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Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I

Although heavily protected by nearly 4 inches of armor plate, the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I was heavy and lacked agility.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I was a heavily armored tank but had too many mechanical breakdowns.

In 1937 a specification was issued by the Nazi German General Staff for a Durchbruchwagen, a breakthrough in technology. But beyond a few studies, little happened until 1941, when Adolf Hitler became convinced of the threat of heavy tanks.

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Hitler then approved the development of a German heavy tank that could meet the likes of the French Char B on a equal basis. When the Soviet T-34 Medium Tank and the KV-1 appeared on the eastern front in 1942, the specification was amended to include the 88mm high-velocity gun as the main armament.

Two companies. Henschel and Porsche, built prototypes. The Henschel design was considered superior and was accepted into service as the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf H (military designation, SdKfz 181), later renamed Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf E. The Porsche design became the basis for a series of self-propelled guns.

The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I initially weighed slightly more than 51 tons and was armed with an 88mm gun adopted from the famous and deadly 88mm antiaircraft gun that had also served effectively in an antitank role.

The Tiger was very heavily armored for its time -- up to 4 inches of steel armor on the hull and turret front. It also carried two 7.92mm Model 1934 machine guns, one mounted in the hull and the other coaxially with the main gun.

The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I was powered by a 700-horsepower Maybach engine, and its road speed was listed as 24 miles per hour. But even with extra-wide tracks, the Tiger I's cross-country mobility was poor, and it was subject to frequent mechanical breakdowns.

It carried a crew of five: commander, gunner, and loader in the turret; driver and radio operator in the hull. As many as 92 rounds for the main gun could be carried in the turret and hull.

To learn more about the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I's capabilities, continue on to the next page.

To learn more about historical tanks, check out:

The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I was the most heavily armored and gunned tank when introduced south of Leningrad in the autumn of 1942.
The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I was the most heavily armored and gunned tank when introduced south of Leningrad in the autumn of 1942.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I was the most formidable battle tank in the world when it made its first appearance in 1942 on the outskirts of Leningrad.

Intended by General Heinz Guderian to be used in tank battalions of 30, which would be attached to army or corps headquarters, the Tiger I was to be thrown into battle as a "stiffener" to back up the Panzerkampfwagen III and IV combinations.

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But at their Leningrad and Kursk debuts in late 1942 and July 1943 respectively, Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I tanks were sent into battle in small, unsupported units after inadequate planning.

They were too few and spread too far apart as they attacked Soviet antitank defenses of greater depth than had ever been seen before. Nearly all of these Tigers were destroyed.

But as the Nazi German Army learned to use the Tiger I to its best advantage, its reputation grew to awesome and legendary proportions. Its heavy armor made it practically impervious to frontal attack, and its high-velocity 88mm gun was ready to chastise anything that came within range. The Tiger I's main gun could knock out a T-34 tank at a distance greater than three miles.

In July 1944 one Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I destroyed 25 tanks of the British Seventh Armored Division-Desert Rats -- before it was finally knocked out from behind.

In fact, attack from behind was the only effective way Allied tanks could deal with the Tiger I. Using superior mobility, Allied tanks had to maneuver for an attack from behind or from the side if they had any hope at all of taking a Tiger I down.

The Tiger I's turret traversed very slowly, requiring 15 seconds for a 360° turn. And if the drive motor went down, 750 turns of a hand crank were needed to accomplish the same turn.

This view of the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I shows the interleaved road wheels coated with mud. The wheels could easily jam if the mud froze.
This view of the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I shows the interleaved road wheels coated with mud. The wheels could easily jam if the mud froze.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Other major drawbacks to the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I were its limited range, 62 miles, and low speed, 24 miles per hour.

The Tiger I had eight overlapping road wheels on each side in a staggered pattern (some toward the inside of the tank, some toward the outside). Snow and ice could become packed in the treads and wheels and freeze overnight in the cold Russian winters. The Soviets quickly learned to attack at dawn, when the Tiger's tracks were frozen solid.

Despite its heavy armor and main gun, the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I was phased out of production in August 1944 after a production run of about 1,300. Even so, it saw service on every front from North Africa to the eastern front.

To learn about Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I specifications, continue on to the next page.

To learn more about historical tanks, check out:

The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I was a major departure in Nazi German tank design.
The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I was a major departure in Nazi German tank design.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Although the Panzerkampfwagen VI (SdKfz 181) Tiger I was heavily armored and wielded a powerful main gun, its mechanical failures and other drawbacks eventually caused production on this tank to cease. Find specifications for this Nazi German tank below.

Date of service: 1942

Country: Germany

Type: Heavy Tank

Dimensions: Length, 8.25 m (27 ft); width, 3.73 m (12.2 ft); height, 2.85 m (9.3 ft)

Combat weight: 55,000 kg (60.6 tons)

Engine: Maybach HL 230 V-12 gasoline

Armament: One KwK 36 88mm L/56 main gun; two 7.92mm Model 1934 machine guns

Crew: 5

Speed: 38 km/hr (24 mph)

Range: 100 km (62 mi)

Obstacle/grade performance: 0.8 m (2.6 ft)

To learn more about historical tanks, check out:

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