The VK 4503(H) Henschel design was completed in October 1943, somewhat later than anticipated as a decision was taken to incorporate components of the projected Panther II tank.
Production of the Tiger II, or Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II Ausf B (SdKfz 182) to give its correct designation, got under way at Kassel in December 1943 alongside the Tiger, the first 50 production vehicles being completed with the Porsche turret. All subsequent tanks had the Henschel turret, and a total of 489 vehicles was built.
The Tiger II first saw action on the Eastern Front in May 1944 and on the Western Front in Normandy in August of the same year, the Western Allies calling it the Royal Tiger or King Tiger while the Germans called it the Königstiger (King Tiger).
In many respects the Tiger II was similar in layout to the Panther tank, and was powered by the same engine as later production Panthers, resulting in a much lower power-to-weight ratio, and the tank was therefore much slower and less mobile than the Panther. While its armour gave almost complete protection against all of the guns fitted to Allied tanks, the Tiger II was unreliable and its bulk made it difficult to move about the battlefield and to conceal. Many were abandoned or destroyed by their crews when they ran out of fuel and no additional supplies were to hand.
The hull of the Tiger II was of allwelded construction with a maximum thickness of 150 mm (5.9 in) in the front of the hull. The driver was seated at the front on the left, with the bow machinegunner/ radio operator to his right. The turret was of welded construction with a maximum thickness of 100mm (3.9 in) at the front, and accommodated the commander and gunner on the left with the loader on the right. The engine was at the hull rear. Main armament comprised a long-barrelled 88- mm (3.46-in) KwK 43 gun that could fire armour-piercing and HE ammunition, the former having a much higher muzzle velocity than the equivalent round fired by the Tiger. A 7.92-mm (0.31-in) MG 34 was mounted co-axial with the main armament, and another weapon was mounted in the hull front. Totals of 84 rounds of 88-mm (3.46-in) and 5,850 rounds of 7.92-mm (0.31-in) machinegun ammunition were carried.