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King tiger

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King tiger

For the aircraft also known as the Tiger II, see Northrop F-5.
Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B

Tiger II preserved at Bovington Tank Museum, UK
Type Heavy tank
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
In service 1944–1945
Wars World War II
Production history
Designer Henschel & Son / Krupp (turret)
Designed 1943
Manufacturer Henschel & Son / Krupp (turret)
Produced 1943–1945
Number built 492 [1]
Weight 68.5 tonnes (67.4 long tons; 75.5 short tons) (early turret)
69.8 tonnes (68.7 long tons; 76.9 short tons) (production turret)[2]
Length 7.38 metres (24 ft 3 in) (hull)
10.286 metres (33 ft 9 in) with gun forward[2]
Width 3.755 metres (12 ft 4 in)[2]
Height 3.09 metres (10 ft 2 in)[2]
Crew Five (commander, gunner, loader, radio operator, driver)

Armor 25–185 mm (1–7 in)[2]
8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71
"Porsche" turret: 80 rounds[4]
Production turret: 86 rounds[4]
7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34
5,850 rounds[2]
Engine V-12 Maybach HL 230 P30 gasoline
700 PS (690 hp, 515 kW) [3]
Power/weight 10 PS/tonne (8.97 hp/ton)
Transmission Maybach OLVAR EG 40 12 16 B (8 forward and 4 reverse)[3]
Suspension torsion-bar
Ground clearance 495 to 510 mm (1 ft 7.5 in to 1 ft 8.1 in)[2]
Fuel capacity 860 litres (190 imp gal)[2]
Road: 170 km (110 mi)[5]
Cross country: 120 km (75 mi)[5]
Speed Maximum, road: 41.5 km/h (25.8 mph)[5]
Sustained, road: 38 km/h (24 mph)[5]
Cross country: 15 to 20 km/h (9.3 to 12.4 mph)[5]

Tiger II is the common name of a German heavy tank of the Second World War. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B,[notes 1] often shortened to Tiger B.[6] The ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz. 182.[6] It is also known under the informal name Königstiger[6] (the German name for the "Bengal tiger"), often semi-literally translated as the King Tiger or Royal Tiger by Allied soldiers.[7]

The design followed the same concept as the Tiger I, but was intended to be even more formidable. The Tiger II combined the thick armor of the Tiger I with the sloped armor used on the Panther medium tank. The tank weighed almost seventy metric tons, was protected by 100 to 180 mm (3.9 to 7.1 in) of armor to the front,[8] and was armed with the long barreled 8.8 cm Kampfwagenkanone 43 L/71 gun.[notes 2] The chassis was also the basis for the Jagdtiger turretless tank destroyer.[9]

The Tiger II was issued to heavy tank battalions of the Army (Schwere Heerespanzerabteilung - abbreviated s.H.Pz.Abt) and the Waffen-SS (s.SS.Pz.Abt). It was first used in combat with s.H.Pz.Abt. 503 during the Normandy campaign on 11 July 1944;[10] on the Eastern Front the first unit to be outfitted with Tiger IIs was the s.H.Pz.Abt. 501 which by 1 September 1944 listed 25 Tiger IIs operational.[11]


Development of a heavy tank design had been initiated in 1937; the initial design contract was awarded to Henschel. Another contract followed in 1939, and was given to Porsche.[12] Both prototype series used the same turret design from Krupp; the main differences were in the hull, transmission, suspension and automotive features.[12]

The Henschel version used a conventional hull design with sloped armor resembling the layout of the Panther tank. It had a rear mounted engine and used nine steel-tired overlapping road wheels with internal springing per side, mounted on transverse torsion bars, in a similar manner to the original Tiger. To simplify maintenance, however, the wheels were overlapping rather than interleaved as in the Tiger I.[13]

