Arguably the ultimate development of the tank during WWII, the massive German Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B Tiger II or Royal Tiger was developed under the direction of Hitler himself and his desire to see Germany introducing ever bigger, ever more powerful tanks as the war progressed. Taking the already impressive credentials of the Tiger I, this new tank was to be designed around the massive Rheinmetall L-71 8.8cm Flak 41 high velocity anti-tank gun, with the major issue being how could they get this huge gun onto a tank. As with the original Tiger project, Porsche and Henschel would compete against each other for the hull contract, whilst the turret would be developed and manufactured by Krupp – indeed, Krupp were not too enamoured at the prospect of fitting a rival manufacturer’s gun into their new turret, so they designed their own version of the Rheinmetall L-71 gun, the 8.8cm PaK 43 Kampfwagenkanone.
In order to accommodate the gun, the newly designed Krupp turret was long and relatively narrow in appearance, with two different versions entering service – the first 50 machines had a turret which was more curved, with a less pronounced gun mantlet, however, these were found to offer a ‘shot trap’ to Allied gunners and were therefore quickly replaced. The majority of Tiger IIs were fitted with the later ‘production turret’, which was much more angular and incorporated a far more pronounced mantlet at the base of the gun. All this additional weight had to be carried by the hull of the new Tiger II, with Henschel winning the production contract. Again building on the design of the original Tiger, the new hull was longer and with greater armour protection than featured on its predecessor, again using a development of the distinctive interleaved road wheel arrangement to carry the immense weight of the tank – the Tiger II weighed in at just under 70 tons.
Despite having to cope with the significantly greater weight of the new tank, the Tiger II was still powered by a derivative of the same V-12 Maybach engine which was used in the original Tiger, something which would always hinder the performance of this battlefield behemoth. Something which most certainly would not be hindered was the performance of the new gun. Although it could use the same shells as used by the fearsome Tiger I, the cartridge case was doubled in size, meaning that the projectile was fired at a much higher velocity. With the gun barrel being 1.3 metres longer than on the Tiger I, this new tank could take out Allied armour at even greater ranges than that of is already proficient predecessor. The original contract was for Henschel to produce 1500 Tiger IIs, however, with the Allies now very much in the ascendancy at this stage of the war, only 492 of these monsters would actually be built.
Expected: Autumn 2020