Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II Ausf. B Konigstiger / King(Royal)Tiger / Tiger II Sd. Kfz. 182
Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II Ausf. B
Königstiger / King(Royal)Tiger / Tiger II
Sd. Kfz. 182
"On the road from Bollersdorf to Strausberg stood a further 11 Stalin tanks, and away on the egde of the village itself were around 120-150 enemy tanks in the process of being refuelled and re-armed. I opened fire and destroyed first and last of the 11 Stalin tanks on the road….My own personal score of enemy tanks destroyed in this action was 39."
The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II Ausf. B "Königstiger" (Sd.Kfz.182) / VK4503(H) was the most powerful combat tank produced and deployed during the World War II. Up to the end of the war, the Allies did not introduce anything that could effectively counter it on the battlefield. The Tiger II combined a powerful and effective gun with think sloped armor that was virtually impervious to any Allied tank or anti-tank gun. The result was battlefield history.
VK4502(P) / Typ 180
Planning for the Tiger II started as early as May 26th of 1941, a year before the Tiger I entered production, when Adolf Hitler met with officials responsible for the armament development including panzer development. By the fall of 1942/January 1943, designers at Porsche and Henschel started work on a new heavy tank that would eventually replace the Tiger I. In January 1943, Hitler ordered the new Tiger to be armed with a long barreled 88mm L/71 gun and have 150mm frontal armor and 80mm side armor. Front and side plates were to be sloped and interlocked, resulting in a design similar to the then-new PzKpfw V Panther (Sd.Kfz.171).
Once again, Henschel and Porsche were ordered to develop the new vehicle as both companies had started work on heavy tank designs in 1937 and 1939 respectively. Porsche provided two projects that were based on the previous VK 4501(P) design and were designated VK4502(P). The first one, Typ 180 (Turm Vorne) A/B, had its turret mounted centrally, while Typ 181 (Turm Hinten) A/B/C, had its turret mounted in the rear with a mid-mounted engine (similar in layout to the modern Israeli Merkava main battle tanks). Both designs shared the same chassis and hull, along with all the other components and gasoline-electric system of VK4501(P). Both designs were extremely similar, with the only difference being the location of the turret and some mechanical components. Only wooden mock-ups were produced.
Learn More About The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II from Panzertales
Henschel’s design was developed at a much faster rate and was destined to enter production. as ordered in February 1943, Henschel’s design shared many components with MAN’s Panzerkampfwagen V Panther and Panther II (e.g. upper hull hatches) in order to standardize tank production. The VK4503(H) design was completely different from that of theTiger I, with some resemblance to the enlarged Panther, with which it shared some common parts. On October 20, 1943, a wooden mock-up of Henschel’s Tiger II was presented to Adolf Hitler at Arys (Orzysz), in East Prussia. Preparations for production at Henschel’s plant in Kassel started in December 1943, with three prototypes produced. Tiger II production began in January of 1944 and ended in March of 1945. Only 489 production vehicles (and the three prototypes – V1, V2 and V3) were built in four production series (420500, 420530, 420590 and 420680), out of the original 1,500 ordered. It was predicted that monthly production would reach 125 tanks per month from August of 1945 onwards. Production was delayed by the overall war situation, shortages of labour, material and bombing raids on the Henschel factory at Kassel, which left the plant in ruins. Other companies involved in production of Tiger II components were Krupp, Wegmann, Skoda and DHHV. Cost of a single King Tiger was approximately 800.000 Reichsmarks and required total of 300.000 man hours. Interestingly enough, 800.000 Reichsmarks was an equivalent of weekly wage for 30.000 people !
January – December 1944
January – March 1945
Overall, during production, numerous modifications were made to the vehicles, including: replacement of gaskets and seals, type of tracks used, installation of sockets, installation of additional track links, etc. None of the modifications significantly changed the appearance or performance of the tank.
King Tiger with early (Porsche) turret.
The first 50 King Tigers (including the three prototypes) were equipped with turrets designed by Krupp for Porsche’s VK4502(P) – commonly known as Porsche Turrets. Later models were equipped with turrets designed by Krupp for Henschel – known as Henschel or Krupp Production Turrets. Both turrets were mounted in the middle of the chassis and were produced by Krupp with some assembly work done by Wegmann.