The Porsche hull designs included a rear-mounted turret and a mid-mounted engine. The suspension was the same as on the Elefant tank destroyer. This had six road wheels per side mounted in paired bogies sprung with short longitudinal torsion bars that were integral to the wheel pair; this saved internal space and facilitated repairs. One Porsche version had a gasoline-electric drive, similar to a gasoline-electric hybrid but without a storage battery; two separate drive trains in parallel, one per side of the tank, each consisting of a hybrid drive train; gasoline engine – electric generator – electric motor – drive sprocket. This method of propulsion had been attempted before on the Tiger (P) (later Elefant prototypes) and in some US designs, but had never been put into production. The Porsche suspension were later used on a few of the later Jagdtiger tank hunters. Another proposal was to use hydraulic drives. Dr. Porsche's unorthodox designs gathered little favor.[14]


Henschel won the contract, and all Tiger IIs were produced by the firm.[15] Two turret designs were used in production vehicles. The initial design is often misleadingly called the "Porsche" turret due to the belief that it was designed by Porsche for their prototype; in fact it was the initial Krupp design for both prototypes. This turret had a rounded front and steeply sloped sides, with a difficult-to-manufacture curved bulge on the turret's left side to accommodate the commander's cupola. Fifty early turrets were mounted to Henschel's hull and used in action. The more common "production" turret, sometimes called the "Henschel" turret, was simplified with a significantly thicker flat face, no shot trap (created by the curved face of the initial-type turret), and less-steeply sloped sides, which prevented the need for a bulge for the commander's cupola.[16]

The turrets were designed to mount the 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71 gun. Combined with the Turmzielfernrohr 9d (German "turret telescopic sight") monocular sight by Leitz, which all but a few early Tiger IIs used, it was a very accurate and deadly weapon. During practice, the estimated probability of a first round hit on a 2 m (6 ft 7 in) high, 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) wide target only dropped below 100 percent at ranges beyond 1,000 m (0.62 mi), to 95–97 percent at 1,500 metres (0.93 mi) and 85–87 percent at 2,000 m (1.2 mi), depending on ammunition type. Recorded combat performance was lower, but still over 80 percent at 1,000 m, in the 60s at 1,500 m and the 40s at 2,000 m. Penetration of armored plate inclined at 30 degrees was 202 and 132 mm (8.0 and 5.2 in) at 100 and 2,000 m (0.062 and 1.243 mi) respectively for the Panzergranate 39/43 projectile (PzGr—armor-piercing shell), and 238 and 153 mm (9.4 and 6.0 in) for the PzGr. 40/43 projectile between the same ranges. The Sprenggranate 43 (SpGr) high-explosive round was available for soft targets, or the Hohlgranate or Hohlgeschoss 39 (HlGr—HEAT or High explosive anti-tank warhead) round, which had 90 mm (3.5 in) penetration at any range, could be used as a dual-purpose munition against soft or armored targets.[17]

Powered turret traverse was provided by the variable speed Boehringer-Sturm L4S hydraulic motor which was driven from the main engine by a secondary drive shaft. A high and a low speed setting was available to the gunner via a lever on his right.[18] The turret could be rotated 360 degrees in 60 seconds in low gear independent of engine rpm, in 19 seconds in high gear at idle engine speed, and within 10 seconds at the maximum allowable engine speed. The direction and speed of traverse was controlled by the gunner through pedals, or a control lever near his left arm.[18] The system was smooth and accurate enough to be used for final gun laying without the gunner needing to use his traverse hand wheel for fine adjustments — which was needed by most other tanks of the period. If power was lost, the turret could be slowly traversed by hand, assisted by the loader who had an additional wheel.[18][19]

Like all German tanks, it had a gasoline engine; in this case the same 700 PS (690 hp, 515 kW) V-12 Maybach HL 230 P30 which powered the much lighter Panther and Tiger I tanks. The Tiger II was under-powered, like many other heavy tanks of World War II, and consumed a lot of fuel, which was in short supply for the Germans. The transmission was the Maybach OLVAR EG 40 12 16 Model B, giving eight forward gears and four reverse, which drove the steering gear. This was the Henschel L 801, a double radius design which proved susceptible to failure. Transverse torsion bar suspension supported the hull on nine axles per side. Overlapped 800 mm (31 in) diameter road wheels with rubber cushions and steel tyres rode inside the tracks.[20]

