Powered by a 12-cylinder, 700 hp (522 kW) Maybach HL210 P45 petrol engine, the Tiger was capable of reaching speeds of up to 37 km/h, with a range of 195 km. The Tiger also had a 8 speed forward, 4 speed reverse transmission and a torsion bar suspension system. Notably, the Tiger tank also had a steering wheel instead of traditional tank lever controls and was the first to adopt interlapping roadwheels which helped to spread out the enormous weight put on the tracks by the hull, but were susceptible to jamming with snow and mud. The Tiger I had five crew members, and armament consisting of an 88 mm KwK 36 L/56 main gun and two MG 34s mounted both coaxially and in the bow.
Tigers were armored from 100 mm of frontal hull armor, 82 mm of both side and rear armor, 100 mm of frontal turret armor, 82 mm for side and rear turret armor. Weighing in at 56,900 kg, the Tiger I was 8.45 meters long, 3.56 meters wide and 3 meters high over the turret hatch. This posed problems when attempting to traverse battlefield bridges for example and other weak structures. For railway travel, the Tiger had a specially designed rail car to transport its very wide hull. Though for further defense, the Tiger could also mount up to six smoke launchers on the side of the turret. While the armor was not slanted like its Soviet counterpart, the IS-2, the Tiger's armor was more than sufficient to protect it from a great deal of damage.
Similar to the tales of early KV-1s and T-34s deflecting everything the German military could fire at them, the Tiger had quickly created a name for itself for being near impenetrable, with a gun that could wipe out its enemies in a single blow. While this was largely over exaggerated as in tank combat, the first to engage typically is the victor, the Tiger certainly had some exceptions where extraordinary feats were accomplished.
The only production variant of the Tiger I was the Tiger I Ausf. H, a model designed for operations in Tunisia which was capable of crossing fairly deep waterways and sported filters over its engine compartment to prevent dust from clogging up the engine. However, the Tiger did have several other conversions to fulfill other purposes. This started with the standard Panzerbefehlswagon command tank to the Jagdtiger and Sturmtiger self-propelled guns.
The Tiger I in reality had been in development as early 1937, though was certainly on the backburner for production. It was thought that the standard Panzer III and IV tanks would be more than enough to deal with any competition they faced. However, it was quickly shown, especially with the appearance of the Soviet KV-1 and T-34 as well as the British Matilda II, that a change was needed. Thus, MAN, Daimler Benz, Porsche, and Henschel submitted their designs for the new tank. It would go on through an extensive design project, with Daimler Benz and MAN going on to create the Panther, and Porsche and Henschel to create the Tiger.
Initially, Henschel had produce a prototype known as the DW.2 with a low velocity 75 mm main gun as armament. This was subsequently thrown out in favor of newer designs such as the VK.3001(H) which was similar in appearance to the Panzer IV. Eventually, development had arrived to the VK.4501(H) which had now been given the infamous 88 mm main gun. As a surprise, it was ordered Henschel to finish the prototype by April as a birthday present for Adolf Hitler.
Adopting the PzKpfw VI designation originally intended for the Neubaufahrzeuge VI, the Tiger I entered production in July 1942, and first saw action in Russia during the following month. At the time of its introduction, the Tiger I was the most powerful tank in the world, despite having a low gear turret traverse, resulting in delays in bringing the main gun to bear on a target. However, the initial results were mixed, with the first combat actions taking place around Leningrad. Soviet gunners had learned to simply disable the tanks by hitting their tracks. However, the vehicle had more success in the attempts to break the Soviet lines around Stalingrad. A trend was growing though. Later in the war in Italy, most of the Tigers lost were because they malfunctioned and broke down and had to be destroyed before capture. It wasn't until Normandy that the defensive use of the Tiger allowed it to avoid its frequent break downs. Furthermore, the Allied troop's fear of the vehicle meant that very few Allied tankers dared engage them when they were located.
Perhaps the most famous use of the Tiger in Normandy came with tank ace Michael Wittmann who had destroyed over 30 Allied vehicles and two anti-tank guns in the span of fifteen minutes. However, by the Battle of the Bulge, only a few hundred vehicles were still operational. By the end of its production, approximately 1,560 had been built.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Forty, George. WW1 and WW2 Tanks. Southwater Books (Anness Publishing Ltd). 2012. ISBN 1 78019 190 1 Page 104
- ↑ http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=72
- ↑ http://www.achtungpanzer.com/panzerkampfwagen-vi-tiger-ausf-e-sd-kfz-181.htm
- ↑ WW1/WW2 Tanks Page 94
- ↑ http://www.wwiivehicles.com/germany/tanks-heavy/pzkpfw-vi-e.asp
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