Panzer VI-B King Tiger

Another of the very well known super heavy units deployed by the Germans late in WWII. The King Tiger was huge, and could dominate a battlefield like no other tank.

IMG_8612

After the jump, we’ll discuss this terror.

Almost everything I said about the Tiger can be repeated here with the word “more”.  At least if we want to talk in hyperbole.  The King Tiger was in fact a wholly new design, in spite of its “VI-B” (or “Tiger B”) moniker.  It actually looks more like an enlarged Panzer V Panther with the shape and slope of its armor.  But it was larger.  70 tons.  Compare to a Tiger at 54 tons, or an American Pershing at 46 tons.  Like the Tiger before it, the King Tiger used an 88 mm main gun; but with a larger charge and longer barrel for improved range and hitting power.

IMG_8610 IMG_8611

Even more than the Tiger (!), the King Tiger presented serious challenges to allied armor.  But it was ultimately undone by mechanical and mobility issues; and the pure cost and complexity to produce.  The type first entered combat in July of 1944, and fortunately for the allies, only 492 units were produced.

IMG_8613

This is the Tamiya kit.

The Tiger was considered huge.  The King Tiger would be huger?

The Tiger was considered huge. The King Tiger would be huger?

Up Next: Polikarpov I-16

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About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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18 Responses to Panzer VI-B King Tiger

  1. Theresa says:

    It was a monster in every sense of the word.

  2. Ernie Davis says:

    This was a truly frightening weapon that, had it been introduced much earlier in sufficient numbers could have caused the allies a lot of casualties. As with most of Germany’s super-weapons, it didn’t really have the potential to turn the course of the war, but it was a strategically and tactically sound design. The Tiger B was capable of penetrating the front armor of all allied tanks well beyond the effective range of their guns, and it’s frontal armor was impervious to nearly all allied tank and anti-tank weapons at all but the closest ranges. This meant the tactical advantage went to the Tiger in nearly any engagement with allied armor.

    While underpowered the Tiger B didn’t suffer many of the Tiger I problems (most notably turret traverse) meaning that even the flanking maneuvers the allies were used to using against German armor were less effective.

    Thankfully the Tiger B wasn’t effectively deployed until nearly the end of 1944.

    • atcDave says:

      Of course if we’re going to “what if” the King Tiger in service earlier, maybe we should “what if” the Pershing as well. It might not be fully equal on armor or gun; but it would have narrowed the gap a lot. Add in a lot of the traditional American strengths of the full weapon system, the Tiger B is less remarkable (although I understand the Pershing was much less reliable than the Sherman).
      And I think the Soviet IS-2 was nearly as good as a Tiger B all around. The IS-3 is often considered superior.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        The Pershing was both underpowered and unreliable compared to the Sherman, but in most ways the equal of the Panther and Tiger 1. The IS-2 wasn’t really used as a tank-on-tank weapon. It was mainly used for breakthrough infantry support. It’s main gun used two-piece ammunition, similar to on ships of the period, and thus had a slow rate of fire. In addition it was more useful as a HE bunker-buster round than as an anti-tank weapon.

        I admit I really don’t know as much about the IS-3 as it never really saw action, but from WWII on many soviet tanks were characterized by the extremely cramped conditions to the point where tank crews had height limits of about 5’6″. These conditions were presumed to make the crews less effective in combat by many western observers.

      • atcDave says:

        I get the impression the greatest foe US armor faced in the war was Leslie McNair. I know he resisted both upgrading the Sherman and producing the Pershing. He aggressively pushed the American tank destroyer doctrine, which caused many problems.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Yeah, he was also a proponent of the individual replacement system, which most combat soldiers considered a disaster that lead to unnecessary casualties.

        But I suppose both were doctrinally sound…

      • atcDave says:

        I tend to think a mistake is a mistake. Certainly many aspects of American doctrine were very sound; but trying to seperate out the function of tank killing away from tanks (especially since the basic M10 had only a slightly better gun than the M4), and the replacement policy both seem misguided at best.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Well I was sort of being facetious. There was some basis for the tank destroyer theory. It was one of Rommel’s favorite tactics, draw the Brits into an apparent tank battle and carve them up with ’88’s. But as a more strategic doctrine for an army on almost permanent offensive it really didn’t match up with the tactical realities on the ground.

