Sturmtiger / Sturmpanzer VI / Tiger-Mörser
38cm RW61 auf Sturm(panzer)mörser Tiger
During World War II, Germany produced a variety of specialized armored fight-ing vehicles, including Sturmpanzers-assault tanks. They were to be used as heavy infantry support vehicles in urban street warfare against buildings and in operations against heavily fortified defenses. The first was the Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 based on the Panzerkampfwagen III medium tank and armed with the 150mm sIG heavy infantry gun. All 24 built were produced in 1942 and saw service on the Eastern Front, including Stalingrad. The Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 was followed by the Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär, which was based on the Panzerkampfwagen IV medium tank and armed with a 150mm StuH (Sturmhaubitze) assault/atttack howitzer. The 306 units produced from 1943 to 1945 saw service on all fronts. The heaviest and the most powerful of all Sturmpanzers was the Sturmtiger, which entered service in late 1944. This was the result of work done on a similar project – Sturmpanzer Bär.
In the autumn of 1942, under the influence of heavy fighting in Stalingrad, the concept of a heavy infantry support vehicle designed for street fighting was revived. At the time, the only vehicle that fulfilled the role was the Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33, while Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär was still under development. The Sturmtiger was originally to be armed with a 210mm howitzer, but it was not available at the time. On August 5th, 1943, it was decided to mount a modified Tiger I heavy tank with a 380mm rocket launcher/mortar installed in a new superstructure. The new vehicle received the designation of 38cm RW61 auf Sturm(panzer)morser Tiger, but it was also known as Sturmtiger, Sturmpanzer VI and Tiger-Morser. The most common designation used was Sturmtiger-Assault Tiger. The new vehicle was similar in layout and role to the Brummbär, but it used a heavier chassis and mounted heavier armament. Alkett was ordered to produce the first prototype by early October 1943. On October 20th, 1943, the first prototype Sturmtiger was presented to Adolf Hitler at the training facilities at Arys (Orzysz) in East Prussia. This prototype was based on a mid-production Tiger I (rubber road wheels) and had the superstructure made of iron armor plates (soft steel). It was extensively tested and, in April 1944, production was approved. Retired or battle-damaged late-model Tiger Is (with steel-rimmed road wheels) were to be used instead of newly-built Tigers. From August to December 1944, Alkett completed only 18 Sturmtigers (chassis numbers 250043 to 251174). Ten were completed in September and eight in December of 1944. Original production plans from 1943 called for 10 vehicles per month, but this requirement was never met.
The new vehicle was based on the late model Tiger I. The hull and suspension were not altered, but the superstructure front was cut to accommodate the new boxy superstructure. Sturmtiger used the same engine as the Tiger-a 700hp 12-cylinder Maybach HL 230 P 45-with a Maybach OLVAR OG 401216A gearbox (8 forward and 4 reverse). The vehicle had a maximum range of 120km (74 miles) and could travel at a maximum speed of 37.5km/h (23 mph). Fuel consumption was 450 liters per 100km [1.8 US gallons per mile], while the fuel tank held 540 liters (140 US gal-lons). Compared to the regular Tiger tank, Sturmtiger was 6.28 meters long (Tiger 8.45 meters), 3.70 meters wide (Tiger 3.70 meters) and 2.85 meters high without crane and 3.46 meters with crane (Tiger 2.93 meters). At 65 tons, it was also eight tons heavier than the 57-ton Tiger. A heavily-armored superstructure, with 150mm frontal plate and 80mm side plates, was mounted in the front of the hull. Branden-burger Eisenwerke manufactured the new superstructure, which housed the armament and fighting compartment. Alkett converted the Tigers and completed assembly at its Berlin-Spandau plant.
The Sturmtiger was armed with a short-barreled 38cm Raketenwerfer 61 L/5.4, breech-loading rocket launcher/mortar. The RW 61 launcher fired short-range (4,600 to 6,000 meters, or 2,850 to 3,720 yards) high-explosive rocket-propelled projectiles. The launcher was fitted with a PaK Zielfernrohr 3 x 8 telescopic sight. Each projec-tile was almost 1.5m (five feet) long and weighed 345 to 351kg (759 to 772 pounds). Two types of ammunition were available-high-explosive Raketen Sprenggranate 4581 (with a 125kg, or 275 pound, explosive charge) and shaped-charge Raketen Hohladungsgranate 4582 for use against fortifications. The shaped-charge round could penetrate up 2.5m (8 feet) of reinforced concrete. The Sturmtiger main arma-ment was originally developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig in Dusseldorf from an anti-submarine depth charge launcher developed for the Kriegsmarine.
