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PzKpfw VI Tiger II

Last Official Designation: Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf.B
Tiger II, sPzAbt506,  Captured - 15 December 1944.
This Tiger II from the 2.Kompanie, schwere Panzer Abteilung 506 was captured by American troops and restored to running condition by Company B, 129th Ordnance Battalion by 15 December 1944 (Source: Jentz, Thomas L., Germany's Tiger Tanks - Tiger I and Tiger II: Combat Tactics, pag. 119. Schiffer Military History, 1997).


The Tiger I had hardly entered service before the German General Staff requested a bigger and better successor, superior in armor protection and firepower to anything the Soviets were likely to produce. Henschel tried to persuade the General Staff to accept an interim solution in the autumn of 1942, which consisted to install on the Tiger I a curved bow plate, but this solution was rejected.

The German point of view was that, at the rate of evolution the armored warfare was occurring, superiority could only be maintained by one year, at maximum. Things being as they were in early 1943, the Tiger I and the Panther would be enough, but in order to preserve the superiority in 1944, a new heavy tank would be necessary. On January 1943, Hitler decided that the new Tiger would have the longer Rheinmetall 88 mm Flak 41, and to have 150 mm of front armor and 80 mm of side armor - the inclination of the armor plates resulted that the new tank looked very similar to the PzKpfw. V Panther.

88 mm Panzerabwehrkanone 43 L/71, developed by Krupp
The 88 mm PaK 43 L/71, developed by Krupp, was also the main gun of the heavy Panzerjägers.

Once again, Porsche and Henschel were asked for designs which were to incorporate the latest sloped armor and the installation of the longer Rheinmetall 88 mm Flak 41. However, there was the sensitive question, for Krupp, of mounting an archrival's gun in their turret. Anyway, on 5 February 1943, Krupp was awarded the contract for the development of the 88 mm KwK 43 L/71, a new gun specifically designed to the successor of the Tiger I. The only similarity between this gun designed by Krupp and the Rheinmetall Flak 41 was that the same penetration values were achieved when the same shell was fired with the same initial muzzle velocity. All other characteristics of the two guns were different. Following the main specification to achieve equivalent armor penetration, Krupp completely redesigned the gun for mounting in a tank turret. As compared to the Flak 41 L/74, the KwK 43 L/71 was shorter with different rifling and had a muzzle brake to retard recoil. In addition it had shorter, fatter recoil cylinders to fit inside a turret, had an air blast system fitted to evacuate fumes from the gun directly after firing and chambered a shorter (but thicker) cartridge case for easier loading inside a turret.

The Tiger II.
Tiger II number 312, 3. Kompanie - schwere SS Panzer Abteilung 501, in the springtime of 1945. This Tiger took two hits on the 150 mm thick glacis plate.

Krupp Turrets and Parts Standardization with the Panther II

Porsche updated its Tiger I design and this time was so sure of winning the contract, that it ordered a first batch of 50 turrets from Krupp. Unfortunately, the Porsche ideas of electric transmission were once again rejected, as the supplies of copper were too small, and the contract went one again to Henschel. However, since 50 early-style turrets had already been made, they were fitted to the first units produced. The curved front plate created a serious shot trap which deflected incoming rounds down into the driver's compartment. The bulge for the cupola also was a weak area in the turret side armor. Krupp then modified the turret, and the new design eliminated those deficiencies, was simpler and offered better protection while providing room for 6 more rounds of ammunition. The new Serien-Turm (series production turret) designed for the Tiger II had a 180 mm thick front plate, 80 mm sidewalls, and 40 mm roof. The gun mantlet was specifically designed to be immune to attack or being jammed. This new design did not create high explosive blast pockets and prevented deflections of projectiles down to the deck. The early-style turret is commonly referred to as the 'Porsche Turret'; and the series production turret, as the 'Henschel turret'. However, both turrets were designed and built by Krupp, and this classification leads to misunderstandings. It is best to call the fist 50 turrets "early-production turrets", and from the 51st on as "series production turrets" (Serien-Turm).

The 'Porsche' Turret The Henschel Serien-Turm
The early-style turret. The series production turret.

