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German Balkenkreuz

Germany's Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf B, King Tiger, Königstiger, SdKfz 182 heavy tank

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Germany's PzKpfw VI Ausf B, King Tiger, heavy tank:
Germany's Germany's PzKpfw VI Ausf B, King Tiger, heavy tank

Design

The allied troops nicknamed the PzKpfw VI Ausf B the Royal Tiger or King Tiger.5,12

Just before the invasion of Russia, at the Führer conference on May 26, 1941, the Germany Army Weapons Department decided that the program to develop a 35-45 ton heavy tank should be sped up.7 Krupp was instructed to develop and produce a tank version of the 88 mm FlaK 41 anti-aircraft gun.7

After encountering the T-34s and KVs the program was sped up even further.7 The Heereswaffenamt (Ordnance Department) issued contracts to Porsche and Henschel to produce designs for the heavy tank in August 1942.7,8,12 It was to be a replacement for the Tiger with thicker armor, sloped plates and use the 8.8 cm L/71 tank gun.12

The hull was welded together and used a similar layout as the Panther.

The gun went all the way back to the rear of the turret, thus dividing the turret in half.

Armor

The armor on the King Tiger was so thick that it was almost completely indestructible against Allied guns.5 However, this created a tank that was extremely heavy and slow to manouver.5 The hull was 5.9" / 150 mm thick and the turret had 3.9" / 100 mm thick armor.5

Suspension

The front sprocket provided the drive.12 The wheels were nine sets of double bogie wheels overlapping which was an improvement of the interleaved design of the PzKpfw VI Ausf E.12 These helped with the problems of the wheels freezing up like the Tiger and Panther had.8,12

The 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th were the outside wheels.12 The wheels had steel tires on a rubber cushion.12

Like the Tiger there were two types of tracks, one for transporting the King Tiger and the other for combat.12 The combat track had two sets of guide horns that the bogie wheels were fitted to run against.12

Main Armament

The 88 mm KwK43 L/71 was 21' long and was the largest caliber weapon fielded in a tank by the Germans.8,12 At the front of the turret were two trunions that helped to support the weight of the barrel.12 Above the gun were the two recoil cylinders.12 The 8.8 cm gun was placed 3.1" to the right of center in the turret.12

Turret was built from bent plates and were more rounded and could carry 22 rounds for ready use.12 Located in panniers on each side of the King Tiger's hull were a total of 48 more rounds of 8.8 cm ammunition.12 There was much wear on the barrel, so in later models a two piece barrel was installed to allow for easier maintenance.9

It could penetrate 7"/182mm of armor at 547 yards/500 m9, and 9.4"@0° at 100 yards10. The AP round weighed 22.4 lbs. and had a muzzle velocity of 3,281'/sec.10

The Crew

The driver and hull gunner were in the front with the driver on the left.8,12 The radio equipment was above the gearbox, to the left of the hull machine gunner.8 The turret contained the commander, gunner, and loader.8,12 There were many escape hatches for the crew and since there was no turret basket it was easier for the driver and hull gunner to escape through the fighting compartment.12

For the driver there was a periscope in the roof above him and could be traversed.12 Also, some of the armor plate was cut away to aide his view.12 The driver's seat and controls could be adjusted so that he could sit with his head out of the hatch.12

The hull machine gunner had a fixed episcope that was at the forward edge of the roof with some of the armor plate cut away as well to aide his view.12

The gunner had a gunsight on the leftside of the 8.8 cm gun.12

At the forward right hand side of the roof was an episcope for the gun loader.12

The cupola for the commander did provide excellent viewing, but most often they chose to have their head outside the turret. The cupola contained seven episcopes.12

Radio

There was a transmitter and one or two receivers installed above the gearbox to the left of the hull gunner.12 The aerial was located at the rear of the superstructure roof.12

Porsche Turret

The turrets manufactured by Porsche were 11' 6" long.12 There was a rounded front and the side was bent up to place the commander's cupola.12

The gun's mantlet was square.12 The coaxial machine gun was located in a slot to the right.12 The hatch on the rear was 20" x 14" and had a pistol port.12

With the front of the turret being round it did form a shot trap that could deflect a round downwards, through the roof, and into the fighting compartment.

