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"Breakthrough tank": why the German "Tiger" did not become the hammer of the Wehrmacht
Material posted: Publication date: 08-05-2017
Participation in the war German heavy tank Tiger and its modified counterpart the Tiger II is still in dispute, experts and historians. Some argue that both cars were masterpieces of German engineering and according to all forecasts was to "reach the Urals", and others – that technology and modernity in the end and buried a unique combat vehicles on the battlefield.

How it all began

Contrary to many stories and movies should say that the effective actions and marches of tens of kilometers per day was given to Hitler's troops, not so much from participation in the attack "tank armadas", but because of the unexpectedness of the attack. Coordination, planning, management, and interaction of infantry, armor and aviation is largely determined by the success of the action on the Eastern front. However, the rapid onset of the scheduled command, the German army could not convert. One of the main roles in the failure of the blitzkrieg was played by the legendary Soviet T-34 tanks and KV-2, which have forced German commanders to rethink their views on the design of the tank.

With the appearance of Soviet tanks on the battlefield the Panzer III and Panzer IV thrown at the Eastern front in the beginning, began to experience enormous difficulties with the destruction of Soviet equipment. Realizing that the armored forces fail and are about to lose the initiative, Hitler ordered the beginning of works on the "breakthrough tank", able to sweep away enemy armored vehicles and fortifications, allowing the infantry to move forward. The main feature of the new machine presented to the Fuhrer, were not so much advanced even by German standards booking and control system, how many fundamentally different gun: 88 mm KwK 36 had significantly increased the firing characteristics and promised a huge advantage in battle.

However, the decision of the Fuehrer about the transfer of even the unchanged machines to the front for "experimental combat use" has confused many. In particular, the management and engineering staff of the company Henschel, a prototype tank which in the end murdering the Fuhrer. Looking ahead, it is worth noting that the unique design of the engine and transmission, plenty of electric "helper" for the crew proved themselves in battle, not quite the way it's imagined command of the Wehrmacht.

The hot summer of 1942

The new car was called the PzKpfw VI Tiger, and the serial production of the tank with heavy armor and 88 mm gun of the German tank builders began in August 1942. In the same month, the first batch of cars were sent to the Eastern front, where he immediately entered into an unequal battle... with breakdowns. However, in fairness it should be noted that the proportions of failures in the fighting and malfunctions on the March in most cases be 30 to 70.

Although historians, military experts and well-known German tankers noted that the percentage of malfunctions in combat were really low, about the operating features of Tiger is to tell apart.

One of the most important qualities of any military equipment is to adapt the machine design to maintenance in the field. In the end, the purpose of each tank to fight if the need arises, instead of standing in the hangar. Tiger abandoned on the Eastern front in a big hurry, "pleased" tank mechanics and a huge number of mechanical failures that are addressed by the individual parts, such as motors and elements of the powertrain and chassis had to be transported by plane directly from Germany.

The overheating of propulsion, failure of electric transmission and a broken chassis – minimum set of challenges that had to face the German tank crews and technicians. For the smooth progress of the German tankers was paying constantly breaking suspension, and at marches such cars in the convoy were imposed a number of restrictions.

Thus, the German tankers are strictly forbidden to make long marches with the sudden change in engine speed. In simple terms, for effective and smooth transfer of such tanks on the roads in the East were required to calculate in advance and to secure the route to the personnel do not "fall" to the overheating of the engine and moved with the same speed. From frequent gear German tank crews also were ordered to terminate.

The famous German tank commander Alfred Rabbal noted that one hour of tank operation requires ten hours of maintenance, and after transferring heavy tank regiment 35-40 km will take at least two, in some cases, three weeks of its service. Of course, in a combat situation, such limitations often neglected, but the very existence of some requirements and restrictions for tanks Tiger raises questions about the reliability and availability of the design in General.

One of the curious requirements of the manufacturer are the so-called instruction at "eliminating dust" roads that should follow this technique, and guidelines for choosing the "best route" with the most smooth and clean roads. It is also worth noting that the problems of heavy and well-armed German tanks experienced not only in the difficult conditions of the Eastern front, but also in other areas.

Most revealing in this respect, January is a long 200-mile March of tanks 508-th heavy tank battalion in the Italian town of Anzio in 1944. The transfer of 45 cars was carried out with observance of all norms and requirements of the manufacturer, however, even without any opposition from the enemy to the place got 27 tanks. Later, in the same 1944 year, 25 of the 25 tanks lost during the retreat of the 504th heavy tank battalion.