In February 1943, WaPrüf 6/III drew a requirement for an extensive unification of the specification in order to standardize as many parts as possible with the Panther II, which never went into production, and the subsequent delays caused the production to never reach the planned levels until December 1943. The PzKpfw. Tiger Ausf. B was a massive and formidable vehicle, designed to dominate the battlefield. The new hull design for the VK 45.03 (H) consisted of sloping plates for increased protection. The front glacis plate was 150 mm at 50°, front nose plate 100 mm at 50°, superstructure side plates 80 mm at 0° vertical, tail plate 80 mm at 30°, deck plates 40 mm at 90° horizontal, and rear belly plate 25 mm horizontal. Forty-eight rounds of ammunition for the main gun were stored horizontally in panniers on each side of the hull. The rounds were stowed in three groups, on both sides. Each group was separated by sliding metal panels. An additional ten to 16 rounds were stacked loose on the turret floor.

Tiger II Prototype
Prototype Chassis No. V1 with the early turret produced for the Porsche prototype.

The whole running gear was redesigned. For the first time, a staggered running gear with nine pairs of rubber-spring road wheels, of 800 mm diameter, was used on each side. These road wheels consisted of two strong sheet steel rims attached to a wheel disk of steel between two rubber rings under very high pressure. The drive sprocket was similar to that of the Tiger I, but were built more strongly. The road wheel cranks were single drop-forged pieces and much strenghtened. The crank arrangement resembled those of the Panther without rubber, but with layered conical springs. Compared to the Tiger I, the torsion bars were strenghtened and fitted with toothed heads. They no longer differed in diameter, so they could not be fine tuned. The combat tracks, which weighed 3.2 tons each, were 800 mm wide thus providing an acceptable ground pressure (when the tracks sunk to 20 cm) of 0.76 kilograms per square centimeter. Once again, loading tracks, 600 mm wide, had to be used for rail transportation. The combat weight of the vehicle was 68.5 metric tons.

PzKpfw. VI Tiger II Ausf.B s.SS.PzAbt.501, France, 1944
Tiger II, number 104, of schwere SS PzAbt. 501 abandoned by it's crew in France, 1944.

The Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B powerplant was the Maybach HL 230 P 30, a 12-cylinder engine also used on the Panther, producing 700 HP at 3,000 rpm, through an 8-speed Maybach transmission, designed to provide a maximum speed of 41.5 km/h. The OLVAR gearbox required a shifting process that was just like that of a manual transmission with power interruption. Its trouble free operation depended largely on the ability and calm (even in combat) of the driver. However, the easily shifted OLVAR gearbox and easily steered two-radius steering gear definitely improved the driver's job.

Official Designations

Thomas L. Jentz, in "Germany's Tiger Tanks: Vol.2 - VK 45.02 to Tiger II" (Schiffer, 1998), presents a list of official names given to the Tiger II, ordered by date, from 1942 to 1943:

Wa Prüf 6 Designations:
VK 45.02 (H) 15 April 1942
Tiger II for the VK 45.02 (H) 18 September 1942
Tiger III (VK 45.03) 12 October 1942
Henschel Tiger B 08 January 1943
Tiger II for the VK 45.03 03 March 1943
Pz.Kpfw. Tiger Ausf B 02 June 1943
Pz.Bef.Wg.Tiger Ausf.B 02 June 1943

The official designations were Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B and Panzerbefehlswagen Tiger Ausf. B (for the command version), which originated in a WaPrüf 6 (Waffenprüfamter 6 - Weapons Development and Testing Department - "6" being the number that corresponded to "Tanks and other Vehicles") order dated 2 June 1943. The official designation was frequently shortened to Tiger B. The full titles Panzerkampfwagen Tiger (8,8 cm Kw.K. L/71) (Sd.Kfz. 182), and Panzerbefehlswagen Tiger (Sd.Kfz. 267 und 268) Ausf. B were specified by the Inspecteur der Panzertruppen (In6) for use in training and maintenance manuals, as well as in the K.St.N. (organization and equipment tables). The suggestive name Königstiger (King Tiger) was an unofficial designation first used by the Reichsministerium für Bewaffnung und Munition, in 11 December 1944. This was never an officially accepted designation during the war by either the Panzertruppen or the Waffenamt.

