Tiger I tank

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The Tiger I heavy tank (Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E), also known simply the Tiger tank, was a Panzer used by the German Army. It was one of the most famous and feared mobile armored vehicles deployed during World War II. It combined thick armor with a very powerful main gun, the 88 mm (8.8 cm) KwK 36 L/56.

Contents

History

After the early battles in Russia in 1941, the Germans discovered they needed a more powerful tank to counter to Soviet T-34 medium tank and KV-1 heavy tank. The German doctrine of deploying tanks swung into the favor of those that believed a small number of heavily armored tanks equipped with a powerful gun and correctly employed could act as a point guard or Schwerepunkt. These tanks could punch holes into weak points of enemy defense or act as holding defense at specific bridgeheads or high ground.

Design and production

Early in the developmental phase, three companies were chosen to design the heavy tank. Henschel and Porsche would compete for the hull and chassis design, while Krupp would be in charge of turret design. Placing the powerful FlaK 18/ 36 88 mm (8.8 cm) gun onto a heavily armored, fully enclosed tank became a high priority of the German High Command. Therefore, the 88 mm KwK 36 L/56 varient was made for the Tiger tank.

Constant mechanical and electric failure plagued the Porsche design. Henschel’s design with a conventional gas engine won out. Maybach supplied the engine. The Tiger I Ausf E first came off Henschel’s assembly line on April 1942. The large 88 mm KwK 36 L/56 gun was placed in a turret slightly forward of the centerline of the hull. It had secondary armament by way of two MG34 machine guns. Throughout its life the Tiger I underwent numerous refinements and modifications. There were changes in track design, the commander cupola, optics, road wheels, the exhaust and cooling systems. Beginning in late 1943 Tiger I tanks could be identified by the anti-magnetic Zimmerit paste on all vertical surfaces. The Tiger tank was expensive to build when compared to other tanks, such as, the M4 Sherman and Russian T-34 tanks. Further it required greater time-consuming man hours to produce. For every German Tiger I or King Tiger tank that was produced, 50 Shermans were made. The Tiger I also had mechanical problems due to its complex design.

Combat

Many commanders like Michael Wittmann and Otto Carius considered the Tiger I the best tank they ever commanded. From the start, the Tiger I tanks were separated into heavy or Schwere units. Commanders reported from both fronts that the enemy had no tank to match the firepower or survivability of the Tiger I. Using proper tactics, many enemy tanks were taken out at distances far beyond the enemy’s capability to defend itself. Approximately 1,350 Tiger I heavy tanks, including prototypes, were produced. In August 1944, production was ended in favor of the King Tiger Tank.

Panzer VI TIGER I mit 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 (Sd Kfz 181) Ausf E:

  • L: 620 cm
  • B: 373 cm
  • H: 286 cm
  • HP: 700
  • Wt.: 56.9 tons
  • Armor: 25 to 120 mm
  • Crew: 5
  • Speed: 24 mph

References

  • Chamberlain, Peter. Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two, (1999).
  • Jentz, Thomas. Panzertruppen 2: The Complete Guide to the Creation & Combat Employment of Germany's Tank Force 1943-1945, (1996).
  • Jentz, Thomas. Tiger 1 Heavy Tank 1942-45, (1993).
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