Like the Tiger I, each tank was issued with two sets of tracks: a normal "battle track" and a narrower "transport" version used during rail movement. The transport tracks reduced the overall width of the load and could be used to drive the tank short distances on firm ground. The crew were expected to change to normal battle tracks as soon as the tank was unloaded. Ground pressure was 0.76 kg/cm2 (10.8 psi).[21]

Command variant

The command variant of the Tiger II was designated Panzerbefehlswagen Tiger Ausf. B. It had two versions, Sd.Kfz. 267 and Sd.Kfz. 268. These carried only 63 rounds of 8.8 cm ammunition to provide room to accommodate the extra radios and equipment,[6] and had additional armor on the engine compartment. The Sd.Kfz. 267 was to have used FuG 8 and FuG 5 radio sets, with the most notable external changes being a two metre long rod antenna mounted on the turret roof and a Sternantenna D ("Star antenna D"), mounted on an insulated base (the 104mm Antennenfuss Nr. 1) which was protected by a large armored cylinder. This equipment was located on the rear decking in a position originally used for deep-wading equipment.[6] The Sd.Kfz. 268 used FuG 7 and FuG 5 radios with a two metre rod antenna mounted on the turret roof and a 1.4 metre rod antenna mounted on the rear deck.[22]


The Tiger II was developed late in the war and built in relatively small numbers - 1,500 Tiger IIs were ordered, but production was severely disrupted by Allied bombing.[23] Among others, five raids between 22 September and 7 October 1944 destroyed 95 percent of the floor area of the Henschel plant. It is estimated that this caused the loss in production of some 657 Tiger IIs.[24] Only 492 units were produced: one in 1943, 379 in 1944, and 112 in 1945. Full production ran from mid-1944 to the end of the war.[1]

The Tiger II served as the basis for one production variant, the Jagdtiger casemate-style tank destroyer,[9] and a proposed Grille 17/21/30/42 self-propelled mount for heavy guns that never reached production.[25]

Proposed upgrades

A version of the Maybach HL230 engine with fuel injection and uprated drive train was designed that would have increased the power to about 1,000 PS (986 hp, 736 kW). Henschel proposed using it for future production and fitting it to existing Tiger IIs, but the deteriorating situation meant the upgrade never left the drawing board.[26] Other suggested improvements included a new main weapon (10.5 cm KwK L/68), stabilized sights, stabilized main gun, automatic ammunition feed, a Zeiss stereoscopic range finder, heated crew compartment, stowage for an additional 12 rounds, and an overpressure and air filtration system to protect against poison gas, but these either never got beyond the proposal stage or did not enter production before the war ended.[26]


  • Gearbox: Maybach OLVAR EG 40 12 16 B (eight forward and four reverse)[20]
  • Radio: FuG 5, Befehlswagen (command tank) version: FuG 8 (Sd.Kfz. 267), FuG 7 (Sd.Kfz. 268)[6]
  • Ammunition:
    • 8.8 cm – 80 rounds (Porsche turret),[4] 86 rounds (Henschel turret), usually 50% PzGr 39/43 and 50% SprGr 43, sometimes with a limited number of PzGr 40/43, or with the SprGr replaced by HlGr[4]
      PzGr 39/43 (Armor piercing, tungsten core) (longer range, lower penetration, explosive filler)[3][17]
      PzGr 40/43 (Armor piercing, tungsten core) (shorter range, higher penetration, inert)[3][17]
      SprGr 43 (High Explosive)[3]
      HlGr 39 (Hollow charge)[3]
    • 7.92mm – up to 5,850 rounds[2]
  • Gun Sight: Turmzielfernrohr 9b/1 (TZF 9b/1) binocular to May 1944, then the 9d (TZF 9d) monocular.[27]
Armor layout: (all angles from horizontal)[8]
Hull front (lower) 100 mm (3.9 in) at 40° (upper) 150 mm (5.9 in) at 40°
Hull side (lower) 80 mm (3.1 in) at 90° (upper) 80 mm (3.1 in) at 65°
Hull rear 80 mm (3.1 in) at 60°
Hull top 40 mm (1.6 in) at 0°
Hull bottom (front) 40 mm (1.6 in) at 90° (rear) 25 mm (0.98 in) at 90°
Turret front (production) 180 mm (7.1 in) at 80° ("Porsche") 60 to 110 mm (2.4 to 4.3 in), rounded
Turret side (production) 80 mm (3.1 in) at 69° ("Porsche") 80 mm (3.1 in) at 60°
Turret rear (production) 80 mm (3.1 in) at 70° ("Porsche") 80 mm (3.1 in) at 60°
Turret top (production) 44 mm (1.7 in) at 0–10° ("Porsche") 40 mm (1.6 in) at 0–12°