        As for the replacement system I think that was just plain stupid compared to how the other armies operated by rotating units in and out of combat to be re-fitted and brought to full strength.

      • atcDave says:

        Not to mention a tour of duty system is how our air forces and Navy functioned. That US ground forces did not seems very hard to justify.

        And I think in Rommel’s case it was more a matter of adapting what was available to his needs. He didn’t order hardware around a difficult doctrine!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        My point exactly, Rommel was a tactical genius who adapted his strategic condition, resources and personnel, to a tactical situation. McNair et al were doing the exact opposite, imposing a strategic determination of resources and personnel on to a tactical battlefield.

      • atcDave says:

        Although as we were discussing a couple weeks ago, I think the very best American commanders made excellent use of their weapon’s strengths, much as Rommel did with his.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Agreed, there were many fine American commanders, but there were also a few that didn’t need to be in charge of things they were in charge of.

    • atcDave says:

      I just read “Panzers at War” by Michael Green and he seemed a little less impressed with some of the King Tiger’s features. Obviously it was a monster, good gun, good optics and very thick armor. He generally is impressed with its tactical mobility, at least to say it had low ground pressure and could a variety of terrain.
      But mechanical reliability was still poor. And turret traverse was very slow; for 360 deg its 15 seconds for a Sherman, 19 for a Panther or Tiger, 22 for a King Tiger IF the engine is at full power. Of course given that the Germans were usually fighting on the defensive, from ambush, during time the Tiger B was in service, this wasn’t as big an issue as it had been on the earlier tanks.

      As an aviation guy, I find it satisfying though to read how devastating allied air power was. Apparently German armor crews considered nothing more terrifying than a Grasshopper in the area, because that inevitably meant the Thunderbolts or Typhoons were on the way…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        The allies, or more accurately the British, really made great strides in Close Air Support tactics in WWII, first with the Forward Air Controller and later acting essentially as artillery for the rapidly moving ground troops that would often outrun their conventional artillery. The US command remained wedded to strategic bombing for far too long, but eventually, through cooperation with the Brits, came to embrace the role of CAS for the troops. The ability to do precision strikes on enemy targets that could then be exploited by the troops on the ground was crucial in allowing the tremendous advances after the Normandy breakout. The importance of air superiority to the allies really can’t be overstated.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I agree exactly with all of that. Even to the end of the war Air Force brass was wedded to the idea of Strategic Bombardement. I think it was eye opening after the war when the US Strategic Bombing Survey was published with its finding the 8th Air Forces greatest contribution to victory may have been the bait value of the heavy bombers, so that Mustangs and Thunderbolts could chase the Luftwaffe to extinction.
        And I don’t mean to be overly cynical about it. Starting in early ’44 with transportation and oil programs, US strategic air power really started to have a big impact.

        But this all left tactical air as sort the poor step child. And yet they seem to have contributed out of all proportion to their cost to final victory. The masterminds of tactical air power, from Elwood Quesada to George Kenny remain less well known and less honored than those devoted to strategic air power.
        Even to this day, how many times has the Air Force tried to retire the A-10? It’s hard to deny an F-22 is more glamorous. But tactical air always seems to function out of the spotlight.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I’m with you there Dave. Though I would argue that strategic bombing did have some impact, probably more morale than anything else, and forcing Germany to throw resources in to responding to the attacks (which as you rightly mention included the virtual destruction of the Luftwaffe as a threat to the allies).

        While you could argue that precision munitions have made CAS less a job for a truck like the A-10 since they can be deployed from regular fighters well out of the range of ground fire, there is still something to be said for going low and slow and delivering serious destructive firepower directly to the enemy.

        And like the Dauntless I like the look of the A-10, it has a certain utilitarian appeal to it.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah, I like the no-nonsense look!

        I almost got into all that about the economic value of strategic bombing too! Sort of like the Cold War, we could spend Germany to exhaustion. I’ve often seen those comments about the lack of tangible effect of the first 18 months of Strategic bombing immediately followed by commentary about 250000 troops deployed in German Anti-aircraft units and all their air power being transferred from the Eastern front just be chewed up in the west.
        It’s definitely a complex mass of factors. But I think prior to 1944 it was more about morale and economic pressure. It didn’t really have significant military benifit until later.

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