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Tiger I

Tiger I is the common name for a German heavy tank that was developed in 1942 and used during World War II. The final official designation was the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf.E, often abbreviated to “Tiger”. Tiger I gave the Wehrmacht its first tank equipped with an 88mm cannon: 8.8 cm KwK 36 L / 56. During the war, Tiger I was used in battle on all German fronts. It was usually part of independent tank battalions, which proved to be very effective.

Although Tiger I was a very advanced design, it was at the same time very complicated. The tank used expensive materials and labor-intensive production methods. 1,347 were built between August 1942 and August 1944 (approximately 56 wagons per month). Tiger I had a tendency to suffer from certain types of faults on the caterpillar feet and had a limited radius of action due to high fuel consumption. It was expensive to maintain but generally mechanically reliable. The tank was also difficult to transport, and could be immobilized when mud, ice and snow froze between its overlapping and interwoven Schachtellaufwerk patterns in the wheels, in both before and after the Russian winter, which could often cause the wheels to get completely stuck. Production was phased out in 1944 in favor of Tiger II (Königstiger).

The tank was given its nickname “Tiger” by Ferdinand Porsche, and the Roman numeral was added after the later Tiger II began production. The first official designation was Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausführung H (‘Panzer VI version H’, abbreviated PzKpfw VI Ausf. H), with military equipment designation SdKfz 182, but the tank was renamed PzKpfw VI Ausf. E in March 1943, with military equipment designation SdKfz 181.

Today, only a handful of tanks remain in museums and exhibitions around the world. The Tank Museum’s “Tiger 131” is today the only Tiger restored to working condition. This particular tank has, among other things, appeared in the film Fury.

The development of Tiger I started in 1937 and the first carriage was delivered in July 1942. Between 1937 and 1941, Henschel and Ferdinand Porsche had designed concepts and prototypes of various medium-heavy and heavy tanks. On May 26, 1941, Hitler ordered both Porsche and Henschel to present their proposals for a heavy tank that would be ready in the summer of 1942. Krupp was given the responsibility of producing the main weapon and tower for both Porsche and Henschel’s proposals. The weapons program was named Tiger Program. Both Henschel and Porsche based their design on previous prototypes. The new 45-ton tank would be armed with an 88 mm KwK L / 56 (KampfwagenKanone, L / 56 means that the barrel is 56 calibers long = 4.928 m), a cannon based on the famous anti-aircraft gun 8.8 cm FlaK 36.

The development of Porsche’s proposal was much faster than Henschel’s carriage, as Porsche had already started a stand-alone project for a heavy tank in 1940. Henschel’s proposal was less advanced and reused components from previous projects. Henschel also decided that he wanted to test with both the 88 mm cannon and the smaller 7.5 cm KwK 42 L / 70 which was later used on the Panthern, but in the end it was decided to invest in the 88. On April 19, 1942, the two prototypes of their own machine traveled from a railway station to the test field at Rastenburg, with a number of stops for repairs. The prototypes were presented to Hitler the next day. In July, the prototypes underwent extensive tests at the tank school in Berka, Germany. The tests showed that the Porsche car’s petrol electric driveline did not measure up, while Henschel’s car worked excellently. In July, Henschel’s Tiger was approved and production started at Henschel und Sohn’s factory in Kassel.

Tiger I was armed with the powerful 88 mm cannon which was originally an air defense cannon, 88 mm FlaK 36 L / 56 which was developed by Krupp and Bofors in Sweden during the interwar period (development of air defense was not allowed in Germany after the First World War, so German development team for abroad). The cannon was suspended slightly to the right of the center line of the tower and was fired electrically. Direction of the tower was done hydraulically with handwheels for fine adjustment laterally and elevation. The tower could swing at 320 degrees in both directions.

The tiger had an MG34 mounted at the front of the chassis and an MG34 mounted coaxially with the cannon.

The tiger had room for 96 grenades (cartridges), normally divided into half armor-piercing projectiles and half explosive grenades against soft targets. Pzgr. 39 could penetrate 100 mm armor at a 30 degree angle at a distance of 1,000 meters while Pzgr. 40 with tungsten core easily penetrated 170 mm armor at short range and 110 mm at 2,000 meters.

The thick armor meant that the Tiger could in principle not be destroyed by most Allied tanks from the front. The American M4 Sherman with its 76 mm cannon and Russian T-34/76 must enter very close to be able to penetrate the Tiger’s armor and this was no easy task as the Tiger was reported to be able to knock out T-34 tanks at 3,900 meters. . The British rule of thumb for Tiger combat was that 3 Sherman tanks were needed to knock out a Tiger and then only one Sherman would survive. [Source needed] The strategy of the American tank units was that with 2 Sherman tanks one approached a Tiger tank obliquely from the front from each side where a third Sherman tank that often hid sneaked up behind the Tiger tank to knock this Tiger out of the engine or the side where the armor was thinner (80 mm respectively) than the front (100 mm). The weakness of the tiger was the engine that required constant maintenance.