Operational history


Apart from research, training, and a five tank attachment to the Panzer Lehr, the Tiger II was only issued to heavy tank battalions (schwere Panzer Abteilung) of the German Army (Heer), or Waffen-SS.[28]

A standard battalion (Abteilung) comprised 45 tanks:[28]

Battalion command
3 x Tiger II
1st company command
2 x Tiger II
2nd company command
2 x Tiger II
3rd company command
2 x Tiger II
1st platoon
4 x Tiger II
2nd platoon
4 x Tiger II
3rd platoon
4 x Tiger II
1st platoon
4 x Tiger II
2nd platoon
4 x Tiger II
3rd platoon
4 x Tiger II
1st platoon
4 x Tiger II
2nd platoon
4 x Tiger II
3rd platoon
4 x Tiger II

Units which used the Tiger II were as follows:[29]

Heer: (s.H.Pz.Abt) 501, 502, 503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 511
SS: (s.SS.Pz.Abt) 501, 502, 503

Reliability and mobility

There were two main mechanical reasons for the initial unreliability of the Tiger II: leaking seals and gaskets, and the overburdened drivetrain, which was originally intended for a lighter vehicle.[30] The double radius steering gear was initially particularly prone to failure.[31] Lack of crew training could amplify this problem; drivers originally given only limited training on other tanks were often sent directly to operational units already on their way to the front.[30]

The Schwere Heeres Panzer Abteilung 501 (s.H.Pz.Abt. 501) arrived on the Eastern Front with only eight out of 45 tanks operational, these faults were mostly due to drivetrain failures. The first five Tiger IIs delivered to the Panzer Lehr Division broke down before they could be used in combat, and were destroyed to prevent capture.[32]

These reliability issues were largely solved over time with the continuous introduction of modified seals, gaskets and drive train components, as-well as improved driver training and sufficient maintenance. Statistics from 15 December 1944 show improved reliability: 72 percent of Panzer IVs, 80 percent of Tiger IIs and 61 percent of Panthers were operational by this period.[33] Any remaining reliability issues were mostly due to the lack of lubricants and spare parts suffered by German forces at this point.

Overall, the Tiger II was a formidable tank in spite of its problems. Its 8.8 cm armament could destroy any of the Allied armored fighting vehicles in service during the war far outside the effective ranges of their guns.[34] Also, notwithstanding its initial reliability problems, the Tiger II was remarkably agile for such a heavy vehicle. Contemporary German records and testing results indicate that its mobility was as good as or better than most German or Allied tanks.[35]

Combat history

The first combat use of the Tiger II was by the 1st Company of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion (s.H.Pz.Abt. 503) during the Battle of Normandy, opposing Operation Atlantic between Troarn and Demouville on 18 July 1944; losses were: two from combat, plus the company commander's tank which became irrecoverably trapped after falling into a bomb crater created during Operation Goodwood.[36]

On the Eastern Front, it was first used on 12 August 1944 by the 501st Heavy Panzer Battalion (s.H.Pz.Abt. 501) resisting the Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive. It attacked the Soviet bridgehead over the Vistula River near Baranów Sandomierski. On the road to Oględów, three Tiger IIs were destroyed in an ambush by a few T-34-85s.[37] Because these German tanks suffered ammunition explosions which caused many crew fatalities, main gun rounds were no longer allowed to be stowed within the turret, reducing capacity to 68.[38] Up to fourteen Tiger IIs of the 501st were lost in the area between 12 and 13 August to flanking ambushes by the Soviet T-34-85 and IS-2 tanks in inconvenient sandy terrain.[39]

