The dramatic spiral in size and capability continued to the end of World War II.
Just what were the upper limits? Could a monster vehicle be effective in combat? Let’s take a look.
I’ve had some fun with a few monster armored fighting vehicles the last few months, but its time to put an end to it. Something had to be the biggest, the ultimate, the baddest AFV of the bunch.
Is it any surprise the biggest AFV of the War was built on the Tiger II (King Tiger) chassis? But the King Tiger was only 68 tons. So if we upgrade that tank with a 128 mm anti-tank gun, 250 mm of frontal armor and a solid casemate gun mount; we get that weight up to 75 tons. Now we have the largest, heaviest production armored fighting vehicle of World War II.
I do have to specify “production” for a couple reasons. We have to separate this from certain armored trains used on the Eastern Front, those were generally one offs. But also, the Germans had actually set their sights on something much bigger. They built two prototypes of a Panzer VIII, the Maus, that weighed 188 tons. The Maus is the heaviest true tank ever built. Events at the end of the War kept it from production. It was first conceived to use the 128 mm gun, with a “secondary” co-axial 75 mm gun. The prototypes actually ended up with a 150 mm main gun.
But the idea came to use the 128 mm gun in a “smaller” tank destroyer derived from the Tiger II. I love how the largest AFV of World War II was a smaller, second choice.
But the Jagdtiger did enter serial production and saw service. Numbers vary by source, but somewhat less than 90 were built. They first saw service in the Ardennes offensive. By far their biggest challenges were mechanical reliability and fuel.
The Jagdtiger used the same 700 HP Maybach engine and transmission as the Tiger II. That drive train was already over-worked with an extra 7 tons to move around, but add in a casemated gun with only 10 deg of traverse. That means engine/transmission were needed just to aim.
Fuel was in critically short supply during the Jagdtiger’s entire service life too.
Otto Carius, the commander of the 512th Heavy Anti-Tank Battalion mentioned these and other challenges for the vehicle. Allied domination in the air was a constant, effecting all Wehrmacht operations. The first Jagdtiger lost to enemy action was knocked out by a simple Bazooka, which is indicative of critical crew training problems. Carius states the correct action always involved keeping the massively thick front armor (and gun!) pointing at the enemy, yet his young crews would often try to turn and run if outnumbered. That meant turning much thinner side or rear armor towards incoming fire.
Driving a vehicle as wide as most roads was also a challenge, and many inexperienced drivers wound up stranded in ditches.
At least one Jagdtiger was lost to a Panzerfaust; friendly fire was a problem because the uncommon AFV was unknown to most German troops!
Obviously this monster could dominate a battlefield like much heavy German armor, if given the opportunity. But just as obviously, the design pushed mechanical engineering and simple practical considerations well past the point of calling it a “good idea”.
This is the Tamiya kit. A fun build, extra entertaining just at the shear size of major body parts. I felt like I was working with a larger scale kit!