Most Tigers were destroyed by their own crew after the belts were shot down or the engine broke down. The tigers, like all other tanks, were also vulnerable to air strikes as the armor on the upper side was relatively thin to save weight.

After September 1943, the Tigers were covered with Zimmerite as protection against magnetic mines (magnetic mines were never used by the Allies, however).

The tiger had a crew of five men: wagon commander, shooter, charger, radioman (who also manned the machine gun in the chassis) and driver. The wagon commander and the shooter sat to the left of the cannon while the charger sat to the right. The driver sat to the left with the radioman to his right.

The first 250 Tigers had a 12-cylinder 21-liter Maybach HL210 P45 petrol engine with 590 horsepower and this was hardly enough to propel the heavy Tiger into the terrain. A modified engine of 700 hp of 23.88 liters was developed and began to be used from May 1943. The sound of the Tiger’s engine starting was very distinct and well known to Allied soldiers.

The steering was handled with a steering wheel that controlled the hydraulic servo. Brake levers were used for steering in an emergency or to achieve a smaller turning radius than that provided by the hydraulic system.

The tiger had eight forward gears and the gearbox was hydraulically operated. The gearbox had a preset (you first chose which gear you wanted to shift to and then you stepped on a pedal and the gearbox shifted) and was semi-automatic.

The belt assemblies consisted of a front drive wheel with 20 teeth, a free-spinning wheel at the rear whose attachment point could be moved forwards or backwards to tension the belt, and 16-24 support wheels whose 8 axles were mounted on torsionally sprung pendulum arms. With a belt unit on each side, the trolley had a total of 16 support wheel axles with 24-32 support wheels. An interesting detail is that the pendulum arms of the support wheels pointed forwards on the left side and backwards on the right side. This unusual arrangement was used when a lack of space in the hull due to the large number of torsion springs (1 spring for each of the 16 wheel axles) made it impossible to mount the pendulum arms in the traditional “trailing” design on both sides of the carriage.

The number of support wheels per axle varied between 2 and 3 as the Tiger had two different belt sizes, conveyor belts that were 520 mm wide (2 wheels / axle) and combat belts that were 720 mm wide (3 wheels / axle). The construction with overlapping support wheels made clay, ice and stones easily stuck between the wheels, which could lead to the straps locking. [Source needed] On the other hand, the suspension gave a relatively quiet ride compared to other constructions. There were also problems with the straps ending up at an angle on the wheels and locking. [Source needed] the sprints, but instead had to blow them apart or more often cut the strips apart with cutting torches. Two Tigers were needed to tow a stationary comrade, while 3 were needed by the standard German lifeguard, the FAMO semi-trailer, to tow a Tiger.

Early tiger tanks could run under up to 4 meters of water for 2.5 hours with the help of a snorkel. This possibility was abolished after the first 500 wagons and later versions could only get through 1.3 meters of water, but this probably required significantly less preparation time.

The main variant
The tiger was originally designed as the PanzerKampfwagen VI H (8.8 cm) Ausf H1 – SdKfz 182 (SonderKraftFahrZeug, roughly special motor vehicle). The name was changed in 1943 to Ausf E – SdKfz 181 but was generally called Tiger, Tiger I and PzKpfw VI. Officially, only one version of the Tiger was produced, but modifications were constantly made while it was being produced. Based on the modifications, the Tiger can be divided into three models, early, middle and late. Late Tigers differed slightly from early ones and had common parts with the Panther and Tiger II. Many older Tigers were upgraded with new components.

The first Tiger tanks were ready in August 1942 and from July 1942 to August 1944 only 1355 Tigers were built. The reason why there were no more was sky-high production costs and complicated construction.

Prototypes from Henschel
VK.3001 (H)
VK.3601 (H)
VK.4501 (H) The prototype that eventually led on to the production model.
Prototypes from Porsche
VK.3001 (P)
VK.4501 (P) Has two petrol engines from Porsche which drive two electric motors via generator.
Further developments on the chassis

See also the main article Ferdinand
Armored anti-tank vehicle built on Porsche’s prototypes for the Tiger. Named after Ferdinand Porsche.

See also the main article Elephant
Modernized variant of Ferdinand, including with close protection and dome for the wagon manager.

With a 38cm SturmMörser RW61 L / 5.4 in a large box-shaped superstructure, its primary task was to provide support fire for infantry in battles in urban areas. A total of 18 injured Tigers were rebuilt into Storm Tigers.