On 15 October 1944 Tiger IIs of 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion played a crucial role during Operation Panzerfaust, supporting Otto Skorzeny's troops in taking the Hungarian capital of Budapest, which ensured that the country remained with the Axis until the end of the war. The 503rd then took part in the Battle of Debrecen. The 503rd remained in the Hungarian theater of operations for 166 days, during which it accounted for at least 121 Soviet tanks, 244 anti-tank guns and artillery pieces, five aircraft and a train. This was set against the loss of 25 Tiger IIs; ten were knocked out by Soviet troops and burned out, two were sent back to Vienna for a factory overhaul, while thirteen were blown up by their crews for various reasons, usually to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Kurt Knispel, the highest scoring tank ace of all time (162 enemy AFVs destroyed), also served with the 503rd, and was killed in action on 29 April 1945 in his Tiger II.[40]

The Tiger II was also present at the Ardennes Offensive of December 1944,[41] the Soviet Vistula–Oder[42] and East Prussian Offensives in January 1945,[43] the German Lake Balaton Offensive in Hungary in March 1945,[44] the Battle of the Seelow Heights in April 1945, and the Battle of Berlin at the end of the war.[45]

The 103rd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion (s.SS Pz.Abt. 503) claimed approximately 500 kills in the period from January to April 1945 on the Eastern Front for the loss of 45 Tiger IIs (most of which were abandoned and destroyed by their own crews after mechanical breakdowns or for lack of fuel).[46]

Gun and armor performance

The heavy armor and powerful long-range gun gave the Tiger II an advantage against all opposing Western Allied and Soviet tanks attempting to engage it from head on. This was especially true on the Western Front, where, until the arrival of the few M26 Pershings in 1945, neither the British nor US forces had brought heavy tanks into service. Only the British QF 17-pounder (76.2 mm) gun using armor-piercing discarding sabot shot was theoretically capable of penetrating the front of the Tiger II's turret and nose (lower front hull) at 1,100 and 1,200 yd (1,000 and 1,100 m) respectively.[28] As a result of its thick frontal armor, flanking maneuvers were most often used against the Tiger II to attempt a shot at the thinner side and rear armor, giving a tactical advantage to the Tiger II in most engagements.[48] Moreover, the main armament of the Tiger II was capable of knocking out any Allied tank frontally at ranges exceeding 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi), beyond the effective range of Allied tank guns.[34]

Soviet wartime testing

During August 1944, a number of Tiger II tanks were captured by the Soviets near Sandomierz and were soon moved to their testing grounds at Kubinka. The Soviet team gave the opinion that the tests revealed the tanks to be severely defective; the transmission and suspension broke down very often and the engine was prone to overheating and consequential failure. Additionally, the Soviet opinion was of deficiencies in the armor after firing many anti-tank rounds at the same target. Not only did they report that the metal was of shoddy quality (a problem not particular to the Tiger II—as the war progressed, the Germans found it harder and harder to obtain the alloying materials needed for high-quality steel), but the welding was also, despite "careful workmanship", extremely poor. As a result, even when shells did not penetrate the armor, there was often a large amount of spalling, and the armor plating could often crack at the welds when struck by multiple heavy shells, rendering the tank inoperable. They also claimed that their A-19 and BS-3 guns could penetrate the weld joint on the hull front at 500 m, and the turret front at 1,000-1,500 m.[39][49]

Surviving vehicles

The only working example is displayed at the Musée des Blindés, Saumur, France. It has the production turret and is accessible to the public. Other survivors include:

