Nazi Germany (1935-39)
Heavy Tank – 3 Hulls & 1 Turret Built
The Tiger I and the Tiger II are some of the most famous tanks in the whole history of armored warfare. These behemoths of World War Two have captured the imagination and attention of many generations of tank lovers and armor researchers. However, while the Tiger was the product of a rushed development following the lessons of Operation Barbarossa, the German quest for a heavy breakthrough tank stretches back to 1935, with the design process of a 30 ton Panzer that would become the Durchbruchswagen.
A Long Incubation
The first mention of what would eventually become the Tiger series appears in a report from October 1935, at a time when Germany had barely started building the Panzer I. General Liese, the head of the Heeres Waffenamt, the German Army Weapons Agency, stated that:
“The initial velocity of the 7.5 cm gun must be increased to about 650 meters/second to be effective against the Char 2 C, 3 C, and D. This type of increase requires the design of a completely new Panzer. Based on rough calculations, armor protection up to 20 mm thick (still not fully protected against 2 cm guns) would result in a weight of at least 30 tonnes. The head of the army recently spoke out against this type of tank. As a follow-up action, confirm that the development of a medium Panzer weighing about 30 tonnes with a 7.5 cm gun with increased capability can be dropped.”
It is notable that a 30 tonne tank was seen as a medium tank at the time, given that the newly built Panzer I weighed just 5 tonnes, while the first versions of the Panzer IV would go on to weigh 18 tonnes. Nonetheless, it is important to note that this tank, armed with a 7.5 cm gun, was intended as a counter to enemy heavy tanks, most notably the French Char 2C and the Char 2C bis, incorrectly called the 3C in the document.
The weight of 30 tonnes was chosen because, as was brought up during a 1936 meeting on the development of an engine for this tank:
“a higher weight would hardly be allowable when considering the Pionier bridging equipment”
The 30 tonne Panzer development project was not dropped by the Army and reappeared in the documentation in December 1935, with the problem of the engine:
“Dipl.Ing. Augustin turned the discussion to the development of a 600 hp engine for the heavy Panzers and noted that his opinion was that 600 horsepower will not be sufficient and that indeed it would be more correct to immediately develop a motor capable of 700 hp.”
This was just wishful thinking. At this point, Maybach was barely testing a 300 hp engine. The planned 600 hp 32 liter Maybach HL 320 V-12 petrol engine never got built. One year later, in October 1936, Wa Pruef 6, the German design office for armored vehicles, sent a request to Krupp for a conceptual design of a turret for this 30 tonne Panzer sporting the 7.5 cm L/24 gun.
A Tank With Many Names
At this point, the 30 tonne Panzer was known as the Begleitwagen (verstaerkt), meaning ‘Escort Vehicle, Strengthened’. This indicates that the new 30 tonne Panzer was meant to cover the same role as the Panzer IV, which was also known as the Begleitwagen in its development. This would have meant that small units of 30 tonne Panzers would have been used to accompany lighter tanks during operations, being responsible for taking out enemy strongpoints which could be destroyed using their high explosive shells.
In March 1937, this designation was changed into Infanteriwagen, or ‘Infantry vehicle’. This also indicates a change in the role it was meant to carry out, presumably to having to work alongside friendly infantry to overcome enemy defenses, probably closer to the British and French concepts of an Infantry tank. This would not last long and, in April 1937, the vehicle would receive its most known designation, Durchbruchswagen, or ‘Breakthrough vehicle’. Again, this probably came with a role change, a role that would stick with the German heavy tanks up to the E100. This breakthrough role, which also appears in both Soviet and French armored doctrines before the war, proposed the use of heavy tank units to punch through the enemy defensive line, thus creating a breach which could then be exploited by other armored and motorized divisions.
The construction of the first Durchbruchswagen began with a January 1937 order from Wa Pruef 6 to the Henschel company for the design of a chassis for the 30 tonne Panzer. This would cement a practice that would hold on for most of the German heavy tank development of having two companies designing the vehicle, Krupp doing the turret and gun and another company doing the chassis. Two versions were built, the D.W.1 and the D.W.2, meant to be delivered in the second half of 1938, mostly with automotive differences.
The Durchbruchswagen I was protected by flat 5 cm thick armor on the front, sides and rear, which was meant to be proof against the armor-piercing shells of the German 3.7 cm PaK, although it is unclear at which range this was supposed to be at. The Armor Piercing (A.P.) shell of the 3.7 cm could penetrate more than 5 cm of armor at point blank range. To give a comparison, the Panzer IV Ausf.F, which had the same gun, same engine, a very similar turret and the same 5 cm frontal armor, weighed just over 7 tonnes less than the Durchbruchswagen’s intended weight. A significant part of this difference can be accounted for by the thinner side, rear, top and bottom armor, although other differences between the two tanks make this comparison just indicative.
The roof and bottom of the hull were 2 cm thick. The armor at the front was stepped. However, both of the constructed vehicles were made out of ‘soft’ (not armor) steel, as they were meant mostly for automotive tests. Also, due to the inability of existing milling machines to fabricate such long 5 cm armored plates, the side armor was made from two parts, with a split at the front of the engine compartment. At the joining, they were riveted to an internal frame. This increased the weight of the vehicle and affected the structural integrity of the side armor.
For that time, this was quite thick armor. Only the Char B1 bis had thicker armor (60 mm front and 55 mm sides), with the SOMUA S35 also having similar armor (47 mm front, 40 mm sides). Furthermore, just like on the Tiger I prototype, there was a foldable armor plate that could be lowered using hand cranks to protect the drive sprockets at the front. This foldable armor plate was allegedly put through a protection test which it failed. There were two escape hatches in the bottom of the tank, one on the right front, close to the radio operator, and one at the rear left of the hull, in the engine compartment. This could be accessed through a door in the firewall that separated the engine from the crew compartment. While not specifically mentioned in any source, the Durchbruchswagen I hull probably had a driver’s visor in the front of the upper glacis and a hatch in the roof. The radio operator on the right side of the front hull also probably had a hatch in the roof and a ball-mount machine gun.
The engine was a 12-liter water-cooled gasoline Maybach HL 120 TR giving out 280 hp, placed at the rear of the tank. The TRM version of this engine also propelled the Panzer III, Panzer IV and their derivatives. The engine was coupled to a Maybach-Motorenwerk Variorex semi-automatic transmission, also used on the Panzer III, placed at the front of the tank. These could allegedly propel the vehicle to a maximum speed of 35 km/h. The steering system consisted of three Cletrac stages in series. A Cletrac system allows the transfer of power from one track to the other when steering, without the usual loss of power due to braking. The three stages allowed the use of three different turning radiuses, so the tank could make a shallower or tighter turn without losing power. However, problems appeared with the steering system, with the cast iron housing being broken twice. The exhaust was at the rear of the tank, coming down from the upper part of the rear of the vehicle. There were also problems with the brakes, as the first version, done by Henschel, gave out a lot of smoke when breaking, so the coating had to be replaced.
The running gear consisted of a drive sprocket at the front, an idler at the rear, three return rollers and five medium-size double road wheels on each side. They had rubber rims in order to decrease the noise made by the tracks. Due to the use of a torsion bar suspension, the road wheels were not symmetrically placed. The ones on the right side of the tank were slightly forward compared to the ones on the left. The torsion bars were square and hollow on the inside. They were very soft-springed, meaning that they could give a smoother ride in certain conditions, but could not handle rough terrain and would lead to a lot of pitching during driving and when stopping or starting. Two shock absorbers were mounted on each side, one on the first roadwheel and one on the last roadwheel. These were meant to assist these torsion bars, as they were subjected to stronger shocks, especially when stopping or accelerating. Also, bump stops were added to the suspension in order to stop the road wheels from being deviated too much and thus protecting the tank from bellying out. The tracks had a pitch of 300 mm. The pitch of a track is the distance between the centers of two subsequent track links. In general, decreasing the pitch could lead to better speed and ride, but also means more track links were needed, with more connections and more parts. The tracks were lubricated and could be fitted with rubber pads. The rubber pads would have made the tank quieter and less prone to damaging or destroying the pavement on roads, while the lubrication decreased friction and thus increased the speed of the vehicle. These were both characteristics that seem to have been carried over from half-track designs.
The crew probably consisted of five people as on other German tanks being developed at that time. This would have included the driver and radio operator in the front part of the hull of the tank, and a gunner, a loader and a commander in the turret. This would have been a very important feature of this vehicle, as it would have allowed the commander to focus on his duties of observation and tactical leadership instead of having to aim and load the gun.
The dimensions of the Durchbruchswagen are not available in any of the sources, but it can be reasonably assumed that they would have been similar to those of the VK30.01(H). This later vehicle had a length of 5.7 and a height of 2.6 meters. The width of the VK30.01(H), of 3.1 meters, was probably larger than that of the D.W. due to the different suspension system. Nonetheless, these values are also very close to those of the Panzer IV.
Work on the Durchbruchswagen 2 was started halfway through 1937 and it mostly had automotive improvements. In the book ‘Tiger and its variants’, Doyle’s drawing of the D.W.2 shows it with the one-piece side armor. However, in the book ‘Germany’s Tiger tanks’, Jentz specifically mentions that the one-piece side armor was introduced with the VK30.01(H) neue Konstruktion, and thus the D.W.2 should have the two piece side armor. Similarly, ‘Tiger and its variants’ shows the addition of a hull side-escape hatch to the D.W.2 while ‘Germany’s Tiger tanks’ makes no mention of such a thing.
Automotive-wise, the larger stages of the previous Cletrac system were replaced with a three-stage differential with magnetic clutches. Not only did these allow for power to be transferred from one track to the other while turning, but a triple stage differential also allowed to reverse one track with respect to the other, thus allowing the tank to neutral steer. The Cletrac stage with the smallest turning radius was kept though.
Also, the track pitch was decreased to 260 mm, which is claimed to have significantly improved the ride of the vehicle. The torsion bars were also changed to a more rigid type, with a three-times larger springing constant.
Due to these changes, the drive sprocket, final drives and parking brakes also needed to be modified.
These two hulls were supposedly trialed to test all the components and identify what improvements could be made for future projects. However, almost no details remain about these tests. What is certain is that the Durchbruchswagen was not accepted as built.
Work on the Durchbruchswagen turret was done in parallel to that on the hulls. Krupp sent the requested conceptual drawings for the turret in February 1937, and was quickly informed by Wa Pruef 6 to use it as a basis for subsequent development. In the March 1937 answer, Wa Pruef details the desired characteristics of the D.W. turret.
The turret was to have a turret ring diameter of 1,500 mm, smaller than that of the Panzer IV. Also, the turret would be rotated manually, as
“No plans are made for an electric drive for traversing the turret. Auxiliary traversing gear for the loader is to be included.”
The armor of the turret would be 50 mm all around, with a 20 mm external mantlet and a 15 mm turret roof, affording similar protection as the hull. There is no other information on the shape of the turret of the Durchbruchswagen, although H.L.Doyle’s line-drawing in ‘Tiger and its variants’ shows a Panzer IV-like turret with a large commander cupola at the rear, a crew access hatch and a vision port on each side.
The gun to be used in this turret was the same 7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone L/24 that would be mounted on the early versions of the Panzer IV. In a meeting in January 1939 on the topic of the heavy 30 tonne Panzers, it was expressly specified that no gun larger than the short 7.5 cm should be pursued because the increased weight would have to be compensated by a decrease in armor, which was deemed unacceptable.
The main shell for this gun was the Sprenggranate 34 high-explosive shell. This shell weighed around 4.5 kg and had an explosive filler of almost half a kilogram. This was meant to be used against enemy infantry, machine-gun posts, anti-tank guns, bunkers and soft-skinned vehicles. For anti-tank purposes, a series of High Explosive Anti Tank (H.E.A.T) shells were introduced during the lifetime of this gun, with penetrations ranging from around 45 mm to over 100 mm, although they were introduced into service later. Two types of Armor Piercing Capped Ballistic Capped (A.P.C.B.C.) shells were also available, with a penetration of 54 mm to 60 mm at 100 m distance. An APCBC shell works basically as a normal Armor Piercing (A.P.) shell, but has two additional caps added to the tip of the shell. The first cap is made of soft metal and is meant to absorb a part of the shock on impacting the armor and thus preventing the armor piercing tip from shattering. The ballistic cap was a hollow light cone added on the top of the shell with the sole purpose of improving the aerodynamics of the shell. This improved both accuracy and the penetrating power, as the shell kept more of its kinetic energy at longer ranges.
Another machine gun (most probably an MG 34) would have probably been mounted coaxially with the gun. The instruction letter from March 1937 specifies that the radio should be mounted in the turret, behind the gun. However, this seems impossible to do in a Panzer IV-like turret. If the turret was as the one drawn by Doyle, then the radio would have almost certainly been mounted in the hull.
Krupp finished the D.W. turret in May 1939, building it from soft steel. It was then shipped to Magdeburg, where it was put on display along with other developments, such as the Panzer IV turret. Nothing is known about what happened after this with the turret.
The End of the Line
The Durchbruchswagen project melts into the subsequent VK 30.01 (H), which inherited many of the characteristics of the D.W. designs. The Durchbruchswagen design also underwent its last designation evolution in November 1939, also receiving the designation Vollketten 30.01 (H) alte Konstruktion.
Nonetheless, a final D.W. hull was constructed from armor plate for ballistic tests. This hull had some changes compared to the previous two hulls, having slightly different armor values that were closer to those on the VK30.01(H). This was completed after September 1940 and shipped to Kummersdorf for firing tests. No information about the results are currently available.
A Note on Sources
There is almost no photographic evidence for the Durchbruchswagen. The only known photographs of the project were published in ‘Tiger and its variants’ and consist of a photograph of the tracks and one of the final drives at the front of the vehicle, along with a roadwheel and a shock absorber. This paucity of photographic evidence is disturbing. Other visual references include a 1940 armor scheme of the ballistic test hull and a 1945 British reconstruction of the D.W. hull based on the interrogation of Dr. Aders, the head of the design department of Henschel. Finally, two beautiful line drawings from Hillary Louis Doyle are available in the book ‘Tiger and its variants’, but how many of the details on it are based on historical references and how many are conjectural is unknown.
It is also important to note that there is annoyingly little information available on the Durchbruchswagen, with only three books treating it in any detail. Even so, most of the technical details and specifications come from the 1945 interrogation of Dr. Aders by the British and not from contemporary German documents, so they should be treated with a degree of skepticism.
Nowadays, the Durchbruchswagen are mostly forgotten except for some mentions in a couple of books and their appearance in a popular video game. However, they played an important role in the development of German heavy tanks that would culminate in the Tiger tanks. They were the main designs worked on at a time when the German heavy tank doctrine was being crystallized. Also, they were very important in testing the capabilities of the German armaments industry and helping identify where research and development were needed, such as designing better armor milling, better suspension and better engines.
Nevertheless, the Germans would not adopt a heavy tank for the Wehrmacht until 1942, meaning that the German tank divisions went into the Second World War without such a vehicle. During the peak of the German offensive successes, when such a tank would have been most useful in breaking down Polish, French, or Soviet defensive lines, none was available. The Germans nonetheless achieved great success despite the thin armor of their tanks due to excellent communications, training, leadership, and tactics.
Illustration of the Durchbruchswagen 2 based on H.L.Doyle’s drawing produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet. The hull side is in one piece
Around 5.7 x 3.1 x 2.7 m
7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone L/24
2 x MG 34
50 mm hull front, rear and sides
20 mm hull roof and floor
50 mm turret front, rear and sides
15 mm turret roof
Nazi Germany (1944-45)
Flamethrower Tank – Experimental Only
There is something about a flamethrower that induces the primordial fear amongst those on the receiving end. The awe of seeing a sheet of flame projected towards you with little or no chance of stopping it was recognized as a very effective psychological weapon during World War I, when these devices first started to be fielded. Even as far back as then, there were ideas and plans to mount these flamethrowers into tanks. An armored all-terrain platform makes a lot of sense for a flamethrower-carrier, as it is protected by its armor from the small arms of the enemy but also able to traverse the rough or broken ground in front of the position. Further, whilst a man-portable system was limited by the ability and stamina of the man hauling it, a vehicle was not. A vehicle-mounted flamethrower system could carry far more fuel for a bigger flame thrower with a longer range than was possible with a man-portable system.
The Germans, right from World War I, were fans of flamethrowers and understood the potential of them both in their direct military application for clearing an enemy position as well as for their psychological effect. Various German tanks in World War II were trialed with flamethrowers, although some are better known than others. One of these projects that is mostly forgotten and was never realized in a vehicle was the fitting of a heavy flamethrower into the hull of a Tiger I, the Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Tiger I.
Flamethrowers mounted on the Panzer I (Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. A), also known as ‘Flammpanzer I’, were used in North Africa against the British and a version known as the ‘Flamingo’, based on the Panzer II (Pz.Kpfw.II(F) Sd.Kfz.122), also known as ’Flammpanzer II’, was used on the Russian Front. Both of these vehicles saw relatively limited service. They were simply too vulnerable to enemy fire with thin armor which even an anti-tank rifle could penetrate from the front. As such, the poor range of the flame projectors they mounted left them very vulnerable to being penetrated as they had to get too close. This, and carrying hundreds of liters of fuel inside the tank was thus a recipe for disaster for the crews. The Flammpanzer I had mounted its projector in the turret alongside a single machine gun but the Flammpanzer II went for two nozzles, one on each front mudguard over the tracks (Spritzkopfe – Spray Heads). Each was independently operable, able to be rotated through 180 degrees. The turret was changed to include new vision ports permitting a better view of each nozzle as it worked and just a single machine gun. Flame time for the Flammpanzer II was limited. Just 160 litres of fuel were carried, enough for up to 80 ‘shots’ lasting up to 2-3 seconds each with the usual method being to douse the target with fuel before igniting it.
A solution to the lack of armor on the Flammpanzer I and II was to use the hull of a more heavily armored tank. Whilst it was on a much slower platform, a successful flamethrower was retrofitted to captured French Renault Char B tanks (Pz.Kpfw.B2 (F1)). Powered by a J-10 Motor driving a pump rather than being reliant upon cylinders of compressed nitrogen gas as the propellant like on the Flammpanzer II, this system had a range of 40 to 45 metres with enough fuel for about 200 separate bursts. This was a new type of fitting designed by Wegmann, although the actual flamethrower was designed by Koebe. This partnership paired the heavily protected Char B hull with the flamethrower, allowing, at least in theory, for the vehicle to get close enough to the enemy to make use of it.
The Panzer III (Pz.Kpfw.III (F) Sd.Kfz.141/3) flamethrower version, also known as the Flammpanzer III, was different to the Pz.Kpfw.B2 (F) using a Koebe* HL II 40/40 1000/20 pump which, in turn, was driven by a two-stroke 28 hp Auto Union ZW 1101 (DKW) (1,100 cc) engine. It could achieve a jet of burning flame oil out to just 60 metres at a pressure of 1.52 to 1.72 MPa (15 to 17 atmospheres) and a rate of 7.8 litres per second. The fuel mix itself was a mixture of oil and petrol to create a thickened burning fluid which was easily ignited by means of Smits glow plugs (Smitskerzen). This system had far better mobility than the Pz.Kpfw.B2 (F) retrofitted system, but still required improvement and found limited use.
*(Koebe was the firm of Hermann Koebe Feuerwehr-Geraete-Fabrik of Berlin, a manufacturer of fire-fighting equipment)
Enter the Tiger
Despite the successful use of various flamethrower-armed vehicles, including tanks and half tracks, during the war, it was clear to the Germans that the short range of the flame systems used meant that the vehicles carrying them had to get too close to the enemy and this rendered them vulnerable to fire. The solution was twofold: first, put the flamethrower on a heavily armored platform (like had been tried on the Pz.Kpfw.B2 (F)), and secondly, partner this with a new, longer-range flamethrower system.
At the end of 1944, a solution was proffered by Hitler. On 5th December 1944, during a conference, he requested that a long-range flamethrower should be mounted behind as heavy an armored chassis as possible. Various heavy tank projects had been suggested up to and including the Maus (which had been through its own flamethrower development by this time). The Tiger II chassis was the most well armored vehicle in service which was in production at the time, but chassis for that vehicle were at a premium. The next best thing of course was the Tiger I (Sd.Kfz.181 – Tiger Ausf. E), a vehicle which had finished production and for which there were hulls available as vehicles were brought back from the front for repair.
Repurposing these hulls for this use was not dissimilar from the idea to reuse hulls for the Sturmtiger programme, as it meant that a tank which might have had severe and irreparable turret damage could be reused for the war effort. Unlike the Sturmtiger though, this flamethrower idea would not require extensive rebuilding with a new superstructure and weapon system. Instead, the plan was much simpler. Hitler’s goal was a Flammpanzer with frontal armor which was impenetrable to enemy fire with a target of 250 mm, but the Tiger I, with armor up to 120 mm thick on the front, would have to do in the short-term. This demand was repeated by Hitler on 29th December 1944 and the task passed over to Obert Crohn of the Entwicklungskommission Panzer (Tank Development Committee).
Reusing Tiger I hulls would mean there would be no need to design a chassis on which to mount this flamethrower but there were still technical hurdles to overcome. First was the flame-part of the problem and, on 23rd January, Obert Crohn reported a solution. It was a reversion to the older high-pressure gas-based delivery system but it would provide a significantly longer range flamethrower, at 120-140 metres. The mounting for the weapon was selected as being the machine gun port on the front of the Tiger, meaning it could be directed by the man in the front right who had previously had the role of radio operator/hull machine gunner, but there was still the issue of the fuel tanks. The interior of the Tiger was crammed full already with the equipment it needed to function as a tank as well as the turret basket, ammunition etc., so there were only two easy options for the fuel. Either it would have to be hauled in a trailer behind (a solution adopted famously by the Churchill Crocodile) or else the turret would have to be removed to create the space. The advantage of a trailer idea is that the main gun could be retained, but this would come at a cost. The trailer would be vulnerable and, since the surplus Tiger Is were those with damaged turrets anyway, the turretless internal-fuel-stowage option was chosen instead. This would be lighter and avoid the vulnerable trailer but had its own flaws. First was the lack of armament as the hull weapon had been replaced, and the turret weapons had been lost. This would receive separate consideration for a solution. The second problem was the profile. A turretless Tiger would draw significant attention and be an obvious target on which an enemy could focus fire.
Certainly, production would not have been a significant issue as the modifications were modest but the whole concept had to be called into question. Major General Thomale was a fan of the flamethrower but only in limited circumstances. Specifically, he liked them on small, light, and maneuverable vehicles which could target the odd stubborn strongpoint and the Tiger I was neither small, light, nor particularly fast even with a turret removed. His second point was also valid. With its main gun, the tank could pick off the enemy at combat ranges up to 2,500 metres meaning a significant safety distance from their fire and, with 80 rounds, could do so many times. A flamethrower meant getting very, very close and offered relatively few attempts to destroy the enemy. Despite the limited advantages of the system, he was therefore against it.
The flame thrower system designed could still be used, but would have to be mounted on something smaller and lighter instead, and the Jagdpanzer 38 was selected as the replacement. Nonetheless, the idea of a flamethrower on the Tiger I was not over.
On 19th March 1945, despite the extremely dire war situation, the project, named ‘Flammenlage auf Tiger I’ (Flame mounting on Tiger I) or ‘Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Tiger I’ (Heavy flamethrower on Tiger I) was still being listed as a project under development and Hitler ordered Maj.Gen. Thomale to fit the flamethrower system to a turretless Tiger I with the second idea of increasing the thickness of the armor on the front. Quite how much additional armor was meant to be added is not clear nor how it was to be done, but perhaps something akin to the method used on the Ferdinand/Elephant is the best approximation as to which would have been adopted. The Sturmtiger was similarly up-armored with an extra 50 mm plate, which suggests the frontal armour of the Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Tiger I could have been increased to around 150 mm across the front, a lot less than Hitler might have wanted but certainly a significant improvement.
Further progress was still reported into the final days of Nazi Germany, with an update from Wa Pruef 6 on the project as late as 3rd April 1945. In this report, Obert Holzhauer (head of Wa Pruef 6) reported that, following Hitler’s orders, the first steps in putting together this experimental heavy flamethrower on a Tiger I had taken place at Wegmann, Kassel on 21st and 22nd March with completion of the project estimated by 15th April. The Tiger I to be used had been dispatched by train from Kummersdorf on 17th March but, due to enemy bombing, had been delayed until 3rd April 1945. From Kassel, the vehicle was then sent to the firm of MIAG at Braunschweig for assembly there under supervision of men from Wegmann.
This additional movement and Allied bombing meant that the target completion date of 15th April was missed and the vehicle was never completed. Likely, work on actually fitting the system was never even started before Allied forces overran the facility. This is confirmed by a British intelligence report of the time which stated:
“…It is believed that this equipment never progressed beyond the experimental stage and no specimen has yet been recovered….”
– War Office. (26th July 1945). Technical Intelligence Summary Report 182 Appendix F ‘Flame thrower mounted on Pz.Kpfw. TIGER MODEL E (Sd.Kfz.181)’
The new flame-system that was to be fitted to the Flammenlage auf Tiger I reverted back to using compressed nitrogen and special reduction valves (obtained from the Kriegsmarine) which raised the pressure output from the tanks. This meant that this new system had abandoned the motor-driven-pump system. In this way, the pressure of the system could be raised from 1.52 to 1.72 MPa (15 to 17 atmospheres) to 2.03 to 2.53 MPa (20 to 25 atmospheres). With this increased pressure, the system could deliver a jet of burning fuel out to a range of 120 to 140 metres. A pair of 400-litre fuel tanks* would be fitted on the inside (there was more room because no turret was required), providing enough fuel for 16 to 20 bursts, meaning each burst would use about 40 to 50 litres of fuel. At 2-3 seconds per burst, this means the system delivered about 20 litres per second.
The fuel was different to what had been used before. Koebe, when asked at the end of 1942 to design a long-range flamethrower for use on the Porsche-Maus, proved unable to develop a system with a range of more than 100 m. Even then it would have required a flame-nozzle (Spritzkopf) 22 mm wide and would have used 33 litres of fuel per second propelled by a 30 hp engine driving a pumping system. To project a flame even further would require a narrower (12-14 mm) nozzle, but the jet would disperse with range. To go further, therefore, the fuel needed to be thicker and it was this factor which meant a pump could not be used. Even with a range of 140 metres, this was still not ideal and Hiter, in March 1945, still wanted a thicker fuel to match the type used by the British on their flamethrowers, but there would be no time to develop an even thicker fuel. The projector itself, when fitted into the front of the Tiger, would have had only limited traverse. A range of motion of just 10 degrees in all directions was possible.
*(A British report from July 1945 on the project reported a single 300 litre tank, suggesting just a single fuel tank was found with the remains of the system when it was recovered and mis-estimated in volume)
Given that this project was relatively crude, it is hard to know exactly how many men would have been required to crew it, but some things are known. For example, the tank would have had to have kept its driver, located in the front left. Without any kind of remote-control over the direction of the flame-projector, the flame-projector located in the front right would need manual operation too and this would have meant the retention of the man who would usually operate both the hull machine gun and the radio. He would have been the flame-operator and likely still the radio operator too, although it was also identified that flamethrower tanks should have a second radio set in order to coordinate with supporting vehicles. This would suggest the use of a Panzerbefehlswagen Tiger hull which was fitted with both a Fu 5 and Fu 8 (Sd.Kfz. 267) or Fu 7 (Sd.Kfz. 268) radio sets, although on the Panzerbefehlswagen Tiger the additional set was fitted into the turret and would have to be relocated within the hull. No loader was required nor was a gunner, but a commander would certainly have had to be retained in order to coordinate the operation of the vehicle, which would therefore indicate a crew of 3 men. Even with the removal of the turret and ammunition, the two 400-litre tanks required would have taken up a lot of the internal space and it is doubtful there would be room for a fourth man and, in any case, there was no clear role for him anyway.
As the vehicle was based upon an existing Tiger I hull, there were likely no changes made to whichever hull was to be used. As the Tiger I had gone through production, various minor changes were made to some internal and external fittings. Some were fitted with special air filters at the back, and others not. Early production Tiger I vehicles received the 650 hp Maybach HL 210 650 hp petrol engine whilst later vehicles received the 700 hp Maybach HL 230 petrol engine. Early production Tigers used rubber-tyred road wheels but these were later replaced with a more resilient steel-tyred type. Without knowing which hull was to be used, it is impossible to know exactly what the Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Tiger I would have looked like, but the essentials of the automotive system would be identical.
Changes to the Tiger I hull were relatively modest. Removal of the turret meant leaving a large hole in the roof of the tank which was obviously a serious hazard in combat so this would have been covered with a large armor-plate. Already discussed is the additional armor on the front, although how this might have looked around the machine gun mounting is unclear. Other than these changes and the interior changes, like the removal of the ammunition racks etc., there would have been few changes inside and most of the work would have been done on the roof. For the prototype, it is possible that just a single plain disc of metal welded or bolted over the hole where the turret would have sat would have been employed. This would have retained the front crew hatches but meant that a commander in the back would have been unable to get out except by these front hatches. Given the hundreds of litres of fuel he would be sat next to, this seems highly improbable for any design which would ever have been authorised for production and the description in the British 1945 report provides an additional clue.
Whilst with no turret and hull machine gun the vehicle might seem otherwise unarmed, it was to get a new machine gun, most likely either an M.G.34 (Maschinengewehr 34) or M.G. 42. This would not have been mounted within the vehicle, but this time mounted externally. This would have been controlled from inside, again supporting the proposition of a third crew member, and would have been mounted on the outside of the cover plate over the turret-hole.
The mounting of such a weapon was certainly not a new idea and was mounted on various Sturmgeschütz in the form of a 7.92 mm M.G. 34, fitted with a 50-round drum mounted behind a short and sharply curved gun shield. Under the gun was a small optical sight which permitted the man below the armor to see where he was firing. Reloading however, had to take place externally.
In order to provide any value to the commander, he would have needed to be provided with some optics as the small optic on even the roof-mounted machine gun would be wholly inadequate for the purposes of command. A hatch would also have been required for observations, access or egress to the vehicle, changing barrels, or reloading/clearing stoppage on the machine gun. Despite the description of the “single continuous roof plate”, it would appear that any development of this vehicle would have needed to include at least a moveable optic and hatch for him, or even just a repurposed tank cupola.
One extra piece to consider is that the Tiger was fitted with a self-protection system launching S-mines to protect against enemy infantry. As this Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Tiger I was, by definition, having to get very close to the enemy in order to use its primary weapon, it would be logical to assume that this type of system would have been adopted for any production of the Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Tiger I even if the prototype being assembled did not have them. Further, a lot of flame throwing vehicles used by the Germans carried smoke-candle launchers in order to create a smoke screen to protect them from enemy observation. Here again, the addition of smoke grenade launchers on the Schwerer-Flammenpanzer auf Tiger I is a very reasonable assumption as once it had ‘flamed’ its target it would need to withdraw and a smoke screen provides ideal screening during such a manoeuvre.
The overall idea was not a bad one. A flamethrower certainly had some practical military value and served as a potentially very effective psychological weapon against the enemy too. This fact was reinforced in February 1944 by considerations from Panzer Grenadier Division ‘Grossdeutschland’, which recommended the use of a motor-driven ‘howling siren’ to accompany the use of the flamethrower to maximise the demoralisation effect.
Early flame-throwing attempts had been too small (Panzer I), too lightly armored (Panzer II) and too short in range (Panzer III et al.). A heavy flamethrower paired with a heavily armored hull from the Tiger I seems like a system which could have fulfilled the requirements but it was simply flawed in premise.