Henschel Turret

The Henschel turret was easier to manufacture as the pieces were kept straighter.12 The turret was made wider and the commander's cupola was slightly set in so that the side wouldn't need to be bent.12

The gun's mantlet was a rounded skirt placed over the gun.12 The rear hatch was 20.5" x 18.75" and had a pistol port.12

Prototype

Porsche

Porsche had been working on three prototypes by late 1942 that mounted the Krupp 88 mm KwK 43 L/56.7 These were designated the Panzer Tiger P2/VK.4502 (P).6,7,12 The vehicles were never finished as the transmission required large amounts of copper, which was in short supply.7,12

The Porsche model was cancelled in November 1942, and Henschel's contract was changed to build 526 tanks.7

The first 50 vehicles had the Porsche turret from the cancelled Tiger P2 project.6,7,8 The turret was more rounded in front and the commander's cupola was offset on the left.7 After these turrets were installed, it was decided to discontinue them as it was thought the rounded front could deflect enemy rounds down into the top of the chassis.7,8

Henschel

The Henschel prototypes were called the Tiger H3.7 These were later designated the VK4503(H).5,6,12 It was plagued by frequent changes in the design specifications.7 In January 1943, Hitler, ordered the prototypes to have 185 mm/7.3" armor on the front and 80 mm /3.2" on the sides.7 Other modifications were made to standardize the parts with the Panther II project.7,12

In October 1942, Henschel was contracted to produce 176 vehicles mounting the 88 mm PaK 43/3 L/71.7

Pre-Production

Three pre-production vehicles were completed in December 1943, and the first three production vehicles were delivered in October 1943 / January 1944.7,8,12 At first, production at the Kassel production line had Tigers and King Tigers being produced side by side.7 By June 1944, only King Tigers were being produced.7 Five bombing raids against the factory between September 22 and November 7, 1944, almost completely destroyed it.7

Henschel always had 60 vehicles in construction in it's manufacturing facility. At peak production it took 14 days to construct the Tiger II.

Porsche produced 50 turrets in anticipation of receiving an order.6,12 These were fitted to the first King Tigers completed.12

Production

  • VK.4503 (H): 312
    • Delivered: October 194312
  • PzKpfw VI Ausf B: 4848,12, 4855,6,9,11, 487, 4893,7,14
    • Production: December 1943 - March 19455,6,12, January 1944 - March 19453
    • Manufacturer: Henschel (as Kassel5)3,5,10
    • Chassis numbers:
      • Porsche: 280001 - 28005012
      • Henschel: 280051 - 28048412

Variants

  • Type 180: Porsche's prototype for heavy tank.12 It was to have a 15 cm L/37 or 10.5 cm L/70 gun.12
  • VK.4502 (P): Porsche's prototype that had turret at rear and engine in front.12 Production on the turrets had started and were fitted to the King Tiger production model.12
  • VK.4503 (H): Henschel's prototype that was selected.12
  • PzKpfw VI Ausf B, Porsche turret: Fifty of these were manufactured.5 Here are some of the visual differences.
  • PzKpfw VI Ausf B, Henschel turret: These were the main production model.5 Here are some of the visual differences.
  • Befehlspanzer: Were converted from November 1944. Installed extra radios and had only 63 rounds.7 Only 20 were constructed.7 One type had the Fu 8 transmitter and the other a Fu 7 transmitter.7
  • Jagdtiger B; Jagdtiger: Mounted 128 mm gun in fixed superstructure on the Ausf B's chassis.5

Usage

First Units

First issued to training units in February and May 1944.