  • Bovington Tank Museum, Dorset, UK. Tiger II with early production turret is on display. This vehicle was the second soft steel prototype made and did not see active service. A production turret Tiger II is on loan from the Defence Academy, Shrivenham, UK. See below.
  • Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Shrivenham, UK. Tiger II (production turret). This vehicle was from s.SS Pz.Abt. 501, with hull number 280093, turret number 104, and has a comprehensive coating of Zimmerit.[50] It was claimed by Sergeant Roberts of A Squadron, 23rd Hussars, 11th Armoured Division in a Sherman tank near Beauvais, although it had already been disabled and abandoned by its crew following damage to its tracks and final drive.[51] There is a photograph showing this vehicle after its final action in a beet field with its turret turned 90°.[52] This vehicle is currently on display at Bovington Tank Museum.
  • The Wheatcroft Collection, Leicestershire, UK. A private collector, Kevin Wheatcroft is about to start a restoration/rebuild of a complete Tiger II. The project will include parts from many individual Tiger IIs, but many parts will be of new manufacture. Wheatcroft has stated that he has 70–80% of the original parts needed for a reconstruction and more parts are sourced continuously. Known and shown parts are a complete front glacis plate, 8.8 cm KwK 43 main armament, engine deck plates, approx. 1/3 hull (rear) in one part, a set of tracks, and approx. 2/3 of the left-side hull plate in two parts.[53] The aim of the project is a complete Tiger II in running order.
  • Mantes-la-Jolie, France. A more or less complete, but wrecked, Tiger II (production turret) is buried under regional road 913. Parts of the turret were recovered in a limited exploratory excavation in 2001. Further excavation is currently halted for financial reasons. There are plans to fully excavate and restore this Tiger II for a Vexin battle memorial.[54]
  • Kubinka Tank Museum, Russia. Tiger II (production turret) with turret number 002 (502) captured at Oględów by the Red Army. The museum is open to the public with restrictions as the vehicle is located on the military base.
  • December 44 Museum, La Gleize, Belgium. A cosmetically restored Tiger II (production turret) in an open air location belonging to the DECEMBER 44 MUSEUM Collections, accessible to the public. Hull number 280273, built in October 1944. Turret number 213 from s.SS Pz.Abt 501. This tank was abandoned in La Gleize on 24 December 1944. The front part, about 1/3, of the gun tube is restored with a Panther gun tube and muzzle brake. It also has restored mudguards. It is stripped of exterior and internal fittings and most of the torsion bars are broken, but it still has its gearbox and engine in place.
  • Deutsches Panzermuseum, Munster, Germany. Tiger II (production turret) displayed in interior location accessible to public on payment of entrance fee. Hull number 280101. Turret number 121 from s.SS.Pz.Abt 501.
  • Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor, Fort Knox, United States. Tiger II (production turret). Hull number 280243, built in September 1944. Turret number 332 from s.SS Pz.Abt. 501. Abandoned near Trois-Ponts, it was captured by the US Army on 24 December 1944. The left side was cut open for educational purposes at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in the late 1940s. This tank left Fort Knox on 14 December 2010, en route to the proposed US Army armor museum at Fort Benning, United States.
  • Schweizerisches Militärmuseum Full, Switzerland. This Tiger II (production turret) was previously displayed in the Thun Tank Museum, and is now on loan to the Schweizerisches Militärmuseum Full (September 2006). It will be completely restored to running condition in a long-term project. This tank was given to Switzerland by France after the war. Hull number 280215 from s.H.Pz.Abt 506.[55]

See also

Comparable tanks

  • IS-3 : approximate Soviet equivalent
  • M26 Pershing : approximate US equivalent




External links

  • Information about the Pz.Kpfw.Tiger Ausf.B "Tiger II" at Panzerworld
  • Tiger II at the Armorsite
  • Tiger II Ausf. B at Achtung Panzer!
  • AFV Database
  • La Gleize Museum's Tiger II
  • Tiger survivors — Photos of surviving Tiger tanks (Tiger I, Kingtiger, Jagdtiger and Sturmtiger)
  • Pantiger, A Redesigned Tiger (U.S. intelligence report, 1944)
  • Saumur Musée des Blindés picture gallery, Tiger II at the bottom
  • Tigers in the Ardennes Retrieved: 4 March 2010 - Photos and details of operational and captured Tiger IIs
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