Table of Contents
The “Königstiger” or “King Tiger” was the biggest and latest production tank of the German Wehrmacht. Even if it carried the name Tiger type VI ausf. B, or as some say Tiger II, it had much more resemblance with the Panther than the Tiger I.
As with the Panther the design was made during the war, and similar as the Panther it had sloped armour. The Königstiger carried the heaviest type of the 88mm gun, The KwK 43 L/71.
In January 1943 the order was given to develop a new Panzerkampfwagen with a turret large enough to mount the 8.8cm KwK43 L/71. This was not achieved by the Tiger I. The armour thickness at the front had to be 150mm, the side armour had to remain 80mm’s as with the Tiger I.
On 20 October 1943 a huge wooden mock-up was displayed. The Tiger II had two types of turret. One, produced by Porsche had a curved turret, it was chosen as gun mount for the new King Tiger. On December 6th, 1943 it was rejected due to its shot-trap. The curved turret captured the projectile and leads it between the turret and the hull.
After fifty King Tigers they adjusted the turret, and came with turret number two, the Henschel turret. This looks more like a Panther turret, with sloped sides.
As said before, the hull had a similar design as the Panther hill, with sloped sides to increase projection, the suspension consisted of 9 sets of interlacing road wheels sprung on torsion bars. The frontal armour of the Tiger II provided the best protection possible, the glacis plate is 150mm thick at an angle of 50 degrees, which is equivalent to 230mm thickness in a horizontal straight line. There is no known proof that the frontal armour of the King Tiger is ever penetrated in battle.
The English 17 pounder theoretically could penetrate the lower hull (100mm at 40 degrees) and the turret (180 mm at 10 degrees), using special armour piercing ammunition, but not the glacis plate. Even the side and rear armour was sufficient enough to eliminate any serious threat from the American 75mm and the Russian 76mm guns.
|Königstiger at La Gleize Belgium|
The Nashorn, a specialised Panzerkampfwagen IV, was the first to carry the KwK/PaK, the PaK 43/1.
The Pak43/2 (Panzer abwehr Kannone) was used in the Ferdinand and Elefant, panzerkampfwagen VI Porsche type. And the PaK43/3 & the PaK43/4 in the Jagdpanther.
All these tank destroyers have a fixed gun position for the PaK43.
The KampfWagenKannone with a length of 624.8cm (8.8cm times 71) was made in 1943. The King Tiger carries 86 rounds of ammo to the battlefield. The recommended ratio of round for the KsK43 L/71 was 50% armour piercing shells and 50% high explosive shells.
The firepower of the Königstiger was enormous, the long and very powerful 88mm KwK L/71 gun could outrange and outshoot the main armament of nearly all Allied tanks. Besides that, the 88mm KwK L/71 was extremely accurate, being capable of first hits at well over 1000 meters. The high velocity gun could penetrate 153mm of steel over a distance of 2000 meters.
The KwK43 L/71 was the most powerful antitank gun in the Second World War that was mounted in a turret. The anti tank gun version is known as the PAK 43. It could penetrate all armour, even that of the M26 Pershing and the IS2. The upgraded Sherman 76mm gun for example, could penetrate around 85mm of armour at 1000 meters, our King Tiger could shred 193mm of steel to pieces at the same distance.
Panzerkampfwagen VI on the battlefield
In February and May 1944 the first Tigers were assigned to training units. The first deliveries to combat units followed in June 1944, five months after the start of the production.
5 King Tigers were issued to the Fernhalle division, a remnant of the 13th Panzer Division, all other Tigers were issued to independent schwere panzer abteilungen (Heavy tank detachtements) of the army and the SS. The Königstiger eliminated his opponents with ease and saw action on both the western and eastern front.
|King Tiger with Henschel turret in Munster|
The Königstiger has its own variants, not as numerous as the Panzerkampfwagen IV, but still enough to mention some worthy vehicles. Besides the standard King Tiger there is a Panzerbefehlswagen as well, a fully operational King Tiger with extra radio equipment to command a tank company. These were produced as early as November 1944.
A Jagdtiger (Sd.Kfz. 186) was produced. The suspension was the same as the King Tiger, but the hull was lengthened with 35cm. It carried a box like superstructure, with a MG mount in it. The Jagdtiger is a tank destroyer with an amazing 12.8cm PaK44 L/55. They served in the Ardennes offensive and at the bridge of Remagen. 77 Jagdtigers were produced in the war.
Like the King Tiger, they were developed for the stretched planes n Russia, where the huge power guns could destroy enemies miles away. Unfortunately in the dense wooded area of the Ardennes they could not exploit their full potential.
A third variant was the Geschützwagen Tiger, a huge self propeld gun. The carriage could mount a 17cm, a 21cm mortar or a 30,5cm gun. Only one prototype, with the 71cm gun was made.
In total 567 King Tiger left the factories, 489 Königstiger, 77 Jagdtigers and 1 prototype self propelled gun.
|King Tiger with Henschel turret in Munster, inside view of the ammunition racks|
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.
On 28 February 1945, the armour manufacturers were asked to modify their turrets with the Entfernungsmesser (range finder). It was stated that they should strive to complete their first turret by 31 March and Krupp planned to start by mid July 1945. 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 troop.
|King Tiger in La Glaieze with small arms fire penetration and damage from a larger caliber|
Name: Panzerkampfwagen VI ausf B
Other designation: Königstiger, Tiger II, VK4503
Type: Heavy tank
Chassis numbers: 28000 – 280489
Number produced: 489
Production: From January 1944 to March 1945
Weight (tonnes): 68
Length (metres): 10.3
Width (metres): 3.76
Height (metres): 3.08
Engine: Maybach HL230P30 (same as Tiger I)
Gearbox: 8 forward, 4 revesre
Speed (km/h): 35
Range (km): 170
Armament: One 8.8cm KwK43 L/71
Two 7.92mm MG34
Traverse: 360° (hydraulic)
Elevation: -7.4° to +15°
Sights: TZF9b later TZF9d / KgZF2 on MG34
Ammunition: 72 Pzgr & Spgr
5850 Patr SmK
Henschel Turret front : 180/9° (Porsche Turret 60-110/round)
Superstructure front: 150/50°
Hull front: 100/50°
Gun mantlet front: 100/Saukopfblende
|King Tiger with Henschel turret in Munster|