Tiger II is the common name of a German heavy tank of the Second World War. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B, often shortened to Tiger B. The ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz. 182. It is also known under the informal name Königstiger (the German name for the “Bengal tiger”), often semi-literally translated as the King Tiger or Royal Tiger by Allied soldiers.
The design followed the same concept as the Tiger I, but was intended to be even more formidable. The Tiger II combined the thick armor of the Tiger I with the sloped armor used on the Panther medium tank. The tank weighed almost seventy metric tons, was protected by 100 to 180 mm (3.9 to 7.1 in) of armor to the front, and was armed with the long barreled 8.8 cm Kampfwagenkanone 43 L/71 gun. The chassis was also the basis for the Jagdtiger turretless tank destroyer.
The Tiger II was issued to heavy tank battalions of the Army (Schwere Heerespanzerabteilung – abbreviated s.H.Pz.Abt) and the Waffen-SS (s.SS.Pz.Abt). It was first used in combat with s.H.Pz.Abt. 503 during the Normandy campaign on 11 July 1944; on the Eastern Front the first unit to be outfitted with Tiger IIs was the s.H.Pz.Abt. 501 which by 1 September 1944 listed 25 Tiger IIs operational.
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Development of a heavy tank design had been initiated in 1937; the initial design contract was awarded to Henschel. Another design contract followed in 1939, and was given to Porsche. Both prototype series used the same turret design from Krupp; the main differences were in the hull, transmission, suspension and automotive features.
The Henschel version used a conventional hull design with sloped armour resembling the layout of the Panther tank. It had a rear-mounted engine and used nine steel-tired, eighty-centimeter-diameter overlapping road wheels per side with internal springing, mounted on transverse torsion bars, in a similar manner to the original Henschel-designed Tiger I. To simplify maintenance, however, as when the same steel-tired road wheels were used on later Tiger I hulls, the wheels were only overlapping without being interleaved — the full Schachtellaufwerk rubber-rimmed road-wheel system that had been in use on nearly all German half-tracks used the interleaved design, later inherited by the early production versions of the Tiger I and Panther.
The Porsche hull designs included a rear-mounted turret and a mid-mounted engine. The suspension was the same as on the Elefant tank destroyer. This had six road wheels per side mounted in paired bogies sprung with short longitudinal torsion bars that were integral to the wheel pair; this saved internal space and facilitated repairs. One Porsche version had a gasoline-electric drive (fundamentally identical to a Diesel-electric transmission, only using a gasoline-fueled engine as the prime mover), similar to a gasoline-electric hybrid but without a storage battery; two separate drive trains in parallel, one per side of the tank, each consisting of a hybrid drive train; gasoline engine – electric generator – electric motor – drive sprocket. This method of propulsion had been attempted before on the Tiger (P) (later Elefant prototypes) and in some US designs and was put into production in the WW1 Saint-Chamond tank and the post-WW1 FCM Char 2C. The Porsche suspension components were later used on a few of the later Jagdtiger tank destroyers. Another proposal was to use hydraulic drives. Dr. Porsche’s unorthodox designs gathered little favour.
Henschel won the design contract, and all Tiger IIs were produced by the firm. Two turret designs were used in production vehicles. The initial design is often misleadingly called the “Porsche” turret due to the belief that it was designed by Porsche for their prototype; in fact it was the initial Krupp design for both prototypes. This turret had a rounded front and steeply sloped sides, with a difficult-to-manufacture curved bulge on the turret’s left side to accommodate the commander’s cupola. Fifty early turrets were mounted to Henschel’s hull and used in action. The more common “production” turret, sometimes called the “Henschel” turret, was simplified with a significantly thicker flat face, no shot trap (created by the curved face of the earlier turret), and less-steeply sloped sides, which prevented the need for a bulge for the commander’s cupola, and added additional room for ammunition storage.
The turrets were designed to mount the 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71 gun. Combined with the Turmzielfernrohr 9d (German “turret telescopic sight”) monocular sight by Leitz, which all but a few early Tiger IIs used, it was a very accurate and deadly weapon. During practice, the estimated probability of a first round hit on a 2 m (6 ft 7 in) high, 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) wide target only dropped below 100 percent at ranges beyond 1,000 m (0.62 mi), to 95–97 percent at 1,500 m (0.93 mi) and 85–87 percent at 2,000 m (1.2 mi), depending on ammunition type. Recorded combat performance was lower, but still over 80 percent at 1,000 m, in the 60s at 1,500 m and the 40s at 2,000 m. Penetration of armoured plate inclined at 30 degrees was 202 and 132 mm (8.0 and 5.2 in) at 100 m (110 yd) and 2,000 m (1.2 mi) respectively for the Panzergranate 39/43 projectile (PzGr—armour-piercing shell), and 238 and 153 mm (9.4 and 6.0 in) for the PzGr. 40/43 projectile between the same ranges. The Sprenggranate 43 (SpGr) high-explosive round was available for soft targets, or the Hohlgranate or Hohlgeschoss 39 (HlGr—HEAT or High-explosive anti-tank warhead) round, which had 90 mm (3.5 in) penetration at any range, could be used as a dual-purpose munition against soft or armoured targets.
Powered turret traverse was provided by the variable speed Boehringer-Sturm L4S hydraulic motor, which was driven from the main engine by a secondary drive shaft. A high and a low speed setting was available to the gunner via a lever on his right. The turret could be rotated 360 degrees at 6º/second in low gear independent of engine rpm, at 19º/second — the same as with the Tiger I — with the high speed setting and engine at 2000 rpm, and over 36º/second at the maximum allowable engine speed of 3000 rpm. The direction and speed of traverse were controlled by the gunner through foot pedals, or a control lever near his left arm. If power was lost, such as when the tank ran out of fuel, the turret could be slowly traversed by hand, assisted by the loader who had an additional wheel, which could manually turn the turret at one-half a degree per 360º turn.
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