Armor Protection
The King Tiger, abandoned in a German town
Tiger II, s.PzAbt. 507, abandoned - March 1945.  Note the massive, 150 mm inclined at 50° glacis plate.

The frontal armor of the Tiger II provided the best protection possible - the front turret was 180 mm inclined at 10 degrees from the vertical, compounded with a special designed mantlet, which was immune to penetration and being jammed. The glacis plate was a 150 mm thick plate inclined at 50 degrees from vertical, so the actual protection given by the armor plate inclination was more than 230 mm. There is no proof that this frontal armor was ever penetrated in combat, even though the British 17 Pounder, when using a special APDS ammunition, could theoretically penetrate the Tiger II front armor (front turret and lower front hull, only - the 17 Pounder could not penetrate the Tiger II glacis plate), but those APDS rounds were terribly inaccurate and had a tendency of ricochet off inclined armor such as was the lower front hull (100 mm inclined at 50 degrees from the vertical) of the Tiger II. Even the side and rear armor protection was sufficient to eliminate any serious threat from the American 75 mm or the Russian 76 mm tanks guns. The hull was welded, as was that of the Tiger I, but the armor was better sloped, using the experience of the T-34. Hull layout was similar to that of the Panther, and the large turret was roomy although the gun came right back to the rear wall and made a complete partition longitudinally. The thickness and angles of the armor protection are shown in the Table below :

Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf.B Armor
(slope in degrees from the vertical)
Gun mantlet: 150 mm @ 13°
Front: 110 mm @ 10°
After 51st Turret: 180 mm @ 10°
Side: 80 mm @ 21°
Rear: 80 mm @ 20°
Roof: 25/40/25 mm @ 50°
After 51st Turret: 40 mm
Hull and Superstructure  
Driver's Front Plate (Glacis): 150 mm @ 50°
Lower Hull Front: 100 mm @ 50°
Side: 80 mm @ 25°
Rear: 80 mm @ 30°
Roof: 40 mm
Belly; Forward: 40 mm
Belly, Aft: 25 mm
Source: JENTZ, Thomas L.; Germany's Tiger Tanks - VK 45.02 to Tiger II
ISBN 0-7643-0224-8
Armor Scheme - Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf.B (slope in degrees from the horizontal)
Tiger II - Armor Scheme
Source: SPIELBERGER, Walther J., DOYLE, Hilary L., Tigers I and II and their Variants. ISBN: 978-0-7643-2780-3

Koenigstiger and M4 Sherman.
A Tiger II from s-SS-PzAbt.503, captured by American troops during the Battle of the Bulge. An interesting size-comparison with a 76 mm Sherman, parked behind the Tiger.

Fried Krupp A.G. was the primary fabricator of armor components for the Tiger II. Two additional steel firms, DHHV and Skoda, also fabricated armor hulls and armor turret bodies for the Tiger II (Source: JENTZ, Thomas L.; Germany's Tiger Tanks - VK 45.02 to Tiger II; ISBN 0-7643-0224-8).

Early model Tiger II (with Porsche turret), during firing tests with the new KwK 43 L/71
A Tiger II Prototype , during firing tests with the new 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71 gun.

Penetration Tables for the 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71.

The long and powerful 88 mm KwK 43 L/71 gun could outrange and outshoot the main armament of nearly all Allied tanks, and this allowed the Tiger II to stand off and engage targets as it choose. Besides that, the 88 mm KwK 43 L/71 was a very accurate gun, being capable of first round hits at well over 1000 meters. Given its high muzzle velocity, the barrel wear was a difficulty with this gun, but this was solved by building the barrel in two sections, so it was possible to change the faster wearing part easily.
The tables below represent the penetration capability of penetrating armor at an angle of 30 degrees from the vertical, and the probability of hitting a target representing the front of a tank.

