Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Tiger I

The Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. H/E Tiger I (Mark VI-H/E, Panzer VI-H/E, Pzkw VI-H/E, SdKfz 181-H/E, Sonderkraftfahrzeug 181-H/E, Tiger, Tiger I) was a German tank of World War II.

This combat vehicle was first used in late-1942. It was the heaviest German production tank to date at 55-57 tons. It had a crew of five, and was armed with an 88mm cannon (the KwK 36). The Tiger I was in use until the German surrender and was given its nickname by Ferdinand Porsche. This design eventually resulted in the Pzkw VI Königstiger, known as the Tiger II or King Tiger.

Table of contents
1 Design
2 Design History
3 Production History
4 Combat History
5 The Captured Tiger of 1943
6 The Russian Response
8 Notes


The Tiger was possibly the most sophisticated and best engineered tank of its time. The internal layout was typical of German tanks, dividing the hull into four parts - two front compartments for the driver and the radio-operator, a central fighting compartment and the rear engine compartment. The tank had front armor up to 100mm thick, with 80 mm on the turret, to simplify production flat sections were used where possible with interlocking andwelding rather than bolted joins.

It was the first German tank to have triple interleaving road wheels, which improved load distribution. The steel and rubber wheels were mounted on eight independent torsion bar axles, which gave a relatviely soft and stable ride for such a large vehicle. The complex system had a number of drawbacks, a major one was that the wheels could become packed with mud or snow which could then freeze. The Russians discovered this and on occasion timed their attacks to early morning to maximise the possibly that the Tigers would be immobilised.

This tank also featured a hydraulically-controlled pre-selector gearbox and a semiautomatic transmission. The weight of the tank also meant a new steering system, rather than the clutch-and-brake designs of lighter vehicles a variation on the British Merritt-Brown system was used. The initial engine was a 590 hp 21 litre Maybach petrol design, found to be rather underpowered this was soon upgraded to a 24 litre model.

The original design could submerge to 4.0m and remain there for 2.5 hours, however, this being an expensive feature, it was abandoned after the first 495 tanks had been produced.

Design History

Development of the Tiger had begun in Spring 1937 by Henschel. After various sidetracks Henschel and three other companies (Porsche, MAN and Daimler-Benz) submitted designs in 1941 for a 35 ton tank with a 75 mm main gun. The emergence of the Russian T-34 rendered these design obsolete, according to Henschel designer Erwin Adlers "There was great consternation when it was discovered that the Soviet tanks were superior to anything available to the Wehrmacht". An immediate weight increase to 45 tons and an increase in gun calibre to 88 mm was ordered. The due date for new prototypes was set for April 20, 1942, Adolf Hitler's birthday. With the limited design time the existing lighter designs were used as the basis for the new tank. Unlike the Panther tank the design did not incorporate any of the innovations of the T-34. Porsche and Henscel submitted prototype designs and they were compared at Rastenburg before Hitler. The Herschel design was accepted and production began in August 1942 of the Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E. At the same time ninety of the Porsche version were also ordered, not used the chassis' were converted into the Panzerjager Tiger.

Production History

Production of the Mark VI began in August 1942 and 1,355 (1) such tanks were built by August 1944, at which point producted ceased. Production started at a rate of 25 per month and peaked in April 1944 at 104 per month. Generally speaking, it took about twice as long to build a PzKpfw VI, in comparison to the other German tanks of the period. When the improved Tiger II Ausf B began production in January 1944 the Tiger I was soon phased out.

Combat History

It is perhaps uncontroversial that Mark VIs were capable of destroying a T-34 or Churchill IV at ranges up to 1300m. Conversely, these opposing tank types were unable to penetrate the armor of the Mark VI if firing from a range greater than 500m. Of perhaps some controversy is the argument that a Mark VI was capable of destroying a M4 Sherman at ranges in excess of 3500m, however, Shermans were not capable of penetrating the Mark VIs fore and side armor, even at pointblank range.

Despite these qualities the first uses of the Tiger were unimpressive. Under pressure from Hitler the tank was put into action months earlier than than planned and many early models proved to be mechanically fragile. In its first action on September 23, 1942 near Leningrad in unsuitable marshy terrain Russian anti-tank gunners found it no threat. It demonstrated the disadvantages of very large tanks in speed, manoevrability and radius of action. One particular weakness was a slow turret traverse due to its great weight, an accepted Allied tactic was to engage the Tiger in groups, one attracting the attnetion of the Tiger crew while the others attacked the sides or rear of the vehicle.

The Captured Tiger of 1943

In May 1943, a Tiger of the Afrika Korps was captured and sent to England for inspection. However, the western Allies did little to prepare for combat against the German tank despite their assessment that the Tiger was superior to their own tanks. It is believed this decision was based on the doctrine of the United States Army, which did not place emphasis on tank vs. tank combat.

The Russian Response

In response to the Mark VI, Russia modified the T-34 by upgrading to an 85mm gun. They also mounted 122mm and 152mm howitzers on the KV-1, which resulted in the SU-122 and SU-152 self-propelled guns. Eventually the Russians would produce fully new tank designs, the JS-I (100mm) and the JS-II (122mm).



See also: List of tanks