The Porsche turret was originally developed for the VK4502(P) tank, which was based on the VK4501(P) chassis. This project was rejected, but the design of the turret was accepted and adapted for Henschel’s Tiger II (because the Henschel turret wasn’t ready yet). Porsche’s turret mounted a one-piece 88mm gun, while Henschel’s turret mounted a two-piece 88mm gun (from May 1944). The Tiger II with Porsche turret carried 80 rounds of ammunition, while the production version with the Henschel turret carried 86 rounds. Seventy-five percent of the ammunition was stored along the hull sides, and the remaining 25% was stored in the rear of the turret. Also, a total of 5,850 7.92mm rounds were carried for three MG 34/MG 42 machine guns for local and air defence. In November of 1944, plans were made to increase the ammunition load by 12 additional rounds and then 5 more according to plans made in February of 1945, but none were introduced.
The Porsche turret had a curved mantlet and the commander’s cupola was offset to the left. The curved mantlet created a shot trap below the mantlet and, in December 1943, Henschel was ordered to design a new turret to be used as a standard for future models. Krupp designed the turret, which featured a flush cupola, instead of a bulged one, and a saukopf mantlet. The Henschel turret was also known as Krupp’s (production) turret, or Serien Turm (serial turret). KingTiger with the Porsche turret weighed 68,500 kg, while with the Henschel turret weighed 69,800 kg. Krupp produced both turrets. The turret could be traversed 360 degrees in 19 to 77 seconds, depending on engine RPM; since the engine powered the hydraulic turret drive (at 2,000rpm – 19 seconds). It could be also traversed by hand, using the hand wheel operated by the gunner. Production turrets were also factory mounted with hangers for extra track links as well as rings to attach camouflage.
The Tiger II was powered by 12 cylinder Maybach HL 230 P30 engine producing 700hp (as used in the Panther). Engines were produced by Maybach and Auto Union. As of August of 1945, new engine – 900hp Maybach HL 234 was to be used. Maybach engine was coupled with an 8-speed Maybach OLVAR EG 40 12 16 B gearbox (8 forward and 4 reverse) produced by Adlerwerke and ZF. From February of 1944, engine was also equipped with a heater to overcome problems related to operations in winter. It also featured a new L 801 steering mechanism by Henschel. This combination allowed the heavy tank to turn on the spot. The King Tiger’s suspension was made up of nine sets of overlapping 800mm steel (rubber cushioned) road wheels per side, on swing arms sprung on torsion bars. Out of nine road wheels, five were outer and four were inner road wheels. Overlapping road wheel arrangement solved the problem encountered in interleaved arrangement used in Tiger I, which caused mud, ice and rocks to jam the track mechanism and immobilized the tank. This system was an improvement, but did not solve all the problems as overlapping arrangement reduces the life of tank tracks due to the pressure. The Tiger II was equipped with two types of tracks: 660mm narrow tracks (used for transportation) and wider 800mm combat tracks. Transportation by rail not only required narrow tracks and removal of armored side skirts, but also SSyms 80 ton flatbed rail car used for heavy loads. The Tiger II didn’t lack in mobility and maneuverability even with its high weight, but suffered from high fuel consumption (power/weight ratio – 10.1hp/ton). Maximum speed on the road was 35-38km/h (22-24 mph) and cross-country was 17km/h (10mph). Fuel consumption was a serious problem, since a single Tiger II consumed 500 liters per 100km (2 gallons per mile), while fuel was in scarce supply at the time when Tiger II was coming onto the battlefield. Fuel shortages resulted in number of Tiger II being abandoned by their crews after running out of fuel. The Tiger carried 860 liters (227 gallons) of fuel in 7 tanks, giving it a maximum range of 110-120km (68-75 miles) on the road and 80km (50 miles) cross-country. The limited range and required maintenance made it less than perfect offensive weapon without support units and steady fuel supply. The KingTigerrequired skilled drivers and needed constant maintenance to keep it operational. Maintenance was often done outdoors in less than perfect conditions especially during the winter of 1944/45. This is best summarized in a statement by Alfred Rubbel from schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503 – "One hour of Tiger operation requires ten hours of maintenance". In addition, King Tiger required heavy equipment in case it needed to be towed or recovered. Officially, it was forbidden to use other King Tigers to prevent other from being overloaded, but it was often done under combat conditions. As per regulations, two or three Schwerer Zugkraftwagen 18t / Sd.Kfz.9 heavy half-tracked prime movers were to be used. King Tigers can often be seen with their tow cables attached to the tow hooks when going into or when in combat. Eventually, recovery and towing duties were to be taken over by Bergepanther recovery tanks. Yet, overall difficulty and shortages of equipment faced by the German army in 1944 and 1945, led to many tanks being abandoned. The overall reliability was better than that of Panther, yet still worst than that of the Panzerwaffe’s workhorse – Panzerkampfwagen IV.