With very little development time on hand and with the progress of the war going so badly, this was a weapon system which was not going to enter production. The days of assaults against fixed enemy positions like bunkers and trenches, for which a flamethrower is best suited, were over by 1945, as most of the fighting was defensive in nature. The Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Tiger I was never finished so no photos of it exist and whatever plans may have existed for it are believed to have been lost. Outside of reports, both German and British, the project remains unknown, and the reader is therefore reminded that the discussion over the vehicle is speculative, as is the artist’s rendering.
Illustration of the Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Tiger I (Flammanlage auf Tiger I – ‘Flammpanzer VI’’) based on existing descriptions. Modified by Pavel Alexe, based on wok by David Bocquelet.
Nazi Germany (1942)
Medium Tank Prototypes – 4 Built
“…I was quite startled, however, by an unusual event in connection with the tank in question. In the spring of 1941, Hitler had given his express permission that a Russian officer’s commission be permitted to visit our tank training schools and armor production facilities, and had ordered that the Russians be allowed to see everything. During this visit, the Russians, when shown our Panzer IV, simply refused to believe that this vehicle was our heaviest tank. They repeatedly claimed that we were keeping our newest design from them, which Hitler had promised to demonstrate. The commission’s insistence was so great that our manufacturers and officials in the Waffenamt finally concluded that the Russians had heavier and better types than we did…”
– General Heinz Guderian, Erinnerung eines Soldaten/Panzer Leader
This should have been the first warning sign to the Germans that the Soviet Red Army was not as far behind technologically as they had believed. In 1941, World War II was in full swing, Germany had swept through most of Europe, and with the Channel blocking their advance into England, the only way left to go was east, turning on their one-time ally, the Soviet Union.
As early as July of 1940, Hitler had been thinking about invading the Soviet Union; he was counting on their obsolete and disorganized military to quickly fall to the blitzkrieg as the rest of Europe already had. Although Germany and the Soviet Union had signed a non-aggression pact in 1939, both countries still held a distrust of one another. This would be validated on the Soviet’s part when the Germans invaded on June 22nd, 1941.
At the start of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Germany’s primary tanks were the Panzer III and the Panzer IV, both of which were mid-1930s designs. Even so, they were still seen as superior to anything the Russians could field. Indeed, the Panzer III’s 3.7 cm KwK 36 cannon would have no trouble at all punching through T-26s and BT tanks; but time had not stood still since the Germans were last allowed to examine the Soviet’s tanks. Whether through arrogance or ignorance, the Germans had failed to realize that Soviet tank development in 1941 had far outpaced their own. Only one day into Operation Barbarossa they would see this firsthand.
June 23rd, 1941, would see the combat debut of the T-34 and KV-1, the latter all but impregnable to German 3.7 cm and 5 cm anti-tank guns. The T-34 in particular was seen by the Germans as a massive leap forward in tank design, combining maneuverability, a powerful cannon, and good protection on account of its comprehensive use of sloped armor. The appearance of these new enemy tanks left the German army scrambling to find a solution to defeat them. The companies of Henschel and Porsche had been involved in work on a heavy breakthrough tank since early 1937, but this had not been seriously pursued up until this point. However, the appearance of the new Soviet tanks, and the promise of even better ones to come, led to much more focus being laid on the design that would eventually become the Tiger; it would need heavier armor, and a bigger gun. Moreover, a new, more modern tank design was needed, incorporating the advantages of sloped armor but retaining the maneuverability that had made the Panzer III and IV so successful.
On July 18th, 1941, Rheinmetall-Borsig was contracted to develop a new tank cannon specifically to defeat the heavy Soviet armor encountered on the Eastern Front. It was to be capable of penetrating 140 mm (5.51 in) of armor at 1 kilometer (0.62 miles). They were also asked to develop a turret to house it. This gun and turret was to be mounted on the VK45.01(H2) [Tiger], but that project instead turned to an 8.8 cm gun in a different turret, leaving the 7,5cm gun for what would become the Panther. For this purpose, the turret would be redesigned, becoming more squat and losing the side hatches and rear machine gun mount.
The 7.5 cm cannon was originally designed with a barrel length of L/60, or 60 calibers; this gave it a barrel length of 4,500 mm (177.2 inches). However, as the gun turned out to be slightly anemic, the barrel length was increased to L/70; resulting in a length of 5,250 mm (206.7 inches). This gun would be standardized as the 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70.
Upon experiencing the shock of encountering the T-34 firsthand at the Battle of Mtsensk on October 6th, 1941, General Heinz Guderian, the commander of the 2nd Panzer Army, sent for a commission to come and study the T-34 tanks that had been knocked out, and to talk to the men that had been involved in fighting them to determine what advantages the Soviet tanks possessed over the German vehicles, and what could be incorporated into new German designs.
The Special Armor Investigation Committee was led by Oberst Sebastian Fichtner, head of Waffen Prüfämter (Weapons Testing Office) 6, or Wa. Prüf. 6, the German organization in charge of tank development. The team included Heinrich Ernst Kniepkamp (senior engineer at Wa. Prüf. 6), Major Ruden (also of Wa. Prüf. 6), Otto Wunderlich (representing Daimler-Benz), Erwin Aders (representing Henschel), Director Dorn (representing Krupp), Engineer Oswald (representing Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg (M.A.N.)), Ferdinand Porsche (representing Porsche), Engineer Zimmer (representing Rheinmetall-Borsig), Oskar Hacker (representing Steyr), and Walter Rohland (representing Vereinigte Stahlwerke).
The commission arrived at the front on November 18th, 1941, and stayed until the 21st. During this time they heard the experiences of officers of the engineering corps, as well as suggestions from a tank repair company on how best to improve air filters to deal with the dusty conditions of the Russian summer. They examined a recent battlefield and met with repair and recovery personnel of the XXIV Panzer Korps.
While at the front, the commission examined several knocked out T-34s. They quickly determined three design advantages the T-34 possessed over the Panzer III. The first, which has been pointed out already, was the sloped armor, which afforded greater protection than flat armor of the same thickness. The second was the suspension; the T-34 had five large roadwheels and no return rollers, giving a smoother ride and greater suspension travel. In addition, its wide tracks gave low ground pressure, ensuring that it did not bog down on soft terrain. The third promising feature of the T-34 was the long gun barrel overhanging the front of the tank. This had previously been avoided by German tank designers as it could complicate maneuvering in forests and cities. A longer barrel affords more time for the shell to accelerate before leaving the cannon, resulting in better muzzle velocity and thus better armor penetration.
General Guderian laid out for them the issues experienced so far and requested the following:
Current tanks should be up-gunned.
New tanks must be made with wider tracks and lower ground pressure to deal with the Rasputitsa mud. Tanks must be able to drive cross-country and on unimproved trails in all seasons.
The new tank must have heavier armament, improved armor protection, and higher tactical mobility compared to previous designs. It should also have a more powerful motor and maintain a high power-to-weight ratio.
With their work done, the commission returned to Germany to distribute their findings.
Sebastian Fichtner was opposed to starting development on an entirely new tank, as the VK24.01, the fruit of the previous VK20 project to replace the Panzers III and IV, was nearly completed. However, the Reich Minister for Armaments and Ammunition, Fritz Todt, disregarded Fichtner’s concerns and gave the go-ahead to start work on a new tank.
Wa. Prüf. 6 therefore put forth a design competition on November 25th, 1941, issuing contracts to the firms of Daimler-Benz and M.A.N. to develop a new tank with the following parameters:
Combat weight of 30 to 35 metric tonnes
Maximum width of 3,150 mm (10’4’’)
Maximum height of 2,990 mm (9’9.7’’)
Minimum ground clearance of 500 mm (19.7 inches)
60 mm (2.36 inch) thick frontal armor, sloped at 35° from the horizontal
40 mm (1.57 inch) thick side armor, sloped at 50° from the horizontal
16 mm (0.63 inch) thick floor and roof armor
Main armament was to be Rheinmetall’s 7,5cm cannon
Engine expected to be between 650 and 700 metric horsepower
Steering mechanism was expected to be the L 600 C unit
Speeds of between 4 kph (2.5 mph) in lowest gear and 55 kph (34.2 mph) in top gear
Cooling system capable of operating in temperatures up to 42° C (107.6° F)
Capable of running for 5 consecutive hours
The design was expected to be ready by Spring of 1942.
Development of the M.A.N. Design
Illustration of the M.A.N. design by Andrei Kirushkin
In response to a postwar inquiry as to what inspired the Panther design, M.A.N. stated that, “Previous steps were design studies conducted under the names VK20.01, VK24.01, and VK30.01. Based on requirements established by Wa. Prüf. 6, they were reworked to slope the walls like the Russian design [T-34].” No other mention of VK24.01 or of a VK30.01(M) have been found. If they existed at all, they have been lost to time.
M.A.N.’s design team, led by Paul Max Wiebicke, utilized the turret developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig for mounting the 7.5 cm cannon. The turret was placed in the center of the tank as far back as possible to reduce the length of the barrel overhanging the front of the tank. Secondary armament consisted of two 7.92 mm (0.31 inch) MG 34 machine guns. One was mounted coaxially to the right of the main cannon, and the other was given to the radio operator to fire through a bow position.
Crew layout was typical for German tanks, driver and radio operator/machine gunner in the hull, with the driver on the left and the machine gunner on the right; gunner, commander, and loader in the turret, with the gunner and commander on the left and loader on the right of the gun. Hatches were placed in the roof above the driver and radio operator; this provided an easier means to evacuate wounded crew members than the side hatches the Daimler-Benz design used. An escape hatch for the turret crew was placed on the rear of the turret.
Frontal hull armor was 60 mm (2.36 inches) thick, sloped back by 55° from the vertical (both upper and lower glacis). Side hull armor was 40 mm (1.57 inch) thick, vertical behind the tracks and sloped back by 40° above them. The rear of the hull was 40 mm (1.57 inch) thick with a 30° reverse slope. The hull roof and belly were both 16 mm (0.63 inch) thick at 0°; as was the turret roof, although the forward section was slightly angled, at 85° from the vertical. The front of the turret was 80 mm (3.15 inches) thick, sloped at 12°; the sides and rear were 45 mm (1.77 inch) sloped at 25°. The overall dimensions of the design were 6.839 meters (22’5.3’’) long excluding gun barrel, or 8.625 meters (28’3.6’’) including the barrel; 3.270 meters (10’8.7’’) wide, and 2.885 meters (9’5.6’’) tall including the turret, or 2.314 meters (7’7.1’’) tall excluding the turret.
The powerplant was originally suggested to be a 650 hp liquid-cooled two-stroke V8 diesel engine being developed at M.A.N.’s Augsburg plant. Despite the fact this engine had been in development since 1940, originally being designed for 450 hp output, Fichtner urged M.A.N. to push for 700 hp. Development of this engine was slow and it became too large and heavy, eventually being abandoned. Instead, M.A.N. went with Maybach’s HL 210 engine; bringing in Maybach to do the work of mounting the engine and designing the cooling system and other accessories. Air for the engine was sucked in from under two protective domes mounted in the middle of the engine deck, while two fans, one on either side of the engine block, circulated air through the radiators. Interestingly, the fans were driven by bevel gears and shafts, as opposed to fan belts. The Maybach engine would power a driveshaft passing through a 250×250 mm (9.8 inch) square shroud under the fighting compartment, and into a front-mounted transmission, as was common for German tanks. The transmission was an AK 7/200 unit of the standard mechanical type. It was coupled to an L 600 C hydraulic, controlled differential, regenerative steering mechanism that was also used on the VK45.01(H) [Tiger]. M.A.N. had originally wanted to use solid disk brakes for steering but was told that these would cause issues with heat from friction.
The VK30.02(M)’s suspension consisted of three rows of 860 mm (33.9 inch) diameter roadwheels, mounted on double torsion bar suspension. With tracks that had two rows of guide horns, one row of wheels ran on the outside of either row of guide horns, and the center row of wheels ran between them. The roadwheels of the center row were double units, resembling two normal roadwheels bolted together. The leading axle carried a central double wheel. The second axle carried a pair of single wheels flanking the first roadwheel on either side; this was repeated four times down the length of the suspension. This design was described as an ‘interleaved eight wheel setup’, as there were eight axles, even though each axle carried more than one wheel. Hemscheidt HT 90 shock absorbers were mounted to the second and sixth axles. Suspension bumpers had to be placed under the first, second, and seventh roadwheel arms to keep the roadwheels from traveling too far, overloading, and breaking the torsion bars. This limited suspension travel to a still impressive 510 mm (20.1 inches).
This complicated suspension system, combined with a wide track (660 mm (26 inch)) gave the tank a smooth ride and a consistent, low ground pressure of 0.68 kg/cm2 (9.67 psi). Although this type of suspension was already being used on half-tracks and on the Tiger tank, there was still trepidation from some regarding its use over more traditional designs. Equally, there were people who felt it was the way forward, such as Sebastian Fichtner and Heinrich Kniepkamp.
The VK30.02(M) carried 750 liters (198.1 gallons) of fuel, giving it an impressive projected on-road range of 270 km (167.7 miles) and an off-road range of 195 km (121.2 miles)*. Top speed was 55.8 kph (34.7 mph) and sustained road cruising speed was 40 kph (24.9 mph). The design was capable of a vertical step of 826 mm (32.5 inches) and a gradeability of 35°. Ground clearance was 500 mm (19.7 inches). The floor space of the fighting compartment was calculated as 7.26 square meters (78.1 square feet), but this did not include the steering mechanism, transmission, and other components, which if factored in would reduce the overall fighting space dramatically.
Shortly after work started on the VK30, M.A.N. was also tasked with creating a light scout version of the tank; this would become the VK16.02. The VK16.02 generally resembled a smaller version of the VK30.02(M), and very strongly resembled the VK20.02. In January 1942, Wa. Prüf. 6 transferred development responsibility for the VK16.02 to MIAG, to allow M.A.N. to focus on the VK30.02. In theory, Daimler-Benz also would have been developing a version of the VK16.02 based on their own tank, however no documentation regarding this survives.
On January 22nd, 1942, Paul Max Wiebicke and Otto Meyer (the General Manager of M.A.N.) met with Fichtner, Kniepkamp, Oberst Joachim von Wilcke, and a Major Crohn (the latter two also being members of Wa. Prüf. 6, although their roles are unclear) to discuss their VK30 design. The M.A.N. representatives reported that although they had settled on 32.5 metric tons as the weight of their design on December 9th, 1941, changes to the design had increased the projected weight to 36 metric tons. Wa. Prüf. 6 had apparently already been informed of the change, and constructed the scale model of the M.A.N. design so to reflect this. Wiebicke and Meyer were also shown the scale model of the Daimler-Benz design at this time, remarking that it was “very attractive”. The two tank models were to be shown to Hitler at a meeting at his headquarters the next day, on January 23rd. During the meeting on the 23rd, Fritz Todt decided that another meeting between the two companies should be held, so that the two designs could be standardized against each other. The date for this was set as February 2nd, 1942.
While the steering mechanism for the VK30 was intended to be the L 600 C, M.A.N. had been developing simplified alternative designs, claiming that only by using their simplified steering mechanism could they build their tank with a pointed front hull. Wa. Prüf. 6 agreed to this, as long as the steering mechanism was ready before August 1942.
With most people of influence preferring the Daimler-Benz proposal, M.A.N. decided they needed to do something to make their design more appealing. What they came up with was sealing the engine compartment with a rubber lining to allow deep wading. With the engine compartment watertight, it would be able to operate underwater so long as the air intake on the top of the engine deck wasn’t submerged. The radiators, which were mounted vertically on either side of the engine, were not encompassed by this watertight compartment; instead they were exposed to the water whereby they could radiate heat. Because the cooling system was designed to flood whenever the tank entered water, all parts involved had to be impervious to water damage. All that had to be done to ready the tank for deep wading was shutting off the engine fans, which could be done from the driver’s position, and closing open ports, such as the air intake covers. Unfortunately, as would be discovered later, the rubber that kept the water out was also very good at keeping heat in. Heat buildup in the engine, from a wading system that was never even requested, would lead to many breakdowns and issues before it was fixed.
On February 2nd**, Paul Wiebicke, as well as Friedrich Reif (another worker from M.A.N.), went to the Heereswaffenamt building in Berlin to meet with Fichtner, Kniepkamp, von Wilcke, Crohn, and the design team from Daimler-Benz. When they arrived, they were informed that the meeting with Daimler-Benz had been cancelled, as Wilhelm Kissel (head of the Daimler-Benz board of directors) had managed to convince Reichsminister Todt to end the collaboration between M.A.N. and Daimler-Benz, and to allow Daimler to start work on building their prototypes. Regardless, the M.A.N. team had a constructive meeting regarding their tank design, and Sebastian Fichtner reassured them that Daimler was only being given permission to construct prototypes, not that they had been declared the winner of the competition. However, only a few days later, on the evening of February 10th, Fichtner again spoke to the M.A.N. representatives and informed them that after further discussion, Todt had approved the Daimler-Benz design for mass production.
**Germany’s Panther Tank gives this date as February 3rd, while it is in agreement with other sources that the meeting was supposed to take place on February 2nd. This could be a typo, but it is also possible the meeting had been postponed a day, before being cancelled.
The trip to Berlin had not been a total loss however, as M.A.N. was able to submit their final design to Wa. Prüf. 6, only one day after Daimler-Benz had done the same. Even though it was their ‘final’ design which they submitted as their entry, they were still making changes to it, some details of which were discussed at this meeting. The previous requirement that the M.A.N. design needed to be able to use the Daimler-Benz diesel engine was dropped, on account of the fact that cooperation between the companies was ended. Wiebicke and Meyer knew that Daimler wanted to deliver their first prototype by May of 1942, so they declared M.A.N. would also make this promise. Minor changes to the design suggested by Wa. Prüf. 6 had been incorporated or clarified by February 20th. The winner of the VK30 competition would be chosen following a presentation of the two designs in Berlin on March 3rd.
Development of the Daimler-Benz Design
Illustration of the Daimler-Benz Design by Andrei Kirushkin
Daimler-Benz’s VK30 design was a much closer copy of the T-34 than M.A.N.’s design. It retained the all-round sloping armor, forward mounted turret, and rear-mounted transmission – a feature uncommon in German tanks. The VK30.01(D) was armed with the Rheinmetall 7.5 cm cannon as per Wa. Prüf. 6’s design requirements, however Daimler opted to go with their own turret design instead of using the one developed by Rheinmetall. Secondary armament was identical to the M.A.N. design, two 7.92 mm (0.31 inch) MG 34 machine guns, one mounted coaxially to the right of the main gun, and another fired by the radio operator through a slot in the hull. Daimler-Benz’s turret had a turret ring diameter of 1600 mm (63 inches), 50 mm (2 inches) less than that of the Rheinmetall turret used on M.A.N.’s design; this would be its downfall.
Frontal hull armor was 60 mm (2.36 inches) thick, sloped back by 55° from the vertical (both upper and lower glacis). Side hull armor was 40 mm (1.57 inches) thick, vertical behind the tracks and sloped back by 40° above them. The rear of the hull was thicker than the sides, 50 mm (1.97 inches) sloped at 25°. The turret roof, hull roof, and belly were all 16 mm (0.63 inch) thick. The turret was sloped 30° all around, with frontal thickness of 80 mm (3.15 inches) and sides and rear of 45 mm (1.77 inches). The overall dimensions of the design were: 9.015 meters (29’6.9’’) long (including gun barrel), 3.280 meters (10’9.1’’) wide, and 2.690 meters (8’9.9’’) tall.
The VK30.01(D)’s suspension was similar to the suspension of the M.A.N. design in that it consisted of four sets of interleaved roadwheels, arranged in three rows. These roadwheels were 900 mm (35.4 inches) in diameter. The roadwheels of the center layer were built differently to the inner and outer layer wheels. Rather than being two single wheels joined together, as in the M.A.N. design, they had a groove down the middle, to accommodate the single row of guide horns on the tracks. Each set of roadwheels, meaning the leading central wheel, and the single wheels that flanked it on either side, was supported on its own U-shaped rocker bar. There were four such units on each side of the tank, each unit being connected to the hull by a suspension arm, the end of which opposite the rocker bar rested in a square bracket bolted to the side of the hull. Two of these brackets existed per side, with the forward one supporting the front two suspension units, and the rearward one supporting the rear two suspension units.
The suspension itself was leaf springs; three bundles per side. The first suspension unit was sprung on a small leaf spring bundle, bolted to the hull forward of the first square support bracket. The central two suspension units were each sprung on one side of a large central leaf spring bundle, mounted between the two support brackets. Finally, the rear suspension unit mirrored the first, and was sprung on another small leaf spring bundle, rearward of the second support bracket. The leaf spring suspension had the advantages of being easy to repair and maintain, and was already familiar to tank crews.
Relatively narrow tracks (540 mm (21.3 inches)) gave the 35 metric ton tank a ground pressure of 0.83 kg/cm2 (11.8 psi). The design was capable of a vertical step of 730 mm (28.7 inches) and a 40° grade, 5° better than the M.A.N. design. Ground clearance was 530 mm (20.9 inches).
Power would be provided by a Daimler-Benz MB 507 water-cooled V12 diesel engine, working through a rear-mounted KSG 8/200 hydraulic-assist transmission with an L 600 C hydraulic, controlled differential, regenerative steering mechanism. This transmission, developed jointly between Daimler-Benz and Ortlinghaus, incorporated a hydraulic multi-plate clutch, which afforded smooth gear changes and was easy to use. This choice of transmission was influenced by Daimler-Benz’s previous experience with the VK20.01(D). However, the hydraulic system had downsides as well; it was rather long compared to similar mechanical transmissions, and was not widely used. The only experience German heavy industry had with this type of transmission at the time was in small diesel switcher locomotives. To keep the tank compact, the engine was offset to the starboard side, with the output facing forward, from whence the powertrain was turned around and went through the transmission, which was mounted beside the engine.
The VK30.01(D) could carry 550 liters (145.3 gallons) of fuel, giving it a projected on-road range of 195 km (121.2 miles) and an off-road range of 140 km (87 miles)*. It also carried additional fuel tanks on the rear of the hull that could be jettisoned before going into battle. These auxiliary fuel tanks were likely intended to offset the fact that the M.A.N. design had a 200 liter (52.8 gallon) internal fuel capacity advantage over the Daimler-Benz design. Top speed was 56 kph (34.8 mph) and sustained road cruising speed was 40 kph (24.9 mph).
Cooling was provided by air sucked in through the tops of the protrusions on either side of the hull behind the turret. The air was passed over laterally-mounted radiators on either side of the engine and exhausted out the back. Four fans circulated air to the engine, one powered directly by the engine and the other three via V-belts. For deep wading, all hatches were sealed and air inlets and outlets would be closed off from the outside by valves. This would leave the engine running uncooled, giving a running time of a mere ten minutes before damage started to occur.
Crew was to consist of five men, as usual for German tanks; driver, radio operator/machine gunner, gunner, loader, and commander. Two convenient side hatches were provided in both the hull and turret to allow the crew to escape should the tank be knocked out. Because the turret was mounted so far forward, it was considered moving the driver into the turret with the rest of the crew, but after the initial design study this idea was not pursued. The area of the fighting compartment, from the engine firewall forward, was calculated as 6.43 square meters (69.2 square feet).
On the 28th and 29th of January, 1942, Wilhelm Kissel and Richard Oberländer (technical manager of Daimler-Benz Werke 40, the main Berlin-Marienfelde plant) met with Reichsminister Todt and Sebastian Fichtner to discuss their proposed tank design. Fichtner pointed out that Daimler’s design had narrower tracks than M.A.N.’s; he also stated that he believed torsion bar suspension was superior to leaf spring suspension, as torsion bars allow greater internal width of the hull. The Daimer representatives disagreed with him on the superiority of torsion bars, as leaf springs allowed their design to be 200 mm (7.9 inches) lower than if it had used torsion bars, and leaf springs did not require the complicated shock absorbers that torsion bars did. Daimler believed that because their track had longer length in contact with the ground their design still had better ground pressure than the M.A.N. design, despite having narrower tracks. However, in actuality the track length in contact with the ground for both the VK30.01(D) and VK30.02(M) was the same, 3,920 mm (154.3 inches).
When recounting this meeting after the fact, Daimler representatives said that, “When compared to the competition, our tank with the longer suspension has improved performance when rolling over uneven terrain, crossing trenches, and climbing obstacles.” One interpretation of this statement is that the Daimler representatives were speaking of the aforementioned belief their tank had a longer track run than the M.A.N. design; however, another interpretation is that this statement seems to imply that Daimler had multiple suspension designs. It is possible that this is the explanation for why the unfinished chassis seen at the end of the war has return rollers, while no other depiction of the VK30.01(D) is shown to have them. The author puts forward the theory that the VK30.01(D), as it is most commonly depicted with no return rollers, is the “standard model”, while the unfinished chassis was to be built with the aforementioned “long suspension”, which must have necessitated return rollers by placing the roadwheels further from the drive sprocket.
During this meeting, the rear-mounted transmission was discussed at length; Fichtner was opposed to this feature as it could lead to tracks being thrown. (All the way back in 1928, the Germans had experienced this problem with the original Leichttraktor. They found that the rear-mounted transmission would cause the track to be “thrown”, or unseat itself from the drive sprocket. To correct this they instead went to front-mounted transmissions and stuck with them until the end of the war.) Daimler felt that wherever the transmission was mounted, there was no difference in the reliability and handling of the tank, as shown by Russian tanks. On this topic, Daimler-Benz representatives said, “Employment of the rear drive provides additional crew space and also a better slope to the hull front armor, which is especially important in preventing penetration of armor-piercing shells. If no option is possible for the choice of motor, our design also allows the installation of the Maybach [HL 210] motor. However, in basic principle, only our MB 507 and MB 503 motors will be proposed.”
The turret Daimler used was also discussed, with Daimler insisting on using the “OKH-Einheitsturm” (Oberkommando des Heeres Standard Turret), which reportedly Fritz Todt was in support of. It is never clarified exactly what the OKH-Einheitsturm is. Some sources seem to have assumed this meant the Panzer IV turret and associated 7.5 cm KwK 40, however this is certainly false, as from the start, the VK30 project was to use Rheinmetall’s 7.5 cm cannon. The Oberkommando des Heeres, or German Army High Command was not a designing office and would not have its name applied to anything other than for the purpose of official endorsement.
Further confounding this, the only other reference to the “Einheitsturm” is in Germany’s Panther Tank by Thomas Jentz, which indicates that it was to have been used on Krupp’s VK20.02(K) in late 1941/early 1942, mounting a “7.5 cm KwK 44”. Two 7.5 cm cannons used the designation “KwK 44”, and both came much later in the war. The first was the KwK 44 L/70, an improvement on the KwK 42 L/70 that would have been used in the Panther Ausf.F; the second was the KwK 44 L/36.5, the cannon that was mounted coaxially in the Maus. Although the latter would be the more reasonably sized given the context, neither gun is of the correct time period.
Einheitsturm may very well be the name for the turret designed by Daimler-Benz for the VK30.01(D), but the question of whether this turret design was approved by the OKH as a future standardized turret, as the name suggests, why it was chosen, how it came to be, and why no record of it exists apart from two off handed mentions, remains unanswered.
During the January 28/29th meeting, the Daimler representatives inquired as to the allowed weight of the vehicle, which Fichter told them was still 32 to 35 metric tons (even though M.A.N. had already exceeded this). Wilhelm Kissel also took this time to talk to Fritz Todt about the cooperation between M.A.N. and Daimler-Benz on their projects, which he felt was no longer beneficial. He emphasised that, “everything that is expected in meeting the design requirements derived from experience on the Eastern Front, is being met by the Daimler-Benz design.” Implying that involving M.A.N. in development was only holding Daimler back. Kissel also said that, should the Daimler design win the VK30 competition, Daimler-Benz was prepared to finish the design at their own expense. Fritz Todt agreed that the cooperation between M.A.N. and Daimler-Benz had outlived its usefulness and would allow the two firms to develop their designs separately. Following this, the February 2nd meeting between M.A.N. and Daimler was canceled.
Kissel had managed to convince Todt to allow the VK30.01(D) to go forward, and on February 2nd, Daimler’s design was finalized and deemed ready for mass production without change, much to Kniepkamp and Fichtner’s dismay. Daimler-Benz was approved to construct five prototypes, one with an MB 507 diesel engine, one with an MB 503 gasoline engine, and three with Maybach HL 210 engines. The first of these was projected to be completed in June of 1942. This is not to say that Daimler’s design had been chosen at this point, but Fritz Todt had allowed Daimler-Benz to go ahead with further development on their design without making radical changes.
The same day, February 2nd, Wilhelm Kissel wrote to Jakob Werlin (head of Daimler-Benz Munich) about his success, “Assuredly, you will greatly enjoy hearing that it was possible for me to convince the Reichsminister that a decision in favor of our new proposed tank is the correct one. When this decision is reached, the gentlemen from both the Heereswaffenamt [Wa. Prüf. 6] and M.A.N. will indeed be astonished.” A day later, M.A.N. would submit their finalized design as well. The winner of the competition would be chosen following a presentation of the two designs in Berlin on March 3rd.
On February 8th, Fritz Todt was killed in a plane crash; whatever plans he had for the VK30.01(D) went with him. However, much to Daimler-Benz’s fortune, the new Reich Minister for Armaments and Ammunition, Albert Speer, was also a proponent of their design.
On March 5th, 1942, Hitler, acting on the recommendation of Albert Speer, ordered Daimler-Benz to prepare for production of their design, giving them an order for 200 units. Hitler felt that the Daimler design was superior in almost every way, and particularly liked the fact that it used a diesel engine; he felt this was the way forward in tank design. Whether these views were entirely Hitler’s, or were seeded by Speer, is up for debate. At this time, the order for prototypes from Daimler-Benz seems to have been reduced to just two.
*These figures are rounded to the nearest fifth. They were found using the following formulae determined by the Kraftfahrt Versuchsstelle (driving test center) at Kummersdorf.
On-road fuel consumption: 8 liters per vehicle ton per 100 km
Off-road (moderate) fuel consumption: 11 liters per vehicle ton per 100 km
Calculations assumed the vehicle in question was running on 74 octane gasoline, however the Daimler-Benz design ran on diesel; meaning it would have been 15 to 20% more efficient than calculated.
The results of the scheduled presentation of the VK30 designs in Berlin on March 3rd, 1942, have not been recorded by any available sources. Whether it occurred at all is unknown.
As design work on the VK30 machines was finished and a winner needed to be chosen as soon as possible, Hitler had a special committee put together to weigh the advantages of both designs and suggest which should go into production. In charge of this committee was Oberst Wolfgang Thomale (OKH Inspector of the tank corps) and Robert Eberan von Eberhorst (professor at Dresden Technical University). The committee first met on May 1st, 1942, in the Bendlerblock building in Berlin, the headquarters of the OKH. Four meetings in total would be held, the subsequent three occurring on May 5th, 6th, and 7th.
There were two main considerations regarding which design would be selected. First was that a large number of the tank would need to be operational by the summer of 1943, and to facilitate this, production should start in December 1942. This requirement was felt to outweigh all others. The December 1942 deadline was supposedly set by Karl-Otto Saur (Albert Speer’s deputy) in a bid to win favor with Hitler by getting the new tank into production faster. The second consideration was that, in order to combat the numerical superiority of the enemy, the German machine needed to be of higher quality.
Both designs were capable of a top speed of over 55 kph (34 mph) and an on-road cruising speed of 40 kph (25 mph). Both designs carried the specified 7,5cm KwK 42 L/70 cannon with the same number of shells (79 rounds), and both designs incorporated the requested sloped 60 mm thick frontal hull armor. In fact, the armor of both tanks was nearly identical, besides differing angles of sloping the only difference was the M.A.N. design’s 40 mm (1.57 inches) of rear hull armor compared to the Daimler’s 50 mm (1.97 inch).
