Tiger tanks are some of the most iconic vehicles of World War II and a powerful tool of the Nazis (or those who captured them).
The Tiger entered production in August 1942 and represented a radical departure from previous German tank designs. Heavily armored, bearing a powerful 88mm cannon, and powered by a powerful Maybach HL 210 P45 650 HP (HL 230 P45 700 HP from the 251st produced) engine, it could dominate the battlefield and effectively counter enemy tanks. Its key shortcomings were the lack of sufficiently trained crews, especially as the war progressed, and the high costs of manufacture, resulting in just 1,347 units produced before production switched to its younger sibling, the Bengal Tiger, in 1944.
The legendary heavy tank of the Third Reich had a long development history. Its origins lie in the Waffenamt's 1935 request for a new tank capable of going against French Char 2C and Char B1 heavy tanks, with the various designs proposed by Henschel, Porsche, and Krupp coalescing into a 54 ton heavy tank bearing the 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 tank gun that entered production in August 1942. The immense weight of the Tiger, a result of the increase in armour ordered after the experiences of Fall Barbarossa and engagements with T-34 and KV-1 tanks, resulted in a design that pushed the limits of German engineering to the breaking point.
The Tiger proved to be a deadly adversary when properly maintained and manned by experienced crews. The combination of a powerful main gun, thick armor, and a powerful engine - Maybach HL 210 P45 650 HP (HL 230 P45 700 HP from the 251st produced) - made it a deadly predator, stalking the battlefields. Fortunately for the Allies and Soviets, the Tiger was prohibitively expensive to construct, with only 1 347 produced before production switched to its younger sibling, the Bengal Tiger, in 1944. . The last 54 Tigers produced in 1944 (before production switched to the Tiger B or Königstiger) were actually refurbished hulls mated to whatever functional turrets and components remained in stock.
The Tiger followed a rather conventional design and has a rather box-like structure instead of sloped armour as was introduced in the Panther. Less effective, the Tiger's armour nonetheless proved to be nigh impervious to most Allied anti-tank fire at the time. When first encountered in Tunisia, 1942, the heavy tank was virtually impervious to British 6-pdrs. This prompted the Allies to introduce more powerful anti-tank weaponry such as the 17-pdr and the 76mm. Its key shortcomings were the lack of sufficiently trained crews, especially as the war progressed, and the high costs of manufacture.
Tiger Ausf. B
The Tiger tank had been a formidable foe during the early years of the war, but the Allies were starting to catch up. Indeed, new Soviet tanks such as the ISU-152 and the T-34-85 were appearing on the Eastern front, while the British and the Americans were busy developing improved tank designs and upgunning existing variants. A new Tiger version was ordered in January 1943 that could mount the formidable KwK 43 88mm gun as well as sport more armour.
Henschel was the company which was responsible for manufacturing German vehicles and aircraft like, amongst others, the Panzer III and the Henschel Hs 129 ground attack aircraft. Vying with a rival company, Porsche, to produce a viable Tiger II design, the Henschel company won the contract to manufacture Tiger IIs in 1943 and indeed would be the sole manufacturer of Tiger IIs during the Second World War. The first fifty early turrets were (misleadingly) called Porsche turrets and contained flaws, the most severe of which was that it created a shot trap. Despite this, they were mounted onto the tank chassis and saw action. The improved Henschel turret eliminated the shot trap, and other improvements were introduced. The latter was to become the standard production model. Production figures remained low throughout 1944 and 1945, and only about 500 Königstigers were produced before the war ended.
The Tiger II design stressed German engineering to its breaking point. It was a complex tank to manufacture and maintain and was like most German heavy tanks underpowered and prone to breaking down. Many Tiger IIs were abandoned not through enemy action but due to mechanical failure. However, when it did arrive on the battlefield, it proved to be a formidable foe and a serious threat. There are no combat reports of its front armour ever being penetrated, though a 17-pdr using APDS ammunition could theoretically pierce the front of a Tiger II at close ranges of 500m. The heavy tank was deployed during the twilight years of Nazi Germany on the Western and the Eastern front.
