THE TIGER II HEAVY TANK
Shocked, not just by the quality of Soviet armour, but by the quantity of it, the German High Command realised it would need a qualitative advantage to continue the war in the East, as a shortage of raw materials and constant Allied bombing meant they wouldn’t be competing on volume. The Pzkpfw V Panther and the Pzkpfw VI Tiger were solid steps forward, arguably the best tanks of the war, but it seemed that big was never big enough for the Nazi’s, so a larger vehicle was developed.
Gaining sloped armour and a long-barrelled 88mm gun, the Tiger II weighed in at a colossal 70 tons, a weight comparable to the heaviest modern MBT’s and one that placed huge stresses on the engine and suspension. Indeed, more King Tiger’s were destroyed by their own crews after breaking down than were knocked out in battle. The Germans only managed to build 492 of them, a completely ineffective number, thanks to the aforementioned Allied bombing of the Henschel tank factory.
If the war had continued and this behemoth had received further development, it’s terrifying to think what facing one on a battlefield would have been like. There were plans for an E-series of tanks, headed by a 100-ton monster, on the drawing board, and they’d already built the comical large Maus (188 tons).
As it stands, this tank in its fielded form managed to garner itself a feared reputation. Claims of kill ratios of 10:1 on the Eastern Front were not unheard of, and many of the Tiger II’s were lost to mechanical problems rather than artillery. In reality, it was too little, too late, and absolutely not what was required by the Wehrmacht.