88 mm KwK 43 L/71 Penetration Data:
  PzGr. 39/43
PzGr. 40/43
Gr. 39/3 HL
Shell Weight: 10.2 Kgs 7.3 Kgs 7.65 Kgs
Initial velocity: 1000 m/sec. 1030 m/sec. 600 m/sec.
100 m 202 mm 238 mm 90 mm
500 m 185 mm 217 mm 90 mm
1000 m 165 mm 193 mm 90 mm
1500 m 148 mm 171 mm 90 mm
2000 m 132 mm 153 mm 90 mm
Source: JENTZ, Thomas L.; Kingtiger Heavy Tank: 1942 - 1945; ISBN 185532 282 X

During World War II, the Armor Piercing (AP) round relied on its own weight to penetrate the enemy's armor. The higher the muzzle velocity, the more penetration any kind of AP round would have, all other variables remaining constant. The Armor Piercing Capped, Ballistic Capped (APCBC) round relied not only on its own weight to penetrate the enemy's armor, but was also filled with high explosive that caused great internal damage. The Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (APCR) round was made with a tungsten core. For flight performance effects and to aid the shot from shattering against armor plating, the APCR round was surrounded by a ballistic cap. The HEAT round, which was based on the hollow charge principle, used a directed explosion, rather than mass or weight, to penetrate armor. The explosion is channeled forward into a stream, which cuts through armor, melting it along the way and including it in the stream.

The designation 88 mm KwK 43 L/71 means that the diameter of the bore (caliber) of this gun is 88 mm; this is a Tank Gun (Kampfwagenkanone); that the year the development of this gun was finalized was 1943; and that the length of the gun equals 71 times the diameter of the bore (caliber) of the same gun. This was the main gun installed on the Tiger II. Of the total ammunition load of 86 rounds (80 for the Tiger II with "early-style" turrets), the recommended ratio was 50% Pzgr.39/43 (APCBC) and 50% Sprgr. (high-explosive shells). The Gr 39/3 HL (HEAT) were rarely used. When available, but very rarely due to a severe shortage, a few Pzgr.40/43 (APCR) rounds were carried for use against the heaviest armored Russian tanks and tank destroyers.

Koenigstigers at the firing range
Tiger II Ausf. B's of Panzer Ersatz und Ausbildungs Abt. 500 on the firing range.

Accuracy of the 88 mm KwK 43 L/71:
Ammunition Range:
100 m
500 m
1000 m
1500 m
2000 m
2500 m
3000 m
3500 m
4000 m
PzGr. 39/43 Practice %
  Combat %
PzGr. 40/43 Practice %
  Combat %
Source: JENTZ, Thomas L.; Kingtiger Heavy Tank: 1942 - 1945; ISBN 185532 282 X

The sights for most of the Tigers II that actually saw combat was the articulated, monocular Turmzielfernrohr 9d mounted parallel and on the same axis as the main gun. The gunner could select two magnifications, 2.5x and 5x. The lower magnification provided a wider field of view for target identification. The higher magnification assisted in precise aiming at long ranges. Two adjustable range scales allowed the gunner to register the exact range to the target. The range scale for the Pzgr.39/43 was graduated at 100 m intervals out to a range of 4000 m and the second range scale for the Sprgr.43 was graduated out to a range of 6000 m.

Tiger II abandoned in Normandy, 1944 Fitting the armor mudgurads on a Tiger II
Most early Tiger II were destroyed in the retreat from Normandy during the Summer of 1944. After completing the camouflage, the crew fit the armored mudguards.

Numerous statements have been made that the Tiger II was too heavy, too big, too slow, "a casemate", etc. One is left with the impression that it was lucky to move at all. These banal generalities, stated as incontrovertible facts, are never substantiated by actual specifications, test reports or after-action accounts from the units that used the Tiger II. In spite of these frequently repeated remarks, the capability of the Tiger II to negotiate obstacles and cross terrain was equivalent to or better than most German and allied tanks.