VK 45.01, commonly referred to as the Porsche Tiger, was a design created by the Porsche company in 1942, in response to a request for a 45 ton heavy tank mounting the 8.8cm KwK 36 gun. Designed to counter superior Soviet tanks, the tank was an unorthodox design built around two gasoline engines, which drove electric generators supplying power to two electric motors that powered each track independently. Although it had no interleaved wheels while offering the same performance as Henschel's design, the Porsche tank was prone to breakdowns due to the underdevelopment of the technology, only used at a scale for submarines. It was also less maneuverable than its competitor and would require allocating limited copper resources away from U-Boot production. As a result, Porsche's design was rejected and the conventional Henschel design went into production in August 1942. One of Porsche's prototypes was later recycled and deployed as a command tank for Panzerjäger Abteilung 653 in April 1944, lost just a few months later, in July.
Porsche did not expect rejection. By the time Henschel's design prevailed, a hundred chassis were already produced. These were repurposed as basis for a heavy tank destroyer, mounting Krupp's new PaK 43 88mm anti-tank gun in a heavily armored casemate. The conversion took place between March and May of 1943, with Ferdinands, as they were called, deployed in combat during the Battle of Kursk, in July. The gun proved to be devastatingly effective against Soviet tanks and emplacements. However, the chassis was far less effective, suffering numerous mechanical failures while being difficult to recover thanks to the extreme weight that required five Bergepanzers to tow (a regular Tiger needed three). Surviving 50 vehicles were recalled and upgraded in January 1944, receiving a hull-mounted machine gun, a new commander's cupola, improved engine grates, and Zimmerit coatings.
The first eleven upgraded Ferdinands were sent to fight in Italy against the Allied landings at Anzio, with the remainder deplaoyed to Ukraine, as part of the aforementioned Panzerjäger Abteilung 653. From May onwards, they were renamed Elefant, with the original name edited out of official record and banned. The last of these heavyweights fought at Zossen during the fall of Berlin, long after their successors entered service.
- Bef. Tiger (P), the command tank based on the Porsche Tiger chassis.
- Elefant, the heavyweight tank destroyer.
Tiger I (Tiger Ausf. E)
The first Tiger design. Nearly three times as numerous as its younger cousin (and with little in common), the Tiger was used on all fronts of the war and several were captured by Germany's foes. The most famous of these is Tiger 131, captured in North Africa by Commonwealth forces, but it was used in a number of other roles.
- Tiger E (SD2): The basic variant.
- Tiger E Füh.: a platoon commander's tank
- Bef. Tiger (SD2): a battalion commander's tank
- Captured Tigers are used by the Soviet Union as T-6 Tigr.
- Tygrys is a single captured Tiger used by the Polish underground army. The Armia Krajowa has managed to secure a single Tiger on August 4, 1944. A column transporting wounded to the Okęcie airport was ambushed by an AK force and the escorting two Tiger E tanks were attacked with Panzerfausts. Although none of them was hit, the explosion knocked down a power transformer, causing it to crash down on the tank and immobilize it. The crew abandoned the vehicle, but failed to destroy it. The Tiger E was repaired and planned for use in the uprising, but the plans were cut short when a boy scout assigned to guard it disobeyed orders and took it for a joyride, eventually crashing it and ruining the gearbox. The tank was destroy several days later by remote mines: Goliaths.
Tiger II (Tiger Ausf. B)
There are two main models of Ausf. B or Königstiger, differing in the kind of turret they mount. These are conventionally referred to as the Porsche and Henschel turret. Neither designation is actually correct. Both turret designs came from one company, Krupp, with the conventional designations referring to the designs they were intended for: The failed VK 45.02(P) by Porsche and the successful Tiger II by Henschel. Turrets built for the Porsche tank were later mounted on the Henschel design, with the Serienturme (the so-called Henschel turret) being a modified version of the former for mass production. See here for an in-depth explanation.
The King Tiger is available to select German divisions in Normandy 44 and to the 21. Panzer in Steel Division II.
- Königstiger (P) (SD2): The P stands for the Henschel chassis with the so-called Porsche turret mounted. It was a less effective design as the curved front created a shot trap: an enemy shell fired at the lower turret would deflect into the crew compartment, with lethal results.
- Königstiger (P) Knispel is an ace Tiger II.
- The (H) designation stands for the version mounting the Henschel turret, which would go on to become the standard production model for the Tiger II. it featured some re-designs, and these improvements are reflected in the game by the Königstiger (H) (SD2).
The Sturmtiger was created for the German Army's requirement for a vehicle for urban combat with a large weapon to take out heavily defended buildings. This vehicle was created by combining the Tiger I chassis with a 38cm RW61 L/5.4 serving as the primary weapon. The 38cm RW61 L/5.4 was originally planed to be used by the Kriegsmarine as a coastal weapon firing depth charges at submarines.