The Tiger Family Part 2 - The Tiger II

In Part 2 we will consider the Tiger II, or King Tiger branch of the family.  Despite the names, the two Tigers shared very little in terms of design or compatible parts, although this was not the original intention.

Again, this is a highly simplified account of the story.  

Part 1 of this series looked at the development of the Tiger I and Elefant.  It can be found here, The Tiger Family Part I.

Tiger II stemmed from Hitler’s desire to mount a longer barrelled, and therefore more powerful, 88mm gun in a tank.  Tiger I’s gun barrel was 56 calibres long (56 x 88mm, or 4.93m), whereas the new gun would be 71 calibres long (6.25m) and need more internal space, making it too big for the Tiger I’s turret.  The ammunition fired by the L/71 was similarly longer so although the hole at the end of the barrel was the same size on each weapon the two types were not compatible.

Design work began in 1942.  Again, Krupp designed a turret and both Henschel and Porsche worked on hulls.  The German Army designated Porsche’s design the VK 45.02 (P), which shows that it was originally thought of as a development of the earlier VK 45.01 (P), although the designs soon diverged.

Again, Porsche’s hull design was rejected, and Henschel’s was fitted with the Krupp turret.  Their hull was named the VK 45.03 (there had been a short-lived VK 45.02 (H)).  Like Porsche, Henschel originally intended to use components from the Tiger I, but this soon changed, and, in the end, there was very little commonality between the two Tigers.

Photograph of two shells standing on their ends. The shell on the left is smaller than the shell on the right.
The 88mm rounds fired by the Tiger I and Tiger II.
Line drawing of a tank
One of Porsche’s unsuccessful VK 45.02 (P) designs.

Those parts that were compatible included the engine, the pressed steel road wheels and the commander’s cupola.

The Tiger II’s pre-production turret was developed by Krupp for the Porsche vehicle from mid-1942.  A total of 50 were built before the simplified production turret was ready.  Work on this began in late 1942.  The pre-production turrets were ultimately fitted to Henschel hulls.

The Jagdtiger used a lengthened Tiger II hull.  Like other German Tank Destroyers, it was fitted with heavier armour and a larger gun than could be carried by the tank it was based on.  Frontline troops requested it be armed with the 128mm gun, as they wanted the powerful long-range fire support this weapon provided.

Although the Tiger II was a Henschel design, and in production, Porsche suggested fitting their own suspension system to the Jagdtiger, based on that used on the VK 45.01 (P) and Elefant, and proposed for VK 45.02 (P).

Black and white photograph of a Jagdtiger, with 331 painted on the turret. It is on grass with a white background.
Henschel’s suspension on a Jagdtiger, with 9 road wheels per side

Henschel had used torsion bar suspension on the Tigers.  These ran across the bottom of the hull inside the vehicle.  Porsche’s alternative used 4 bolt-on units per side, each consisting of two road wheels and a shorter torsion bar that ran lengthways.

The Tank Museum's Jagdtiger within the WW2 exhibition.
The Tank Museum's Jagdtiger missing a suspension unit.

Despite Porsche’s argument that this was cheaper and quicker to manufacture than Henschel’s system it was again rejected, as it offered poorer track control and a whole unit could shear off under especially heavy load.

This appears to be what happened to the missing unit on the Tank Museum’s Jagdtiger.

Read more on the Tiger II here.

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