Performance Characteristics Compared: Tiger II and Panther
Tank Pz.Kpfw.Tiger Ausf.B Pz.Kpfw. Panther
Maximum speed 41.5 Km/h 45.7 km/h
Average sustained road speed 38 km/h 30-35 km/h
Average cross country speed 15-20 km/h 20 km/h
Radius of action, road 170 km 200 km
Radius of action, cross-country 120 km 100 km
Smallest turning radius 2.08 m 4.7 m
Maximum turning radius 114 m 79 m
Trench crossing 2.5 m 2.45 m
Fording 1.60 m 1.90 m
Step climbing 0.85 m 0.90 m
Gradient climbing 35 degrees 35 degrees
Ground clearance 0.5 m 0.58 m
Ground pressure 1.03 kg/cm2 0.88 kg/cm2
Power to weight ratio 10.7 metric hp/ton 15.5 metric hp/ton

The Tiger II initially experienced numerous automotive problems which required a continuous series of minor modifications to correct. These problems can be traced to two main causes: leaking seals and gaskets and an over taxed drive train originally designed for a 40 metric ton vehicle. The problem of keeping a Tiger II in running condition was compounded by a shortage of skilled drivers many of whom may have never experienced driving any vehicle prior to entering the service. In addition they were provided only limited driver's training, and then usually on a different type of panzer, and received their own Tiger II usually within a few days before being shipped to the front. But, with mature drivers, taking required maintenance halts, and modification of key automotive components, the Tiger II could be maintained in a satisfactory operational condition. Status reports from the Western Front, dated March 1945, showed that the percentage of Tigers operational at the Front was about equal to the PzKpfw IV and as good as or better than the Panther.

Percentage Operational At The Front:
Pz IV Panther Tiger Pz IV Panther Tiger
31 May44 84 77 79 88 82 87
15 Sep44 65 72 70 80 74 98
30 Sep44 65 60 81 50 57 67
31 Oct44 52 53 54 74 85 88
15 Nov44 72 66 61 78 71 81
30 Nov44 78 67 72 76 71 45
15 Dec44 79 69 79 78 71 64
30 Dec44 72 61 80 63 53 50
15 Jan45 71 60 73 56 45 58
15 Mar45 54 49 53 44 32 36
Overall 68 62 70 71 65 65

Tiger II turrets at Henschel's Plants, 1945
Those five completed turrets, ready to be mounted on Tiger II chassis, were still at Henschel when occupied by American forces in late March 1945.

Following an initial order for Three prototype chassis, an initial production series of 176 Tiger II was ordered in October 1942. Following cancellation of the Porsche Tigers in November 1942, the contract (with Henschel) was quickly expanded by an additional 350. Later extensions to the contracts increased the total order to over 1500. In accordance with the original production plans from October 1942, the first Tiger II was to be completed in September 1943. The number produced each month was to be expanded to reach a target of 50 per month in May 1944. This production schedule satisfied the Inpekteur der Panzertruppen who wanted 100 Tiger II available for a spring offensive in 1944. Due to delays, the first prototype V1 was accepted by Waffenamt inspector in November 1943. Two further prototypes, V2 and V3, and the first three production series Tiger II were accepted in January 1944. The production run continued through March 1945 for a total of three prototypes and 489 production series Tiger II produced by Henschel.

Only one model was built, and despite the heavy Allied bombing, Henschel always had at least 60 vehicles being assembled on its tank assembly line floors at any time. At the peak it was taking only 14 days to complete a Tiger II. Severe fuel shortages and heavy Allied bombing forced the factory to use bottled gas for testing, as all available fuel were supplied for operations.

The Tiger II and Entfernungsmesser (Range Finder) Development
Tiger II with the rangrfinder
The Tiger II with the Entfernungsmesser (range finder).

The war in North Africa and in the large plains of Russia had shown that range measurement in wide areas such as the desert or the Russian steppes would be most useful, as guessing the range could be misleading. When the tank halts before firing and the range to the target is under 1000 meters, the elevation of a high velocity gun such as the 88mm KwK 43 L/71 (whose muzzle velocity was equal or more than 1,000 m/s) is not affected much by range, and range measurements can be dispensed with. The great advantage of using a range finder lies in the possibility of opening fire at longer ranges. Without the range finder, precious time and ammunition were lost when the elevation of the gun must be corrected by observing the effect of fire.