A separate story in the fate of the tanks the Tiger should be considered and the lack of timely evacuation. Timely move and take to the location of the 57-ton machine in 95% of cases it was not possible, so the Tiger crews often simply undermined their own tanks. However, the German tankers, including the famous tank aces like Otto Carius, until the end of his life believed that reliability in such a machine is not important. "The main quality of the tank is mobility and weaponry," said Carius in an interview.

Oiled masterpiece on the canvas of war

After the first Tiger tanks were at the disposal of Soviet specialists, "diagnosis of the" German big "cat" was staged almost immediately. However, will not be superfluous to say that the Soviet T-34 early years of production had indeed experienced significant problems with the destruction of the German tank. However, the question in this case is the ability of a 76-mm gun T-34 to penetrate the 100 mm frontal armor of "German".

Almost immediately, as the T-34 and the first Tiger collided in battle, the commanders of tank regiments in the red army made adjustments to the tactics of Soviet machines. "Frontal encounter" occurred only when other choice remained. Basically, the Soviet tankers had a kind of tank "Safari" – a great hunt for German tanks from the ambush and attacks on the most vulnerable places in the stern, the elements of the chassis and on-Board projections. After the Soviet tank came the T-34-85 with a new weapon, the average Soviet and German heavy tanks are actually equal in firepower.

Direct comparison of the two tanks in this case it is best to avoid because they were created under a completely different task. But Tiger, being the same pride of the German military-industrial complex as rocket "V-2" assigned to it did not meet expectations. "From the point of view of service of this tank in an "earth-stopper of holes" which was a German heavy tank battalions, yeah, its operation was justified.

The target destination in this respect were fulfilled. For example, at Kursk they these machines were used as a means of breakthrough, and on them fell the main burden when the counteroffensive at Kharkov. German tankers liked these cars more than Tiger II," notes military historian Yuri Pasholok. It should be noted that the military operation of tanks Tiger, and the more short-term combat service Tiger II was absolutely not as expected by the Germans. The speech in this case goes not only about the work on the Eastern front, but also in other areas.

Historians have noted that, in addition to errors in the management of troops, and they, by the way, the German commanders were also "withdrawn" from the failure of the heavy German tank battalions without the use of anti-tank guns and clashes as such. During the study of the characteristics of the German tank first the Soviet and then the allied command was strengthened in the opinion that to harass the enemy and to deny it to half the tanks of the regiment not only the expenditure of ammunition, but cunning.

According to experts, tank battalions equipped with Tiger, was often thrown on the tank hazardous areas. "Therefore, it was necessary only to give misinformation, that in a certain area at a certain time a certain amount of our tanks. German heavy tank battalions were moved not only by rail but also on their own. And during the March of a considerable amount of equipment broke. Won the Soviet, and allied forces in this case is almost always used either to attack or just waiting for the supply or repaired," says historian Andrei Fomin.

Like the best

Analysis of data on casualties, the military operation, reliability, cost, operational characteristics, allows to make the assumption that "power" of the Tiger heavy tank and the results of its military work is greatly exaggerated. Military historians and experts explain that the "Fifth Symphony" of the Wehrmacht was the German medium tank Panther, delivering the greatest number of problems not only Soviet, but also of the allied tankers, and Tiger in the best case it turned out well reserved anti-tank gun, and after the Soviet medium tanks with gun high-power tactics of the German "strike of the kulaks" in the most dangerous areas almost disappeared.

Besides, combat use of the Tiger on the Eastern front was often accompanied by not so much mechanical problems as lack of suitable infrastructure for rapid advancement. For example, there were frequent cases, when a battalion of 45 cars could get stuck for 10-12 hours in one place only because the only bridge over a small water hazard has been undermined by the guerrillas.

Renowned American historian Christopher Wilbeck, who wrote a scientific work on the use of armored vehicles of the Wehrmacht estimated that at least 40% of all Tiger tanks were lost due to damage, breakage, stuck in the mud or were not timely evacuated from the battlefield. Thick frontal armor, a good 88-mm gun with powerful ammunition, technology, and more in the case of the Tiger tank lay on one side of the scale. Another was the fragility of the structure, design issues and limitations in operation, which in the end never allowed to turn Tiger into a real war hammer.

The only one who was right in this situation, was the main specialist of the Third Reich armor Heinz Guderian, who was promoting the concept of creating a modernized Pz.Kpfw.IV. According to the idea of Guderian, the German industry had to build a machine weighing up to 30 tons, moderately cheap, flexible and reliable, with powerful weapons and thick frontal armor, angled.

But to bring his plan to the practical implementation of Guderian couldn't, and Adolf Hitler, without realizing it, insisted on mass production of heavy tanks Tiger without a full test cycle and single-handedly took the decision to send a new, completely unique for the German army combat vehicle deaths.

Dmitry Yurov


Tags: war , Germany , AME

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