Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger – Sd.Kfz. 181, With technical data on Ausf. E

Posted: , Last update: May 21 2017, in Tanks & Vehicles. No Comments

Panzerkampfwagen VI Sd.Kfz. 181 Tiger in Vimoutiers

Much better known as the mighty “Tiger”. The story of the Tiger started a little different than other panzers. During the Spanish civil war, Hitler declared he supported Franco, the leader of the Spanish Nationalists. Without intending to provoke an all-out war, he sent Luftwaffe, Panzer and Heer (army) forces and material as “volunteers” to aid Franco. This so called, “Condor Legion” fought in Spain from 1936 till 1939, and developed warfare tactics and tested their materials during this brutal war.

The Condor Legion discovered that the 8.8cm (eighty eight) FlaK gun was an excellent anti aircraft gun as well as a formidable tank killer. This capacity would be confirmed during the French campaign, and most spectacularly in the hands of Rommel’s Africa Korps in the desert of North Africa.


In 1937 the order was given to develop a panzerkampfwagen which would be 50% heavier than the panzerkampfwagen IV. It had to be a so called “breakthrough” tank to lead armoured assaults.
In 1938 the actual order was given to start producing a prototype and in 1941, between March and October Henschel produced 4 prototypes, without a turret.
By now the situation for Germany had changed a lot. The first versions of the panzerkampfwagen III and IV had been less successful than expected against the heavily armoured French and British tanks. This view was fully endorsed when the T34s and KV1s were encountered in Russia in 1941. The need was for a panzerkampfwagen that would carry the highly successful 88mm high velocity gun, and carry sufficient armour to defeat present day and future anti tank weapons.

Two firms came up with a prototype, Henschel and Porsche. Krupp was ordered to deliver the turret that would house the huge 88mm gun. After testing on 20 April 1942, the Henschel prototype was chosen for production. Based on manoeuverability, it was more conventional, cheaper and easier to produce.

Production of the Tiger started in July 1942 and it’s quality on the battlefield proved so successful that the Allies had to develop special tactics to deal with it.

Panzerkampfwagen VI Sd.Kfz. 181 Tiger in Vimoutiers


The Tiger on the battlefield

The first unit to be equipped with Tigers was the 502 Schwere Panzerabteilung, in the Leningrad area. Tiger-ace Otto Carius wrote down his memoirs while fighting in the 502nd, you can read his story in the book; “Tigers in the mud”.

The armour of the Tiger, although not sloped, was so strong that most Allied tanks could not penetrate it when the Tiger came on the battlefield. Sherman tankcrews firing at point blank range saw their shells bounce of the armour! The Tiger on the other hand could penetrate the hull of the Sherman at 3500m (3,5 km).

At distances of 800m up to a 1000m the Tiger could start an attack. While the first hits at this distance could penetrate through the frontal armour of a T34, it usually even destroyed the engine at the rear as a result. The 8.8cm KwK36 L/56 was a very accurate weapon that could hit with first rounds well over 1000m. The Tiger easily started the first round killing at 1200 meters. L/56 means that the length of the gun is 56 times the diameter of the shell  (56 times 8.8cm).

Besides the formidable battle performances the Tiger had one other huge force. It spread fear all over the Allied forces, more than any other weapon on the battlefield in WWII.
Because of its square design it looked a lot like the panzerkampfwagen IV, so the Allied army had a hard time discovering real Tigers. The fear of this tank was called “Tigritis” by the Allied staff.

Panzerkampfwagen VI Sd.Kfz. 181 Tiger in Vimoutiers


Panzerkampfwagen VI variants

Only 1345 panzerkampfwagen VI ausf E were ever made. Other variants based on the Tiger are the Sturmmörser Tiger, a huge 38cm rocket propelled mortar carriage, and a Bergepanzer Tiger recovery vehicle.

Ferdinand Porsche, who designed and produced the other prototype used his chassis to produce the Ferdinand, an 8.8cm PaK43/2 -Sd.kfz.184. He gave the tank destroyer his own name, but forgot the machineguns on the vehicle. Introduced at the battle of Kursk in 1943 they where taken out of action in a very short time, because there was no means of protecting it against ground soldiers. A lesson learnt and so the second version had 2 MG34s mounted and was called Elefant.

Total production of the Tiger I and variants comes up to 1460 pieces.

8.8cm KwK36 L/56


Tigers on display

In 1944 the Tiger in Vimoutiers, France, was abandoned by its crew due to the lack of fuel. For years it stood abandoned at the road site. It was ready to go to the scrap yard, fortunately the French government decided otherwise and it now stands as a monument at the roadside. Until now it is the only Tiger I we examined, and it isn’t in a mint condition.

But in silence it still shows it power.

Turret Hatch with vision slitsh – Sd.Kfz. 181 Tiger
Turret Hatch from the inside with the backside of the 8.8cm PaK – Sd.Kfz. 181 Tiger


Technical Data

Name:                          Panzerkampfwagen VI ausf E
Other designation:    Tiger I, VK4501(H)
Type:                            Heavy Tank

Manufacturer:            Henschel, Wegman
Chassis numbers:       250001-251327
Number produced:     1354
Production:                  From july 1942 to August 1944

Crew:                             5
Weight (tonnes):         57
Length (metres):        8.45
Width (metres):          3.7
Height  (metres):        2.93

Engine:                         Maybach HL210P45
Gearbox:                       8 forward, 4 reverse
Speed (km/h):             38
Range (km):                 140
Radio:                            FuG5

Armament:                   One 8.8cm KwK36 L/56
Two 7.92mm MG34

Traverse:                       360° (hydraulic)
Elevation:                     -9° to +10°
Sights:                           TZF9b later TZF9c / KgZF2 on MG34

Ammunition:                92 + Pzgr
4800 patr SmK

Armour  (mm/angle)
Turret front:                   100/8°
Superstructure front:   100/10°
Hull front:                      100/24°
Gun mantlet front:       100-110/0°

Panzerkampfwagen VI Sd.Kfz. 181 Tiger in Vimoutiers



Link to Landmark Scout’s photoalbum of the Vimoutiers Tiger

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