The Tiger II's rangefinder
Front view of the Tiger II with the rangefinder (left), and a diagram of the Entfernungsmesser (right).

As the tank commander was preoccupied with other tasks, the gunner would take charge of the range finder. After locating the target with the periscope and aligning the target in the sight, the gunner operates the range finder, reads the range, and adjusts the range scale to the correct range which provides the additional elevation associated with the range. The range scale was seen at the bottom of the field of the right eyepiece. It was graduated in meters from 550 to 20,000 and marked as follows:

Ranges: Graduators: Numbered every:
550 - 600 meters 5 meters 10 meters
600 - 900 10 20
900 - 1200 10 50
1200 - 1500 20 100
1500 - 2000 50 100
2000 - 3000 100 200
3000 - 4000 200 1000
4000 - 20000 500 10000
Source: JENTZ, Thomas L.; Germany's TIGER Tanks - Tiger I and II: Combat Tactics; ISBN 0-7643-0225-6

On 28 February 1945, the armor manufacturers were asked when turrets modified to mount the Entfernungsmesser (range finders) would be produced . It was stated that they should strive to complete their first turret by 31 March and Krupp planned to start by mid July 1945. Therefore, the effort was initiated too late to complete any Tigers II with range finders, before the factory in Kassel fell into the hands of Allied troops (JENTZ, Thomas L.; Germany's TIGER Tanks - Tiger I and II: Combat Tactics; op. cit.).

Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II Specifications
Tiger II Drawing
Weight: 68000 kg
Crew: 5 men
Engine: Maybach HL 230 P 30 / 12-cylinder / 700 hp
Speed: Road: 35-38 km/h; Cross-Country: 17 km/h
Range: Road: 170-120 km; Cross-Country: 80 km
Fuel Capacity: 860 litres
Length: 7.26 m (w/o the gun); 10.28 m (with the gun)
Width: 3.65 m (w/o aprons); 3.75 m (with aprons)
Height: 3.09 m
Armament: 88 mm KwK 43 L/71 and 3 x 7.92 mm MG 34/42; (1 x MG - hull); (1 x MG - coaxial); (1 x MG - cupola)
Ammo: 88 mm - 80 (early-style turret) / 86 (Serien-Turm) rounds; 7.92 mm - 5850 rounds
Armor: 40 mm(Top); 80 mm(Side and Rear); 150-180 mm(Front)

Bibliographical References
  1. Germany's Tiger Tanks: Vol. 2 - VK 45.02 to Tiger II ; Thomas L. Jentz & Hilary L. Doyle, ISBN0-7643-0224-8
  2. Germany's Tiger Tanks - Tiger I & II: Combat Tactics ; Thomas L Jentz; ISBN 0-7643-0225-6
  3. An Illustrated Guide to World War II Tanks and Fighting Vehicles ; Salamander Books Ltd. ISBN 0-86101-083-3
  4. King Tiger Heavy Tank 1942-1945 ; Thomas L Jentz, Hilary Doyle and Peter Sarson; ISBN 185532 282 X
  5. TIGER in action - Armor Number 27; Squadron/Signal Publications; ISBN 0-89747-230-6
  6. The TIGER Tank; Roger Ford; Motorbooks International Publishers and Wholesalers; ISBN 0-7603-0524-2
  7. The King Tiger Tank; Horst Scheibert; Schiffer Publishing; ISBN 0-88740-185-6
  8. The "King Tiger" Vol. II - Development - Units - Operations; Wolfgang Schneider; Schiffer Publishing; ISBN 0-88740-287-9
  9. Germany's Panther Tank - The Quest for Combat Supremacy, Thomas L Jentz., 1995, Schiffer Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-88740-812-5
  10. Tigers I and II and their Variants, Walther J. Spielberger and Hilary L.Doyle. ISBN 978-0-7643-2780-3
  11. Tiger Battalions in World War II; George Forty; Zenith Press; ISBN-13: 978-0-7603-3049-4

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary L. Doyle Web Site:
Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary L. Doyle Website!
Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary L. Doyle Web Site.

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