Both turrets used on the Tiger II were designed and built by the Krupp company. So why are they so often called the ‘Porsche’ and ‘Henschel’ turrets?
The answers can be found in the tank’s early design. This post is a greatly simplified account of the story.
The earliest work on a heavy tank armed with the 88mm KwK 43 gun was carried out by the Porsche company. The resulting design was known to the company as the Typ 180 and to the German Army as VK.45.02(P).
Ferdinand Porsche, the company’s chief designer, developed several versions of this design, each powered by a different engine or engines. His aim, or perhaps obsession is a better term, was to build a vehicle with the highest automotive performance possible. However his designs proved unreliable and none of his VK.45.02(P) variants entered production.
Rival firm Henschel began designing a KwK 43 armed tank in October 1942. Their hull design, originally known as VK.45.03, was approved for production as the Tiger II.
Krupp had been given a contract to design and build turrets for the VK.45.02(P) – the Porsche version. They completed fifty, and, as there were now no Porsche hulls to fit them to, delivered them to Henschel. These became the Tiger IIs with the curved front turret.
Later Tiger IIs were fitted with the simpler flat fronted turret, also designed by Krupp. Replacing one type of turret with the other could be done, but it required significant work and it’s unclear how often it actually happened.
We can see that although inaccurate, there is a logic to the common names. The ‘Porsche turret’ is so named because it was intended for (but never fitted to) a tank hull designed by Porsche, and the ‘Henschel turret’ because it was fitted to a hull designed by that firm.
The Tank Museum has decided to refer to them as Pre-Production (curved front) and Production (flat front) turrets, as this more accurately reflects their place in the story of the Tiger II.