Particular attention was paid to the advantages and disadvantages of transmission placement. The advantages of the forward-mounted transmission in the M.A.N. design were seen as:
Direct operation of the gearbox and steering (The Daimler-Benz design had to have a complicated series of linkages to allow the driver to control the transmission.)
The steering brakes could be adjusted from inside the vehicle
Less mud would be jammed up in the drive sprocket, as it would have more time to be shaken from the tracks on their return trip
Advantages of the rear-mounted transmission of the Daimler-Benz design were:
The heat, smell, and noise from the transmission would be as far away from the crew as possible
The driver and radio operator had more room
Space inside the fighting compartment was used more efficiently
The whole vehicle was lower (The hull of the Daimler-Benz design was 52 mm (2 inches) shorter than the M.A.N. design.)
Both designs would take nearly the same amount of time to construct once in production; the amount of work that would go into making one tank was projected as 1,063 man-hours for the Daimler-Benz design, and 1,078.5 for the M.A.N. design. Of these numbers, 351.5 man-hours would be required for assembly of the hull for the Daimler-Benz design, and 327 for the M.A.N. design. The M.A.N. design would require a special type of drill press to manufacture the hull.
Unfortunately, because Daimler-Benz had designed their own turret instead of using the one designed by Rheinmetall, as M.A.N. had done, they would not be able to have the turret in production by the December deadline. Additionally, the machine gun mount and optics of Daimler’s turret design were seen as vulnerable areas compared to the Rheinmetall turret. However, the final nail in the coffin for the Daimler-Benz design was the smaller turret ring. Because Daimler’s turret ring was 50 mm smaller in diameter than Rheinmetall’s, the latter turret would not fit onto the Daimler-Benz hull without significant redesign to widen the whole tank. Furthermore, the Daimler-Benz design was felt to too strongly resemble the T-34, which could lead to incidents of friendly fire. The forward-mounted turret was also seen as an issue, as the greater gun overhang increased the likelihood of impaling the gun barrel in the ground when going down hill, or catching it on trees or buildings. The M.A.N. design minimized this issue by putting the turret in the center of the vehicle. Finally, the M.A.N. design had greater operational range, provided a better firing platform on account of its suspension, used an engine that was already in production, and was more suitable for deep wading due to its sealed engine compartment. For these reasons, the “Panther Committee”, as it was known, unanimously chose the M.A.N. design.
Their decision was handed down to the chairman of the Panzerkommission, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, on May 11th. This was also the date on which the name “Panther” was first recorded in regard to the project. The origin of the name is unknown, though Albert Speer later recalls in his book, Inside the Third Reich, that this was chosen to signify the new tank’s agility in comparison with the Tiger.
Hitler was informed of the Panther Committee’s findings in detail on the 13th of May. He felt that the rear-mounted transmission of the Daimler-Benz design was still superior, and that the 60 mm (2.36 inches) of armor on both designs was insufficient. He did concede, however, that getting the tank into production as fast as possible was the deciding factor, and that producing both tanks alongside each other would hinder this. Hitler stated that he would study the commission’s findings overnight and give his decision through his adjutant, Gerhard Engel, the next day.
Engel relayed to Porsche on the 14th that Hitler was in agreement with the committee’s findings, and that the M.A.N. design was to go ahead instead of the Daimler-Benz design. However, Hitler had stipulated that the frontal armor needed to be increased to 80 mm (3.15 inches). On May 15th, 1942, Fichtner placed a phone call to M.A.N. to inform them that they had won the contract, and of the increase in armor required by Hitler. It was also suggested that they consider Dr. Porsche’s suggestion of using a Kolben-Danek (ČKD) steering system, like the kind used in the Panzer 38(t).
Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire
With M.A.N.’s Panther design going forward with the utmost priority, Heinrich Kniepkamp took personal charge of development. The design received the name Panzerkampfwagen V “Panther” and the Sonderkraftfahrzeug nummer (special vehicle number) Sd.Kfz.171.
On or around May 4th, one week before their design for the VK30 was chosen, M.A.N. had a final meeting regarding their design where the major details were reviewed. In addition to what has already been covered, in this meeting it was specified that:
There were 86 track links per side, and the width of the tracks would not prohibit transport by rail.
The transmission used a Maybach OLVAR 0640 12 16 gear drive.
The final point worth mentioning the author has been unable to determine the meaning of, other than that it relates to the transmission. “Spur gear side transmission doubly geared down, with sprockets of module 9 and 11. The middle tooth group was not required to be ground since it made no contact.”
At this point, the steering system that was to be used in the tank was undecided. It was assumed that a traditional clutch-brake steering system would be used initially. The reason for this change was that the companies that would be involved in the manufacture of the Panther did not have the proper equipment, specifically slotting machines, to cut the gears for the controlled differential type transmission. A portion of the 29 gears that made up each controlled differential were “hollow” gears, that is, the teeth were on the inside of the wheel, rather than the outside. This type of gear was significantly harder to make.
The transmission housing would be cast with steel of a strength of 60 kg/mm². Converted to megapascals, the most common unit of pressure used in describing tensile strengths, this is 588 MPa. Compare this to high strength steels, which range in the area of 750 to 850 MPa, and armor plate which goes above 900 MPa. The reason why the steel used in the transmission was so weak, relatively speaking, was to allow more units to be made. The weak drivetrain, already propelling a tank several tons heavier than it was designed for, and now made of lower quality materials, would plague the Panther throughout its service life. Any shrink holes that formed in the transmission housing from the casting process would be welded over and the whole casing would be heated and allowed to gradually cool, a toughening process known as annealation.
A conference was held on May 19th, 1942, at the Reich Ministry for Armaments and War Production. In this meeting it was determined that a majority of the facilities involved in manufacturing parts for the Panther tank would be those captured in France.
A conference with Hitler was held on June 4th, 1942, in regard to the new Panther tank. Hitler felt that by the spring of 1943, even the increased frontal armor of 80 mm (3.15 inches) would not be enough. He demanded that it be attempted to increase all frontal armor of the tank to 100 mm (3.94 inch) thickness. The same day, another meeting was held (presumably back at the Reich Ministry for Armaments and War Production, if the meeting with Hitler had not been there in the first place) between representatives of the four companies selected to build the new tank; M.A.N. of Nürnberg, Daimler-Benz of Berlin, Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen-Hannover (M.N.H.) of Hannover, and Henschel of Kassel. It was determined that by the 12th of May, 1943, 250 Panther tanks must be available for combat. A model of the tank was displayed at the end of the meeting.
At some point during development, the L 600 C steering mechanism that was originally intended for the Panther had been dropped, in its place was the Einradienlenkgetriebe (single radius steering gear), also called the Maybach Double Differential. It is not known whether this steering mechanism is the same as the one insisted upon by M.A.N. that would allow for a pointed front hull, or if it was an entirely separate development. The Einradienlenkgetriebe is a steering mechanism completely unique to the Panther tank, having not been used on any other machine before or since. It combined two types of tank steering: the normal double differential and the controlled differential. “Single radius” refers to the fact that each gear has its own fixed turning radius (as opposed to other steering mechanisms, wherein the turning radius is variable depending on how much steering input is given). As there were seven forward gears, there were seven different turning radii, plus neutral steering.
A contract was awarded to Adler of Frankfurt am Main to deliver 50 Maybach OLVAR transmissions for testing in the Panther as an alternative to the Zahnradfabrik AK 7/200. In this configuration, the tank would have been known as Panther Model B, however the OLVAR transmissions were never installed.
In a meeting on the 13th of July, 1942, Paul Wiebicke insisted that the Einradienlenkgetriebe must be used from the start in all Panthers. When confronted with the possibility of this totally new and untested steering mechanism failing to work, he suggested that 60 clutch-brake steering systems should be built just in case, therefore they would be available to complete tanks if the Einradienlenkgetriebe turned out to not be ready.
The Panzerkommission met the next day, and again the Panther’s steering mechanism was discussed. They came to the conclusion that the first 100 tanks would have the interim clutch-brake steering system while production of the Einradienlenkgetriebe got underway. All tanks with clutch-brake steering were to be backfitted with Einradienlenkgetriebe by the end of April 1943.
M.A.N. hoped that trials of the new steering mechanism would be completed by mid-October 1942. Three different sets of gearing were put forward, the differences between them being the turning radius. The three setups would have given turning radiuses of 50, 80, and 115 meters (164, 262, and 337 feet) respectively, when in seventh gear. For speed and simplicity it was decided to only test the gearing that would give 80 and 115 meter turning radiuses. To test the two types against each other it was planned to make two interchangeable sets of gears for each of the first 20 to 30 steering units. In the final analysis, the 80 meter turning radius gearing was chosen.
M.A.N. had received a contract to complete an experimental VK30.02(M) chassis by August 1942, and a second, complete prototype by September. Both prototypes were made out of mild steel. The exact date these prototypes were finished is unknown; sources are divided as to whether the first was completed in late August or early September, but the latter seems more likely. Panther & Its Variants claims it was delivered at the end of September.
On August 3rd, Krupp, which had been in the process of designing the unrelated Panzerselbstfahrlafette IVd assault gun on the basis of their Panzerselbstfahrlafette IVc self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, was informed that the 8.8cm L/71-armed assault gun would no longer be based on its own unique chassis, but on that of the VK30.02(M), and should be redesigned accordingly. This would become what is known as the Jagdpanther.
On August 4th, M.A.N. announced that they would begin construction of the first prototype hull, and they requested that the foremen and chief operators from the Henschel, M.N.H., and Daimler-Benz plants visit M.A.N. in Nürnberg to familiarize themselves with the project.
The first prototype, VK30.02(M) Chassis Number V1, was finished without a turret. Instead, it had a box-shaped weight to simulate the turret. This machine was used for driving tests on the M.A.N. factory grounds in Nürnberg. The suspension of the V1 differed from all other Panthers in that the shock absorbers were mounted to the first and eighth roadwheel arms, as opposed to the second and sixth.
Illustration of VK30.02(M) Chassis Number V1 by Andrei Kirushkin
Due to unavailability of parts and for the sake of simplicity, the prototype was completed with a clutch-brake type steering unit. This was less efficient than the Maybach type, produced higher wear on parts, and did not allow the tank to neutral steer. Additionally, in place of the intended planetary reduction gear, this machine was fitted with a two-stage spur gear reduction of the final drive; the end result of a final drive reduction being the trade-off of speed for torque. It is unclear what steering system the V2 prototype used.
The second prototype was a complete tank with turret. VK30.02(M) Chassis Number V2 mounted the 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 with an early, 220 mm (8.66 inch) diameter, single-baffle muzzle break in the Rheinmetall-Borsig turret. While similar to the muzzle break used by the 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/43 on the Panzer IV Ausf.F2, it was not identical. The V2 had apparently been delayed by the Rheinmetall turret not being ready in time. The turret housing was finished on September 16th, and final assembly of the turret was done at Rheinmetall’s Düsseldorf plant.
The turret used on the VK30.02(M) V2 was derived from the turret developed for the VK45.01(H2), the original Tiger tank. Back in May of 1942, it had a maximum width of 2.14 m (7 feet) which tapered to a frontal width of 1.84 m (6 feet). Excluding the cupola it was 770 mm (30.3 inches) tall. By the time the turret was built and mounted, it had grown to 790 mm tall (31.1 inches) and 2.30 m (7’7’’) wide, tapering to 2.104 m (6’11’’) wide. Increasing the height of the turret by 20 mm (0.79 inches) while also keeping the frontal plate sloped at 12° and the rear at 25°, meant that the turret also became 20 mm (0.79 inches) longer. The length would not be changed on production turrets, even when the frontal turret armor was increased to 100 mm (3.94 inches), meaning that the 20 mm of extra space needed was taken from the inside, instead of being expanded outward. Another feature of the prototype turret that would not be changed in the production model was the offsetting of the entire gun mantlet by 40 mm (1.57 inches) to the right of the centerline.
The most distinctive feature of the Versuchs-Turm (experimental turret) though, was the curved turret sides and bulge stamped into the left side of the turret to accommodate the cupola. The controls for the smoke grenade launchers were placed inside this bulge. The sides of the production turret would be widened to eliminate the cupola bulge; the layout of many of the interior components would also be changed.
When it was completed, the second prototype VK30.02(M) was sent to Kummersdorf proving grounds for official testing. The V1 was registered as IIN-2686 and the V2 as IIN-0687. “IIN” was the prefix for license plates registered to the cities of Nürnberg and Fürth. What is strange about this is that registered German military vehicles usually had a registration number with the prefix “WH” for the Heer (army) or “WL” for the Luftwaffe. Instead, the VK30.02(M) prototypes were registered as civilian vehicles in Nürnberg, the home city of M.A.N.
The hulls of the two Panther prototypes differed slightly from the production model. None of the hull plates were interlocking, as they would be on all Panthers that came after. The hull side plate did not extend past the rear plate at all. Between the 16 mm (0.63 inch) thick bottom of the hull and the 40 mm (1.57 inch) thick rear plate (reverse sloped at 30°) was a small 30 mm (1.18 inch) thick plate reverse sloped at 60°. On production vehicles this piece was eliminated, meaning the belly plate and the rear plate were directly connected to each other. The driver’s periscope was only 432.5 mm (17 inches) to the left of the centerline, on production vehicles it would be moved further out, to about 490 mm (19.3 inches) left of center line. The casting of the armored covers that went over the fans on top of the engine deck included an extension that encompassed the radiator filler cap, this would be eliminated on the production model. The drive sprockets on the prototypes were different to the production type. The dual exhausts shared a single horizontally mounted muffler, with a single exhaust pipe exiting at the center, just behind the engine deck. The roadwheels had 18 rim bolts each as opposed to 16. Finally, at the rear of the engine compartment was a single large fuel tank, the filler cap for this tank was to the left of the center line on top the engine deck.
On account of the 80 mm (3.15 inch) thick frontal armor demanded by Hitler, the V2 weighed 43 metric tons – 8 tons over the 35 ton weight limit for the VK30. It was powered by a 650 hp Maybach HL 210 engine, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of just 15.1 hp/ton. This figure was 25% worse than the initial VK30.02(M) design projected. On the positive side, trials showed that there was less stress on the rubber roadwheel tires than was expected, and less stress on the torsion bars as well (16kg/mm square actual versus 20-22kg/mm square expected).
The Panzerkommission met for the 11th time on November 2nd and 3rd, either at the 2nd Panzer Regiment’s training field in Berka an der Werra, or the nearby city of Eisenach. The following week a wide variety of experimental vehicles were to be demonstrated at Berka an der Werra — the “rough terrain” outpost of Kummersdorf — for Albert Speer and personnel of Wa. Prüf. 6. The vehicles slated to be present at the demonstration included VK30.02(M) V2, VK30.01(D), a VK36.01(H), a Panzer II with a Zahnradfabrik Electric Transmission, a Panzer III with Ostketten, a Zugführerwagen 40 (Panzer III with Schachtellaufwerk overlapping suspension), the Zugführerwagen 41 (Panzer III with rubber-saving roadwheels), two Henschel Tigers, one with a Zahnradfabrik 12E-170 Electric Transmission, two Porsche Tigers, two Panzer IIIs and two armored cars with with flamethrower equipment, a T-34, and a KV-1. A number of half-tracks, trucks, and tractors were also involved in the display, namely four Sd.Kfz.3s, an Sd.Kfz.10, an Sd.Kfz.11, two Radschlepper Ost, a Raupenschlepper Ost, a French Latil, and an Opel Blitz 3,6-6700 A.
The supposed presence of a VK30.01(D) at this demonstration is the only evidence for a Daimler-Benz Panther ever being built to a degree where it would be operable. Sadly, there are no known photographs of the vehicle selection at this demonstration which would confirm many details about the lost history of the VK30.01(D).
On the first day of demonstrations, Albert Speer drove the VK30.02(M) V2 for one and a half hours. He was highly complimentary of the tank’s handling. The trials showed that the differential worked well in rough terrain and that the tank turned fine without having to rely on brake steering. At this time, the V2 was temporarily equipped with a controlled differential discontinuous regenerative steering unit. This would not be the same as the Einradienlenkgetriebe, and may in fact be the L 600 C. The delegation from M.A.N. present at the demonstration stated they were satisfied with the performance of their prototype.
On the 4th of December, the first Einradienlenkgetriebe delivered by Henschel was installed in the VK30.02(M) V1. The performance of this vehicle with the new steering mechanism was not recorded. This was the last use of the VK30.02(M) as a developmental platform, as the Panzerkampfwagen V went into production in January 1943.
Information regarding the development and construction of the Daimler-Benz design is frustratingly slim. Only bits and pieces exist that, when cobbled together, give a rough idea of the sequence of events following Daimler’s loss of the Panther contract. Unfortunately, many of Daimler-Benz’s files were destroyed at the end of the war, and much of what did survive fell into possession of the Soviets. While the Iron Curtain has now fallen, this information has still not escaped the Russian archives.
Following M.A.N.’s victory in the VK30 program, Albert Speer informed Daimler-Benz on the 20th of May that work on their design was to cease. However, they would be allowed to complete the two prototype machines that were already under construction. With M.A.N.’s design selected after all, the previous order for 200 Daimler-Benz tanks was withdrawn.
The loss of the VK30 contract was discussed by the Daimler-Benz board of directors on June 3rd, 1942. The following transcript of that meeting is from Germany’s Panther Tank by Thomas Jentz. “Our proposal for the new tank was not accepted by the special commission established by Hitler. Instead they selected the M.A.N. design for large scale production, after the initial proposal from M.A.N. apparently was improved. During a meeting, M.A.N. had the opportunity to learn all the advantages of our proposal which they then took into consideration in their own design.
At first, the majority of the experts were impressed by our proposal. Even Hitler expressed his approval. But then, the commission consisting of Thomale and Eberan, decided against us for the following reasons:
The double torsion bar suspension from Porsche was chosen over our proposed leaf springs.
The MB 507 motor proposed by us can not be produced in the number required.
Our design requires a new turret. The turret for the M.A.N. design was already designed. The M.A.N. vehicle had front drive, our vehicle rear drive. Because of the rear drive our vehicle required a new turret design. It was admitted that the rear drive possessed advantages.
We are completing only two experimental vehicles, that positively will make a good impression. The two experimental vehicles are to be completed in June/July 1943. The entire tank should be completed since we can finally obtain the turret ourselves. We still have the contract to build these two prototypes and therefore we also want to demonstrate these as completed tanks.”
The same month, June 1942, the MB 507 diesel engine was installed in the first prototype. It is believed the first VK30.01(D) was completed about September, likely excluding any sort of turret. As was discussed in the previous section, it is reported that the Daimler-Benz Panther was present at Berka an der Werra in November of 1942, and that it competed alongside the VK30.02(M) prototype.
The fact that an operational VK30.01(D) existed no later than November is an apparent contradiction to Daimler’s own estimate of June or July 1943 as the completion date. It is possible this was the projected date for total completion of both the first and second prototypes, including turrets, which needed to be made from scratch.
If the VK30.01(D) prototype was in fact made to run at some point in 1942, then the question remains, why are there no photographs of it? While photographs of the VK30.02(M) prototypes are few in number, enough exist to give us a visual history of the vehicles. Only two photos remain of a VK30.01(D) prototype, both show it in an incomplete state without a turret and running gear, left outside the Daimler-Benz plant in Berlin at the end of the war.
The quality of these photographs is poor, but with digital manipulation, more details can be brought out that show this hull is quite different to the original VK30.01(D) design. The most prominent feature is the presence of return rollers mounted on top of the leaf spring bundles. This has been the most vexing question raised during the writing of this article, and one which no credible source dares to expand on. While the interpretation regarding the January 28/29th meeting that the phrase “long suspension” is in fact talking about the length of suspension travel and not the length of the track in contact with the ground is very much grasping at straws, there is no other explanation for the change in suspension layout that is not based entirely in conjecture and even fiction.
In addition to the suspension, mudguards, and the slightly redesigned driver’s visor, which placed the periscope further forward than that of the mockups, other features seen only on this hull include an amorphous bulge on either side of the lower hull, just rearward of where the idler wheel would be, and a black-colored triangular extension of the hull atop the left side mudguard. The purpose of these features is not known; the only potential clue to their use is one of the only known blueprints for the VK30.01(D), which shows a linkage of the track tensioning system protruding up through the frontal glacis of the hull in the same area as the box
The history of the Daimler-Benz Panther between November 1942 and June 1945 has been lost to time. While there is no direct evidence that the second prototype, which would have mounted the MB 503 gasoline engine, was ever completed, or even laid down, there is circumstantial evidence to suggest this may be the case. Daimler-Benz’s official production numbers for Panther vehicles is 545 for 1943, and 1,215 for 1944. These figures are including all vehicle types in the Panther family, for instance the 1,215 figure is a summation of the 1,175 Panthers and 40 Bergepanthers that Daimler-Benz produced in 1944. Daimler’s figures are perfectly in line with the actual production numbers confirmed by the author, with the exception that Daimler-Benz produced only 543 Panthers in 1943. This leaves 2 vehicles unaccounted for; the same number of VK30.01(D) prototypes Daimler intended to make.
Without knowing for certain when and how the change in suspension came about, it can not be taken for granted that the vehicle seen in the photos is the first prototype. Its incomplete state would indicate that some work had gone into the VK30.01(D) after the November demonstration in which the first prototype took part, whether this was construction of a second prototype or deconstruction of the first. The final fate of the Daimler-Benz Panther remains unknown.
Conservative reconstruction of the incomplete VK30.01(D) hull found at the Daimler-Benz factory in 1945 based off of photographs and supplemented with known features of the original design. The hull with return rollers is seen in photos to have the same mounting brackets for leafsprings as the original hull design, thusly it is drawn here with leafsprings.
Hypothetical reconstruction of the incomplete VK30.01(D) hull with return rollers, closely following the original design which lacked them. The retention of the same leafsping suspension suggests relatively unchanged running gear, merely lengthened to accommodate the return rollers, hence the author’s “long suspension” theory. Certainly this arrangement looks quite attractive, and would have greatly improved the VK30.01(D)’s vertical stepping ability — an area where it was outclassed by the VK30.02(M). All illustrations on this page by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon campaign.
Final Disposition of the Prototypes
With the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther in production, the two VK30.02(M) prototypes had served their purpose. What became of the VK30.02(M) V2 is not known, as there is no record of it past December 1942. The V1 prototype, on the other hand, did go on to serve a useful purpose as a suspension testbed. No written sources detail the post-1942 career of the VK30.02(M) V1, photographs are all that is left to tell the story.
Sometime in 1943 or 1944, the VK30.02(M) V1 was modified to replace its 18 bolt roadwheels with new Gummisparenden Laufwerke (rubber-saving running gear), all-steel roadwheels. These 800 mm (31.5 inch) diameter roadwheels were designed to save precious rubber, a resource that Germany was quickly running out of; they were to be used on both the Panther II and Tiger II, and eventually would also be used on the Tiger Ausf.E and Panther Ausf.G. The VK30.02(M) V1 was also fitted with Transportketten (transport tracks) and new drive sprockets and idler wheels. Transportketten were 660 mm (26 inch) wide tracks used on the Tiger and Tiger II to allow those vehicles to fit on railcars; these tracks were intended to be used as the main combat tracks for the Panther II, which was under development in 1943, aimed to replace the troubled Panther Ausf.D and standardize components with the Tiger II, then also under development. The drive and idler wheels used on the VK30.02(M) V1 test vehicle seem to be completely unique, they do not resemble those used on the Panther II or any other tank.
Without supporting documentation as to when this conversion was made, it is impossible to say for certain its purpose; however, the fact it is equipped with Gummisparenden Laufwerke and Transportketten, both features of the Panther II, would suggest that this was a testbed for that vehicle. This is contradicted by the fact that the only known photos of the VK30.02(M) V1 in this configuration come from 1944, a year after the Panther II was cancelled.
During a series of tests in 1944 at the M.A.N. plant, the VK30.02(M) V1 Testbed was fitted with a vibration measuring apparatus. This consisted of a bicycle wheel “idler” in contact with the ground, a vertical track for the idler to move up and down on so to stay in contact with the ground, a lever which reduced the input from the idler by 2:1, and a further 6:1 reduction device in conjunction with a vibration recorder. Several wires ran from the sensor to the inside of the tank, presumably to a recording device.
Allied reports on the post-war evaluation of Henschel’s Tank Proving Ground in Haustenbeck mention what may be one of the VK30.02(M) prototypes. Apart from the incomplete E-100 and Grille 17, two Tiger IIs, a Jagdtiger, a Panther Ausf.G, and two VK30.01(H)s also found at Haustenbeck, it is recorded that, “Two tanks made during early German tank development are also in this area. They are of light armor plate and show distinct lines of the Mark IV and Mark V tanks. The salient feature is in the development phase of their suspension systems.” Unfortunately, photos of these tanks have not been found.
The Germans were quick to exploit the devastating psychological effects of the flamethrower in the First World War with man-portable examples. Those were short-range devices that excelled at demoralizing the enemy and at clearing enemy positions. However, they were seriously limited by their weight, range and operational endurance for ‘flaming’ – a function of how much fuel it could carry. There is only so much a man can carry and, even in WW1, there were ideas for mounting flamethrowers onto armored vehicles. Armor would allow for close contact with the enemy to obviate the problem of range, the engine and platform would counter the flaw of a man not being to carry enough fuel, and the armor would ensure it was protected, unlike a man-portable version. In WW2, the Germans tried various vehicles as the mounts for flamethrowers, from the Panzer I and II up to and including the Tiger I. One of the lesser-known concepts though was the consideration of the Jagdtiger as the platform on which to mount a flamethrower.
Why the Jagdtiger?
It is hard to understand quite why the Jagdtiger was considered as a possible platform for a heavy flamethrower without a short review of the previous flamethrowing equipment operated by the German Army. Some Panzer I’s were modified to mount flamethrowers during the Spanish Civil War, and very early in World War II the Germans had mounted a man-portable flamethrower into the turret of a Panzer I (Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf. A), known as ‘Flammpanzer I’. These had been used in North Africa against the British but the very thin armor of the Panzer I left it vulnerable close-up to anti-tank rifle fire and even concentrated machine-gun fire. The short-range of the man-portable flamethrower and small fuel tank meant that not only did it have to get very close to be effective, but also had a very short flame time on target due to the small fuel capacity.
An improvement in this regard was the Pz.Kpfw.II(f) also known as ’Flammpanzer II’, which found use on the Russian Front. Slightly improved in all regards, the Flammpanzer II was still vulnerable to enemy fire and had an inadequate flame duration and range. It would not be until the retrofitting of a motor-driven flame-throwing system on captured French Renault Char B1 heavy tanks that at least one of these concerns (the armor issue) was resolved. That vehicle, known as the Pz.Kpfw.B2 (fl), had abandoned the compressed gas cylinders used on the Pz.Kpfw.II(f) and adopted a motor-driven pump to provide the pressure required, using the same principle as a fire-fighting pump for projecting water. Although this did require a relatively low-viscosity flame fuel made from oil mixed with petrol, the pump was able to cope and propel burning fuel out to 40 to 45 metres. The drawback with mounting this system on the Char B though was obvious. It was a captured vehicle in limited supply, was also rather slow and, more importantly, did not provide a significant increase in range.
It was not until the Pz.Kpfw.III (fl), a flamethrowing tank based on the Panzer III, that an effective German flame tank was provided. Powered by a Koebe* HL II 40/40 1000/20 pump which, in turn, was driven by a two-stroke 28 hp Auto Union ZW 1101 (DKW) (1,100 cc) engine, the Pz.Kpfw.III(fl) could propel a jet of burning flame oil out to just 60 metres at a pressure of 1.52 to 1.72 MPa (15 to 17 atmospheres) and a rate of 7.8 litres per second. The fuel mix itself easily ignited by means of Smits’ glow plugs (Smitskerzen). Mounting this weapon on the Panzer III provided adequate armor and mobility. It was still not ideal however, and would only find limited use.
* Koebe was the firm of Hermann Koebe Feuerwehr-Geraete-Fabrik of Berlin, a manufacturer of fire-fighting equipment
The obvious successor to the Panzer III as a carrier for flamethrowing equipment was not, as might have been expected, the Panzer IV, because the same faults found with the Panzer III were still there on the Panzer IV, most importantly a lack of sufficient armor. The range of the weapon guaranteed that any vehicle had to come to very close range with the enemy which left it vulnerable, especially on the flanks, to enemy fire. This was why heavy/assault tanks carried heavy armor and it is no surprise therefore that, for an assault flamethrower, protection could be provided in two ways. Firstly, by increasing the distance from tank to target – which meant a longer range flamethrower, and secondly, by increasing the armor on the tank itself. By the time this was being considered though, the Allies were already operating heavily-armored flamethrowing vehicles with a long range, such as the Churchill Crocodile. With up to 152 mm of frontal armor, a range of 140 m and carrying nearly 2,000 litres of flame fuel, the Churchill Crocodile was strides ahead of anything in the German inventory and should have come as absolutely no surprise to the Germans. They had, after all, captured some Churchill Oke flamethrower tanks after the raid on Dieppe in 1942, yet had done little work on the subject.
It was not until 5th December 1944 that proper consideration was given to a long-range, good-duration, heavy flamethrower on a well-armored chassis, when the topic came up in a conference with Hitler. Hitler was no stranger to the idea. He had, after all, pressed for the addition of not one, but two flame nozzles to be added to the Porsche Maus over a year earlier, pushing for a system with a range of 200 m. By the end of 1944, though, the Maus project was effectively over despite having a functional vehicle, there was no prospect of production restarting for it. The most heavily armored chassis in use and available at that time was that of the Tiger II. Tiger II hulls were at a premium at the time and production was focussed on both the tank version of the hull as well as the tank-destroyer version, known as the Jagdtiger, with the huge 12.8 cm gun.
Hitler’s goal was to put a heavy flamethrower onto a vehicle with enough frontal armor to be effectively immune to enemy fire and this meant very thick armor. This was the focus of the following meeting on 29th December 1944 and the heaviest armored vehicle available was the Jadgtiger, but only if a range of 200 m could be achieved, something which at the time could not be done.
Despite a following meeting on 3rd January 1945, where the extremely heavy armor was emphasized and that a figure of 250 mm was needed (the same as the front of the Jagdtiger’s casemate), more discussion was had but no designs or plans were forthcoming. The Jagdtiger, as it met the armor requirement, was the leading prospect for this new vehicle, even if those vehicles were at a premium and needed for their original role.
At a further meeting held on 23rd January 1945 by the Entwicklungskommission (tank development committee), Obert Crohn of Wa Pruf 6 presented a design for a new flamethrower. This design, like the Churchill Crocodile, used compressed nitrogen gas (going back to the original gas-propelled rather than motor-driven system) and could achieve the same range as that of the Crocodile, about 140 metres. How much the Crocodile system influenced that design is debatable although the similarities are interesting.
With this new system designed, a longer range was achievable, albeit not the 200 m demanded and with Jagdtigers in short supply, it was instead to create a prototype based upon the hull of a Tiger I Ausf E. Whether that Tiger I-based heavy flamethrower would ever have been developed further into an actual production vehicle on the chassis is unknown, just as is whether or not the Jagdtiger-based idea would be revised if the flamethrower had proven successful. As it was, neither project was ever built. The Tiger I-based system was ordered and parts sent for assembly, but the war ended before this had been assembled. Nonetheless, a concept of what a production version of that Tiger I-based vehicle could look like is possible.
The Tiger I-based option was worked on under the name Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Tiger I’ (Heavy flamethrower on Tiger I), so the Jagdtiger-based option could be speculatively referred to as Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Jagdtiger’ (heavy flamethrower on Jagdtiger).
Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Jagdtiger: What Would it Look Like?
Knowing only that the Jagdtiger platform was considered for mounting this heavy flamethrower system, and there being no plans or drawings known to exist for it, it is not possible to know exactly what such a vehicle could have looked like had it ever been built.
An examination of the considerations at play during this period provides some important clues though. First is the gun, not the flamethrower nozzle but the actual gun on the Jagdtiger. This gun was a 12.8 cm Pak.44 L/55. A very potent gun capable of firing a 28.3 kg armor-piercing shell and penetrating around 200 mm of armor at a range of 2,000 m. The obvious desire for the Jagdtiger would be to retain this gun as it allowed for the destruction of the enemy at a very long-range rather than closing to close range for a flame-attack. Major-General Thomale, for example, understood the value of flamethrowers, especially those on small, light and maneuverable vehicles and bemoaned the idea of a flame system on a Tiger I as it was wasteful of the main gun.
That obvious advantage of keeping the main gun was fulfilled by the British on the Churchill Crocodile and exactly this consideration was given the Tiger I project – retain the gun and add a flamethrower.
Taking the Jagdtiger therefore, exactly the same consideration can be given to it. Retain the gun and add the flamethrower in place of the hull machine gun. This, on the face of it, gained the advantages of both ideas but had a couple of flaws. Firstly, the loss of the machine gun would leave the Jadgtiger with no secondary armament, as it did not have a coaxial machine gun like the Tiger I. Of course, for the Tiger I option, it was eventually selected to go without a turret anyway, so it was left in the same boat and to get around this problem a remote-controlled machine gun was fitted to the roof of the Tiger I hull. Conceivably, a machine gun could easily be added to the roof of the Jagdtiger too as it retained all of the usual features there.
The second problem of putting the flamethrower in the hull machine gun position and retaining the gun was space. There was simply no space inside the Jagdtiger in which to put the large-volume fuel tanks required of a flamethrower. The same problem had been considered on the Tiger I (with turret) and the same solution was apparent for both. The obvious route was the same one taken by the British, the towing of a fuel-carrying trailer. For the Crocodile, the nitrogen cylinders were fitted into the trailer along with the fuel and then it was piped through the tank to the nozzle at the front for projection. The trailer-option, however, was not adopted, perhaps because it was too vulnerable to fire or for want of developing a whole new trailer for it.
With no trailer option possible, this would leave a question as to where the flamethrower would be mounted. It could, of course, go in the hull replacing the machine gun, perhaps retaining a dummy barrel, but it could likewise have simply, and more effectively, been mounted inside the huge casemate. The massive mounting at the front which allowed the 12.8 cm gun to move could be repurposed for holding the flame nozzle, as this would be easy for the gunner (to the left) to operate and direct whilst at the same time retaining the existing machine gun for close defence. In the absence of any plans or any development of the Jagdtiger-based idea, it is not possible to know which of these might have been selected.
The one thing the Jagdtiger really offered, making it a good choice for this heavy flamethrower idea, was volume, it was simply huge inside. With the breech, mounting, and ammunition for the 12.8 cm removed, there would easily have been enough room for fuel tanks. For the Tiger I, for comparative purposes, it was to have its turret removed and still had space for a pair of 400 litre fuel tanks. Retaining its full interior volume, a Jagdtiger-based vehicle would have had even more space inside so more than 800 litres could easily have been carried. Any further speculation as to what a potential Schwerst-Flammpanzer auf Jagdtiger is perhaps best left to model makers.
The new flame-system which had been chosen is worthy of attention in any discussion over this potential vehicle. As previously stated, the system had gone back to using compressed nitrogen gas, and was to use special high-pressure fittings to raise the pressure available from them. The reason for going back to gas-propellant was a change in fuel. In order to reduce dispersion and in an attempt to get closer to the thickened mix used by the British, the old oil/petrol mix had to be thickened up and this meant that a pump could no longer be used. The system pressure on the Pz.Kpfw.III (f) operated at 1.52 to 1.72 MPa (15 to 17 atmospheres), and by changing to this high-pressure gas system, that was increased to 2.03 to 2.53 MPa (20 to 25 atmospheres). This, and the thicker fuel, meant the range was increased to about 140 metres with a burst delivering around 20 litres of fuel per second.
Given that this project received nothing more than some consideration with no plans, it is not possible to know how many of the original complement of 6 men (commander, gunner, loader x 2, driver, and radio operator) would be retained. Certainly, the tank, at a minimum, required the driver, radio operator and commander, and with no gun, did not need the 2 loaders. This means that at least 3 men would be needed, but the gunner is questionable depending on whether or not the flame unit was mounted in the hull or casemate. Assuming it would have been casemate mounted, the retention of the gunner would have allowed the commander to concentrate on commanding the tank whilst the gunner used the flame gun to immolate the target.
As the vehicle was based upon an existing Jagdtiger hull, there were likely no changes made to the hull, save for whatever new armored cover arrangement might have been added around the casemate front around the flame nozzle. It would have retained the same running gear and the same 700 hp Maybach HL230 petrol engine with performance probably about the same, as if the large and heavy 12.8 cm gun was removed, it would simply be replaced with a couple of large fuel tanks instead.
The overall idea was not a bad one considering the goal was the production of a very heavily armored heavy flamethrower. Despite General Thomale’s preference for small and light flamethrowing vehicles, the use of them was limited to isolated enemy positions, as they were simply too vulnerable to enemy fire otherwise. A flamethrower on a Jagdtiger might sound incredible on paper, but the slow nature of the vehicle, the sheer size and removing the gun would have made it a very obvious target for enemy fire.
It is undoubtedly true that a flamethrower has some practical military value as well as making a huge psychological impact on an enemy force. This fact is reinforced by consideration in February 1944 from the Panzer Grenadier Division ‘Grossdeutschland’, which recommended the use of a motor-driven ‘howling siren’ to accompany the use of the flamethrower to maximise the demoralisation effect.
Regardless of whatever value such a system might have had for extensive flaming of a heavily defended enemy target, this was simply neither what the German Army needed in 1945, nor a type of combat they were undertaking. By this time in the war, it was a process of defensive combat and withdrawal. The Jagdtiger itself proved to be rather inadequate at its role despite the otherwise impressive armor and armament and reusing this chassis for a flamethrower was a project without a purpose. Such things were only pursued because Hitler had said so.
No Schwerer-Flammpanzer auf Jagdtiger was ever made or likely even drawn, but consideration of the chassis for this type of weapon system provides a special insight into both the functioning and the dysfunction at the top of German military command and vehicle design.
Jagdtiger with the main gun removed and replaced with a fake main gun to disguise the flame projector. No drawings of what a Flammjagdtiger could look like exist. Therefore the art is an impression only of what a casemate-based flamethrower might have looked like if it had ever been pursued.
No drawings of what a Flammjagdtiger could look like exist. Therefore the art is an impression only what a hull-mounted flamethrower might have looked like, in this case having to haul a trailer for additional fuel.
These illustrations were produced by Mr. C. Ryan, funded by our Patreon Campaign.
Total weight, battle-ready
4 ((Driver, Radio operator/hull machine gunner, Commander, Gunner)
Maybach HL230 P30 TRM 700 hp Petrol engine
38 km/h (road)
Heavy flamethrower – 140 m range
Glacis 150 mm at 50 deg., lower front hull 100 mm at 50 deg., front hull roof 50 mm, casemate roof 40 mm, engine deck 40 mm, hull lower sides 80 mm vertical, hull upper and casemate 80 mm at 25 deg., casemate front 250 mm at 15 deg., casemate rear 80 mm at 5 deg. Hull rear 80 mm at 30 deg., front hull floor 40 mm, rear hull floor 25 mm
The Räder-Raupen-Kampfwagen M28 (Eng: Wheel-Cum-Track Tank M28), also known as the Landsverk 5, was one of the first German tank projects after World War I. According to paragraph 171 of the Treaty of Versailles from 1919, the German Army and German companies were forbidden to develop tanks. However, nine years after the treaty was signed, the development of the M28 started in high secrecy. Five or six of these vehicles were built in various configurations and examined by both the German and Swedish Armies, but did not enter service with either of them.
On 3 April 1926, graduate engineer (Dipl.-Ing.) Otto Merker, then working at the Schwäbische Hüttenwerke, part of the company Gutehoffnungshütte (GHH), filed a patent in France concerning designs of wheel-cum-track tractors. During the two following years, he would improve and refine his designs until 1928, when the wheel-cum-track vehicle (the Räder-Raupen Fahrzeug) was ready to be produced. It was designed to act as the basis for a tank intended to be produced by the subsidiary AB Landsverk in Landskrona, Sweden.
The full name of GHH was Gutehoffnungshütte, Aktienverein für Bergbau und Hüttenbetrieb (Eng: Joint Stock Association for Mining and Metallurgical Business), based in the city of Oberhausen (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) with a specialization in mechanical engineering. Landsverk, then known as Landskrona Nya Mekaniska Verkstads Aktiebolag (Landskrona New Mechanical Works Joint Stock Company), had originally been a foundry focusing on various civilian applications of metal works. By 1920, the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. Seeing an opportunity, GHH bailed them out and gained 50% of the company’s stocks in the process.
After 1920, GHH managed to acquire more stocks and owned 62.8% of Landsverk in 1925. These stocks were registered by another subsidiary, N.V. en Handelsmaatschappij Rollo, a Dutch company acquired by GHH in 1920. A Swedish law from 1916 prohibited foreigners from owning more than 20 percent of a company, but the Landsverk articles of association were based on an 1895 contract.
These factors allowed GHH, who also owned the majority of MAN AG at the time, to circumvent the limitations on tank development in Germany set by the Treaty of Versailles through setting up armored vehicle development in Sweden. This use of subsidiaries and foreign companies to circumvent the treaty, as well as the cooperation with the USSR, was already suspected by the Royal Swedish Army Materiel Administration’s artillery department in the early 1930s.
The Räder-Raupen-Kampfwagen M28, meaning ‘Wheels-Tracks-Fighting vehicle Model 1928’, is sometimes also referred to as ‘GHH-Fahrzeug GKF’. In Sweden and within Landsverk, it was known as the ‘Landsverk 5’, or L-5 for short. The idea of a wheel-cum-track system already emerged in Germany during the early 1920’s when Joseph Vollmer developed a system based on a Hanomag tractor, utilized by the Czechoslovak-built Kolohousenka. Merker could have been inspired by Vollmer’s system, although it is also possible that he was influenced by the British, who had started testing wheel-cum-track systems mounted on various vehicles around the same time.
Swedish Tank Acquisition
In December 1928, Swedish authorities officially established requirements for a future tank:
Maximum weight of 12 tonnes
Armor to stop 37 mm cannon fire
Armament consisting of both a cannon and a machine gun
Good mobility in Swedish terrain, an average speed of 20 km/h on road and half that in relatively difficult terrain
By this point, Sweden’s entire tank force consisted of just ten strv fm/21s (alternatively known as strv m/21s), and a small number of foreign vehicles acquired for trials. Furthermore, military spending had been drastically reduced as a result of the defense resolution of 1925. For these reasons, acquiring the largest number of vehicles possible with available assets within a relatively short time frame was stressed. The Swedish government had previously granted SEK 400,000 for this purpose.
Based on international trips to tank factories and trials of foreign designs, it was realized that no foreign tank available on the open market was suitable for Swedish circumstances at the time. Moreover, indigenous tank production was seen as a major advantage in terms of readiness for a potential military conflict. As such, Sweden turned to its own industry. In 1930, there were three companies within Sweden that could provide the military with a new tank. These were Morgårdshammars Mekaniska Verkstad AB (Morgårdshammar’s Mechanical Works Joint stock company), AB Landsverk, and AB Bofors.
The first of these, Morgårdshammars Mekaniska Verkstad, could provide an indigenous design which had been in development since 1927. This development was headed by the Austrian Major and tank theorist Fritz Heigl, famed for his publication ‘Taschenbuch der Tanks’ (Eng: ‘Handbook of Tanks’). Bofors and Landsverk, on the other hand, relied on German companies for design work. These companies were Krupp AG and Maschinenfabrik Esslingen respectively. Both Landsverk and Maschinenfabrik Esslingen were subsidiaries of GHH at the time. Krupp was, via two decoy companies, the largest stockholder of Bofors and these arms manufacturers actively cooperated in the development of various projects during the interwar years. In the case of the Bofors proposal, the tank in question was actually Krupp’s Leichttraktor design. This was an evolution of the LK II which was in service with the Swedish Army as the lightly modified strv fm/21. The Leichttraktor was interestingly equipped with a turret produced by Landsverk, the competitor of Bofors and Krupp in this case.
The design of the M28 was unconventional overall. The engine was mounted in the front left of the vehicle in a u-shaped frame. A cooler was placed in front of it. The driver sat directly to the right of the engine. In an elevated hatch, three visors were located. It could be folded open to the right side of the vehicle. The rolled homogeneous armor on the vehicle was of mixed construction, being both bolted and riveted. Its thickness is unknown, although it was most likely between 8 to 13 mm thick, as with the production models offered to Sweden. This would be adequate against small arms fire, but certainly not against cannon or anti-tank gunfire.
The vehicle could also be driven from the back by a second driver whose seat was located in the rear right. He was covered by an elevatable hatch, in which a machine gun was installed. Above the machine gun, three square-shaped visors were placed. On the left side of the back, an access door was installed.
Either five or six vehicles, numbered 1-6, were built but differed a bit from one another. Whether the sixth vehicle actually existed or was even planned is uncertain due to contradicting sources (this is further detailed below). The first three prototypes, 1-3, were powered by a Benz-50-PS 4-cylinder gasoline engine and was fitted with a 70 l fuel tank. This engine had a displacement of 4160 cm3 and a compression ratio of 4.75. It consumed 14 kg of fuel and 0.4 kg of oil per hour at cruising speed. It had a maximum output of 52 hp at 1950 rpm.
The other three prototypes, 4-6, had a 70-PS-NAG-D7P 4-cylinder gasoline engine and an 85 l fuel tank installed. It had a displacement of 3620 cm3, a compression ratio of 5.5, fuel consumption of 18 kg per hour and oil consumption of 0,6 kg per hour at cruising speed. The maximum output was 77 hp at 3400 rpm. The gasoline was pumped into the carburetor by an electric IMCO-Autopuls-12-V-Pumpe (pomp). Besides the standard fuel tank, an additional reserve can with a volume of 30 l could be brought along.
A Typ K 45 gearbox produced by ZF Friedrichshafen AG was installed. This gearbox was equipped with a multiplication device, a so-called ‘Maybach Schnellgang’, which provided the vehicle with four forward and two reverse gears in total. Changing from forward to reverse gear took 4-5 seconds. Driving on wheels, the early vehicle could reach a speed of 46 km/h, but only 23 km/h on track. The cruising range was 180 km on wheels and 80 km on tracks.
From Wheel to Track and Vice Versa
Changing from wheels to tracks was performed by lifting devices on the sides of the tank. Vehicles 1-4 had an electric lifting system installed, together with four 12 Volt batteries, 5 and 6 had a hydraulic system installed. With these systems, the wheels could be lowered or lifted 36 cm, resulting in a ground clearance of 15 cm between the tracks and the ground. Total ground clearance between the hull and the ground in the tracked mode was 40 cm. For the later type with the revised lifting device, the transition from tracks to wheels or the opposite could be made in just 20 seconds.
Previous wheel-cum-track vehicles were generally designed in such a way that switching from wheels to tracks or the opposite took a considerable amount of time. By being able to perform this process in just a few seconds, and from within the vehicle, the wheeled mode could be employed not only in regions that were known to possess large amounts of good roads but instead anywhere suitable. The wheeled system could also function as a jack for the vehicle, something which could have been very practical for performing maintenance to the running gear or repairing a damaged track.
The wheel-cum-track system had the additional advantages of decreasing wear on the running gear while also lowering running costs by decreasing both maintenance work and fuel consumption. In addition to this, the increased speed and subsequent increased tactical, as well as operational mobility provided by the wheeled mode, was considered important in combat scenarios of the day as stalemates were sought to be avoided based on experience from the First World War. In addition to this, speed was considered to be more important in terms of protection than armor.
If the lifting system did not work, for example due to a technical failure, the wheels could also be manually lifted. When manually performed, lifting or lowering the wheels took four men around five minutes.
The presence of the wheeled system did, however, have its drawbacks in the form of increased overall width and weight, both of which would be troublesome in terrain, while also limiting hull width. In the case of the M28, the total width was 2.4 m but the distance between the outer edges of the tracks was only 1.6 m. This would limit the equipment and ammunition which could be carried. To partially address the width and weight issues, the wheeled units were designed in such a fashion that they could be removed in around six hours.
The wheels used cantilever springs. A cantilever spring is a flat spring supported at one end and holding a load at or near the other end. The suspension consisted of semi-elliptic leaf springs. Ten small road wheels were located on each side, gathered in two units of four and one unit of two. In order to reduce noise, some of the suspension components were covered by rubber and a type of coating from Ferodo, a British friction product manufacturer.
The metal tracks had a width of 20 cm, and a length of 12 cm. 66 track links were located on each side. The full weight of the vehicle was roughly 7 tonnes, which resulted in a ground pressure of 0.85 kg/cm2. The vehicle was maneuvered by a steering wheel via a special type of planetary transmission, a development of a Cletrac transmission. Rather than applying full braking force to the inner track during a turn, this transmission only reduces the power output to said track instead of completely cutting power. This resulted in the vehicle having a much smoother turning process than other vehicles of its day. A turn radius of 3 m within the inner track could be achieved using this system. If necessary, the inner track could be fully braked in order to perform tighter turns. The wheels were steered by a worm gear.
Braking while driving on the tracks was done with an outer-band brake, meaning that brake band is wrapped around the outside of a brake drum which will brake when tightened. While driving on wheels, an internal-band brake system was used, meaning that the drum is pressed on from the inside. The wheels were made of steel and equipped with pneumatic tires, although bulletproof tires seem to have been used as well. The wheelbase had a length of 2.8 m, while the complete chassis had a length of 4.38 m. On wheels, the chassis would reach a height of 1.48 m. As mentioned, the total width of the vehicle was 2.4 m, and the distance between the outer edges of the tracks was 1.6 m. The complete chassis of the early type without superstructure weighed 5.3 tonnes, the later type weighed 5.4 tonnes.
The commander and gunner were both seated in a centrally mounted turret. A six-sided cupola for the commander was installed on top with a visor in each side. This cupola could presumably be opened to the rear in order to provide increased visibility and access, just as on the mockup. Furthermore, two visors were placed facing upwards on top of the cupola. The commander and gunner could enter through a hatch in the back of the turret.
The primary armament of the M28 consisted of a 37 mm gun equipped with a semi-automatic breech. It had a depression of 10 degrees and an elevation of 30 degrees. To the left of the cannon, a coaxial 7.92 mm Dreyse machine gun was installed. It could be disconnected from the main gun which allowed for a depression of 15 degrees and an elevation of 35 degrees. Two optics were installed in the front of the turret, one for the main gun and one for the machine gun. An additional 7.92 mm Dreyse machine gun was installed in the rear driver’s hatch. This gun had a traverse of 20 degrees to each side, a depression of 5 degrees and an elevation of 77 degrees, potentially allowing it to be used as an anti-aircraft machine gun, although it is unclear if it was specifically designed for this purpose. The ammunition complement consisted of 200 37 mm shells and 2000 7.92 mm rounds in total. It should be noted that the primary armament seems to have never been installed, as all images depicting the front of the turret lack the 37 mm gun. The large protrusion at the front of the turret appears to be a shroud of some sort, presumably present to protect the gun from damage.
Building and German Testing
A total of either five or six vehicles were built between 1929 and 1930 by Maschinenfabrik Esslingen. In order to retain secrecy, this production was labeled as farming equipment. A full-scale mockup was also constructed in affiliation with these vehicles. One of the early models with a complete armored body and turret was sent to Kama tank proving grounds in the USSR in 1930. The Kama proving grounds were located near Kazan. The name Kama was a combination of Kazan and Malbrandt, Malbrandt being chief engineer and responsible for the trials taking place at Kama. The proving grounds were a result of the Treaty of Rapallo, signed in 1922 between Germany and the then SFSR, which was not only intended to improve economic cooperation but military cooperation as well. The existence of these proving grounds was kept top secret as it did violate the Treaty of Versailles from 1919.
Designs like the WD Schlepper, Großtraktor, and Leichttraktor were tested at Kama, and so was the M28. During the tests, it became clear that it was underpowered and the suspension overloaded, which caused problems with the reliability of the systems, so the armored superstructure and turret were removed. After that, it performed reasonably well, but the Germans had lost their interest in this vehicle. When the collaboration between the USSR and German army ended in 1933, the vehicle was taken back to Germany and scrapped shortly after. What happened to the other vehicles is unknown, but it is highly unlikely that any chassis survived past the Second World War.
Demonstrations for Swedish Delegations
The first information regarding the M28 reached Swedish military authorities in the form of a confidential message to a lieutenant Elliot at the Royal Army Materiel Administration’s artillery department. It was reported that only a chassis had been produced so far. The fact that Germany was banned from tank production by the Versailles Treaty was well known. While the matter was subsequently shrouded in secrecy, captain Gösta Bratt, who was experienced with engines, was allowed to inspect and drive the tank in Germany.
The L-5 chassis, as it was referred to, was demonstrated to Swedish representatives on a number of occasions between 1930 and 1931. Demonstrations were primarily held with the later 77 hp engine and hydraulic system equipped chassis, without the hull and turret. Mobility was found to be more than sufficient and steering was easy to perform, even in sharp downward slopes. In the wheeled mode, a maximum speed of 80 km/h (49.7 mph) forward and 25 km/h (15.5 mph) backward could be attained. Additionally, upward slopes of around 40 degrees could be traversed without using full engine power. This was of course without the additional weight and instability brought by the armored body.
The running gear was generally liked, but the effectiveness of the semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension was not seen as sufficient, although improved suspension types were already being considered by this point. The construction of the wheeled units was regarded as being sufficiently robust for field use. Other features that were particularly acclaimed were the effective transmission, powerful engine, and silent running. The designer considered the advanced transmission, which allowed for reduced power output to the inner track during a turn, to be overly complex and that it would be advantageous to not include this feature in the production model. The Swedish delegation, on the other hand, viewed it as a significant advantage in Swedish terrain. While the pneumatic tires which were demonstrated were seen as suitable for peacetime conditions, their suitability for combat was doubted. For combat use, other types could replace the pneumatic tires. Semi-solid tires, which were offered by Landsverk for the production models, or bulletproof ones were considered for this purpose.
The previously mentioned issues with total and hull width respectively were however constant concerns. At the time, the maximum width of a tank suitable for Swedish terrain was considered to be 2 m, 0.4 m less than that of the displayed chassis. There was however consideration made on this point, namely that such a width would still be suitable for Swedish forests. A protecting framework could be fitted which would have protected the wheeled units, although this would not automatically increase mobility in dense terrain. Moreover, the 1.6 m distance between the outer edges of the tracks meant that stability could also become an issue in uneven terrain.
Another problem was the lack of armor protection in the opinion of Swedish officials, only 13 to 15 mm of frontal armor in the case of the projected designs. This could be addressed in the case of the fully tracked vehicle, as the weight saved by removing the wheeled units could be used to increase the frontal armor to 25 mm. Some statements doubted whether armor protection below 30 mm for the most vital areas was even acceptable and that the armor of the fully tracked variant should be improved without increasing the total weight of the vehicle beyond 9.5 tonnes.
Firepower was also criticized, despite meeting the original requirements, as only one weapon could generally be used to engage a target at a time. While the hull machine gun was an exception to this, as it would not be operated by the turret crew, it could only provide a limited arc of fire.
Despite these negative factors, the displays resulted in mostly positive reviews. The general performance of the tank was considered to meet and in some cases exceed the previously mentioned requirements and the vehicle was seen as a modern tank at the time.
Landsverk’s offer to Swedish authorities actually differed from the L-5 in the state that it was demonstrated. Two variants were offered, both a wheel-cum-track design as well as a fully tracked model. These were known as BT.150 I and OT.150 I respectively. They differed from the original in a number of ways, among them, that they would use a rear-mounted 150 hp Maybach engine. A Scania-Vabis model was originally planned, but no suitable engine from this manufacturer was available. The vehicle would be around 0.5 m longer and some steering systems were to be altered. The tracks would be wider and the leading wheel would be placed higher up while the suspension system would be improved. Total weight of this projected type was 8.4-8.9 tonnes. Both of the offered designs moved the fourth crew member from the rear of the vehicle to the front, next to the driver. The fully tracked vehicle was intended to be equipped both with a hull mounted machine gun as well as radio equipment, whereas the wheel-cum-track design would feature either a hull machine gun or a radio. These projected characteristics generally align with what the development process resulted in, namely the L-10 and L-30 designs.
By 1931, the envisioned organization of a Swedish tank company consisted of 18 tanks, a number which Sweden did not possess. Moreover, what tank types were available, such as the strv m/21-29 (upgraded strv fm/21) and strv fm/28 (Renault NC27), were mostly obsolete by this point. Because of these factors, the tactical requirements and capabilities of modern tanks could not be properly assessed. This stressed the acquisition of a fully developed and modern vehicles within a short time frame.
As a result, only acquiring the fully tracked model was seen as an attractive option. Acquiring only this variant would have also allowed for a wider hull to be used while decreasing the overall width as the wheeled system would not be protruding beyond the sides of the hull. This would have increased stability as well as cross-country mobility while allowing for increased armor protection. The enhanced tactical and operational mobility provided by the wheel-cum-track design was however appreciated and purchasing one vehicle in this configuration would allow for extensive field trials and consideration to be performed with this type of vehicle. The potential to use the same vehicle model both as a fully tracked tank and as a vehicle with mixed propulsion was also seen as advantageous.
The increased speed but decreased protection of the wheel-cum-track design meant that a different tactical approach would be applied to the wheel-cum-track model. There were suggestions to use mixed units with fully tracked versions as the first line of an advance, while tanks in the wheeled mode would follow as guard tanks, and as such, be better able to react thanks to their higher top speed, like massing on a strong point or performing a local counter-attack. The wheel-cum-track tanks would also be able to support flanking recon or combat units or protect columns on the move. A tank with mixed propulsion was also considered suitable as a command tank. As the direct combat value of the wheel-cum-track design was not significantly worse than that of a fully tracked vehicle, they would be able to perform conventional combat roles as well. Moreover, as the wheeled units could be removed, it was possible to negate the issues with weight and total width which otherwise hinder this type of wheel-cum-track design.
More radical approaches were also explored, where tanks with mixed propulsions systems were seen as a potential replacement for armored cars. This built on the fact that the tracked system would allow cavalry units to pass difficult terrain and road obstacles while at the same time being more potent in the combat role. Logistical services like repair work and maintenance would also be aided by the fact that cavalry and tank units would share the same vehicle types. These advantages would, of course, be offset by the considerably increased cost of wheel-cum-track tanks compared to conventional armored cars. This view of mixed propulsion designs generally aligns with the opinion of Hauptmann Streich, who acted as a spokesperson for the Kraftfahr division of the German Waffenamt. He stated that a wheel-cum-track vehicle would be more suitable as a reconnaissance vehicle, rather than as a conventional tank.
The Sixth Vehicle – Author’s Theory
In historical writing and documents, there seems to be an inconsistency as to whether five or six vehicles were built. While German sources always seem to mention six vehicles, Swedish Army documents sometimes mention that only five vehicles were built.
The German-Soviet military cooperation was highly secret. This could mean that a sixth vehicle could have been kept secret from the Swedish Army and sent to Kama without them knowing. That would not only explain why the Swedes talked about five vehicles, but also why they never tested the vehicle with installed armor and armament. It is never even mentioned in Swedish sources that armor and armament existed. As such, it is very likely that the only vehicle that received armor and armament was secretly sent to Kama, with the Swedish army left unaware of its existence.
The greatest feat of the M28, or L-5, was serving as the catalyst of Swedish tank development, which would be headed by Landsverk until the 1950s. Trials of this vehicle proved largely positive and directly influenced the decision of the Royal Army Materiel Administration to place an order for the further evolved L-10 and L-30 designs in October 1931. While the purchase of a prototype of the newer type was considered, the limited funds and time frame rushed the acquisition process, resulting in a full purchase of the new designs. As for the competing tanks, the Bofors design proved to possess certain inherent design flaws. The Morgårdshammar design on the other hand, while displaying some positive features, could never be presented in physical form, and its head designer had by this point passed out due to disease. Meanwhile, the L-5 could mostly satisfy and in some cases exceed the requirements set up by Swedish authorities in 1928, and was thus the logical project to invest in. The development of these Landsverk designs would continue in Sweden as Otto Merker was employed at Landsverk directly in 1929, being tasked with creating a tank development division. He was appointed head of this division the following year. The establishment of a foreign subsidiary in the form of AB Landsverk allowed the German industry to gain experience with armored vehicle design throughout the 1930s in relative secrecy. Said experience was subsequently applied to help create the German armored force and its advanced designs as they existed in the lead up to the Second World War.
Illustration of the Räder-Raupen-Kampfwagen M28 or ‘Landsverk 5’ produced by Andrie Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon Campaign
4.38 x 2.4 m (with wheels, 1.6 m body) x 1.48 (chassis only, on wheels) meters
Nazi Germany (1934-36)
Unarmoured Half-Track – At Least 3 Completed
The D II series of experimental half-tracks arose from the German Army’s pursuit of motorization in the years preceding the outbreak of the Second World War. Following successful trials with prototype designs that utilized the half-track principle in the late 1920s, semi-tracked trucks and prime movers became an integral component of this overarching drive for greater strategic and tactical mobility. Capable of achieving high speeds on roads as well as traversing difficult cross-country terrain, these vehicles appeared to be an excellent means of motorizing the German Army (Reichsheer). Convinced by these many advantages, the Heeres Waffenamt (Army Ordnance Department) assigned one of their most talented engineers, Heinrich Ernst Kniepkamp, the task of overseeing the development of a range of different half-tracks to fulfill the various needs of the German Army.
Having already approved the development of several designs capable of hauling heavy loads of up to five tonnes or more, in 1934 the Heeres Waffenamt initiated work on a smaller design that would be more suitable for towing lighter infantry guns and anti-tank guns. In response to these requirements for the Kleinster geländegängiger Ketten-schlepper (smallest cross-country tracked towing vehicle), the Demag firm produced small numbers of three consecutive prototype half-tracks: the D II 1, the D II 2, and the D II 3.
Known by their diminutive appellation ‘Liliput’, these comparatively small half-tracks nevertheless employed a whole host of innovative technological features that would go on to find widespread use throughout the Second World War. However, despite numerous incremental improvements across the three permutations of the D II series, the final D II 3 design still required further refinement before it could be considered suitable for series production. As a result, the overall design of the D II 3 continued to be gradually revised between 1937 and 1938, until it evolved by way of the interim D 6 into the final D 7. Classified as the Sd.Kfz.10 1-tonne half-track by the Heer, over 10,000 of the D 7 half-tracks would be produced from 1938 until the end of the Second World War.
In light of the ubiquity of its descendants, the D II 3 was a significant stage in the development of German semi-tracked prime movers. Even though the early D II designs appear to be far removed from the future Sd.Kfz.10, the underpinnings of a reliable workhorse had been established by the time the D II 3 was produced in 1936. As such, these obscure machines (of which we know very little) represent an important chapter not only in the development of German prime movers but also in the German Army’s quest to fully motorize its forces; a goal that, contrary to Nazi propaganda, would never be achieved.