Tigers were found in heavy tank companies and battalions in both the Wehrmacht (army) and the Waffen-SS. The first Tiger companies had 9 carriages per company, but this was increased to 14 in mid-1943. In the same year, Tiger battalions of 45 carriages were organized. The army units (sPzAbt, schwere Panzer Abteilung) were numbered from 501 to 510 and the Waffen-SS battalions were numbered 101 to 103. These joined the armored regiments of the LSSAH, Das Reich and Totenkopf divisions and eventually also Grossdeutschland. During the war, surviving Tigers were formed into other smaller units as needed

In Combat

The first time Tigers were deployed was on August 29, 1942 and September 21-22 outside Leningrad. The battle did not go well for the Tigers due to ill-suited terrain for heavy tanks and mechanical problems. In fact, it went so badly that the Russians managed to conquer a Tiger. After this, a doctrine was developed for the use of the new weapon and in the future things went better. In December 1942, Tigers were deployed near Tunis in North Africa.

I have inspected the battlefield at Fais Pass in Tunisia together with the force that recaptured the field. Inspection of our tanks that were destroyed shows that the 88 mm cannon struck through the tower at the front and continued out again at the rear. Few craters have been found, which should indicate that all hits have penetrated – Report from American Colonel in Tunisia 1943.
The tiger was able to destroy Sherman, T-34 and Churchill IV wagons at distances over 1,600 meters. By comparison, the T-34’s 76.2 mm cannon could not penetrate the Tiger’s armor frontally at any distance and must within 500 meters to be able to make an impact from the side. The T34 with 85 mm cannon could destroy a Tiger from the side at about 1,000 meters. The Soviet response to the Tiger, IS-2 with its 122 mm cannon could destroy the Tiger at over 1,000 meters from all directions. M4 Sherman’s 75 mm cannon could not penetrate the Tiger frontally and must within 500 meters to knock it out from the side. The British 17-pound cannon used in the Sherman Firefly could strike the Tiger at 1,500 meters, while the American 76 mm could not penetrate the front armor and must be within 1,000 meters to strike the side armor.

The shorter the distance between the cannon and the target, the higher the projectile’s impact ability. The Tiger’s 88 mm cannon had an extremely high penetration ability, which gave the Tiger the opportunity to strike out enemies at longer distances than they could fight the Tiger, which forced the Allies to try to flank Tiger units in order to have a chance at all.

The tiger had a top speed on the road of 38 km / h compared to IS-2’s 37 km / h. Both were significantly slower than the medium-heavy wagons (Panther, T-34). The earliest Tigers could get up to 45 km / h but they hung on speed limiters to spare the engines. The intricate design made the Tiger a problem child throughout the war. It was standard that the Tiger units had three quarters of strength while the remaining quarter stood in the workshop. It was rare for a Tiger unit to complete a road march without at least one car crashing. The high weight meant that many bridges did not hold and this led to a time-consuming procedure to prepare the trolley for wading. The thirst for fuel also meant that the Tiger had poor range. An interesting thing, however, is that the huge belts meant that it had lower ground pressure than most other tanks, such as the T-34.

These problems, however, were offset by the cannon and armor feared by all of Tiger’s opponents. When it came to tactical defense, the problems of movement were not so important and it usually required skilled allied officers and also that they sacrificed some chariots to be able to flank and knock out a Tiger. The British Army reckoned that 5 Shermans were needed to knock out a Tiger and then you would only have one Sherman left afterwards. [Source needed]

Some Tiger units came over the ratio 10: 1 in knocked out tanks, but due to the extremely limited supply of Tigers, this did not help the war for the Germans.

The tiger was deployed on all fronts before the end of the war and was feared by the Allies to such a mild degree that they began to call it tiger phobia. Morale on both sides was strongly influenced when the Tigers appeared, the Germans felt more secure while the Allied soldiers began to believe that all they saw were Tigers, especially later models of the Panzerkampfwagen IV.

The Tiger phobia was justified given the Tiger’s achievements in the hands of competent crews. For example, a lone Tiger under the command of SS-Oberscharführer Staudegger engaged a group of about 50 T-34s at Psyolknee near Kursk and knocked out 22 T-34s while the rest fled. On August 8, 1944, Willi Fey with his only Tiger knocked out all 15 British Shermans in an armored column. Michael Wittmann, a company commander from the Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101, defeated two dozen British Shermans and Cromwells in one day at the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Myth says he did it alone, but that was only at the beginning of the battle. English sources report that they knocked out 4 Tigers and 3 PzKpfW IV. The counterattack stopped the entire 7th Armored Division for two weeks.

There were more than 10 Tiger officers with over 100 defeated enemies, among these are Otto Carius with about 170 destroyed tanks, Johannes Bölter with 139+ destroyed tanks, Kurt Knispel with 168+ destroyed and Michael Wittmann with 138+ destroyed tanks and in addition to countless anti-tank guns and other vehicles.