Monday, March 23, 2015

Another version of Tiger II reliability

The long-lived "Anneliese" Here in Hungary March 1945 issued August 1944.

When the Tiger II was being produced the time consuming complexity of the previous heavy tank was much reduced: still the new design consumed a huge amount of raw materials. In all these months, relentless attempts to get better performances and simplify production were carried on. They interested in the most part internal fittings, dictated by combat and living experiences, so are more difficult to note. The true obstacles were always the bombings: they caused the loss in production of at least (657 Tiger IIs (940 planned against 283 produced) in September 1944-March 1945 period.?)Henschel ceased all tank production by the end of March. One may not be surprised if only a few units received replacements while the others were literally left to fall in pieces.

Operational history of the Tiger IIs is problematic: while this heavy tank was the optimum on the paper, things on the battlefield went in different way from what the Germans hoped. The 88mm L71 KwK 43 tank gun, joined by the excellent optics, was able to pierce any enemy tank on long ranges; front armor was able to withstand any enemy anti-tank gun, large battle tracks permitted the tank to offer a ground pressure of only 0.74 Kg/cm2 (when the tracks sunk of 20 cm in the ground), speed of a remarkable maximum of 41.5 Kmh and a cruising one of 38 Kmh on roads and 15-20Kmh on open terrain. 

The turret rotation speed was even more stunning, capable of turning by its hydraulic gearing system (connected and depending from the engine) of 360 degrees in 19 seconds (with the engine at 2,000 rpm) for fine adjustments and in less than ten seconds at the fastest speed (engine at 3,000 rpm, difficult to achieve because of engine's overheating). The lowest speed for a full turn was 70 seconds: low speed was used (and needed) for long range aiming/shooting (the ideal role for the Tiger).

Reliability continuously improved: a March 1945 German report stated that the operational ratio of the tank in frontline units was 59 percent of the strength, second only to the Panzer IV with 62 percent and much better than Panther at only 48 percent. This is against some common ideas which want the Tiger II as a big, slow and unreliable monster. Many faults were overexploited by inexperienced drivers but with mature drivers and the needed pauses for restoring and maintenance reliability greatly increased. 

Its capabilities of negotiating obstacles were comparable to or better than that of the other German or Allied tanks. Improvements also took the Tiger to had to mount an integrated range-finder but the production of the modified turret, which had to start in July 1945, never took place because the end of the war.

The true enemy were, as always, the planes. Air attacks knocked out tanks in the factories, in the battlefield and disrupted supplies of fuel and spare parts making the tanks incapable to exploit their abilities. Many were abandoned due to poor mechanical conditions, lacks of fuel and ammo. When they were put on the battlefield they proved to be more than worthy opponents. Also a single tank was able to stop an Allied armored thrust and impose an significant delay to the Allied formations. If properly supported they could be reverted in counterattacks. A situation very similar to the 1941, were the heavy KVs proved themselves against the Panzerdivisionen ... 

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