The German PzKpfw VI King Tiger 2 Tank

Its official designation amongst the German Army was “The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II Ausf. B “Königstiger” (Sd.Kfz.182) / VK4503″. It was the most powerful tank of World War II and was impervious to everything the Allied mechanised forces could throw at it, but due to its late introduction in to the war and the lack of numbers of them, it was not able to turn the tide of Hitler’s war in Germany’s favour.

The German PzKpfw VI King Tiger 2 Tank Development

Germany’s superb tank designers started designing a new heavy tank, to replace the current heavy tank of the time, the Tiger I in late 1942 & early 1943. They had been given its specifications from Hitler himself, who wanted the new tank to carry an 88mm cannon, as used by the 88mm anti-aircraft gun that was very efficient as a tank killer. It had to have 150mm thickness in the frontal armour and 80mm thickness on the side armour.

The Russian T-34 armour design had been very successful. Up to this point tank armour had been vertical steel plates and as the thickness increased to withstand direct hits from bigger rounds, the tank’s weight increased. The Russians found that by slopping their armour, as on their T-34’s, that this increased the thickness of the steel, so 50mm slopped armour would be as effective as vertical 100mm armour, making the tank lighter and not compromising weight and performance. It also had the added bonus of rounds bouncing of it, as they could only penetrate a vertical surface. This process had not been picked up by the Germans’ earlier designs such as the Tiger I, which had all vertical and horizontal armour and surfaces, but the new Tiger II armour was to be thick as well as sloped, making it a very tough opponent to penetrate.

The successful Henschel and Porsche who had created previous German military vehicles were ordered to develop the new heavy battle tank. Porsche came up with two designs and a wooden mock up for each. Both were similar except for the location of the turret. Henschel’s design was being developed a lot faster than Porsche’s.
About 90 of the King Tigers were fitted with the Porsche turret, which differed from Henschel’s turret in that it had a curved turret front. This curve at the turret front was a shot trap, so the remaining King Tigers were fitted with Henschel’s turret, which had a vertical turret front.
The hull design was based on the successful 1941-designed medium Panther V tank, so that tank manufacturing could be standardized. The Tiger II looked totally different from its predecessor the Tiger I and more like a large Panther V. Hitler saw the wooden mock up of the new design in October 1943 in East Prussia and after three successful prototypes had been built, full production began in January 1944 of an order of 1500 new King Tigers.

The German PzKpfw VI King Tiger 2 Tank

The German PzKpfw VI King Tiger 2 Tank Mobility

A 12 cylinder Maybach HL 230 P30 engine, which produced 700hp, which was the same engine used in the Panther V, powered the King Tiger. It used a 8-speed Maybach OLVAR EG 40 12 16 B gearbox which had 8 forward and 4 reverse gears, allowing the King Tiger to travel at a top road speed of 35-38km/h and 17km/h cross country. Its range was a serious problem as it guzzled 500 litres per 100km, so had a total of seven fuel tanks, which carried 860 litres giving it a maximum range of 110-120km.

But what the King Tiger lacked in range and issues of fuel consumption, it made up in firepower. The King Tiger was equipped with a deadly KwK 43 L71, 88mm cannon. The shells it fired weighed 20kg alone, which did not give it a great rate of fire, but was not an issue, as it could take out an enemy tank at the range of 3500 meters, which no allied or Russian tank could boast.

The German PzKpfw VI King Tiger 2 Tank Layout

It had a five-man crew, which was the commander, gunner, loader, driver and radio operator/bow gunner. One of Germany’s strengths in their tanks was that each was fitted with a radio, allowing tanks to communicate with each other and coordinate their fire, compared with Russian crews who would use flags or simply follow the lead tank. The King Tiger was equipped with a FuG5 radio.

How to knock out a Tiger 2

The only way of taking out a King Tiger was a well-aimed shot to its side were the armour was 80mm thick. On paper, the British 17 Pounder Anti-Tank gun could theoretically take out a King Tiger at 1000m. However, there were no recorded photographs of the frontal 150mm armour ever being penetrated by allied fire. Russian T-34’s adopted the tactic of simply ramming and driving over the King Tigers as well as the Tiger I’s.

The German PzKpfw VI King Tiger 2 Tank Production

Production of the King Tiger ended in March 1945. Of the 1500 ordered, thanks to allied air raids hampering production, only 489 were produced.