First encountered on the Eastern Front in May 1944 and the Western Front in August 1944.5,8,12,13 Saw action on both NW Europe and Russia. 150 were available in the Ardennes.

The thick armor was almost impregnable to any Allied tank or anti-tank gun.5,7 There is no evidence that any Allied shell penetrated the frontal armor during the war.7 Many were lost due to mechanical failure or no fuel.7 The 88 mm gun could penetrate a Sherman or Cromwell at over 3,200 m/10,498'.7

It was issued to a few Army and Waffen SS heavy tank battalions.7 Only 13 units received the King Tigers: Panzer Lehr Division; 500th Training, 501st, 503rd, 505th, 506th, 507th, 509th, 510th, 511th, 101st SS, 102nd SS, and 103rd SS Heavy Tank Battalions.7

It was formed into independent battalions or formed into regiments for privileged Panzer divisions.

Panzer Lehr

The first five vehicles were given to the 319th Heavy Tank Company of the Panzer Lehr Division, but they had to be destroyed before they entered combat because of mechanical failures in Normandy.7 The Company had remote controlled tankettes that had demolition charges and were to work with the King Tigers and 2 Tiger Is.7

503rd Heavy Tank Battalion

In Germany in June 1944, after it had lost most of its Tiger Is, it received 12 King Tigers.7 It was sent to France in late June 1944, where it received another 12 King Tigers.7 Most of these were lost in August and September 1944.7

1st Company, 101st SS Heavy Tank Battalion
501st SS Heavy Tank Battalion

In late July and early August, 14 King Tigers were assigned to the unit after its loses of Tiger Is.7 All were lost in the retreats from Normandy.7

In September 1944, it was recalled to Germany and redesignated the 501st SS and issued new vehicles.7 The unit was to be used in the Ardennes offensive, but it only had 28 King Tigers.7 Eleven King Tigers were taken from the 509th Heavy Tank Battalion.7 Only 30 were used in the attack as nine had mechanical failure while being deployed to the front.7 It lost 13 of its King Tigers.7

506th Heavy Tank Battalion

It was reequipped with 45 King Tigers when it was brought back to Germany.7 It was sent to Holland in September 1944 and fought against the 1st British Airborne Division at Arnhem.7

It was the only unit that received replacement vehicles regularly.7 Typically the King Tigers that came off the production lines when to units stationed in Germany instead of as replacements to units at the front.7

Ardennes Offensive

There were three units that had King Tigers, the 506th Battalion, 306th Company, and 501st SS Battalion had a total of 52.7

The spearhead of the 1st SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hither Panzer Division was the 501st SS.7 This unit was lead by Oberstrumbannführer Joachim Peiper.7 He was supposed to exploit any successes as quickly as possible, but the terrain through the Ardennes typically consisted of narrow roads through the woods.7 The massive King Tigers weren't suited for the terrain or the quick nature of the requirements of the Offensive.7 Peiper choose to have the more nimble PzKpfw IVs and Panthers lead the way.7

Six of his King Tigers carried paratroopers of the 3rd Parachute Division and eventually took part in the battle to capture the bridge at Stavelot.7

At Stoumont on December 20, 1944, 10 of the King Tigers caught up with Peiper.7 On December 21st they were all surrounded at La Gleize by the Americans.7 It was decided to break out of the encirclement and on the night of December 23rd-24th leaving behind their tanks due to lack of fuel.7 On December 26, 1944, the unit was dissolved and the remaining men were absorbed by the 1st SS.7