Tiger II with Krupp's (production) turret.
King Tiger with Krupp’s (production) turret.
The Tiger II was armed with the very accurate 88mm KwK 43 L71 tank gun. This 88mm gun, 71 calibers long (6.3m or 21 feet), had a maximum effective range of 10km (6.2 miles). The 88mm L/71 was probably the best tank mounted gun of the second world war, being able to destroy any enemy tank. The Tiger II was initially equipped with a binocular Turmzielfernrohr (TZF) 9b/1 sighting telescope and later with the monocular TZF 9d sighting telescope. The gun could be elevated to a maximum of 17 degrees and depressed to a maximum of 8 degrees. The rounds for the 88mm gun weighed almost 20kg (44 pounds) each, which resulted in a relatively slow rate of fire. The powerful 88mm gun was able to knock out Sherman, Cromwell and T-34/85 tanks at a range of 3,500 meters (2.2 miles), far beyond the range of enemy guns. As of April of 1945, stabilized gun sights and rangefinder were to be part of standard equipment. Plans were also made for an fully or partially automatic ammunition feed for the main gun and one turret was assigned to be used for testing, but not a single prototype was produced.
Tiger II was also equipped with turret mounted Nahverteidigungswaffe (90mm NbK 39 close-in defense weapon). The crew was protected by thick sloping armor that made it a hard target, and only a few weapons were actually able to destroy it at even close range. There are no records or photographs to prove that the Tiger II’s frontal armor was ever penetrated in combat. Its side armor was easier to penetrate by existing Allied armor (e.g. Sherman Firefly, T-34/85, JS-II).
A five-man crew, composed of commander, gunner, loader, driver and radio operator/bow gunner, operated the KingTiger. All were connected by an internal telephone system with the exception of the loader. The vehicle was primarily equipped with a FuG5 radio, and some had a FuG2 radio set. The crew compartment was to be equipped with a heater for cold weather operations as of March of 1945, but there is no evidence that this option was put into production.
"One day a Tiger Royal tank got within 150 yards of my tank and knocked me out. Five of our tanks opened up on him from ranges of 200 to 600 yards and got five or six hits on the front of the Tiger. They all just glanced off and the Tiger backed off and got away. If we had a tank like Tiger, we would all be home today." – Report by tank commander Sergeant Clyde D. Brunson from 2nd Armored Division, 1945.
The Tiger II was also used as a base for the Bergewagen recovery tank (18 produced but their existence is unconfirmed), Jagdpanzer Jagdtiger Ausf. B (Sd.Kfz.186) heavy tank destroyer, Grille 17/21/30/42 (prototype of self-propelled gun series) and Tiger II transport vehicle for a 280mm Kanone 5 heavy gun project. In November of 1944, Krupp proposed to rearm all Tiger II tanks with a 105mm KwK L/68 gun, but it was rejected since the gun was not in use by the German army and its ammunition was two piece requiring a second loader. Also, various modifications were made to the turret (including installation of the range finder and possibly night vision equipment) and hull (including redesigned rear deck), but these were not implemented due to the end of the war. The planned modifications were to improve performance, firepower, protection and speed-up production by simplifying the design. Vehicles made and rebuild between December of 1943 to August/September of 1944, were factory applied with Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste. Vehicles already deployed had the Zimmerit applied by local repair shops. Vehicles produced from September/October of 1944, left the factory with complete or partial camouflage paint schemes (brown, green and yellow) with red oxide primer base showing. Eventually, from December of 1944, the interiors of the tanks were no longer painted and remained in primer or were painted dark yellow.
PzKpfw VI Tiger II Ausf. B with Krupp's (production) turret.
PzKpfw VI Tiger II Ausf. B with Krupp’s (production) turret.
Photo used with permission of the Tank Museum.
German comparison of German tanks with the new (at the time) Russian T-34/85 and JS-II (122mm), from March 23rd of 1944, stated that: "The Tiger 2 is far superior to the T34-85 and the JS 122."
Starting in November 1944, 20 Tiger IIs were converted by Wegmann to command tanks – Befehlswagen Tiger II Ausf. B (Sd.Kfz.267/268) equipped with additional radio equipment. Two types of command radios were used: FuG8 (Sd.Kfz.267) and FuG7 (Sd.Kfz.268). The first command tanks entered service in February/March 1945. Both variants carried 63 rounds of ammunition (32 armor piercing and 31 high explosive).
Tiger II with Krupp's (production) turret in Budapest.