Solving an Old Problem: The Motorisation of the German Army
Following Germany’s defeat at the end of the First World War in November 1918, the fledgling Weimar Republic inherited a strategic conundrum that had bedeviled generations of German military planners: how could the German armed forces defend Germany’s vast frontiers to both the east and the west with an army that was primarily reliant on railways for its mobility? Worse still for the German generals, the stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles compounded Germany’s vulnerability by placing size restrictions on the size of the military and banning the use of much of the latest military technology, including tanks. Confronted with this perennial German predicament and many hostile neighbors, the Reichsheer aimed to solve this problem by cultivating a highly mobile professional army that could rapidly respond to enemy incursions and form the nucleus of a resurrected German army capable of conducting its own offensive operations. In order to realize these strategic aspirations, the Reichsheer needed to enhance its tactical mobility. This, in turn, required one essential ingredient: the motorization of the German Army.
Correspondingly, significant emphasis was placed upon procuring motorized transportation for the Reichsheer, particularly in the form of tractors to tow artillery, in order to ensure that Germany’s limited military assets possessed the mobility to make a difference on the battlefield. These efforts culminated in the Kraftfahrüstungsprogramm (Motorisation Programme) formulated by the General Staff during 1927 and 1928. According to this initiative, the Reichsheer would specify its automotive requirements and provide technical specifications for designs that would be able to fulfill its needs. Whilst the 1920s saw many developments in this field, the Weimar Republic’s clandestine attempts to rearm in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles were accelerated with the accession of Adolf Hitler as German Chancellor in January 1933. Under the Nazi Party, which was vehemently opposed to what was perceived as the emasculating and unjust dictates of Versailles, plans to rebuild and motorize the Reichsheer were given greater priority and would eventually receive considerably more funds for research and development.
Among the many experiments in motorization undertaken by the Weimar Republic and continued by the Nazis was the development of three-quarter tracked vehicles (commonly known as half-tracks) for the purposes of carrying loads and, more importantly, towing artillery. Encouraged by earlier successes with these vehicles, Waffen Prüfwesen 6 (Wa Prüf 6), the sub-division of the German Army’s ordnance department responsible for the development of tanks and motor vehicles, initiated the creation of a light, medium, and heavy class of three-quarter tracked vehicles for the Reichsheer in 1932. At first, these vehicles were identified in accordance with their load-carrying capacity, but they were later reclassified to reflect towing weights of 5 tonnes, 8 tonnes, and 12 tonnes respectively. This reorientation originates from the conceptualization of these vehicles as prime-movers for the German Army’s various artillery pieces and trailers.
One of the products of this push for the motorization of the Reichsheer was the one-tonne three-quarter tracked vehicle. Although the initial requirements for three-quarter tracked vehicles prepared by Wa Prüf 6 in 1932 had not called for anything with less than 5 tonnes of towing capacity, there were plenty of anti-tank guns and infantry guns in development during the 1930s that would benefit from motorised towing, but which did not require a tractor with a 5-tonne towing capacity. Therefore, in order to provide prime movers for these indispensable constituents of German infantry formations, Wa Prüf 6 expanded the range of three-quarter tracked vehicles in 1934 to encompass a design with a one-tonne towing capacity. It was due to this imperative of motorization that the rather odd-looking Demag D II came into being.
The Dark Ages: The Genesis of the One-Tonne Half-Track
Whilst the overarching narrative recounting the mobilization of the Reichsheer is relatively well-known, the more intricate details pertaining to each particular vehicle are, by contrast, exceedingly scant. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the all-too-typical case of the one-tonne half-tracked vehicle, of which there are no surviving primary source records from either Demag or Wa Prüf 6 concerning its early development and production. Historians of the Medieval period may resent the ‘Dark Ages’ paradigm, but it is an apt term to describe the loss of information regarding the history of many interwar German military vehicles.
Consequently, the only comprehensive source available that outlines the early history of the one-tonne three-quarter tracked vehicle is a report compiled after the war in June 1946 by the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). Entitled ‘German Semi-Tracked Vehicle Development from 1934 onwards’, this document provides a detailed overview of the history and the technical features of most of the German three-quarter tracked vehicles developed before and during the Second World War. However, the fact that the information in this report was primarily derived from post-war interviews with relevant personnel from the design firms and Wa Prüf 6, who did not have access to their records, means that it can contain significant errors and omissions. In the case of the one-tonne three-quarter tracked vehicle, the BAOR report contains only a brief synopsis of the production and technical features of the trial vehicles. Faced with this barren documentary record, there is little that can be said about the events leading up to the completion of the first Demag D II 1 sometime in 1934 or 1935.
Piecing together the evidence that is available, it is probable that the one-tonne half-track started development in 1934 as part of an effort to create a light prime mover that could advance at high speeds along paved roads and negotiate rugged terrain. The idea that the one-tonne three-quarter tracked vehicle was envisaged as a towing vehicle for light artillery, such as the leichtes Infanteriegeschütz 18 (le. IG 18) or the 3.7 cm Panzerabwehrkanone (3.7 cm Pak), is supported by a myriad of photographs showing trials vehicles hitched to these guns and their ammunition trailers, as well as the wartime use of their successors in this exact role.
Having established a need for this lightweight towing vehicle in 1934, Wa Prüf 6 contracted Demag AG, a crane manufacturing company based in Wetter an der Ruhr, to produce a series of trial vehicles (Versuchs-Fahrzeuge) incorporating their desired technical features and adhering to the prescribed specifications. Although Demag was a large industrial concern specializing in heavy equipment such as cranes and steam locomotives, this appears to have been their first project involving the development of half-tracked vehicles. Unfortunately, there is no information revealing why Demag was chosen to design these trials vehicles, or whether there were alternative concepts considered for this role. Whatever the wider story behind the early stages of the one-tonne half-track, between 1934 and 1936, Demag designed and produced a series of distinctive three-quarter tracked vehicles known as the D II, all of which employed several novel and unique technical features.
Micro Machines: The Development of the D II 1 and D II 2 ‘Liliput’
The first incarnations of the D II are immediately recognizable due to to their diminutive size and unconventional appearance. It is thanks to these characteristics that this series of machines received the peculiar moniker ‘Liliput’, an adjective (spelled ‘Lilliput’ in English) that denotes an object or person of extremely small size. Originating from Jonathan Swift’s famous eighteenth-century novel Gulliver’s Travels, in which Lilliput is an imaginary island inhabited by miniature 15 cm tall people, the term entered the European lexicon after this popular novel was translated into different languages. Whilst it may seem strange for a German military vehicle to be referred to by this esoteric label, the term ‘Liliput’ was sufficiently well-known in contemporary Europe that it became the name of one of the smallest semi-automatic handguns ever produced, the 4.25 mm Liliput Pistol, which was designed and manufactured by Waffenfabrik August Menz in Germany between 1920 and 1927. It is unknown how this term came to be attached to the Demag D II, but it appears to have been a contemporary name that aptly captures the strange appearance of these tiny machines.
Asides from its noteworthy name, the first variant of the Demag D II series developed between 1934 and 1935, the D II 1, also incorporated a number of unusual technological innovations. Whereas the other German semi-tracked vehicles mounted the automotive components onto a traditional chassis frame, the D II 1 encased all of these parts inside a unique lightweight hull. This novel approach to the construction helped to ensure that the machine would remain as light as possible, thus increasing its maneuverability and cross-country performance.
These performance characteristics were enhanced by Kniepkamp’s revolutionary torsion bar suspension, fitted to both the front axle as well as the tracked section. This worked in conjunction with the interleaved road wheels to provide the D II 1 with excellent mobility across challenging terrain, not to mention relatively fast speeds on paved roads. Although these features do not seem particularly remarkable in light of their widespread employment in later German designs of the Second World War, the Demag D II 1 was one of the first three-quarter tracked vehicles to use such an advanced suspension system successfully.
Kniepkamp’s penchant for cutting-edge technology and his preoccupation with speed, mobility, and weight are also evident in one of the types of track fitted to the D II 1. Alongside orthodox unlubricated pin cast steel track links intended to prioritize off-road traction, the D II 1 was also tested with lubricated needle-bearing track links, each of which carried a rubber pad. These track designs were viewed as a compromise between steel and rubber tracks, the former permitting higher speeds on road, with the latter being more suitable for off-road activity and more durable. By equipping German half-tracks with lubricated rubber padded tracks, Kniepkamp hoped to retain some of the beneficial performance and noise-dampening qualities of the rubber tracks, without sacrificing all of the resilience afforded by steel tracks. Although it appears to be the case that different track designs were still being evaluated at the time when the D II series was being tested, the lubricated needle-bearing rubber padded tracks had become a standard feature on all major German three-quarter tracked vehicles by the beginning of the Second World War.
Whereas the technical and automotive attributes of the Demag D II 1 fulfilled the brief for a light cross-country vehicle, other aspects of the design left something to be desired. Chief among these limitations of the D II 1, at least among those that are apparent without having access to any detailed testing reports, was the placement of the 1.479 litre 6-cylinder 28 hp BMW 315 engine. In another example of defying normal expectations, the engine of the D II 1 was not located in a separate compartment at the front, but was instead installed at the right rear of the hull, where it took up most of the space inside the rear compartment. As a result, there was room for only a driver and three additional men, with little space for extra stowage. For a vehicle designed to tow guns and carry their ammunition and crew complements, the lack of internal volume was a significant shortcoming that could only be rectified by a radical rearrangement of the internal layout of the hull.
Sometime after the D II 1 was completed, the D II 2 was finished in 1935. In many respects, the D II 2 remained the same as its predecessor. It maintained the exact layout, engine, and suspension used in the D II 1, with the only major difference being the addition of an extra road wheel to the tracked suspension as well as a corresponding increase in track length. Other than the provision of a canvas cover to protect the driver from the elements, there were no more significant differences distinguishing the D II 2 from the earlier D II 1.
Consequently, by the end of 1935, Wa Prüf 6 was in possession of two lightweight compact towing vehicles capable of moving their light artillery. In the case of the D II 2, this translated into a vehicle capable of towing up to 600 kg, despite only weighing 2,560 kg fully laden. Moreover, it was able to attain a range of 250 km and a top speed of 50km/hr on roads, as well as scale a grade of 24 degrees unloaded or 12 degrees loaded. However, there were also significant shortcomings to these early designs which necessitated continued development by Demag.
Towards the Sd.Kfz.10: The Demag D II 3
In 1936, the third and final incarnation of the D II, the D II 3, was assembled by Demag and delivered to Wa Prüf 6 for testing. In this guise, the D II came to more closely resemble the final shape of the mass-produced D 7. The original layout was discarded in favor of a more traditional setup, with the engine placed at the front in a separate compartment, whilst another road wheel was also appended to the suspension. Along with the conspicuous bulbous front fenders, these alterations to the D II 3 resulted in an appearance that bore a much closer resemblance to the later Sd.Kfz.10.
However, the modifications to the D II 3 were not merely superficial aesthetic details. By replacing the BMW 315 engine with a larger 1.971 liter 6-cylinder BMW 319, the D II 3 was slightly more powerful than its predecessors. In addition to this, the relocation of the engine to the front of the vehicle improved cooling, thereby reducing the stress on the engine. Furthermore, the greater internal volume in the rear compartment meant that the D II 3 was able to transport 6 men in total, including the driver. For a vehicle intended to transport gun crews, this was a considerable upgrade to the design that increased its utility on the battlefield.
The suspension also underwent several notable alterations. The solid road wheels of the D II were replaced by five road wheels of a new 6-holed variety. Coupled to a larger idler wheel that was mounted close to the ground, the extra track contact area provided by this refined suspension improved flotation on soft terrain, thus ameliorating the cross country mobility of this machine.
Another crucial evolution to the D II 3 design was the substitution of rollers in the place of teeth on the front-mounted drive sprocket. By using rollers, the friction between the track links and the sprocket was decreased. This reduction in resistance allowed the D II 3 to attain higher speeds and was to become a staple feature of later German three-quarter tracked designs.
In the same way as its forebears, the D II 3 was trialed with at least two different track designs, as well as two kinds of front wheels. In terms of tracks, this consisted of a familiar all-steel design alongside Kniepkamp’s lubricated rubber-padded tracks. These tracks could be combined with either pneumatic tires of a type similar to the D II 1 and D II 2, or a solid rubber variety. Unsurprisingly for an experimental vehicle like the D II 3, the photographic evidence is sparse and, due to the quality of surviving photos, difficult to interpret. However, photographs show that both types of tracks and front wheels were equipped on the D II 3, and seem to suggest that the different tire designs were tested in combination with both track variants.
If the technical features of the D II are relatively well-documented by the BAOR report, production figures for these earlier vehicles are more opaque. According to the British, 38 D II 3 were completed by Demag. However, this claim is not confirmed by any surviving German records from the time and does not accord with the usual practice of producing trial vehicles in small series of one to five examples. This suggests that this statement in the BAOR report may be one of its many errors, but without the original German records, no definitive answer can be obtained. In either case, it is clear that in spite of the considerable improvements, the Demag D II 3 was an experimental vehicle that required further development in the eyes of Wa Prüf 6.
Waste Not, Want Not: The D II 3 as a Testbed
Despite their shadowy existence in both the documentary and the photographic record, German prototype vehicles rarely enjoyed a quiet life. Rather than allow their experimental machines to languish in storage, many of the German trial vehicles ordered by the Heeres Waffenamt saw later use as testbeds for new concepts or technology. The Demag D II 3 was no such exception to this rule.
Even before the end of 1935, the Heeres Waffenamt had already presented a report outlining the tactical advantages of creating self-propelled 2 cm Flak guns on the basis of existing half-tracks. The report noted that due to the greater muzzle velocity and the superior penetration of the 2 cm Flak 30 anti-aircraft gun compared to other weapons of this caliber, it was not only an effective defense against air attacks but could also be employed to protect marching columns against surprise tank attacks. Taken by the merits of this idea, the D II 3 and D 6 experimental half-tracks were used to test a superstructure able to mount a 2 cm Flak 30 with 360 degrees of traverse, which would go on to be used on the mass-produced Sd.Kfz.10/4 anti-aircraft half-track.
Generally, such experiments mentioned in the documentation are devoid of photographic evidence, but every so often, stray photographs are published which illuminate these forgotten chapters of a particular vehicle’s career in service. In the case of the D II 3, there are at least two photographs confirming that at least one of the D II 3 experimental chassis fitted with solid rubber front tires and all-steel tracks was used to test this idea.
Close examination of these photographs reveals many similarities between the design of this trial superstructure and the standard style used on the Sd.Kfz.10/4, such as the four ready bins for one twenty-round Flak 30 magazine attached to the folding sides. Puzzlingly, the D II 3 testbed also has several features that were not fitted to Sd.Kfz.10/4 produced in 1939, but which did become standard in 1940. These include the loading ramps protruding from the front of the vehicle and the cable rollers just behind the driver, which were intended to allow the 2 cm Flak 30 to be dismounted from the half-track so that it could be emplaced in a concealed position on the ground.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to say any more about this experimental vehicle due to the lack of additional evidence. It is not even clear when this trial machine was modified in this manner, although it is probable, given its role as a testbed, that the conversion was completed between the production of the D II 3 in 1936 and the date at which the first orders for the Sd.Kfz.10/4 were issued in May 1939. Nonetheless, this example of reusing a prototype machine exemplifies the importance of the D II series in establishing the design parameters for many of the 1-tonne half-tracks that would see successful wartime service.
Stepping Stones: The D II in Retrospect
By the end of their development in 1936, the D II series of prototypes had established the foundations for a half-track design capable of meeting the specifications for a lightweight cross-country towing vehicle outlined by the Heeres Waffenamt in 1934. Although the D II 1 and D II 2 had many peculiar characteristics that were later dispensed with, they also pioneered several ingenious features that would be carried through to the mass-produced D 7, most notably the torsion bar suspension and the substitution of a hull construction in place of the conventional chassis frame. When the positive aspects of the early D II machines were amalgamated with numerous improvements introduced in the D II 3, the basic outline of the future Sd.Kfz.10 became fixed in shape.
Even so, the external similarities between the Sd.Kfz.10 and the final incarnation of the D II can be misleading. There would be multiple adjustments to almost every single facet of the existing design before its finalization as the D 7 in 1938, including changes to the engine, front axle, and road wheels. Nevertheless, In spite of these many modifications distancing the D 7 from the D II 3, these earlier vehicles still performed an important role in establishing the basic parameters and characteristics for their successors.
Consequently, the D II series must not be perceived as an evolutionary dead-end, but as a key step in the history of the development of the ubiquitous Sd.Kfz.10. Whilst none of the D II prototypes have survived to this day, their influence can still be appreciated through the mass-produced D 7, which is as prolific in present-day collections of German military vehicles as it was on the battlefields of the Second World War.
The lack of surviving documentation concerning the history of the Demag D II series of vehicles means that the BAOR Report is still the primary source of information regarding these half-tracks. For those unable to access this report, Panzer Tracts 22-1 is an essential resource for further reading into this topic. As well as quoting directly from the BAOR report, this Panzer Tracts volume also highlights possible errors and provides several photographs of the D II that have not been published elsewhere. In addition to this, the coverage of the later D 6 and D 7 developments has revolutionized our understanding of the history of these vehicles. Older works of literature, such as those authored by Spielberger and Milsom, also summarise the history of the D II as presented in the BAOR report, but they should be used with caution when researching the rest of the Sd.Kfz.10 family, as they each contain errors and outdated information. Finally, a considerable number of photos of the D II that have not been published in printed books have surfaced on the internet, the majority of which have been published in this article.
Illustration of the Demag D II 1 half-track prototype with the rear-mounted engine and with the windshield up. Illustration of the Demag D II 3 half-track prototype with the engine in the front.
Both illustrations by Alexe ‘Carpaticus’ Pavel, funded by our Patreon campaign.
D II 1
D II 2
D II 3
1 + 3
1 + 3
1 + 5
3.4m (L) x 1.6m (W) x 1.7m (H)
4.4m (L) x 1.8m (W) x 1.7m (H)
28 HP BMW 315 1.479 litre 6-cylinder petrol engine
ZF 4-speed transmission
28 HP BMW 315 1.479 litre 6-cylinder Petrol Engine
ZF 4-speed transmission
42 HP BMW 319 1.971 litre 6-cylinder petrol engine
ZF 4-speed transmission
The Jagdtiger (Hunting Tiger) is a highly recognizable vehicle consisting of a huge flat-sided casemate built on the hull of the Tiger II Heavy Tank. What is less well known is that the Jagdtiger as we know it (design started in early 1943), was not the vehicle originally requested and that, by tracking that design philosophy and evidence, it is possible to see a completely different Jagdtiger; one which was never built yet still offers a fuller picture of the evolution of German heavy armor in the Second World War.
In the spring of 1942, the Army General Staff was requesting a 12.8 cm gun mounted on a self-propelled chassis capable of supporting the infantry and of destroying unarmored as well as armored targets at distances up to 3,000 m. Armor and firepower were the priority, not speed and maneuverability.
By 2nd February 1943, this demand became an official request in the form of a letter sent from Wa Prüf 4 (the Army High Command design office for artillery) to Friedrich Krupp of Essen, setting out the requirement to mount a 12.8 cm Sturmkanone (Eng: Assault Gun abbreviated to ‘Stu.K’) on a modified Tiger H3. The ‘Tiger H3’ concerned was what we now know as the Tiger II, which was not named as such until March 1943 following the abandonment of the VK45.02(H), which was at the time known as Tiger II.
The requirements from Wa Prüf 4 for the modifications meant moving the engine forward on the chassis, with the gun being mounted in a casemate at the rear. This philosophy was felt to have the advantage of keeping the barrel overhang for the tank to a minimum and allowing for a better distribution of weight, although it was not without problems, as would soon become apparent.
The firm of Henschel und Sohn of Kassel would be responsible for the design of the hull modifications to fulfill this project and was contracted to produce designs. The gun desired was a 12.8 cm Stu.K, and the intention was to simply take the 12.8 cm Kw.K. L/55 gun unchanged, in its entirety, along with mounts, breech, brake, and recuperator from the Pz.Kpfw. Maus, although there was a strong emphasis placed by the High Command on the removal of the muzzle brake, as this allowed the use of Triebspiegel shells for heavy anti-armor work. The design, therefore, was not simply an assault gun, but also a tank-destroyer too, the difference between the two being blurred in this regard.
Further requirements set out in this letter were the use of as simple a design as possible with an elevation of -8 to +15 and 15 degrees of traverse. The sighting for the gun consisted of the Sfl.Z.F.5 and Rbl.F.36 telescopes to allow for both direct and also indirect fire.
Panzerjäger Panther design
By the start of 1943, the attempts to mount a 12.8 cm gun on a chassis were focused on using either the Panther or Tiger II as a basis. The Panther design to mount this 12.8 cm gun followed the design request closely. The engine, cooling, and ancillaries were moved to the front of the hull, behind the driver and radio operator, with the fighting compartment at the back.
The 12.8cm L/55 gun was mounted in the front of a well-sloped casemate with sloping sides, a flat roof, and a sloping rear, rather akin to the design of the back of the Ferdinand. Elevation limits for this gun were just +15 degrees to -6.5 degrees which did not meet the -8 degrees desired. Further, the rather small space of the casemate for the breech of this huge gun likely restricted the traverse to below the required 15 degrees each way.
The advantages of the design, such as the less complex and expensive Panther chassis compared to the Tiger II chassis, and the reduced length, just 8.5 m long from the muzzle to the rear, were offset by its deficiencies, such as the gun placement complicating maintenance of the engine and transmission. It is also possible that the armor which could be carried was not felt to be sufficient on the Panther chassis but, regardless of why the design was dropped, the attention was switched to the Tiger II chassis instead.
Enter the Tigerjäger
The Panzerjäger Panther design was dropped at some point, but Dr. Erwin Aders, the design lead at Henschel und Sohn, was working on two alternative designs for a Panzerjager based on the new Tiger II design. By March 1943, Aders was actively considering armor for the design up to 200 mm thick on the front and up to 100 mm on the sides, although this was subject to change in order to keep the weight to 70-tonnes (77.16 tons) or less. The goal was to provide a finished design by June 1943.
On 12th April 1943, Aders’ designs for Henschel were ready and the name being used at the time was Tigerjäger (Hunting Tiger). Designs plural, because Aders presented not one design but two: Tigerjäger Design A and Tigerjäger Design B.
Design A had completely disregarded the requirement of the initial design brief to move the engine to the front of the hull. Instead, this design kept the engine at the back, with the transmission at the front as it was already arranged on the Tiger II. Despite this, the hull still had to be lengthened by 300 mm. Spielberger, Jentz, and Doyle (2007) describe the frontal armor of this design as being 150 mm at 40 degrees on the glacis and 200 mm thick on the 60-degree sloping part on the front of the casemate. However, the side armor had been reduced from the 100 mm desired in March to just 80 mm in order to keep the weight down. In other words, the frontal armor was now effectively double or more than the Tiger I but with the same side armor as the Tiger II.
Construction of a casemate with the armor desired and enough room for the breech of the huge 12.8 cm gun created a major problem and the height of Design A had to be reduced by 40 mm to allow it to fit inside the German rail gauge height limits for transportation. This had the effect of reducing gun depression from the -8 desired to -7 but, other than that, the design had met almost all of the requirements desired in the original letter from Wa Prüf 4 in February.
Design B, on the other hand, was significantly more problematic. In order to meet the requirements of Wa Prüf 4’s request to move the engine to the front, the hull roof had to be raised. Further, the cooling system of fans and radiators would not fit and would require a total redesign but even so, the engine was put in the middle of the hull. This, in turn, created additional problems with the transmission of power from the engine to the transmission at the front and to resolve that dilemma would mean designing new intermediate gearing. If that was not bad enough, Dr. Aders had not managed to design an effective system for exhaust from the engine and ventilation as the new arrangement had created so many difficulties for the design, and that was just the automotive problems.
Along with this total redesign of the Tiger II to accommodate this new automotive arrangement and the casemate at the back, the vehicle was too large for the rail gauge. Altering the design in order to meet this limitation would further reduce the movement of the gun which was already reduced by the height of the hull in front of the casemate. Assuming for a moment that the height could be amended in the same manner as Design A, reducing the -8 depression to just -7, then we can only surmise that the figure of -7 would be yet further reduced by this engine deck-height issue to -6 or less. Significant benefits of this gun mounting which should not be forgotten, however, were that it kept the center-of-gravity of the vehicle further back and meant there was very little overhang of the gun over the front of the hull.
One more problem to add to this litany of issues was maintenance. Not only would Design B require parts unique to it which were not compatible with the Tiger II, such as the gearing and cooling systems, but access to these parts was hard too. The 12.8 cm gun and mantlet would overhang the engine deck and, with limited traverse and elevation, there was no means to remove the engine or transmission without first removing the gun. This would also have to be done anyway for the Design A option but only for a change of the transmission and not for the engine. A short note here is that, at this time, the only engine being considered for the Tigerjäger was the same as that of the Tiger II, the Maybach HL 230 TRM producing 700 hp.
When Design A was amended with the casemate 200 mm further back due to a design change over the gun mounting, it resolved the centre-of-gravity issues and also reduced the gun overhang at the front. Design B, therefore, offered little in the way of advantages over Design A and a whole slew of major and unresolved problems. With an urgency to get this heavy 12.8 cm assault gun platform into service, there was only one logical choice and Design A, despite not being the engine-forward design requested, was selected instead. Design A went on to be the Jagdtiger and Design B was dropped.
The first ‘Tigerjäger Design B’, as previously described, dates to the first half of April 1944 and the creative mind of Dr. Aders at Henschel und Sohn. Just to be confusing for historians, there is another Tigerjäger Design B. In fact, it is actually written as ‘Tiger-Jäger B’ and also emerges from Henschel just a month after the first Tigerjäger Design B. This means it is almost certainly from Dr. Aders as well, as he was the chief designer at Henschel.
Given the fact it was almost certainly proposed by the same designer responsible for Tigerjäger Design A and Tigerjäger Design B, from the same firm and only separated by a month, it would be easy to assume that there may be an error and that there was, in fact, only 1 Tigerjäger Design B. Here though there is a lucky break for the curious, as the plans for the May 1944 Tigerjäger Design B, unlike the April 1944 Tigerjäger Design B, actually survive.
Looking at the plans for the May Tigerjäger Design B and comparing it to the description known for the April design, it becomes very apparent that they are not the same vehicle which have been confused. The April vehicle was an engine-forward, rear casemate design with the 12.8cm gun over the engine with a small projection, whereas the May vehicle is the engine-rearward center-casemate design just like that known for Tigerjäger Design A from April, mounting the same gun but only over the front of the hull and projecting forwards.
The May Tigerjäger Design B initially looks like Design A, but there is one key visual difference that is easy to overlook; a cut-away portion on the top edge of the glacis. This cut-away reduced the point at which the gun would foul on the hull during depression.
The armor listed on the plan for the May Tigerjäger Design B also matches the armor described for the April Tigerjäger Design A, namely 200 mm on the front of the casemate, 150 mm on the glacis, and 80 mm on the sides. As these armor figures both pre- and post-date the April Tigerjäger Design B, it can be reasonably assumed even without the plans that the armor would be the same.
Resurrection: September 1943
Design B might have failed but the idea of sticking the 12.8 cm gun is a rear-casemate engine-forward design certainly had one last surprise. This time it was not from Henschel but from Krupp.
On 24th September 1943, Colonel Crohn (Wa Prüf 6) wrote to Krupp about improving the armament for the Tigerjäger, which was now the Henschel Design A type vehicle. There had been problems with the 12.8cm L/55 from Krupp which was, as yet, still unfinished. The gun suggested by Colonel Crohn was the 12.8cm L/70 version of the gun which used the same two-piece ammunition as the shorter gun but would deliver a higher muzzle velocity for armor-piercing rounds.
Krupp set to work and on 21st October replied that they had altered the design (the current Design-A type vehicle) to take the L/70 instead of the L/55. The gun could still fit in the same mounts as the L/55 gun but caused serious problems. The extremely long barrel now projected nearly 5 m beyond the front of the tank, bringing the center of gravity much further forwards, leaving a great strain on the front suspension.
The solution, in one way, was obvious – put the gun further back. In fact, mount the gun in a casemate at the back of the hull and, in doing so, move the engine forwards. This was then unsurprisingly exactly what Krupp suggested. At the same time, they outlined what effect the use of an L/70 would have on the primary design they suggested, and outlined this exact alternative, namely moving the engine forwards and the gun backward. This would reduce the overhang at the front to just 2 m or so and bring the center-of-gravity further back too. The drawbacks though, would be the same as before on the Design B and, on top of this, Krupp foresaw an increase in weight too on top of the weight of the heavier gun. Krupp said that it would consult with Henschel on the matter but, as Henschel had already considered this problem, it is no surprise that this idea died as quickly as it started.
By the end of October 1943 then it can be said that the rear-casemate engine-forward Tigerjäger was well and truly dead as an idea.
Because the designs were both rejected,k as both had so many faults and neither drawing has survived, it is perhaps no surprise that the descriptions provided, along with a knowledge of the development of the 12.8 cm Panzerjager and Tiger II programs, only allow for an approximation or surmised layout to be offered.
Looking at all of the other Panzerjägers following this engine-forward principle, such as the Panzerjäger IV mit 8.8 cm L/71, the Elefant/Ferdinand with the 8.8 cm L/71, and the Panzerjäger Panther with the 12.8 cm L/55, they all share the same core elements of sloping casemate sides, flat roof, and a rear which slopes both out from the floor to about the midpoint before sloping back to meet the casemate roof.
It is also worth considering that rear-mounted guns were actually installed on the Tiger II chassis, such as the 17 cm Selsfahrlafette 17/21, better known as the ‘Grille’ (Cricket). For that design, the engine was brought forward and the gun taken to the rear. A look at the engine position in the Grille, therefore, provides a view of what the front section of Design B might have looked like with the engine brought forwards. Why was it not a problem for the Grille when this layout was such a problem for the Tigerjäger? Simple: the Grille’s 17cm gun could be elevated far enough that access to the engine and transmission was relatively easy, as the gun did not need to be removed first.
Without seeing the original design, it is not possible to know for sure what Tigerjäger Design B looked like and the ‘invention’ of a tank, however reasonable it may look, is avoided by serious historians, which is why the artist’s impression shown here by the author is offered with the warning that it is exactly that, a rough impression of what it might have looked like based only on the little information available and from contemporary designs. Only if, and when, the original drawings are found can it be known for sure how close this impression is to reality.
The Tigerjäger Design B was literally a ‘paper panzer’ – it never left the drawing board. Designed by Henschel exactly as was actually demanded, it was simply surpassed by the alternative design (Design A), the design which went on to be the Jagdtiger. Using a rear casemate design with the engine forward would have allowed the use of the 12.8cm L/55 (April/May 1943) or even L/70 (September/October 1943) without the otherwise enormous overhang and without the excessive weight on the front suspension. Nonetheless, the design caused other problems relating to maintenance, the need for new component parts and really was not needed. There had been serious delays already in the Jagdtiger program at the time and 12.8cm L/55 production was behind schedule; switching to a longer gun would simply have slowed things down even more and the L/70 was simply not necessary to deal with its intended targets.
Krupp’s ideas for mounting the L/70 in the Design A never came about either and its ideas about moving the casemate to the rear were equally impractical given the problems of engine access. As it was, the Jagdtiger would follow a more conventional layout and the Design B of April 1943 was dropped. Together, the discussions over the Tigerjäger come together to provide a fuller picture of the small, but important steps in the evolutionary process for the Germans’ heavy Jagdtiger program.