Specifications

  PzKpfw VI B King Tiger
Crew Commander, gunner, loader, driver, radio operator / hull machine gunner8,12
51,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,12,13
Radio FuG53,12
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 153,000 lb9, 153,340 lb13, 153,660 lb5
66.93 tons1, 68 tons3,14, 68.6 tons6, 69 tons8,9, 69.7 tons4,7, 69.8 tons2
68,000 kg1, 69,070 kg14, 69,400 kg9, 69,700 kg5,13
Weight - Porsche 67 tons12, 69.4 tons7, 75 tons10
Weight - Henschel 68 tons12, 76.9 tons10
Length w/gun 33' 8"5,6,7,8,12,13, 33' 8.9"1
10.26 m5,7,13, 10.29 m2, 10.3 m3, 10.286 m1
Length w/o gun 23.8'9,10, 23' 9.75"5, 23' 10"6,7, 24.24'4
7.26 m5,7, 7.3 m9
Height 10' 0.9"1, 10.1'9, 10' 1 5/8"12, 10.2'10, 10.26'4, 10' 1.5"5,13, 10' 2"6, over 10'8
3.075 m1, 3.08 m3, 3.09 m2,5,7,13, 3.3 m9
Width 11' 10.7"1, 12' 3 5/8"12, 12' 3.5"5,13, 12.2'10, 12.3'9, 12' 4"6,7,8, 12' 6"4
3.625 m1, 3.75 m5,7,13, 3.76 m2,3, 4.3 m9
Width - with transport tracks 10' 8.75"12, 10' 9"7,8
3.27 m7
Ground clearance 1' 7.3"10, 1' 7.5"12
0.49 m2, 0.5 m
Ground contact length 170"10
4.13 m
Ground pressure 13.7 psi10, 15.2 psi9
0.78 kg/cm2 2, 1.07 kg/cm2, 1.1 kg/cm2 9
Turret ring diameter 6' 1"
Armament  
Main 1: 88 mm KwK 43 L/713,6,8,9,10,11,12,14
1: 88 mm1,4,5
1: 88 mm L/712
1: 88 mm KwK 43/3 L/717
1: 88 mm KWK 4313
Secondary Smoke dischargers7,12
MG 2: 7.92 mm MG1
2: MG2,6
2: 7.92 mm MG343
3: MG4
MG - anti aircraft 1: 7.9 mm MG 3410
1: 7.92 mm MG8
1: 7.92 mm MG427,12
MG - coaxial 1: 7.9 mm MG 3410
1: 7.92 mm MG8
1: 7.92 mm MG345,7,9.12,13
MG - hull 1: 7.92 mm MG8
1: 7.92 mm MG345,7,9,12,13
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 7012, 7811, 85
72 Pzgr & Spgr3
842,5,7,10
Porsche: 78
APCBC: 4012
HE: 4012
Secondary  
MG 4,8002,10
5,8505,7,12 Patr SmK3
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 25 - 1504, 40 - 1859, 100 - 15013
Front: 5.9"@50°10
Side: 3.2"@25°10
Hull Front, Upper 1505, 150@50°3,12, 150@40°7,8,12
100 - 1502, 1506
Hull Front, Lower 100@55°8,12, 100@50°3,12, 100@40°7
Hull Sides, Upper 80@25°3,12, 80@65-90°7, 802
Hull Sides, Lower 80@0°3,12
Hull Rear 80@30°3,12, 802, 80@60°7
Hull Top 40@90°3,12
402, 4212
Hull Bottom 25-40@90°3,12
25-402, 4212
Turret Front 7"10, 1005, 180@9°3, 1802,6, 185@80°7
Porsche: 60-110@round3, 80-100 round12
Henschel: 180-185@10°12
Turret Sides 3.2"@21°10
80@21°3,12, 80@25°12, 802, 80@69°7
Porsche: 80@30°3,12
Turret Rear 80@20°12, 80@21°3, 802,12, 80@70°7
Porsche: 80@30°3,12
Turret Top 40@78-90°3, 402, 44@0-10°7, 44@80°/90°/80°12
Porsche: 40@77-90°3, 40@78°/90°/20°12
Engine (Make / Model) Maybach6, Maybach HL 230 P301,2,3,5,7,8,9,10,12,13
Bore / stroke  
Cooling Water9,10
Cylinders 1213, V-127,9,10
Capacity  
Net HP 6008, 7006,7,13
600@2,600 rpm12, 600@3,000 rpm9, 700@3,000 rpm10
Power to weight ratio 8.8 hp/ton9
Compression ratio 6.8:110
Transmission (Type) Preselector, Maybach-Olvar 401 21612
Olvar preselective10
8 forward, 4 reverse2,3,10,12