Tiger II with Krupp’s (production) turret
from schwere Panzer Abteilung 503 Feldherrnhalle in Budapest, 1945.
King Tigers were issued to schwere Panzer Abteilungen (heavy tank battalions) of both the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS. The majority went to Wehrmacht units, while some 150 were assigned to the Waffen SS. The first Tigers II tanks reached schwere Panzer Abteilungen of both Wehrmacht and Waffen SS as early as February 1944. The original role of heavy tank battalions was to engage, breakthrough and destroy enemy armor on the offensive, but the changing war situation saw their role relegated to the defensive. Units were refitted with King Tigers at the training centers, where crews became familiar with their new tanks through training. This was not much of an issue with veteran personnel, but young recruits lacked the experience, which resulted in poor initial performance. Even when Tiger II was lost, crew survival was high and surviving experienced crews were quickly deployed with a new tank. The first five production King Tigers were issued to Panzer Lehr Division (Panzer Kompanie Funklenk 316), but were not used in combat. The first time the Tiger II saw action was in May 1944 near Minsk, followed by another action (of schwere Panzer Abteilung 501 commanded by Oberstleutnant von Legat) in July 1944 atSandomierz in Poland. Only two companies of schwere Panzer Abteilung 503 commanded by Hauptmann Fromme, equipped with Tiger II tanks (with Porsche turrets), were committed to the fighting in Normandy, where their mechanical problems and Allied fighter-bombers as well naval gunfire proved fatal and, by the end of August 1944, all were lost. Tiger II tanks of schwere Panzer Abteilung 506 commanded by Major Lange, saw combat during the "Market Garden" operation in Holland in September of 1944. King Tigers also took part in the Ardennes Offensive, serving with schwere SS Panzer Abteilung 501 (Kampfgruppe Peiper). On the Eastern Front, Tiger II tanks took part in the fighting in Hungary and in central Poland in 1944 and 1945. The Tiger II saw combat on both Western and Eastern Fronts, where it proved to be a superb weapon and worthy opponent when operated by an experienced crew and properly maintained. A small number of King Tigers also defended Berlin in April and May of 1945. A Tiger II from schwere Panzer Abteilung 503 was also the last German tank to be destroyed in the war. It was blown up by its crew in Austria on May 10, 1945.
"Klein Tiger"In December of 1944, Henschel proposed the design for 33ton heavy Klein Tiger (Small Tiger), which was to be a lighter versionof Tiger II. It was to be powered by Tiger II’s Maybach HL 230 P 30 engine producing 630hp. It was to have 80mm thick sloped front armor and 160mm thick horizontal side armor. The side armor was to be newly developed (or being developed) layered armor. Klein Tiger was to be armed with Krupp’s 100mm PWK (Panzerwurfkanone), able to penetrate 200mm of armor. Small Tiger remained only a paper project.
PzKpfw VI Tiger II Ausf. B with Krupp’s (production) turret.
This particular tank was produced in September of 1944 by Henschel and was to be issued to sPzAbt 509 but instead was issued to sSSPzAbt 501. This unit was part of Kampfgruppe Peiper, which took part in the Ardennes Offensive in the winter of 1944. This tank with turret number 332 was then abandomed by its crew near the village of Trois Point and was captured by US Army on December 24th of 1944. It was then moved to Spa and eventually ended up in Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. Tiger II was put on display and had entire right side of turret and part of the hull removed for display purposes. It was stored inside until 1957, when it was moved outside and parts removed were covered with thin sheet metal. In 1992, it was moved to Patton Museum at US Army Armor School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, The museum had the tank completely disassembled and repainted. The museum curator had all the layers of paint, which were applied overtime, scrapped off and then matched the original colors for properrepainting in its original camouflage. An interesting thing came up when it was discovered that theGermans painted the inside of the tank – dark yellow instead cream / ivory color. It remains there on display indoors.
PzKpfw VI Tiger II Ausf. B at Panzermuseum Thun in Switzerland.
Today, a fine example of an accurately repainted and externally intact Königstiger is left as a monument at La Gleize, north of St. Vith in Belgium. In addition, Tiger IIs can be seen in museums in Saumur, France; Bovington and Shrivenham, England (the Tiger II in Bovington is the V2 prototype, while the "104" in Shrivenham was captured in August of 1944 at Magny en Vexinon and belonged to sSSPzAbt 501); Munster, Germany; the Patton Museum at Fort Knox in the USA; Thun, Switzerland; and Kubinka in Russia. The massive Tiger II, just as the Tiger I, will remain forever a symbol of formidable German Panzer formations of World War II.