanks, while
the rest retreated. For his achievement, Franz Staudegger was awarded the
On August 8th of 1944, single Tiger commanded by SS-Unterscharfuehrer
Willi Fey from the 1st Company of sSSPzAbt 102, engaged a British tank column
destroying some 14 out of 15 Shermans, followed by one more later in the
day using his last two rounds of ammunition. sSSPzAbt 102 lost all of its
Tigers during fighting in Normandy but reported 227 Allied tanks destroyed
during the period of 6 weeks.
Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger will remain forever a symbol of formidable the
German Panzer formations of World War II. Today, six Tigers can be seen
on display in Russia - Kubinka and Snegiri; France - Saumur and Vimoutiers
and England - Bovington.
The Myth of Italian Tigers !
In May of 1943, 36 Tigers were supplied to Italy to form
a new crack division named "Mussolini" (1st) Armored Division or "Leonessa"
Armored Group . They saw limited combat service due to the Italian surrender
in September of 1943. Tigers were then confiscated and quickly pressed into
the service with one of the schwere SS Panzer Abteilungens.
The Italian Armoured Division "M" (not "Mussolini") formed by "Camice
Nere" (Italian Fascist Militia) was in reality a strong Brigade comprising
of 5800 men, 24 88/55 Flak guns and an Armoured Group (Gruppo Corazzato LEONESSA)
consisting of 12 PzKpfw IV Ausf H, 12 PzKpfw III Ausf N and 12 StuG III Ausf G but never had any PzKpfw VI Tigers !!!
After the armistice the unit was disbanded and the 36 "panzers" were returned to the Waffen SS.
Information provided by Eusebi Eugenio, Cadoneghe, Padova.
Soviet T-55 converted to Tiger.
Photo was provided and is property of Geoffrey Zimmer
Introduction from Report On Pz Kw VI (Tiger) Model E
by Military College of Science, School of Tank Technology, Chobham Lane Chertsey, January 1944
The Pz. Kw. VI was introduced into service by the enemy
in the Autumn or Winter of 1942, and appeared in North Africa in January
1943 and later in Sicily and on the Russian front.
The vehicle which has been examined is a Pz. Kw. VI (E) or Sd. Kfz.
182 and is also known as the "TIGER". This model to have been developed by
Henschel u Soehne G.m.b.H.
The "TIGER" is of course outstanding by reason of its being the
heaviest A.F.V. in general service, scaling approximately 56 tons in battle
order. Its main armament is an 8.8 cm. gun, whilst its heaviest armour (on
the frontvertical plate) is 102 mm. Another feature of outstanding tactical
interest is its deep wading facilities, and limited under water performance,
to a depth of approximately 15 ft.
Its size and weight, however, impose certain tactical disadvantages,
the cost outstanding being the restriction on transportation due to its width,
and its limited radius of action, due to heavy fuel consumption, (stated
by the enemy as 2.75 gallons per mile on normal cross-country running).
The workmanship appears to be of a high order, and the design has
been executed freely from the drawing board, in general unhampered by the
utilisation of existing components. There are exceptions however and certain
points of detail design appear unnecessarily elaborate and costly to manufacture.
An interesting development in German A.F.V. construction is the
introduction of plate interlocking in addition to the normal stepped jointing.
This method has no doubt been made necessary by the use of thicker armour.
The steering unit is in principle similar to the "Merritt-Brown"
with the further refinement of a twin radius of turn in each gear. This adoption
of a full' regenerative steering system is a distinct departure from the
simple clutch/brake system hitherto employed on German tanks. The weight
of the TIGER no doubt enforced a radical change in the steering design and
the adoption of this system is therefore of interest. The gearbox has much
in common with other Maybach pre-selective units, and probably the outstanding
merit of this design is the provision of a large number of forward ratios
(in this case eight) in a relatively compact main casing. This use of a fully
automatic change speed operation is in distinct contrast with current Allied
The transmission and steering units are extremely complicated and
undoubtedly costly in man/hours to produce. The resultant light control of
such a heavy vehicle may be some justification, since those who have driven
the tank comment favourably on this feature.
As yet there is no indication that the Germans favour a compression
ignition engine and the Pz. Kw. VI is powered by a V-12 Maybach petrol engine.
This engine which has undoubtedly been expressly designed for a heavy tank,
is a logical development of the Maybach V-12 type 120 TRM used in the Pz.
Kw. III and Pz. Kw. IV and is similar in general design. As this engine represents
the very latest German practice it merits close study, and it must be conceded
that the design has achieved its purpose in a great measure. It is compact,
light and very accessible.
Maybach HL 210 P 45 - 12 cylinder / 650hp (early)|
Maybach HL 230 P 45 - 12 cylinder / 700hp (late)
|Fuel Capacity:||534 liters (four tanks)|
|Armament:||88mm KwK 36 L/56|
2 x 7.92mm MG34 (early)
3 x 7.92mm MG34/42 (late)
6 x NbK 39 90mm smoke generators (early)
88mm - 92 rounds|
7.92mm - 4500-5700 rounds
Front Turret: 100/8|
Front Upper Hull: 100/10
Front Lower Hull: 100/24
Side Turret: 80/0
Side Upper Hull: 80/0
Side Lower Hull: 80/8
Rear Turret: 80/0
Rear Hull: 80/8
Turret Top / Bottom: 25/81-90
Upper Hull Top / Bottom: 25/90
Lower Hull Top / Bottom: 25/90
Gun Mantlet: 100-110/0
Penetration of Armor Plate at 30 degrees from Vertical.
Pzgr.39 (APCBC) - Armor Piercing Composite Ballistic Cap|
Pzgr.40 (APCR) - Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (Tungsten Core)|
Befehlswagen Tiger I Ausf. E (Sd. Kfz. 267/268) command tank,
Sturmpanzer (Sturmmorser) Sturmtiger Ausf. E - heavy rocket launcher/mortar carrier,
Bergewagen Bergetiger - heavy recovery vehicle,Tiger(P) - Porsche design (5 produced), Schwerst-Flammpanzer auf Tiger I - long-range flamethrower tank (planned),Sturmpanzer Bar - 305mm L/16 gun carrier (planned),Sturmpanzer Tiger I - 170mm Kanone 44 gun carrier,Sturmpanzer Tiger I - 210mm Moerser 18/43 mortar carrier (project),Sturmpanzer Tiger I - Skoda's 305mm Granatwerfer heavy mortar carrier (project),Tiger I - 240mm Kanone 4 transport vehicle (project),Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II Ausf. B,