Illustration of the Tigerjäger Design B produced by Mr. C. Ryan, funded by our Patreon Campaign
Tigerjäger Design B (April – March 1943)
Total weight, battle-ready
est. 75 tonnes
Maybach HL 230 TRM petrol producing 700hp
12.8cm Kw.K. L/55 plus hull mounted machine gun
Up to 200 mm frontal, 80 mm sides and rear. 40-50 mm roof
Tigerjäger Design B (September-October 1943)
Total weight, battle-ready
est. 70 – 75 tonnes
Maybach HL 230 TRM petrol producing 700hp
12.8cm Kw.K. L/70 plus hull mounted machine gun
Up to 200 mm frontal, 80 mm sides and rear. 40-50 mm roof
By 1944, the fate of the Großdeutsches Reich (English: ´Greater German Reich´), more colloquially known as Nazi Germany, started becoming clearer and it was certainly not in the favor of the Germans. However, the German nation was not ready to surrender. As a result, the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, one of the armored staples of the Wehrmacht at the time, continued to see development and upgrades until Germany’s eventual defeat in May of 1945.
While the 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70 main gun on the Pz.Kpfw. V Panther was a formidable tank gun capable of engaging any armored vehicle the Allies were able to field at the time, it was felt that the gun lacked enough future-proofing. In retrospect, these sentiments may not have been completely unjustified seeing as how vehicles developed by the Soviet Union near the end of the Second World War, like the T-54 and the IS-3, managed to be frontally resistant to the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 as mounted on the Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf.B. Other vehicles, such as the United States’ Heavy Tank T32 and Heavy Tank T32E1, could also be theoretically frontally resistant to most of Germany’s anti-tank arsenal.
This IS-2 Mod.1944 was tested against the 8.8cm PaK.43 L/71 and 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70. The upper hull was impervious to the 7.5cm at any ranges while the 8.8cm could defeat it at 450 m, making it a great example as to the difference that an 8.8cm could have made in a real combat situation. Source: warspot.ru
During mid to late 1944, the firm of Daimler-Benz was in the midst of developing the Schmalturm (English: ‘narrow turret’), a replacement for the regular Rheinmetall-designed Panther turret. The Schmalturm was supposed to be used on the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F. Considering that the Schmalturm was set to replace the original Rheinmetall turret and presumably Krupp thought that turret would be more accepting of a larger gun, Krupp designed an up-gunned version of the Schmalturm with a minimal amount of modifications. Krupp´s drawing Hln-130 (also referred to as Hln-B130), called ‘8.8cm L/71 I, Panther, schmal’ in at least one of the drawings, shows the Schmalturm mounting a modified version of the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 dating back to October 18, 1944. Faded drawing of Hln-130 showing the internals of Krupp’s proposal from a top-down point of view with the turret facing left. (Source: Yuri Pasholok.) Hln-130 modified to show major components of the turret. The red outline shows the armor structure, turret ring in orange, cupola in purple, bulbous turret extension in yellow, 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 gun breech in brown, and 8,8cm round in green.
The gun was able to be accommodated by creating an armored bulbous extension at the front of the turret. The trunnions on the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71´s gun carriage were moved 350 mm rearwards along the length of the gun, or the gun itself was moved 350mm forwards on the trunnions depending on how one wants to interpret it. The new gun mantlet was entirely different compared to the pot-shaped mantlet used on the regular Schmalturm. The installation of this new, larger gun compromised internal space and would mean that the loader would have a tough time loading rounds into the breech due to the limited amount of space between the gun breech and the rear of the turret. The round had to be loaded at an angle going upwards from the base of the turret, where there was enough room to squeeze in the round to the breech. One further modification was that the aperture for the main gun differed from the regular Schmalturm, although the apertures for the gunsight and machine gun were to remain identical.
Krupp´s Hln-E142 drawing, called ´Pz.Kpfw. “Panther” mit 8.8cm L/71 (Kw.K.43)´, dating back to November 17, 1944, shows the turret from drawing Hln-130 or the Schmalturm mounting the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 mounted onto a regular Panzerkampfwagen V Panther chassis. Here it is revealed that the gun has a depression angle of -8 and elevation angle of +15. The whole length of the vehicle with the turret and gun facing forward is 9,250 mm (9.25 m) with the length from the very front of the chassis to the end of the gun being 2,650 mm (2.65 m) and the vehicle (excluding gun) being 6,600 mm (6.60 m) long. On December 4, 1944, Wa Prüf 6, the department of the Waffenamt in charge of the development of armored and motorized vehicles, awarded Krupp a development contract.
Drawing Hln-E142 showing Krupp’s proposal for mounting an 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 onto a Pz.Kpfw. V Panther chassis. Source: Yuri Pasholok
Krupp was curious about Wa Prüf 6’s opinions on some of the aspects of the proposal and whether further development was worthy of advancing forward. Krupp asked Wa Prüf 6 these three following questions, which are taken verbatim from Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy.
Is there sufficient space for the loader?
Is the shape of the armored cover in the turret front plate acceptable?
Is relocating the center of balance about 200 mm forward plus a weight increase of 900 kg bearable?
For the first question, Krupp proposed mounting a wooden model of the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 onto a “Panther turret” in order to test the loading of the main gun. For the third question, Krupp proposed a test turret with the load being off-center. Wa Prüf 6’s exact responses are not known.
For the sake of brevity, Schmalturm mounting the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 on a Panzerkampfwagen V Panther will be referred to as ‘Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm’ although it is important to note that this is not an official name and used here solely for clarity.
Renditions of Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm proposal. Source: Doyle and Jentz
Daimler-Benz Joins In
A meeting by the Entwicklungskommission Panzer (English: ‘Tank Development Commission’) was held on January 23, 1945, in which Colonel Holzäuer from Wa Prüf 6 reported that development of the Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm project was to be completed by Daimler-Benz. In addition, a wooden model is said to have been completed. Earlier, on December 12, 1944, Daimler-Benz had displayed a wooden model of the vehicle, but it is not known if it was the same wooden model Colonel Holzäuer reported or an unknown previous iteration.
The turret ring of the Daimler-Benz Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm was to be enlarged by 100 mm, making it 1,750 mm compared to the turret ring on the regular Rheinmetall-designed turret on the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (Ausf.D to G), which was 1,650 mm. In doing so it gained a single tonne of weight. It also carried 56 rounds for the main gun.
On February 20, 1945, Krupp and Daimler-Benz representatives, Wa Prüf 6, and Wa Prüf 4 (a sister department to Wa Prüf 6 in charge of the development of artillery) held a meeting comparing both Daimler-Benz and Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm designs. One large difference was the gun itself. Daimler-Benz used a ‘8.8cm Kw.K.’ with the recoil cylinders installed underneath the gun and the turret ring widened by 100 mm, while Krupp opted to use, for the most part, a regular 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 with repositioned trunnions in a mostly unchanged Schmalturm turret as mentioned earlier. Wa Prüf 6 recognized that Krupp’s design was an expedient one meant to save time, however, their representatives did not much appreciate the idea.
In the end, it was proposed that Daimler-Benz and Krupp would work together on a project involving the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 with relocated trunnions and a larger turret ring with Daimler-Benz tackling the turret and Krupp the gun, unsurprisingly. This would have lead to the creation of a more complex project, but also combine the best elements of both designs and create additional space inside the turret.
On February 27, 1945, it was decided by Wa Prüf 6 that Daimler-Benz would continue development of the Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm and was slated to produce a soft steel prototype of the turret to the specifications listed. Some of the specifications listed below reflect Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm design which might indicate their involvement.
Needed to depress -8 degrees and elevate 15 degrees, which Krupp’s design was able to achieve.
The turret ring diameter was to be enlarged to 1,750 mm which was designed to give the loader more room to do his duties. Daimler-Benz’s previous design had already accomplished this.
The vehicle had to use only the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 as its main gun. The bore evacuation cylinder was to be placed in the middle of the recoil cylinders above the gun.
The trunnions were relocated and the muzzle brake was removed similar to Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm.
Interestingly, the trunnions were to be located on the “forward edge” of the turret front plate, implying that it lacked any turret front extension like Krupp’s design.
The turret front was to have a “smooth armor plate” with the apertures being as small as possible but including an aperture for the main gun, presumably with the coaxial machine gun included. It is not clear if the turret was to be equipped with a telescopic gunsight or a coaxial machine gun
Mounting the S.Z.F.2 or S.Z.F.3 stabilized gunsight was to be considered.
The turret traverse gear and the cupola were to stay the same as on the regular Schmalturm.
The design was to use either a 1.32 m or 1.65 m stereoscopic rangefinder. It should be noted that the regular Schmalturm could already mount a 1.32 m stereoscopic rangefinder.
The turret was to feature ready racks which would make ammunition easily accessible.
Emphasis was placed on a low turret height.
Lastly, the rear turret plate was to be sloped instead of “upright” as it was on the first wooden model of the Daimler-Benz Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm. The wooden model might be the one showed off on December 12, 1944, but this is just speculation.
Krupp’s Return and Wa Prüf 6’s Variant
Krupp appears to have returned to the project under the request of Colonel Crohn from Wa Prüf 6 on March 8, 1945. They were to design an “armor shell” of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F turret (otherwise known as a Schmalturm) mounting the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 by March 12, 1945. Speculatively, considering that they were given four days to design, it might be the case that they simply took their previous design, such as like Hln-130 or a similar iteration around the same time, and adapted it to the existing Schmalturm design of the time.
On March 14, 1945, during a discussion of further developing the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther in the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, the Waffenamt is said to have done an excellent job designing the ‘8.8cm Kw.K. L/71’ onto a Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, with Wa Prüf 6 being thanked specifically. If the Waffenamt’s ‘8.8cm Panther’ was to be put into production, existing Panthers that received major overhauls would also be subject to mounting a turret with the 8.8cm. A ‘Versuchs-Panther’ or a prototype of the 8.8cm Panther was to be built out of soft steel and completed by early June. Mass production was to begin in the last quarter of 1945 if the “necessary support” was given.
This significantly improved vehicle with the new turret and increased firepower would weigh just one tonne more than the “current Panther”. Armor was to protect the rangefinder and it featured a stabilized gun sight “about the same as the Panther-Schmalturm”. Fifteen rounds were to be stored and be accessible in the turret and fifty to fifty-four more rounds were to be stored in the hull, meaning a total of 65 to 69 rounds could be carried.
Wa Prüf 6 was requested by the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen on March 14, 1945, to build a Versuchs-Panther mounting an 8.8cm Kw.K. L/71 based off the wooden model Daimler-Benz had shown off on December 12, 1944. The turret was to be made out of soft steel and the superstructure of the hull was to be modified in an unspecified way. Wa Prüf 6 was to complete the Versuchs-Panther quickly and display the vehicle on time.
Albert Speer, who was the Reich Minister of the Reichsministerium für Bewaffnung und Munition (English: ‘Reich Ministry of Armaments and Munitions’), requested on March 23, 1945, a display of a Panther armed with an 8.8cm Kw.K. gun, along with other weaponry, to be viewed by Adolf Hitler some time in mid-April. Hitler, however, was never able to see the vehicle as it was never built.
Daimler-Benz representatives were interrogated by the Allies after the Second World War had ended. They claimed that they had made plans to mount the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 onto a Schmalturm equipped with a stabilized gun sight with the project still being early in development. A wooden mockup of the project apparently existed up to June of 1945, three months after the German defeat, but after that it was lost to time.
The Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm isn’t one homogenous project as it is sometimes depicted. It is a series of unrelated and related projects from various different firms and organizations. In the end, arming the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther with an 8.8cm L/71 in a Schmalturm became little more than a fantasy. The war was nearing its end when actual progress was made and such a turret would have made no difference to the outcome of the war. Krupp’s proposal though would have been the most feasible when compared to the design from Wa Prüf 6 and Daimler-Benz’, since it was simply a regular Schmalturm with the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 stuffed inside. The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F was already placed into production and at least two mostly finished Schmalturms were made by the end of the war, one of which was captured and analyzed by the United States and the other captured and analyzed by the United Kingdom before ending up as a range target. However, there would have been issues with this design. Along with the bigger gun, the design was, in general, worse ergonomically for the crew and the cramped interior would have hampered the crews’ ability to carry out their tasks. There is no real surprise as to why Wa Prüf 6 was not fond of this design.
On the other hand, it is rather difficult to judge the Daimler-Benz or Wa Prüf 6 designs as very little is actually known. It appears, though, that the Daimler-Benz design would have required significant changes to an already existing design (Schmalturm) which would cause even further delays. In the case of Wa Prüf 6’s design, not only was the design of the turret changed, but existing Panthers would have to have their turret rings widened by 100 mm which would cause even more significant delays.
Despite the technical challenges of fitting an 8.8cm L/71 gun into a space smaller than that which had previously accommodated a 7.5cm gun, all designs managed to come up with workable solutions. Undoubtedly, had the final design for the compromise Schmalturm come to fruition, it would have made the new Panther a more powerful vehicle on the battlefield with a smaller silhouette, smaller profile, more firepower and improved protection, but at the expense of the crew ergonomics in the turret and their ability to carry out their tasks.
Jentz, T.L. 1995. Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy. 1st ed. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Jentz, T.L. & Doyle, H.L. 2001. Panther Tracts No. 20-1: Paper Panzers.1st ed. Boyds, Maryland: Panzer Tracts
Specifications for Krupp’s 8.8cm Schmalturm turret
3 (commander, loader, and gunner)
8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71
-8/+15 gun elevation
Armor: Presumably identical to Schmalturm with the exception of the mantlet and bulbous turret extension
Turret front: 120 mm (20 degrees)
Turret sides and rear: 60 mm (25 degrees)
Roof: 40 mm (horizontally flat)
As the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) lost control over the skies over Germany in the second half of the Second World War, it could no longer provide sufficient protection against Allied aircraft. Panzer divisions were especially affected by the lack of cover from fighter aircraft because they were always at the center of the most intense fighting.
The Germans already had copious amounts of half-tracked Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns (SPAAG) of different calibres and weights (Sd.Kfz.10/4, Sd.Kfz.6/2, Sd.Kfz.7/1, etc). As these vehicles had very limited or no armor, they were vulnerable to enemy fire either from ground or air. The crew needed better protection from small arms fire and artillery/mortar high explosive fragmentation shell shrapnel. A tank-based anti-aircraft vehicle (German: Flakpanzer) could solve this problem, as it would have sufficient armor to resist most ground attacks with the exception of larger caliber guns. They would also provide some protection against air attacks, but even tanks could be destroyed by air ground-attack fire.
Side view of the Flakpanzer 341. Source
Many designs based on different Panzer chassis and weapons were tested and built during the war. The most successful were the ones based on the Panzer IV chassis (Möbelwagen, Wirbelwind and Ostwind), which were built in some numbers but were too late to have a significant impact on the war. One of the major shortcomings of all German Flakpanzers was the lack of a fully enclosed fighting compartment. As all were open-topped (because of easier construction, easier exhaust of gun fumes and the need to produce them as fast as possible), the gun crews were exposed to air attacks.
By the end of the war, the Germans tried to solve this problem by designing and building new Flakpanzers with fully enclosed turrets. One of these was the Flakpanzer based on the Panther tank, best known today as the ‘Coelian’.
In May 1943, Oberleutnant Dipl.Ing von Glatter-Götz, responding to the orders of Inspectorate 6, initiated the development of a new series of Flakpanzers based on already existing chassis. The Panzer I and II were outdated or used for other purposes. The Panzer III tank chassis was used for the production of the StuG III and thus not available. The Panzer IV and the Panzer V Panther were considered next. The Panzer IV tank chassis was already in use for several German modifications, so it was decided to use it for the Flakpanzer program. The Panzer V Panther was considered in case even the Panzer IV chassis proved to be inadequate for the task.
The Germans formed a commission for the analysis of the effectiveness of enemy ground attack planes. The report (dated 31st June 1943) stated that, in the case of dive-bombing, the lowest point that the enemy plane reached was 1200 to 1500 m at an angle of 45-80°. Planes using larger caliber machine guns or cannons attacked at an altitude of around 150 to 300 m. The committee suggested that the best way to bring down enemy planes was using direct fire autocannons. To effectively fight the enemy planes, the future Flakpanzer would have to have a fully rotating turret with a high angle of fire and the caliber used should not be lower than 2 cm, with the more powerful 3.7 cm being preferred.
To give the crew the best protection possible and to meet any future Allied developments, the Panther-based Flakpanzer had to have a fully enclosed turret that could be armed with several different proposed weapon configurations. These included the 2 cm Flakvierling, 3.7 cm (either twin or triple configuration), 5.5 cm Flakzwilling and even an 88 mm caliber heavy flak gun. The first proposed design drawings (HSK 82827) were completed by Rheinmetall in late May 1943. The armament consisted of four 20 mm MG 151/20 mounted in a specially designed turret. The elevation of the four guns was -5° to +75°. This proposal was never implemented, mostly due to the weak armament by the standards of 1944.
On the 21st December 1943, a Panzerkommision was formed to examine the further development of a Flakpanzer based on the Panther tank chassis. It was decided that the main armament should consist of at least two 3.7 cm caliber anti-aircraft guns. This requirement was later revised to two 5.5 cm Gerät 58 guns. The development of this new weapon had begun in 1943, but due to its complicated design, problems developing the ammunition and the late start of the program, only 3 prototypes were completed by the war’s end.
For the construction of the new turret, Daimler-Benz was chosen. The new turret had to fulfill several set criteria like armor thickness and having an effective traversing mechanism. The armor protection of the turret was to be impressive, with 100 mm frontal armor and 40 mm on the sides. The turret was to be moved by using a hydraulic drive which was powered by the tank’s own engine. The new turret design was to be ready by the middle of 1944, but nothing came from this.
Rheinmetall’s proposed Flakpanzer turret armed with four 20 mm anti-aircraft guns. Source
The Rheinmetall-Borsig “341” design
Unfortunately, being more or less a project only, there is little known information about this Rheinmetall-Borsig design. What is known is that, by the end of 1943, Rheinmetall-Borsig (or its subsidiary, Vereingte Apparatebau AG, depending on the source) began working on its own design for the new Flakpanzer based on the Panther tank chassis. The first drawings of the new vehicle were completed by 23rd May, 1944. One mock-up turret was built and placed on a Panther D and presented to Wa Prüf 6 at Kummersdorf, possibly in early 1945. Due to many reasons, it never went into production and the whole 3.7 cm armed Flakpanzer based on the Panther tank chassis was cancelled in January 1945 in favour of the larger 5.5 cm weapons.
Only one mock-up with a wooden turret was ever built and presented to German army officials. It was never adopted for service, mostly due to the need to focus production on Panther tanks. Source
Depending on the source, there are different designations for this vehicle armed with 3.7 cm anti-aircraft guns. These include Flakzwilling 3.7 cm auf Panzerkampfwagen Panther, 3.7 cm Flakzwilling auf Panther Fahrgestell “341” or, simply, Flakpanzer 341. The designation 341 stands for the two main 3.7 cm guns (Flak or Gerät 341). This article will use the Flakpanzer 341 designation for the sake of simplicity.
It is also best known today under the ‘Coelian’ name. Coelian is actually the third name of Oberleutnant Dipl.Ing von Glatter-Götz, who was greatly involved in the development of the German Flakpanzer program. It is important to note that the Coelian designation was never used by the Germans and was possibly added after the war, like many similar German armored vehicle designations.
Front view of the Flakpanzer 341. The simple flat face of the lower part of the front turret and the angled upper part can be seen. Source: Unknown
What-if illustration of how a Flakpanzer 341 prototype with the later turret design might have looked like. Illustrated by David Bocquelet.
Technical characteristics of the Flakpanzer 341
Due to a lack of information, the precise Flakpanzer 341 technical characteristics are not known in detail.
The Rheinmetall-Borsig Flakpanzer was meant to be built using a new turret designed by the company and mating it with a Panther tank chassis. While sources do not explicitly mention it, it is possible that the chassis used for the production would consist of damaged ones returning from the front for repairs or major overhauls (similar to the Wirbelwind and Sturmtiger) rather than using new ones. The armor of the Panther hull was 80 mm thick at the front and 40 mm on the side and rear. The overall Panther hull would most likely have had only some minor modifications in order to speed up production.
The lower front and side section of the turret had simple flat plates. The top armor was sloped, probably in order to increase protection against air attacks. The rear armor consisted of one large rounded plate. There were at least two hatches on the top and one on the turret rear. Additional ventilation ports would most likely have been added to avoid the accumulation of fumes from the guns. The turret armor thickness was 70 mm, the gun mantlet had 80 mm, while the sides and rear were 40 mm thick. This was less than the Daimler-Benz version with 100 mm of frontal armor. It is interesting to note that, on Hilary L. Doyle’s drawing from the book Panzer Tracts No.20-2 Paper Panzers (dated from May 1944), the turret has a much more angled front armor design. The built mock-up had flat front and side plates, probably as these were easier to build. The turret was to be operated by a hydraulic drive powered by the Panther’s own engine.
For the main armament, twin experimental 3.7 cm (L/77) Flak 341 guns were chosen. Some sources wrongly mention the 3.7 cm Flak 43 as the main armament. The 3.7 cm Flak 341 (3.7 cm Gerät 341) was an improved version of the same caliber anti-aircraft gun which was developed by Rheinmetall during 1944. The development process was too slow and only four prototypes were ever built. The Gerät 341 had a range of 4300 m, with a muzzle velocity of 1040 m per second and a rate of fire of 250 rounds per minute (or 400 to 500 depending on the source, but this was probably the maximum theoretical rate of fire of the two guns). The Flakpanzer 341 3.7 cm gun had a belt ammunition feed mechanism with some 1500 rounds of ammo for both guns. The ammunition would be stored beneath the turret, in the vehicle hull. The Flakpanzer 341 turret had a full 360° of traverse, and the gun could elevate between -5° and +90°. The total weight of the guns and the mount was around 470 kg. The secondary weapon would have been the radio operator’s ball-mounted MG 34 in the glacis plate, with one more possibly mounted on the turret roof.
The Flakpanzer 341 with the guns at high elevation. Source
The crew would consist of four to five crew members. While the sources do not specify the precise role of these crew members, we can assume that it would be more or less similar to other Flakpanzer vehicles. In the Panther hull, there were seats for the driver and radio operator / hull machine gun operator.
The two hatches on top of their positions were unchanged. The remaining crew members would be stationed in the new turret. One (or two) loaders would be positioned on either side of the guns. However, because these were belt-fed, their jobs were much easier than with the earlier magazine feed systems. The commander’s position was behind the gun, and he was also probably the gun operator.
The estimated combat weight was around 40 tonnes. The average weight of Panther tanks (depending on the model) was in the range of 44-45 tonnes. With its 700 hp strong Maybach engine, the Flakpanzer 341’s mobility would most likely have been better than that of the regular Panther tank.
The dimensions of the Flakpanzer 341 would also be similar to those of the regular Panther, with the same length of 6.87 m and width of 3.27 m. The height would be the only exception, at 2.8 m to the top of the turret.
The Daimler-Benz and Krupp Flakpanzer 44 design
During 1944, Daimler-Benz and Krupp were also working on a similar Panther-based Flakpanzer. Their turret design had 60 mm thick front armor. It was armed with two 3.7 cm Flak 44 anti-aircraft guns. This project is somewhat confusing for a few reasons. The existing drawings circulating online of the alleged Daimler-Benz and Krupp Flakpanzer 44 are actually of the Flakpanzer 341 according to Hilary L. Doyle. In addition, despite the best efforts of historians, no solid information about the existence of the above-mentioned Flak 44 anti-aircraft guns could be found. There were two different 3 cm Flak 44 projects, but they progressed very little. In addition, in some sources, the 3.7 cm Flakzwilling 43 is wrongly identified as the Flak 44. It is possible that this variation of the Flakpanzer 341 design was mistook after the war as a different project. Being developed during 1944/45, when Germany was in a state of chaos and due to the lack of documentation, the impression of another design having been developed could have formed easily. Of course, due to a lack of proper documentation, this is only an assumption at best.
This is the alleged drawing of the Flakpanzer 44. In fact, this is a Flakpanzer 341 with a modified turret. Source
Reasons for cancelling the project
While the idea of a Flakpanzer equipped with a fully enclosed turret, armed with two anti-aircraft guns, based on the Panther was certainly tempting, there were many reasons why this project would not have been very successful. A fully protected turret offered the crew much needed protection from ground and air fire but it also led to a number of issues that had to be resolved. These included potential problems with ammunition feed loading and removing the used shell cases at 90° angles. Due to the low quality of the German propellant in the late part of the war, during firing, a lot of powder smoke and fumes would be produced which could be dangerous for the crew. A dedicated and efficient ventilation system had to be installed.
The turret controls had to be designed and built to quickly respond to crew commands. The main armament was also problematic. Instead of using already produced weapons, the Rheinmetall-Borsig designers decided to use the experimental 3.7 cm Flak 341. which was never adopted for service. In January 1945, Wa Prüf 6 submitted a report in which the 3.7 cm caliber was deemed as insufficient for an anti-aircraft vehicle of the size of the Flakpanzer 341.
Another problem was the acquisition of air targets. In an open-topped turret, this could be easily achieved by the crew by simple observation. In a fully enclosed turret, a specially designed periscope and sights had to be added.
While the fully protected turret offered many potential advantages, it was not easy to successfully design and build one. While, during the war, the Allies used vehicles with fully enclosed turrets, most anti-aircraft vehicles built after the war were open-topped (like the ZSU-57-2 or M42 Duster).
The most obvious reason why the Flakpanzer 341 was canceled was the high demand for tanks on all fronts across Europe. Thus, sparing any Panther tank chassis for roles other than tank and anti-tank versions was out of the question for the Germans.
Despite this, the development of the Flakpanzer 341 continued up to the war’s end. It never received a high priority and only wooden mock-ups were ever built. Even if the war had continued for some time, there was a small chance (if any) that the Panther-based Flakpanzers would have ever been put into production.
This vehicle would have similar dimensions to those of the ordinary Panther tank. Source
Duško Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
Walter J. Spielberger (1982). Gepard The History of German Anti-Aircraft tanks, Bernard & Graefe
Walter J. Spielberger (1993), Panther and its Variants, Schiffer Publishing.
Thomas L.J. and Hilary L. D. (2002) Panzer Tracts No.20-2 Paper Panzers, Panzer Tract
Petr C. and Terry G. (2005) Enzyklopadie Deutscher waffen 1939-1945 Handwaffen, Artilleries, Beutewaffen, Sonderwaffen, Motor buch Verlag.
Hilary D. and Tom J. (1997) Panther Variants 1942-1945, Osprey Military
Werner Oswald (2004). Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer, der Reichswehr, Wehrmacht und Bundeswehr ab 1900, Motorbuch Verlag,
3.7 cm Flakzwilling auf Panther Fahrgestell “341” specifications
6.87 x 3.27 x 2.8 m
Total weight, battle ready
Around 40 tons
4-5 (Gunner/commander, loaders, driver and radio operator)
Two 3.7 cm Flak 341 guns with 360 degree traverse
Hull front 80 mm, side and rear 40 mm,
Turret shield armor 80 mm, front armor front 70 mm side and rear 40 mm
Nazi Germany (1942-45)
Superheavy tank – 141 ordered
It is impossible to consider the Maus and not be impressed by the machine as a feat of engineering. At 188 tonnes, it is the heaviest operational tank ever made by any nation at any time in any war and was made despite the shortages of raw materials, industrial capacity, and manpower at the time in Nazi Germany. Yet, despite the impressive achievement of making this rolling behemoth, the vehicle stands as a testimony to the total waste taking place in the German industry and the inefficiencies inherent in the way in which tank development was carried out. By the time the Maus was finished in 1945, it was a boondoggle. No amount of awe at the size, weight, firepower, or armor on this beast could disguise the incredible waste of resources it accounted for, nor could it make any difference to the outcome of the war. The Maus, as a weapon, was simply useless, yet the lessons learned from its development did find use in other programs and the very existence of such an enormous machine has inevitably drawn a significant amount of attention. Drawing both awe and fascination in equal measure, the Maus is a complex tank with a lengthy development.
Following the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22nd June 1941, the German army had quickly gained huge swathes of territory and destroyed, captured, or killed large quantities of Soviet troops, supplies and equipment. Yet, despite this success, the German army was unable to deliver a knock-out blow against the Soviets or to capture Moscow. By January 1942, with Moscow saved by an increasingly stubborn Soviet defense, it was clear that the conflict on the Eastern Front was going to be very long and very bloody. As Soviet tanks of increasing quality, armor and firepower started to reach the front lines through 1942, it was clear that in order for German forces to maintain an edge in tank combat, they would need a tank that was bigger, more heavily armored, and better armed than anything that had gone before. There was also the need for a heavy tank capable of assaulting heavily defended enemy positions and since nothing in the German arsenal in Spring 1942 was capable of meeting these requirements, long term plans were being put into place.
The origins of the Maus began around this time as, on 5th March 1942, a directive was issued to Fried Krupp A.G. of Essen for the development of a new heavy tank in the 100-tonne class to replace the previous concept of a 72-tonne tank, which originated as a project by Rheinmetall started in 1938. The goal was to have an operational trial vehicle for this 100-tonne vehicle in the shortest possible time and to be ready to show it off in the spring of 1943. Two weeks later, on 21st March, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche was given a separate and independent contract for exactly the same goal, a 100-tonne tank.
Thereafter, requirements for this 100-tonne tank started to fall into line, with demands for a heavy gun, and at least one machine gun. The hull machine gun could be eliminated as long as there was a separately controllable machine gun, as this would simplify the design and eliminate the hole in the front armor needed to accept a hull machine gun. By May 1942, however, the 100-tonne limit was being seen as too conservative and a 120-tonnes weight was permitted with priority placed on achieving the heaviest possible armor and firepower. Speed was not an important factor.
Initial drawings were completed on 4th June 1942 by Porsche’s designers at Zuffenhausen. The project was named ‘Sonderfahrzeug IV’ (special purpose vehicle), but identified as the Project Typ 205. Completed drawings from Porsche for this 120-tonne vehicle mounting a 15 cm gun were ready by 23rd June 1942 and approved by Hitler. As an indication to the heavy armor proposed, the hull floor alone was to be 100 mm thick, the same thickness as the front armor that would be used on the Tiger I. Hitler approved the design, selecting a 10.5 cm L/70 gun and discounting the idea for a secondary turret with a 7.5 cm gun, as the tank was to be supported by other tanks. The priorities for the design had changed. In May, these had the armor on top, followed by firepower and speed in this order, but, in June, this changed to firepower, followed by speed and armor.
A contract was then issued on 17th July 1942 to Krupp to design a turret for this new tank under the name ‘Pz.Kpfw. Mäuschen’ (Tank: Little Mouse). This new turret, weighing 57 tonnes, was to be incredibly heavily armored, with armour 250 mm thick at the front (not including a large cast gun mantlet), 200 mm thick on the sides and 80 mm thick on the roof, and was to mount two guns (a 15 cm Kw.K. L/31 and a 7.5 cm Kw.K. L/24). Design work then proceeded on taking this enormous turret and firepower and producing from them a conceptual vehicle that could fit within the normal limits of the German rail gauge. The enormous size of the Maus turret is evidenced here in 1945 by these Allied soldiers examining captured unfinished turrets. Source: UK National Archives
From August through September, work at Porsche continued on creating what was inevitably going to be a box-shaped vehicle in order to fit within the tight limits of the rail gauge. Combined with the work of Krupp on the turrets, it must have been considered to show significant promise too as, at the end of September, the turret being designed by Krupp was selected to replace the earlier 10.5 cm gun turret on the Löwe program and thus, Krupp received the contract for this too.