The main armament could be traversed by hand 10 degrees to the left and right and elevated from 0 to a maximum of 85 degrees. The launcher produced a recoil force of 30 to 40 tons. Perhaps the most unique feature of the launcher was the way rocket exhaust gasses were vented. These gasses could not be allowed to enter the fighting compartment, and the breech was not strong enough to resist them until the rocket left the barrel, so they were channeled through ventilation shafts around the barrel with numerous exit holes surrounding the muzzle. The result was a spectacular flash when the weapon was fired. Because of this, the Sturmtiger had to move after each shot because its position was revealed to the enemy. The launcher barrel was later fitted with a steel ring as a counterweight to improve elevation and aiming.
Sturmtiger could demolish any building or other target with a single shot, but it could carry only 14 rocket projectiles inside the superstructure. Twelve projectiles were stored in two stowage racks, one more in the launcher and another on the load-ing tray. Most vehicles carried only 13 rounds, without the one on the loading tray. The vehicle was equipped with a hand-operated lifting crane mounted on the right rear of the superstructure. This was used to load projectiles into the vehicle and needed the entire crew of five to operate. The crane could be dismantled and stored when not in use. A two-piece rectangular loading hatch was located in the superstruc-ture roof with guide rails below it and a winch to assist in moving rounds into and out of the storage racks and onto the loading tray. The rear section of the loading hatch was hinged at the rear and incorporated a 90mm NbK 39 Nahverteidigungswaffe, which was a breech-loading grenade launcher for close-in defense. This weapon had a 360-degree traverse and was intended for use in all late-war tanks, replacing exter-nally-mounted smoke dischargers and grenade launchers. The round hatch in the rear wall of the superstructure provided crew entry and exit.
The crew was composed of the commander, gunner, loader, driver and radio-operator. For local defense, a 7.92mm MG34 machine gun was mounted in a ball mount (Kugelblende) in the thick front superstructure plate. Six hundred rounds of 7.92mm ammunition were stored. Also, the side superstructure plates had pistol ports for local defense using a 9mm MP submachine gun carried inside (with 384 rounds of ammunition). Sturmtiger was equipped with a FuG5 10 watt transmitter/receiver and intercom for crew communication.
After tests, the prototype Sturmtiger was transported on August 12th, 1944, to Pruszkow, and the next day was moved to Warsaw to take part in the German attempt to contain the Polish Home Army’s Warsaw Uprising. This Sturmtiger saw action in the Starowka and Mokotow districts of Warsaw. One of the projectiles, which failed to explode, is still on display in Muzeum Wojska Polskiego (Museum of the Polish Armed Forces) in Warsaw. On August 28th, after a successful debut, it was brought back to the Alkett plant in Berlin-Spandau.
Sturmtigers equipped three Panzer Sturmmorser Kompanien (PzStuMrKp)-1000, 1001 and 1002-that served mainly on the Western Front. Each company was to be equipped with 14 Sturmtigers, but soon the number was reduced to four per company (two per platoon). On August 13th, 1944, PzStuMrKp 1000 was formed, followed PzStuMrKp 1001 in September and PzStuMrKp 1002 in October/November. The first action involving Sturmtigers was at Warsaw, when, starting on August 19th, 1944, two vehicles were used during the Warsaw Uprising. It was also probably the only action when Sturmtigers were used in their originally-intended role. PzStuMrKp 1000 and PzStuMrKp 1001, with a total of seven Sturmtigers, were sent to the West-ern Front to take part in the German offensive in the Ardennes. Following that, Sturmtigers saw combat mainly on the Western Front in the final defense of the Fatherland in 1945.
Only 18 Sturmtigers were produced, and they did not have any effect on the out-come of the war. In their limited use, Sturmtigers proved to be excellent defensive weapons but were slow and mechanically unreliable, and most were abandoned or destroyed by their crews after mechanical breakdown or because of fuel shortage. Their heavy armor protection forced the enemy to destroy them with heavy artillery bombardment or air attack. In January 1945, a single round from a PzStuMrKp 1001 Sturmtiger reportedly destroyed three American M-4 Sherman tanks located in a targeted village.
Today, a fully restored and operational Sturmtiger, captured by the US Army in early 1945, can be seen in the "Auto & Technik Museum" at Sinsheim, Germany. Another Sturmtiger, captured by the Red Army in the Elbe River area in 1945, can be seen at NIIBT Kubinka, outside Moscow, Russia.
Maybach HL 230 P 45 / 12-cylinder / 700hp
3.57m w/o side fenders
3.70m with side fenders
2.85m w/o the crane
3.46m with the crane
380mm Stu M RW61 L/5.4 & 7.92mm MG34
380mm – 13-14 rounds
Front Superstructure: 150/45
Front Hull: 100/25
Side Superstructure: 80/30
Side Hull: 60/0
Rear Superstructure: 80/0
Rear Hull: 80/9
Top / Bottom Superstructure: 40-25/90
Top / Bottom Hull: 25/90