Steering Regenerative controlled differential, hydraulic, wheel control by auxiliary levers10
Steering ratio  
Starter Electric and inertia10
Electrical system Starting: 24-volt10
Normal: 12-volt10
Ignition Magneto10
Fuel (Type) Gasoline9,10,13
Octane  
Quantity 175 gallons, 189 gallons7,12, 228 gallons (in 4 tanks)10
860 liters2,7
Fuel used per 100 km of road: 782 liters
Road consumption 0.47 mpg10
Cross country consumption 0.14 mpg10
Performance  
Traverse 360°, hydraulic.3
Hand and hydralic10
Speed - Road 21.75 mph1, 23.5 mph4, 24 mph5,6,7,9,13, 25.7 mph8,12, 26 mph10
35 kph1,3, 38 kph5,7,9,13, 41.5 kph2
Speed - Cross Country 9 - 12 mph8,10,12, 10.5 mph7, 11 mph9
15-20 kph, 17 kph7,9
Range - Road 68 miles5,6,7,9,13, 100 miles8, 105 miles1, 106 miles10,12
110 km5,7,9,13, 170 km1,2,3
Range - Cross Country 53 miles7, 75 miles8,10,12
85 km7, 120 km2
Turning radius 16' 6",
2.08, 4.8 m
Elevation limits -8° to +15°
-7.4° to +15°3
Fording depth 5' 3"5,12,13, 5' 4"10
1.6 m2,5,13
Trench crossing 8.1'9, 8' 2"5,13, 8' 2 3/8"12, 9.85'10
2.5 m5,9,13
Vertical obstacle 2' 9", 2' 9.5"10,12, 2' 10"5,13
0.85 m5
Climbing ability 35° (70%) slope10,12
Suspension (Type) Torsion bar2,8,12
Two resilient road wheels independently sprung on torsion bars10
Wheels each side 9 axles overlapped with twin wheels
9x22
Return rollers each side 010
Tracks (Type) Dry double pin10
Length  
Width 2' 5", 2' 7"8,12, 32"10
800 mm2
Width - travel 2' 2"8,12
Diameter  
Number of links 90 (45 double shoes)10
Pitch 5.9"10
Tire tread Steel2
Track centers/tread 9' 1 7/8"12, 9.25'10
2.79 m
Track centers/tread - travel tracks 8' 6.75"12

Sources:

  1. The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles - The Comprehensive Guide to Over 900 Armored Fighting Vehicles From 1915 to the Present Day, General Editor: Christopher F. Foss, 2002
  2. Panzer Truppen The Complete Guide to the Creation and Combat Employment of Germany's Tank Force 1943-1945, Thomas L. Jentz, 1996
  3. Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two, Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle, 1999
  4. Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  5. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  6. German Tanks and Armoured Vehicles 1914 - 1945, B. T. White, 1966
  7. German Tanks of World War II, Dr. S. Hart & Dr. R. Hart, 1998
  8. Tanks of World War II, Duncan Crow, 1979
  9. Battle Winning Tanks, Aircraft & Warships of World War II, David Miller, 2000
  10. Tank Data, Aberdeen Proving Grounds Series, 1968?
  11. New Vanguard 88 mm FlaK 18/36/37/41 and PaK 43 1936-45, John Norris, 2002
  12. Profile AFV Weapons #48 PzKpfw VI Tiger I and Tiger II ("King Tiger"), Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  13. Armored Fighting Vehicles, 300 of the World's Greatest Military Vehicles, Philip Trewhitt, 1999
  14. World War I and II Tanks, George Forty, 2012
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