October 1942 – a design revealed
Between conceptualization in March 1942 and October 1942, it had been fairly plain sailing for both Porsche and Krupp, despite some general disagreements within the German establishment over a preferred gun or guns for the tank. On 5th October, the new design was ready under the name Typ 205A and had options for either a 15 cm L/37 or for a 12.8 cm gun to work alongside the 7.5 cm Kw.K. L/24.
The dominant feature of what was little more than an enormous brick with pointed ends fore and aft was the enormous rectangular turret roughly half the length of the entire tank. The engine was mounted ahead of the centerline but delivered drive to the sprockets at the rear via an electrical drive. The entire vehicle was to be mounted on 12 pairs of double road wheels running along a 1 m-wide track, although a pair of 500 mm wide tracks were also considered. All told, this Typ 205A was going to weigh some 150 tonnes and, in keeping with common design practice, was still to retain a front-mounted machine gun in the hull on the right-hand side.
Power for this 150-tonne vehicle was to be provided by a single 44.5 liter, 12-cylinder Daimler-Benz water-cooled diesel delivering 1,000 hp at 2,400 rpm. This was connected to an electrical generator which, in turn, delivered the electrical current to a motor on each side at the back, each connected to a 918 mm diameter drive sprocket. This arrangement would allow the Typ 205A to reach a top speed of 20 km/h. An alternative engine, the 41.5 liter Typ 205/2 Porsche air-cooled diesel was also shown in October 1942 as an option. This was labeled as design ‘Typ 205B’ and could deliver 780 hp at 2,000 rpm.
A review of the Typ 205 A and Typ 205B Mäuschen took place in November 1942 by the Panzerkommission and resulted in Krupp and Porsche being ordered to make another design with the turret at the back.
The result was a 170-tonne proposal from Porsche for a rear-turreted version using the same Daimler-Benz 603 water-cooled petrol engine as before, but with the addition of a compressor. It was also to use the electrical transmission taken from the Panzerkampfwagen VI P (Tiger (P)). Consideration at this time was also given to the production of a Sturmgeschutz version of this rear-turreted Mäuschen, but this was rejected by Obert Thomale from Waffen Prüfungsamt 6 (Wa Prüf 6), the branch of the German ordnance department responsible for motorized vehicle design.
Typ 205 from December 1942/January 1943, showing the distinctive and very large rectangular Maus turret. Note the presence of a hull machine gun and the use of 5 bogey units with two pairs of road wheels each for the suspension, copied from the Tiger (P), but reduced from the 6 pairs drawn in October 1942. Source: Frohlich
When this work was presented to Hitler at the start of December 1942, he was supportive and ordered the production of a trial vehicle to be ready for operation in the summer of 1943, with a production of 5 vehicles each month thereafter assembled by Krupp. It is important to note that at this time the Porsche design was known as the ‘Maus’ and the Krupp design as the ‘Tiger-Maus’, but a dose of reality was also setting in.
From an original 100-tonnes to ‘maybe-if-necessary’ 120-tonnes, the weight had ballooned to 170-tonnes and so some weight needed to be stripped off. The easiest way to achieve this was to reduce the amount of steel in the vehicle, which meant reducing the level of protection it offered from 250 mm at the front and 200 mm on the sides to ‘just’ 225 mm and 180 mm on the front and sides respectively. With the Krupp designed ‘Tiger-Maus’ being judged to be the lesser of the two designs, it was terminated on 15th December 1942, with the Porsche design being selected, albeit with significant changes.
Further changes to the hull to accommodate the removal of the turret collar and allow for a tunnel for the driver and radio operator at the front to get to the turret without getting out were making the design process difficult. Even as these changes and other minor changes were discussed, a decision was made on production. Hitler met with Albert Speer (Armaments Minister) on 3rd January 1943 and ordered the Maus to be produced between three manufacturers. Porsche would design it, Krupp produce the armored segments, and Alkett would assemble these components into a functional tank. Hitler was adamant that the production of the tank should be able to begin by the end of that year and deliver the Mäuschen at a rate of 10 tanks per month.
By January 1943, the preliminary ideas for the Mäuschen were out of the way and a decision was made that the proposal from Porsche, rather than the design from Krupp, was to be selected. Several key design decisions had been made regarding the layout of this tank. Firstly, there was to be no hull machine gun at all. It weakened the frontal armor and added another element of complexity to the design it simply did not need. Secondly, the idea of a connecting tunnel to link the driver and radio operator at the front to the rest of the crew was abandoned – these men would remain physically isolated from the others, but connected via intercom. One additional note here is that there was a 20 mm thick armored bulkhead behind the driving compartment, so that, in the unlikely event of that compartment being breached by a shell, the drive system would still be protected. Likewise, in the event of a fire in the engine bay, those men in the front would be protected. A small access hatch in this bulkhead was provided for maintenance purposes.
The massive turret was to go at the back with the engine in front of it, the electrical components underneath it and the motors behind it, while the armor specifications had been decided at the start of January 1943. With that, a full-sized wooden model was ordered to be shown to the Panzer-Kommission on 21st January.
The full-sized wooden model of the Maus as seen in May 1943, dwarfing the members of the military and industry representatives examining it along with Hitler (in the light-colored trench coat). The fitting at the back on the corners is the flamethrower system which was later dropped, saving 4.9 tonnes in weight. Note that the mockup still retains the large cupola. Source: Frohlich
Here, under the eagle-eye of representatives from Porsche, Alkett, Daimler-Benz, Skoda, Wa Prüf 6, the Army, and Krupp, various changes were suggested, including:
Larger crew hatches in the hull (Wannen-Ausstiegsluke)
A new lighter type of track (Laufkette)
A machine gun mounting next to the hull crew hatch (MG-Kuppel)
A 100 mm thick track guard (Kettenschutz)
In February 1943, the engine for the Maus became the focus of attention. A big tank, after all, required a powerful engine. Maybach had originally been offering Porsche a supercharged V-12 engine capable of delivering 1,000 hp, but that engine turned out to be a pipe dream and was dropped. As to Porsche’s preferred engine, the 36.5 liter Simmering-Graz-Pauker Sla 16 (X-16), this was not ready.
Instead, Porsche selected a vehicle-version of the new DB 603 aircraft engine, a 44.5-liter V-12 petrol engine known as the MB 503A. Fuel-injected, this engine could produce 1,200 bhp at 2,300 rpm, but could only deliver 1,080 hp of that power due to having to run engine accessories. The alternative engine available was the MB507C, a diesel version of the engine capable of producing up to 1,000 hp.
This engine was connected to a pair of Siemens direct current (DC) dynamos, each producing 400 kW at 2,800 rpm (total combined DC output was 720 kW, 240 volts, 3,000 amps) that were a reverse of the layout in the Ferdinand/Elefant. In that vehicle, the dynamo was (single dynamo in the Ferdinand and two dynamos in the Maus) in front of the engine; here, they were behind. This electric drive was selected primarily because it required less development time than a mechanical drive but also because it made deep fording much simpler. A key departure for the Maus from previous German designs was the placement of the final drives at the back of the tank.
One thing commonly forgotten or otherwise not paid attention to is engine maintenance. There were, obviously, removable hatches in the roof of the hull, but there was an additional hatch in the floor of the engine room, measuring 1,295 mm x 216 mm in the 50 mm armored floor rather than the 100 mm thick floor proposed back in June 1942.
One of the Maus hulls found by 21 Army Group at Meppen in May 1945. It shows the points of access to the engine, with a hatch in the 20 mm bulkhead to the driving compartment, the sections for the three large engine hatches, and the letterbox-shaped access in the hull floor. Note that the hull roof, where the turret is mounted, is made from four separate sections 60 mm thick, welded together. Source: UK National Archives
Engines for Mäuschen up to October 1942
~June 1942 to October 1942
900 to 1,000 / 1,200 hp**
720 hp @ 2,000 rpm
1,000 hp @ 2,400 rpm to 1,200 hp @ 2,300 rpm+
780 hp @ 2,000 rpm
Porsche’s preferred engine
Unable to supply engine, November 1942
Unable to supply engine, November 1942 – MB 509 selected instead
* When modified to run on ‘special fuel’ at an increased compression (Bosch fuel injection) and supercharged this was known as the HL 234
**In his 1945 interview, Von Heydekampf was clear that even supercharged, this engine could only achieve 900 hp – well short of the 1,000 to 1,200 planned
+ 1,080 hp available after driving engine accessories
MB = Mercedes-Benz
Engines for Mäuschen November 1942
HL230 TRM P45
1,200 to 1,500 hp
700 hp @ 3,000 rpm
800 hp @ 2,000 rpm
850 hp @ 2,300 rpm
1,000 hp @ 2,400 rpm
1,200 hp @ ?
Offered as a temporary replacement if another suitable engine could not be found or supplied in time
MB507 selected as a short-term solution instead
Modified and downrated from Flugmotor DB603
MB503 converted to run on diesel
Intention to rationalize a common engine for Maus in line with R1 and R2 projects from Krupp
MB = Mercedes-Benz
Engines for Maus after November 1942
(Min. 77 Octane)
1,080 hp @ 2,300 rpm**
1,200 hp @ 2,500 rpm
Modified (and downrated) from Flugmotor DB603A
Required installation upside down, requiring an additional gear train
At 2,300 rpm the engine absorbs 78 hp for fans and 5 hp for gearing
(total efficiency loss 7.5 %)
Modified motor-boat engine (installed upright)
* MB 517 engine converted from running on petrol to diesel
** A British Report of 1945 states that the MB 509 could deliver 1,540 bhp for 5 minutes at 2,500 rpm and 1,375 bhp continuously at 2,300 rpm using 87 octane fuel and that 74 octane fuel reduces engine power by 200 hp. The 1,375 hp @ 2,300 rpm figure is repeated in German documents from November 1942 detailing Maus development.
MB = Mercedes-Benz
DB = Daimler-Benz
MB 507 engine. Source: Frohlich
All of these changes had swollen the weight of the Maus by about 10 tonnes, mainly as a result of a 3% thickness tolerance on the armor plate and the addition of a Flammenwerfer Anlage (flamethrower system). This 10-tonne burden was further increased by additional ammunition stowage demanded by Hitler in May and a Gasschützanlage (gas protection system) in June.
The goal of the entire project was to create a heavy tank all but immune to enemy fire. The Krupp turret design from 17th July 1942 had armor 250 mm thick at the front, with a large cast steel mantlet in front of that. The side armor was to be 200 mm thick and it was to have a roof 80 mm thick. By the start of December 1942, the need to shed some weight had brought the suggested turret armor down from 250 mm on the front and 200 mm on the sides to 225 mm on the front and 180 mm on the sides, and, by the end of the month, it was reduced yet further. By the end of December 1942, therefore, the hull (Wanne) armor for the Mäuschen Typ 205 was also reduced, down to 200 mm on the front. The sides were to be the same thickness as would be used on the Tiger II, with 80 mm on the inner hull sides except that on this vehicle they would have an additional 100 mm outer skirt layer over the top. The rear was to be 150 mm thick with the roof of the hull 100 mm thick at the front and 50 mm thick at the back, although British measurements in 1945 of a scrap hull say that the space was for a plate 60 mm thick. The hull floor had been reduced from 100 mm across the full length to ‘just’ 100 mm under the front of the hull and 50 mm at the back.
In January 1943, the design from Porsche had won out over the design from Krupp and the armor, the source of a lot of debate and redesign, had been determined. A full-size wooden model of the ‘Maus’ was ordered, as it was now being known, which combined the Porsche Typ 205 hull with the Krupp Maus Turm. Notes:
* figure based on calculated value suggested by Porsche’s 10% reduction
** Jentz/Doyle claim the July 1942 turret weighed 57 tonnes but also that Porsche’s plan to reduce the weight was to take it from 47 down to 43 tonnes (a 10% reduction) – this suggests a 10-tonne weight loss between July and November 1942 otherwise unaccounted for.
+ Estimated value
++ A confusing note from 10th April 1943 states that the original plan for the Maus was to use 80 mm side walls doubled over the upper sides to 160 mm with a weight of 150 tonnes, suggesting a different ‘Typ 205’ armor scheme was considered
The armor was to remain effectively unchanged from the acceptance in 1943, as any major changes would affect the wheelbase of the tank. In January 1943 though, it was proposed to make the side walls in one piece by ‘simply’ using one 180 mm thick plate and milling out 80 mm of the thickness for the bottom half. This would have the advantage of improving protection, as the armor would be all in one piece, but Krupp, the manufacturer of the armored hulls, had a different idea. It wanted 60 mm of the armor to be milled out to provide plate 120 mm thick over the wheels instead, but this could not be achieved without affecting both the wheelbase and the inner face of the armor, which was supposed to be made from softer steel than the exterior armor. Krupp however, did not give up, as the plan to make the sides in one piece and milling out what would be 4.5 tonnes of steel from each side plate was not an attractive one from a production point of view, as it was laborious, difficult, and wasteful of steel. Instead, Krupp proposed making it in two pieces, one 80 mm thick for the hull side and an outer layer 100 mm thick bolted to it. A further suggestion was to abandon the solid side plate altogether and to use a pair of plates. The idea was to not attach them together to be a homogenous panel of steel but to space them 30 to 40 mm apart on bolts. This, however, would involve a redesign of the tank, and the first Krupp alternative proposal also had to be rejected. Making the armor from two separate plates was complex due to the need to ensure they could fit and would reduce the protection from enemy fire due to the weakness of the bolts which might be used.
These ideas for changing how the side armor was to be made could not be executed at the time and still keep the production schedule for the Maus on track, but were not abandoned. They, along with another ‘spaced armor plan’ where the 100 mm and 80 mm plates were held just 10 mm apart (instead of 30 to 40 mm), and a plan for the entire side to just be a single 180 mm thick panel, were to be subjected to firing trials.
These potential improvements were confirmed in April 1943, when Porsche announced that it had improved the suspension system for the Maus so that it no longer relied upon a mounting on the inner face of the outer armor skirt. So simple was this solution that the lower section of the side armor could be made thinner (just 60 mm) and simply welded to the upper section. This was approved as a change for Wanne #7 onwards from the total of 120 tanks to be produced. This order was increased to 135 in May 1943.
Maus side armor proposals January to April 1943
(not to scale)
Original scheme for Maus hull # 1
Krupp’s suggestion (Reduced Milling)
Not possible as it interfered with the wheelbase
100 mm + 80 mm
Complex to machine plates to fit exactly and difficult to secure together
Spaced armor scheme
100 mm + 30 mm (air) + 80 mm
Would increase width beyond rail gauge limits and/or involve redesigning the interior
Spaced armor scheme
100 mm + 40 mm (air) + 80 mm
Would increase width beyond rail gauge limits and/or involve redesigning the interior
Spaced armor scheme
100 mm + 10 mm (air) + 80 mm
60 – 80 mm
Outer 100 mm plate and inner 80 mm plate spaced 10 mm apart but not bolted together to ease machining burden
Single piece – no milling
Single piece of armor for the side with no milling – required new means of supporting the wheels
New suspension scheme
With new suspension not connected to the outer armor, the lower plate could now be welded to the upper plate – reinforced inner hull
Arrangement selected for Maus hull #7 onwards
* Source – Author
Plate thickness manufacturing tolerance is +3 to +5%
So, the first six Maus hulls were planned to be made with a single 180 mm thick side plate which was milled down to 100 mm thick in the lower part but, after that, production would be greatly simplified by virtue of the improved suspension design. The side armor would still be 180 mm over the upper sides but the lower part could simply be welded on as the suspension was now connected only to the inner hull of the tank rather than spread to the side skirt. This is a good lesson in how a small design change in one component can deliver a significant improvement in manufacturing.
In February 1943, the armor for the Maus was, once more, under discussion. This meeting, held on the 4th, was not about methods of construction or proposed thicknesses required but on the material itself. In order to make sure the armor was as good as possible, it was suggested that instead of using the current standard type of armor plate, they should switch to using naval armor plating (marine platten) which had been made available and was considered to be of better quality than the standard-type plate. There was, however, a problem with the plates – not the weight or material, but the size. In order to be used, these giant slabs of steel would have to be rolled down to 2 m x 2.3 m and 200 mm thick.
Krupp met with representatives of Wa Prüf 6 in the middle of January 1943 to discuss the turret for the tank. Known as the ‘Maus Turm 12.8 cm’, the gun to be used was, unsurprisingly, a 12.8 cm piece. Back in April 1942, the 12.8 cm gun considered was an L/50, with additional thought given to using a longer gun of either 60 or 70 calibers. That was reiterated later with thought given to using a 61 caliber-long gun firing shaped charge ammunition or types of sabotted projectiles. In January 1943, the 12.8 cm selected by Wa Prüf 6 was an L/55 gun as it, combined with the new ammunition, would provide the performance required. Therefore, modifications would need to be made to Krupp’s turret design in order to accommodate this longer gun. Even so, there was the option of switching out that gun with a 15 cm L/38, and both were to be partnered with a 7.5 cm gun too.
January to February 1943 was a time of flux for the turret design. The idea of mounting a flame projector in the turret had been dropped but in its place were ideas for a 2 cm Flak anti-aircraft gun in the front as well as possibly a new type of range-finder (EM – Entfernungsmesser).
2 cm Flak MG151/20 anti-aircraft mounting as designed for the front of the Maus-Turm February 1943. Source: Frohlich
Between March and July 1943, four types of range-finders were considered: horizontal, vertical, T-shaped, and V-type. The 1.73 m horizontal type was impossible to use, as the position of the guns prevented it from being installed. A 1.0 m vertical-type range finder would have to be mocked-up in wood on the mockup Maus turret to assess whether or not the loader (or gunner) could even use it. The T-shaped range-finder was experimental and required a new housing measuring 80 cm x 20 cm on the turret roof which would allow the gunner to range and fire on his own but would also restrict the commander’s visibility and would be less accurate at long range. The final type, the V-type range finder, was in common use already but was discounted as it was required (after July 1943) to be protected by armor and operable when the tank was buttoned down in combat.
Welded Maus turret and behind it a completed Maus hull. Note the supporting pins used in the construction of the turret are still sticking out of the front left of the turret and have not yet been ground off. Source: Milsom
Close-up of the interlocking plate with supporting system – this photo shows the edge of the glacis after the explosion inside has blown off the side armor and broken the weld.
Adding to this growth in armament was a growth in protection, as the commander’s cupola (Kommandantenkuppel) was significantly uparmored to match the rest of the turret and the crew hatch (Einsteigklappe) was increased to 60 mm thick. With Wa Prüf 6 insisting on a small petrol/electric generator being added as well, the weight and complexity had increased although, as a plus-point, the vision ports (Ausblichluken) and empty cartridge ejection ports planned in the side of the turret (which would mean boring through the armor) were abandoned. The vision ports would be replaced with new periscopes (Schwenkspiegel) in the turret-roof and the spent casings could be tossed out of the ammunition hatch (Munitionsluke).
“The turret is a really massive structure being particularly high in relation to its width and length and in relation to the hull”
British examination report 1945
Even with dropping those ports, however, the weight of the Maus Turm (Turm Typ 205 ‘Maus’) had, by February 1943, crept over the strict 50-tonne limit set by Dr. Porsche in order to keep the total vehicle mass to no more than 180-tonnes. Changes followed through April 1943 with the addition of ports for machine-pistols in the side walls (Machine-Pistol-Luke) on a ball-mount (Kugelblende).
After the full-sized wooden mockup was shown to Hitler in May 1943, Porsche became very concerned about the shape of the front of the turret, as the inwards curve could lead to shells ricocheting into the roof of the hull. Porsche suggested that this could be obviated by inverting the lower curve to make it curve outwards rather than inwards. That change might add some additional room within what was becoming an increasingly cramped turret. So cramped that, when in May 1943 it was decided between Dr. Porsche and the Waffenamt to add a machine gun into the front of the turret, Krupp had to inform them that there was not enough room.
This was not the only design change proposed by Porsche that was making the life of Krupp difficult, as he [Dr. Porsche] had already been asked a couple of weeks earlier to stop modifying the turret or making new openings in the base (in that case for access to the crawl space) as they were weakening the structure of the tank. Even so, it should be borne in mind that the turret basket of the Maus Turm remained 55 mm thick and the floor plate was 93 mm thick.
Underside of the three Maus turrets found by Allied forces on the Meppen range in 1945 showing the heavily protected inner turret basket, 55 mm thick, and the 93 mm thick turret floor. Source: UK National Archives
Other problems would remain, however, such as the commander who had to turn to his left to avoid being hit by the recoil from the 7.5 cm gun and could not sit down when the vehicle was moving or in combat without being hit by the breech of the 12.8 cm gun or recoil guard for the 7.5 cm gun. Even standing, the commander had a problem as he was in the way of the loader when loading the 7.5 cm gun, so some shuffling around was needed to operate that gun in combat. Some shuffling of the turret-crew positions was implemented in July 1943, with the right-side loader moved to the back of the turret, where he would sit just inside the bustle. Combined with the removal of the ammunition loading assist system (Munitionstransportanlage), space could be freed up within the turret, reducing some complexities associated with this loading system, as well as allowing the loader to freely operate the smoke grenade launchers (Nebelwurf Gerät). The commander would be moved over to the position occupied by the loader and this simple change got him out of the way of the breech of the 7.5 cm gun as well as allowed him to operate the range finder. The gunner could also be moved, as his legs were in an awkward position. Moving him back to the position occupied by the left-side loader removed this problem and allowed him to not only operate the turret rotation mechanisms but also the machine gun in front of the turret. That loader was simply moved to the rear of the turret with the other loader.
This crew-shuffling was simply a result of too much crammed into the turret, which although massive on the outside, was significantly smaller on the inside, as the majority of the space was occupied by the breeches of the guns and their associated ammunition. Yet, despite these difficulties, there seemingly was no discussion of the obvious solution – remove the 7.5 cm gun.
At the same time as Porsche was suggesting the front curve being inverted, he also had the idea of adding a 3.7 cm anti-aircraft gun in an anti-aircraft turret (fliegerabwehr Kuppel) on top of the primary turret, capable of 360 degree traverse seemingly in contradiction to the fact that the turret was already at or just over the 50-tonne limit Porsche had personally imposed that February. Despite the difficulties with the turret design and ignoring Dr. Porsche’s concerns over the front curve and his less than stellar idea for an AA gun turret on top of the primary turret, a mockup was ready by July 1943. The finished Krupp Maus-turm provides a good view of not only the enormous size of the turret and its massive cast mantlet around the primary gun, but also the interlocking armour and supporting rods at the armor joint on the rear. The hole in the side is the machine pistol ball-mount (MP-kugelblende) and in the rear is the loading port with machine pistol port (Munitionsluke mit MP-stopfen). Source: Frohlich (left) and Jentz and Doyle (right)
Primary Maus turret armor/design changes June 1942 to January/February 1943
Krupp Maus Turm
Krupp Maus Turm
Krupp Maus Turm for Typ 205
Turm Type 205 ‘Maus’ 12.8 cm
January – February 1943
49.5 / 51*
250 mm required
(232-241.5 mm actual)
250 mm + mantlet
200 mm required
(204.4 – 205.4 mm actual)
200 mm required
(205.5 – 205.8 mm actual)
90 mm required
(90.8 – 91.5 mm actual)
50 mm +
50 mm +
Tolerances for plates as follows:
Front: -3.4% to -7.2%
Sides: +1.75 to +2.9%
Rear: +1.75% to +2.15%
2 cm Flak added, improved cupola armor
* 49.5 tonnes in January 1943, given as 51 tonnes in February, exceeding the 50-tonne limit imposed by Dr. Porsche that month
** Jentz/Doyle claim the July 1942 turret was 57 tonnes but also that Porsche’s plan to reduce the weight was to take it from 47 down to 43 tonnes (a 10% reduction) – this suggests a 10-tonne weight loss between July and November 1942 otherwise unaccounted for.
Primary Maus turret armor/design changes after February 1943
Type 205 with Maus Turm
220 / 205 mm***
Reshaping of the front to avoid the lower curve on the front
Addition of 3.7 cm AA turret
+ Estimated value
*** The 220 mm thick plate used for the turret front was only 205 mm thick after being bent into shape, although a post-war US intelligence report erroneously reported the thickness as 240 mm.
As development and discussions over the fabrication of the armor for the hull were taking place with the newly designed suspension in January 1943, the work on the turret had also progressed. Krupp, the armor manufacturer for the turret and hull, was issued a contract for a single blank turret and two hulls for firing trials. These two hulls were not only testing the resistance of the plates to attack but also the strength of the welds joining what was to be the thickest armor ever mounted on a tank at that time. The standard method of fastening heavy plates together involved cutting interlocking joints in them and then welding over those joints. Other methods included simple welding of one plate to another and the supplementing of welded seams with a bolted joint-piece which could then be over-welded, as was done on the side hulls of the Tiger I. For the Maus, however, boring holes for a bolted support plate was not practical and the joining of the armor plates had to rely on welds supported by pins instead.
Hull number one (Model 1) was to have the interlocking parts of the armor plating cut by means of being milled out, whereas the second hull for firing trials (Model 2) was to have these sections cut out by means of a flame-torch. Cutting by means of the torch was faster and easier than milling out large pieces of heavy armor plate, but was considered to produce an inferior product than milling due to the accuracy of the surface a milled-cut would produce. A decision on which method was to be used would not be made until after the firing trials had been completed at Hillersleben in June 1943. Regardless of which method of cutting was to be used, the interlocking sections were to be supported by the use of 100 mm diameter connecting pins (Verbindung Bolzen) between these plates. The joint and pins would then be welded together, with the pins providing additional strength to the joint. These pins were important to the construction of the hull to support the welds, but were an additional burden on construction as they had to be bored out and were also considered to marginally weaken the overall armor protection where they were used. Their use was essential to the hull fabrication process but to reduce any effect on weakening the armor, they were reduced after June 1943 to just 80 mm in diameter.
Diagrammatic representation of the use of the verbindung bolzen (connecting pins) to add strength to the joint between two armor plates. Left to right: Plates cut and shaped, put together and holes bored, supporting pins (pink) fitted, and the edges are all-welded over. Source: Author
Even before a finished design was ready or approved, Hitler, in November 1942, ordered that 5 Mäuschen were to be built and a timetable set by Wa Prüf 4 to achieve this. Turret and hull drawings were to be ready and approved by March 1943 and then 5 vehicles built within just 6-7 months- an ambitious and unrealistic schedule, as this also called for trials by 5th May 1943. The Heereswaffenamt (Army Ordnance Department) arranged for Colonel Haenel to help ensure timetables for the Maus were adhered to by going from firm to firm to press them to meet production requirements and, if necessary, assess severe penalties for missing deadlines.
Krupp received a contract in December 1942 for a complete prototype Maus turret (Versuschsturm) followed a month later by a contract for a hull. An agreement between Krupp and Porsche in the middle of January 1943 stated that assembly was to take place at the Alkett works by September 1943. Several firms were actually involved in the production of the Maus:
Primary firms connected with Maus production and development
Design and overall construction/development
Hull and turret fabrication
Suspension, tracks, and gearing
Alkett (Altmärkische Kettenfabrik)
Design and specification of tracks
The initial drawings for the turret and hull which were due in March were actually ready on 21st January 1943 and the production of 120 vehicles was ordered on 10th February. Maus track link (top), track pin (bottom) and removable ice cleats (center) weighed 29 kg and measured 1,100 mm wide, 263 mm long, and 127 mm thick when complete. Each side of the Maus used 160 individual plates (4.64 tonnes per side). Seen here on the outside of the link (left) and the inside (right). Source: Frohlich and UK National Archives respectively
Production of the first Maus hulls had started very quickly after the design was authorized and, for this reason, it was too late to make the change to the improved side armor scheme for the first vehicles. By the end of May 1943 though, a problem had been identified. The tolerances on the armor plates of 3% meant that those 180 mm thick side panels could actually be up to 185.4 mm thick each, meaning an additional 11 mm or so in potential width. As the original design was exactly 3,700 mm wide, the maximum limit for the German rail gauge, any additional width created a huge problem as the tank would be ‘out of gauge’. As a result of the first four hulls already having been welded together that month, they were allowed to be finished as long as the width was kept to 3,715 mm, as even this ‘out of gauge’ width was just about manageable.
This width problem had to be addressed and, in order to guarantee that the maximum width would not be exceeded, after hull number 5 the outer 180 mm armor was to be milled down even more than before. An extra 10 mm was to be shaved off the outside, effectively doubling the amount of machining that was needed on those plates, as well as reducing the armor to 170 mm thick (upper) and 90 mm (lower). This was to be a temporary solution to the problem, rectified from hull number 14 onwards, where the plates were to be rolled 170 mm thick to begin with. The fact that in May they could only implement this change for hull 14 onwards strongly suggests that at least 13 hulls were already in preparation by 26th May 1943 when the order was delivered, with the first 4 nearly finished hulls undergoing assembly. Thus, before even the first vehicle was finished, there would effectively be 3 slightly differently made Maus – the consequences of not producing prototypes.
Exactly a month after this debacle was uncovered, in an effort to reduce the time required for welding, Porsche requested Krupp to mill the side plates of hulls 3 and 4 to match those scheduled for 5 to 13.
Maus Side Armor/Width and Manufacturing Differences
Hull (Wanne) Number
180 mm (upper), 100 mm (lower) plus 3% allowable manufacturing tolerance
(185 mm / 103 mm max. thickness respectively)
Left side (upper) 191 mm, Right side (upper) 186 mm**
180 mm (upper), 100 mm (lower) plus 3% allowable manufacturing tolerance
(185 mm / 103 mm max. thickness respectively)
180 mm (upper), 100 mm (lower) milled down to 170 mm (upper) and 90 mm (lower)
180 mm (upper), 100 mm (lower) milled down to 170 mm (upper) and 90 mm (lower)
170 mm (upper), 90 mm (lower) plus 3% manufacturing tolerance
(175 mm / 93 mm max. thickness respectively)
* The order of May 1943 to keep hulls 1-4 ‘out-of-gauge’ was changed in June 1943 with hulls numbers 3 and 4 ordered to also be milled down to 170 mm like hulls 5 to 13.
** Hull number one was 11 mm out of tolerance on the left-hand side, and 6 mm out of tolerance on the right-hand side when it was assembled in July 1943
Further changes to the hulls were far less drastic than milling off 10 mm from each side. Through the summer of 1943, amendments to the hull were dominated by the boring of towing holes.
The only firm in all of Germany with a machine capable of milling these enormous plates was at Krupp’s factory and any damage to that machine would, therefore, cripple fabrication. Ensuring a system whereby the side armor needed no milling meant that production was not reliant upon a single machine. This was achieved by a reduction of side armor to allow for manufacturing tolerances to still stay within the rail gauge and the change to a type of suspension not dependent upon the side skirts to support it.
The production schedule was a tight one as well, with an order in May 1943 for the initial 120 tanks increased to 135, with the first two vehicles expected to be ready for November that year. Production of hulls, therefore, was supposed to be 5 the following month (December 1943) then 8 in January 1944 with production becoming streamlined and up to full speed with 10 per month from February 1944 onwards. The 120 production target, therefore, would deliver the last Maus hull (assuming things stayed on schedule) in January 1945 and the 135th Maus by April 1945. Turret production was expected to keep pace with the hulls, albeit to trail them by one month, with the 135th turret to be delivered in May 1945. The Waffenamt, however, had issued contracts for production of 141 Maus (6 experimental hulls and 135 serial production vehicles) by June 1943 and production of the main sections of armor had already begun when Generaloberst Guderian (General Inspekteur der Panzertruppen) overruled this order and reduced the order to just 5 in order for them to be tested under real combat situations before a full order was placed.
In the back and forth around production, the Panzerkommission changed this reduced order from a total of 5 to just 5 per month instead on 1st July. Eleven days later, the six experimental chassis already in hand were given official production serial numbers 351451 to 351456 (6 vehicles) with serial numbers assigned to production vehicles from 351457 to 351591 (135 vehicles).
When, less than a month later, Krupp’s plant in Essen was bombed by the Allies, the concerns about the single milling machine were proven to be justified. Production ground to a halt with a delay of a month to clear the rubble away, leaving 30 Maus in various stages of production. A previous bombing raid in March 1943 had not affected hull production but had caused an estimated 2-month delay in turrets as the wooden mockup had been burned. Thus, the first trial turret was not going to be available until the middle of November, a month behind schedule, and now two months behind the scheduled delivery of the first hull.
Maus Hull (Wanne) Production
Hull (Wanne) Group
Hull (Wanne) Number
Status as of 4th August 1943
1 – 4*
Hull welding finished 7th July 1943
Delivery delay for 4 weeks
In Wagen Werkstatt (workshop) Delivery delay for 3 days until when rail lines are restored
3 – 4
351453 – 351454
In Wagen Werkstatt (workshop)
5 – 13
5 – 6
351455 – 351456
At Panzerbau (construction shop) – awaiting crane repair before they can be delivered for welding
At Panzerbau (construction shop) – awaiting crane repair before they can be delivered for welding
8 – 9
351458 – 351459
Armor panels cut and at Panzerbau
Most armor plates delivered by Panzerplatte Walzwerk (armor fabricators)
11 – 13
351461 – 351463
Most armor plates rolled but buried under rubble
14 – 30
351464 – 351481
Most armor plates rolled but buried under rubble
31 – 141
351181 – 351591
* The order of May 1943 to keep hulls 1-4 ‘out-of-gauge’ was changed in June 1943 with hulls numbers 3 and 4 ordered to also be milled down to 170 mm like hulls 5 to 13.
Green highlight indicates Versuchs (experimental) series, Blue highlight indicates serial production
With production delays caused by bombing, Krupp, seemingly without any warning, received orders on 27th October 1943 that, instead of 120 vehicles, just 1 Maus was to be completed instead. All of the unused armor plates were ordered to be transferred to the Sturmgeschütz program at Harkort-Eicken instead, excluding those already prepared for use in Maus construction.
More bad news for Krupp followed, with an order to cancel further development of the tank and cancellation of orders for series production of the turrets and hulls. On 5th November, another order clarified the situation, changing the initial batch of 6 prototype turrets to just one. A week later the contract for 6 prototype hulls was changed to just 2.
With work canceled, there seemed little point in finishing hull number 1, which still needed some machining work done but was otherwise finished. It was sent from Krupp to Alkett on 26th September 1943, where it was fitted with the internal components and drive train. This was completed on 22nd December and then ordered to be shipped to the testing grounds at Böblingen on 10th January 1944. When it left for Böblingen the next day via railway, the vehicle was able to move under its own power and load itself, but work on the hull was otherwise incomplete inside. The journey to Böblingen took 3 days.
The second Maus hull arrived at Alkett on 8th January, but work stopped by the middle of the month with a focus on Sturmgeschütz assembly instead. After about a fortnight of lying idle, it was decided to ship the partially assembled hull (fitted with just suspension and mechanical brakes) to Böblingen to finish the work.
Maus hull number 2 on its 27 m railcar, 10th March 1944. Source: Jentz and Doyle
The single turret which had been ordered to be completed did not fare much better. It was not finished until the middle of April 1944, several months behind schedule – no doubt as a result of being a low priority project as serial production had been canceled.
Engineer Karl Gensburger from Alkett takes the Maus for a preliminary test drive around the factory, December 1943. Source: Ludvigsen
It was then inspected by Wa Prüf 6, which made several changes to the design to rectify some minor deficiencies, but neither Krupp nor Alkett were going to implement them at their primary factories. The Maus project was all but over and this single turret was to be sent directly to Böblingen instead, where technicians from Krupp could finish work on it. Arriving at Böblingen on 3rd May 1944, Turret number 1 was finally mounted on Hull number 2 during the night of 7th to 8th June 1944.
Maus hull number 2 mated with turret number 1 at Böblingen, June 1944. Note the towing eyes which have been added and that there are two additional shell deflectors on the hull roof. Hull number 1 did not have these deflectors. Source: Frohlich
Maus Typ 205/2 hull mounting the number 1 turret during tests. Illustration by David Bocquelet
The most critical element in a tank edging up towards 200 tonnes was how it was to be carried. Somewhat impressively, the designers of the various Mäeuschen never seem to have considered the ‘easy’ solution of adopting plain rollers, as was adopted on the much lighter TOG-2 in the UK. Instead, the design had originally planned to simply copy the suspension from the Tiger but, as the weight of the design ballooned from 100 tonnes to around 150 tonnes, even a strengthened form of Tiger suspension had to be abandoned. Instead, the designers from Porsche focussed their attention on multiple small wheels to spread the load and these were arranged in groups of bogies running on a very wide track to spread the weight. This was fine in theory, except that no one had attempted to make an effective suspension system for a tank of this weight before.
The original ideas for the suspension back in October 1942 had 12 double road wheels per side using units copied directly from the Tiger (P) but, by January 1943, this was down to just 10 sets. These pairs of road wheels were suspended between the inner hull and the outer skirt of armor on a large support pin (Tragzapfen). This was the primary reason the side armor had to be made in one piece until the suspension was redesigned. When, in March 1943, a new system of Laufwerk (suspension and road wheels) was adopted, it took the loading off the side armor, allowing for the manufacturing process to the improved (notwithstanding the fact that the first vehicles were too wide). That system came too late for the first 6 hulls but, as hull 7 had not yet been assembled, the changes could be adopted from number 7 onwards.
Further suspension improvements followed in April 1943 with the previously welded suspension supports (Trägerstützen) being replaced with ones that bolted onto the hull instead. However, this meant boring holes through the armor plate in order to accommodate longitudinal supporting arms for the torsion bar suspension.
The design for the track which was shown on 21st January 1943 differed from the earlier work on suspension for the tank to take into account the growing weight of the machine. Developed by Dr. Porsche, the system was unique with no compatibility with the suspension from any other tank. This new suspension system (neue Laufwerk) had removed the need for the side skirts to bear some of the suspension load and also allowed for an additional set of bogies to be added to the design. Running on a new design of track 1,100 mm wide, this arrangement allowed for a better distribution of weight to the track which in turn allowed for improved crossing of soft ground. Not only did this new compact design allow for an extra bogie, it also reduced weight by a significant 4 tonnes. These new suspension units (designed by Porsche) were not to be built by Porsche or Krupp, but by Škoda as a subcontractor. Improved volute suspension units fitted in March 1944, replacing the earlier type in which the internal rubber rings had failed during testing in January 1944. These units were all made by Škoda. Source: UK National Archives and Frohlich
The wheels, fitted with a steel tire, contained a heavy rubber ring within them as a shock absorber and were identified, even before testing, as a weak point. They were a hang-over from the urgent need to change from torsion-bars to volute spring suspension in February 1943 in order to create space for the flame projector system. Dr. Porsche always preferred torsion bars and this was the original and favored system for the Maus, but with the flame-projector requirement forced upon him at very short notice, he complained that he lacked the time to test a new type of heavier torsion bar system and reluctantly agreed to what he considered to be an inferior system of volute springs. Tested in January 1944, the internal rubber rings in these wheels failed after only a short distance and were replaced with an improved type of wheel in March 1944.
Replacing the original road wheels with an improved design (shown being fitted) in March 1944 involved jacking up the Maus by means of 3 large hydraulic jacks. During this time, the engine, generators, motors and final drive were all removed and inspected. Each of these new units weighed 800 kg. Source: Frohlich
The first hulls, which were in the process of being made, were to have holes for the bracing arms (Streben) bored into the hull sides and side skirts – a lengthy process. This redesign meant that holes would still have to be bored out of the inside of the side skirts and in the hull, but they would only be bearing the load of the bolts for the horseshoe-shaped sections (Träger Stütze – suspension supports) for holding the Streben, meaning that the lower side skirts could be made thinner and could be welded onto the upper section. The ends of the bolts holding those horseshoe-shaped mounts for the Streben are visible along the bottom edge of the side skirt. Original method (left) of holding the bracing arm (Streben) for the external torsion-bar suspension (laufwerk) involving boring holes at both ends, and modified method (right) (February/March 1943) of holding the bracing arm for the volute spring suspension. Not to scale. Source: Author
Cross-section of the sponson area with the track-run below. Clearly shown is the Streben for the support of the suspension unit and the new type of horseshoe-shaped mounts holding it to the hull and outer armor. Source: US Army Intelligence Bulletin March 1946
Pair of incomplete Maus hulls stacked on top of each other (the bottom one is upside down) found by the Allies in 1945 showing the holes bored through the lower side armor for the horseshoe-shaped supports for the Streben. Source: UK National Archives
Composite image edited to show the upside-down horseshoe-shaped holders for the ends of the Streben on the inside of the side skirts. Source: Jentz and Doyle, and Frohlich
Right from the start, the goal was to create a 100-tonne tank with a heavy gun and, on 14th April 1942 (a month after the program started), the gun in question was identified as the 15 cm L/40. This gun used unitary (single-piece) cartridges instead of a shell with separate bagged charges. The desire was to be able to fire 4 to 5 times per minute, but during the development of this weapon, it was decided to reduce the desired shell weight from 43 kg to 34 kg and to compensate for this with an increase in muzzle velocity to 845 m/s.
Just as with the early concept for the vehicle which became the Jagdtiger, there was an initial expectation for the tank to be able to operate in indirect fire mode, which is to act as field artillery. This is evidenced by the fact that, although the elevation limits for the gun were -8 to +15 degrees, it was desired that the gun should also be able to be elevated to +40 around its entire arc of rotation (360 degrees). There could be no reason for this except to act in an indirect fire capacity and this turret was to be offered to Porsche for use in its VK 100.01 by the middle of May, leaving just 3-4 weeks to design it. Krupp’s engineers planned another turret design based around a different gun, the 12.8 cm L/50, which could fire a slightly lighter 29.3 kg shell at 810 m/s.
By the middle of May, it was expected that even these guns were not going to be able to deliver the anti-armor punch which was desired of this new tank and caliber lengths of L/60 and L/72 should be considered even though, as of that time, those guns did not exist. A month later, the guns had changed again, with Porsche suggesting a 15 cm L/37 or 10.5 cm L/70 gun, with Hitler selecting the 10.5 cm gun for reasons of improved ammunition stowage and a better rate of fire. At this time, Hitler was against the adoption of a second turret with a 7.5 cm gun.
In July 1942, Krupp was issued a contract by Wa Prüf 6 for the June design under the name ‘Pz.Kpfw. Mäuschen’ to mount a pair of guns in a single mounting in a single turret. The guns in question, despite Hitler’s selection of a 10.5 cm gun, were the 15 cm KwK. L/31 and the 7.5 cm Kw.K. L/24. The combination of these guns would allow the Mäuschen to deliver effective indirect high-explosive shellfire, but also direct fire against armored targets. Both guns were to be able to achieve an elevation of -7 to +25 degrees, although a British examination in 1945 states elevation was limited to +23 degrees.
At the start of December 1942, Hitler ordered a trials vehicle to be ready for summer 1943 but wanted information on the performance of the 15 cm gun, the 12.7 cm Naval gun, 12.8 cm Flak gun, and a new (as yet unbuilt) 12.8 cm gun with a longer length.
When, on 3rd January 1943, Hitler met with Armaments Minister Albert Speer, he ordered the Mäuschen into production by the end of the year but was still debating what the final gun was to be. The candidate guns were essentially the same as before, albeit the 12.7 cm Naval gun idea was dropped. Hitler was still favoring the 12.8 cm gun option, although a 15 cm gun option was to be projected too and the secondary 7.5 cm gun was still being retained.
By January 1943, the gun for the Maus had been selected. It was to be a 12.8 cm gun, 55 calibers long and capable of firing new ammunition to achieve the performance required against enemy armor. An option was retained to switch out the 12.8 cm gun with a 15 cm L/38 gun to provide additional high-explosive firepower and both options could be fitted on the same carriage, making exchange simple. Whichever gun was used, it was to be paired with a 7.5 cm L/36 gun. Originally, the secondary armament was intended to be a 7.5 cm Kw.K. L/24, but this was changed out prior to January 1943 with the slightly longer version. The ammunition remained unchanged but the addition of the slightly longer gun meant a small increase in anti-armor performance. An additional weapon planned in January 1943 was a 2 cm Flak gun built into the turret.
In December 1942, before the design of the Maus was even approved, a supplemental system to protect the tank from enemy infantry and to attack enemy positions was proposed and Porsche was ordered to add this to his design on 2nd February 1944 by Col. Haenel. At a meeting held in Stuttgart on 10th February, representatives of all of the manufacturers complained about this late addition to the design and that the added complications would slow down production. This Flammenwerfer Anlage (flamethrower system) was based on the Gross–Flammenwerfer (heavy flamethrower) system which had been installed in a Panzer III, but a long-range of 150 to 200 m was wanted for the flame-projector on the Maus.
The Gross-Flammenwerfer as used on the Pz.III was made by Hermann Koebe of Feuerwehr-Geräte-Fabrik of Berlin, a manufacturer of fire-fighting equipment, and they were asked if they could make this new long-range flame-projection system. They responded that they could not, as even a 100 m range necessitated a flame-nozzle (Spritzkopf) 22 mm wide and used 33 liters of fuel per second propelled by a 30 hp engine driving a pumping system. To project a flame even further would require a narrower (12-14 mm) nozzle, but to add an additional layer of complexity the Maus was not to have one flame-projector nozzle but two, one on each side. Consideration had actually been made to mount those nozzles in the turret (abandoned to keep turret-weight down) and at the front of the tank’s hull, which would assist with the range, although it would prevent the use of flame to keep enemy troops from the sides of the tank. Mounting the system on the front would require additional armor protection to prevent damage to the nozzles and to the fuel system of the tank but even at the back, they were still substantially armored under a 150 mm thick cowling. Altogether, this system weighed an extra 4.9 tonnes, and added significant complexity to the design of the tank, not least of which was directing the flame projectors. That was to be done by an indicator for the radio operator in the front of the hull to control the direction and use of the flame projectors, but this complexity and the added weight was simply an unnecessary complication for the tank. Despite an attempt to reduce the weight to just 2 tonnes by reducing the armor over the projectors from 150 mm to just 30 mm on the front, the problems of the system, the already tight space requirements and the growing weight of the Maus made this device highly impractical.
In May 1943, the entire flame projector idea was rightly abandoned. It had caused one other key change in the design of the Maus which was to make it a lot heavier. The torsion bar suspension of the original design needed an additional bogie to bear the weight, but with a lack of space for it, the torsion bars were replaced with a volute spring-type suspension instead.
Front crew station for the driver (left) and radio operator (right). Note the escape hatch in the floor in front of the radio operator’s seat. Source: Frohlich
Redesigning the turret to maximize space created almost as many problems for the main armament as it solved. The main armament was decided for the Maus around a simple 3-weapon standard. The main gun was a 12.8 cm gun which was to be interchangeable with a 15 cm gun, a secondary 7.5 cm gun (long enough so that gases from the muzzle did not enter the air intakes on the hull roof below), and a forward-facing machine gun. These gun choices had come about as a result of needing to perform particular roles and had been variously modified in order to avoid technical problems (the lengthening of the 7.5 cm gun), to increase muzzle velocity (longer gun options), and to allow for the use of saboted ammunition (removal of the muzzle brakes).
The ammunition was modified to support these changes through the adoption of unitary ammunition (single-piece cased ammunition rather than two-piece ammo with shell and a separate propellant).
However, the 7.5 cm gun used the same ammunition as an L/24, which was predominantly hollow-charge ammunition (HL-Granate). The general high explosive 7.5 cm shell (Granate) was considered unsuitable and even the armor-piercing Panzer-Granate (Pz.Gr.) 39 shell was considered poor. More than 50 mm of penetration was required of the L/36 and it was expected that using the Pz.Gr.39, this longer 7.5 cm gun would be able to achieve that. Shells which were of ‘second quality’ (not good enough for the 7.5 cm Pak 40) could, therefore, be used for this gun.
Whilst existing shells were available for the 7.5 cm gun, new shells were needed for the 12.8 cm gun and, by March 1943, development of shells for this gun included a full-calibre armor-piercing shell APCHE-T (Vollkaliber-Panzer Granate), saboted armor-piercing shells (Treibspiegel Panzer-Granate), hollow-charge high explosive (HL-Granate), smoke (Nebel-Granate), anti-concrete shell (Be-granate), high-explosive (Sprenggranate), Brand-Granate, incendiary (L’spur mit brandsatz), and a leuchtgeschoss. All of the rounds were to be fitted with a tracer (L’spur) able to provide tracing of the shell out to 3,000 m. Another full-caliber 12.8 cm anti-armor shell, a ballistic-capped armor-piercing shell, would follow later on (APBC-HE-T).
An important note on the 12.8 cm gun is that, right from the start of the development of a main gun for the project, preference had been given to the use of unitary ammunition – a case and shell combined into a single piece. Firing tests conducted on 29th April 1943 compared the rates of fire between unitary and two-piece ammunition (case and shell separate) for a 12.8 cm gun (in this case the 12.8 cm Flak 40) in a wooden model of the turret to evaluate the differences. The results of firing just 15 rounds of each confirmed that unitary rounds were preferable. On 29th June 1943, unitary ammunition was ordered for the 12.8 cm Kw.K. (Maus) L/55, but only for 300 rounds, with 100 to be delivered by 15th July 1943. The reason for this low number of rounds was due to production problems associated with the cases (Patrone Huelsen) for the shells and plans were put into place for two-piece ammunition to be used after this date for the 12.8 cm Kw.K. (Maus). This also meant that later vehicles would need modifications made to the ammunition stowage arrangements. By the end of 1943, with the serial production cancelled, the Maus became a low priority and, although the 12.8 cm Kw.K. 44 (Maus) gun was fitted as planned, the unitary ammunition did not join it. Instead, the Maus was fitted with racks for two-piece shells, with the shells stowed separately from the propellant-containing cartridges at the back of the turret. Shells (unitary) for the 7.5 cm gun were stowed in the front right of the turret, just to the right of the gun.
The breach of the 7.5 cm Kw.K. 44 L/36 on the right-hand side of the turret looks minute next to the enormous bulk of the 12.8 cm gun (left). The ammunition for the 7.5 cm gun is located conveniently next to the gun. Source: Jentz and Doyle
Ammunition for the 15 cm gun was not as complicated, with high-explosive (Sprenggranate), hollow-charge (HL-Granate), armor-piercing (APCBCHE-T), semi-armor piercing (SAP)(Halbpanzergranate), and an anti-concrete shell (15 cm Granate 19 Rot Beton.). The requirements for the anti-concrete shell for the 12.8 cm gun (and by extension for the 15 cm gun) were that it should be able to breach a reinforced concrete wall up to 4 m thick, a substantial demand but one which would enable to Maus to attack even the heaviest infantry and gun positions and knock them out. This focus on anti-concrete performance and the ability to fire sabotted shells shows that the purpose of the primary armament was to take out bunkers and heavy enemy armor, whilst the 7.5 cm secondary gun was for light targets only, reducing waste of the larger shells. Production of the 15 cm Kw.K. L/38 for the Maus was slow and, on 8th June 1944, the contract for production was canceled, with only two gun tubes completed.
(M.G. 34 or M.G. 42)
7.5 cm KwK. 44 (Maus)
Light-targets and open positions
50 mm with Pz.Gr.39
12.8 cm Kw.K. L/55
Anti-heavy armor / anti-concrete
4 m concrete with anti-concrete shell
245 mm @ 1,000 m / 30 deg. with 8.8 cm Triebspeigel-Geschoss mit H-kern at 1,260 m/s
15 cm Kw.K. L/38
Anti-heavy armor / anti-concrete
>4 m concrete with anti-concrete shell*
* Estimated anti-armor performance of the 15 cm anti-concrete shell
The primary armament, the massive 12.8 cm Kw.K. 44 (Maus), was, in spite of its huge size, a good fit for the turret and able to elevate between +24* degrees and – 7. (* British examination in 1945 of the gun cradle showed the elevation limit to be 23 degrees). Mounted to the left of the secondary armament was a mount for an M.G.34, although Wa Prüf 6 requested an M.G.42 instead. Stowage for ammunition was a large task. 85 rounds of ammunition for the 7.5 cm gun were carried, as an additional stowage for 26 rounds was added between June and July 1944.
M.G. 34 mounted on the left of the 12.8 cm and 7.5 cm guns. It was mounted independently. Source: Jentz and Doyle
Summary of Guns considered from April 1942 onwards
Approximate Date Range
10.5 cm L/70
June 1942 to September 1942
Hitler’s choice June 1942
12.8 cm L/50
12.8 cm L/55
Using special ammunition can achieve 250 mm of penetration at 1000 m / 60 deg
12.8 cm L/60
12.8 cm L/61
Shaped charge ammunition, 8.8 cm Tungsten core, saboted 10.5 cm penetrator, and various propellants to be tested to find suitable anti-armor ammunition
12.8 cm L/70
Shaped charge ammunition, 8.8 cm Tungsten core, saboted 10.5 cm penetrator, and various propellants to be tested to find suitable anti-armor ammunition
12.8 cm L/71
12.8 cm L/?
October 1942 to
Type 205 concept drawing
12.7 cm Naval
12.8 cm Flak
Sectional gun which could not be used without modification
Alternative Primary Armament
15 cm Kw.K. L/31
July 1942 to December 1943
16 km range
190 mm / 30 deg. /1000 meters
15 cm Kw.K. L/37
June 1942 to
Slow rate of fire, inadequate space for ammunition
Typ 205 concept drawing
15 cm Kw.K. L/38
Alternative mounting to 12.8 cm L/55 on the same carriage in Maus-Turm
15 cm Kw.K. L/40
7.5 cm Kw.K. L/24
July 1942 to
Secondary armament – 7 km range
7.5 cm Kw.K. L/31
7.5 cm Kw.K L/32
7.5 cm Kw.K. L/33
Made longer than L/24 to avoid gasses entering the engine and cooling gratings on the hull roof
7.5 cm Kw.K. L/36
Prior to January 1943
Same ammunition as the 7.5 cm L/24
2 cm Flak
Built-in anti-aircraft gun
3.7 cm Flak
Additional mini-turret on top of the primary turret with 3.7 cm AA gun
Flammenwerfer Anlage (flamethrower system)
December 1942 to May 1943
Improved (longer range, 150-200 m) version of the Gross–Flammenwerfer (heavy flamethrower) system on the Pz. III. Consideration given to mounting it in the turret, front of hull, and rear of hull.
The 7.5 cm L/36 was only rifled to L/32 length due to fabrication limits on the rifling in 7.5 cm gun tubes – an extension was added 4 calibers long to extend the barrel from L/32 to L/36.
British examination in 1945 of the 7.5 cm L/36 gun showed it to actually be 7.5 cm L/36.5
Specifications for shells for 12.8 cm Kw.K. 82 (L/55)
Muzzle Velocity (m/s)
12.8 cm Pz.Gr. 43 (Medium charge)
12.8 cm Pz. Gr. 43 (Full charge)
12.8 cm Spr.Gr. Flak 40 (Medium Charge)
12.8 cm Spr.Gr. Flak 40 (Full Charge)
12. 8 cm Spr.Gr. L/5 (Medium Charge)
12.8 cm Spr.Gr. L/5 (Full Charge)
With all work on Maus development over by the end of 1943, all that was left of the program was a contract for a pair of hulls (one unfinished) and for a single turret (finished but needing modifications, along with half a dozen unfinished armored hulls.
The completed hull, now at Böblingen for trials, was not going to wasted despite the serial production being canceled. A program for these trials was set on 1st November 1943, but without a turret, a weighted mockup would have to be used to simulate the loading on the hull. This mockup turret (Ersatzgewicht) was a crude affair, roughly similar in shape and size to the Maus Turm but unable to rotate and held in place by cross pieces which were simply tightened up against the underside of the 2,959 mm diameter opening in the hull for the turret ring* to hold it in place.
(*A British examination of the hulls and turrets in 1945 found the opening in the hull for the turret ring to be 2959 mm in diameter and the actual basket of the turret to be 2,388 mm in diameter)
Maus hull 1 with Ersatzgewicht ‘turret’ during trials at Böblingen. Source: Jentz and Doyle
Trials started extremely well on 15th January, with a 2 km off-road trip showing the extreme ease and accuracy of steering. During travel off-road on soft clay soil, despite its enormous bulk, the Maus only sank 50 cm into the ground, yet still managed to steer and drove through it successfully.
Work at Böblingen to finish the interior took place in the second half of January 1944. After that it undertook its first successful trial and was then back on trial on 31st January. Here, during this test, the first problem was found. The rubber rings within the wheels – something which had already been identified as a weak point, started to fail under the load after just a 14 km journey, of which the 9.4 km on a hard surface were likely responsible. New and improved road wheels were already on order despite the existing orders for no further development on the Maus to take place. Here though, Porsche may have been a little bit disingenuous with the high command as, whilst the ‘Maus’ was now effectively dead, he was calling the vehicle by his original designation of Type 205 once more. The driving system from Porsche had been proven effective with the ease of steering and this was reinforced on 3rd February when the turning of this massive vehicle was tested. It could turn both within its own length, by reversing one track and driving the other forwards, or in a minimum radius of 14.5 m for a full 360 degree turn when driving forwards on just one track.
Dr. Porsche must have been very proud of his design work, as it had proven itself to work very well and the final work on the hull, such as welding on towing eyes, was completed during February 1944 with a 2-day off-road trial personally conducted by Dr. Porsche on 8th and 9th February 1944.
During this time, the otherwise grey-colored Maus hull and Ersatzgewicht ‘turret’ were painted with a rough three-tone camouflage scheme consisting of a base coat of Dunkelgelb RAL 7028, over which green (Olivgrun RAL 6003), and red-brown (Rotbraun RAL 8107) stripes were painted, along with a small backwards Soviet hammer and sickle motif on the sides of the hull, possibly to confuse any observers about the origins of this machine. It was painted in this way that Type 205/1 (Type 205 hull number 1) became stuck in very soft swampy ground on the testing ground. That area of the ground was avoided by all tanks but the driver, not knowing his way around, stumbled into it and the hull sank to about half its height in the soft mud. Extricating this enormous tank was easier than might be imagined, as it required only for the mud at the back to be dug out and some timbers placed under the tracks for it to free itself under its own power.
Despite this, the photos of the Maus stuck in the mud and subsequently being cleaned appear regularly in books and online (incorrectly) as evidence as to why the Maus was a failure, as it would sink into the ground. 15th to 17th March 1944. The notorious ‘stuck’ photo (left) and being cleaned (right) are frequently disingenuously used as evidence for why the Maus was a failure despite this taking place months after the contracts for production were canceled and in spite of successful tests. Source: Jentz and Doyle Hull number 2 with turret number 1 (unpainted) during tests at Böblingen. Source: Jentz and Doyle
Tests on and improvements to the turret were carried out throughout July 1944 and the finished machine was an imposing sight. It should be noted at this point that there were both external and internal differences between the two Maus hulls at Böblingen. Hull 1 had three shell deflectors on the roof of the hull to help eliminate the shot-trap which Porsche had previously complained about. Hull number 2 only had the single wide deflector on the hull. The second difference is the engine. Both vehicles had originally been fitted with the Daimler-Benz MB 507 engine but, in February 1944, hull number 1 was refitted with the Daimler Benz MB 509 motor. The completed No.2 vehicle with turret number 1 painted in its 3-tone camouflage pattern during testing at Böblingen. Source: Jentz and Doyle
The tests were, on the whole, highly successful. The Maus could be driven easily and with a fine degree of control, ground pressure and traction were acceptable and the drive system, in contrast to many other German heavy vehicles like the Tiger II and Jagdtiger, was more than sufficient for the job, especially after the improved engine had been fitted. There had been problems, the sort of thing expected from trials, requiring changes to a few features such as periscopes to improve visibility, the driver’s seat, ammunition stowage, the traversing mechanism, and those original wheels which had failed. The engine had also not worked as well as was wanted and was suffering valve damage although it is not clear if this was a manufacturing problem or as a result of stress on the engine during testing.
On top of this, the original 1,100 mm wide flat-plate track (plattenkette) had proven unsuitable and was replaced with a new track plate with removable ice cleats which were produced by Škoda (Griffigere Gleiskette). On the whole, there was nothing out of the ordinary for testing and the vehicle was able to move and maneuver adequately under its own power yet, despite this, on 19th August 1944, all work on the Type 205 (both vehicles) was stopped and the Krupp workers were diverted to more urgent work.
Both Mäuse seen together with V.2 and Turm 1 closest to the camera. V.1 with the E-Turm is in front of it. Source: Jentz and Doyle
Despite this order, some work continued to be done on the Maus, including on the new engine, which had proven to be problematic. On 1st December that year, Daimler-Benz had acknowledged that a new engine for the tank, the MB 517, was nearly ready. It had been ordered by OKH but then canceled and left unfinished – 2 weeks’ work would see it operational but Daimler-Benz was reticent about giving the engine away. Obtaining that MB 517 engine for the Maus would at least mean that both tanks had the same engine. Both vehicles, Hull 1 with the E-turm amd Hull 2 with Turret 1 were taken from Böblingen and sent to Kummersdorf in the second half of 1944. Here, at the end of the war, Vehicle 2 with Turret 1 was blown up. When Soviet forces captured Kummersdorf and the blown-up Maus hull, as well as the complete but E-turreted second vehicle, were found, they conducted some firing trials on the second vehicle. At least seven hits were obtained on the side of the second vehicle, including two on the sides of the E-Turm, some or all of which were using shaped charge ammunition. The front of the hull was also subject to being fired at with at least 10 hits of the glacis, lower front, and track guards respectively.
After these seemingly impromptu trials, the Soviets recovered the turret from the wrecked vehicle and installed it on the first hull (still bearing the scars of the firing trials) and shipped it back to the Soviet Union for further examination. There, it eventually had all of the interior stripped out, and the engine, motors, and transmission were all removed, leaving an empty armored shell. The vehicle, thankfully, survives to this day and is on display at the Patriot Park Museum at Kubinka near Moscow.
Soviet troops using captured German halftracks to recover the turret of the Maus. Source: Unknown
Maus (hull number 1, turret number 1) as rebuilt by the Soviets, heads to its new home at Kubinka circa 1946, still on its spezial Transportwagen. Ahead of it on the train is the no less special prototype Sturmtiger. Both vehicles survive to this day at Kubinka’s Patriot Park exhibition. Source: Unknown
Maus Timeline – Key Events
100- tonne Panzer contract to Krupp
100-tonne Panzer contract to Porsche
Initial drawings from Porsche
Pz.Kpfw. Mäuschen turret contract issued
Hitler orders 5 vehicles
Maus Turm contract issued to Krupp
Krupp Tiger-Maus terminated
Trio-production agreement between Porsche, Krupp, and Alkett
Full sized mockup shown
Turret and hull drawings ready (ahead of schedule which was March 1943)
Order to add heavy flame-projector system
120 vehicles ordered
Complaints from manufacturers over the late addition of the heavy flame-projector system
Late February 1943
Abandoned external torsion bar suspension and adoption of volute spring suspension
Albert Speer inspects full-sized Maus model
Suggestion to adopt ZF electromagnetic gearbox instead of electric drive system is not adopted
Order increased to 135. First 2 to be ready by November 1943
End of May 1943
Manufacturing tolerances tightened to avoid oversize
Contract issued for 135 series production vehicles and 6 prototypes (141 total)
Gen. Guderian adjusts order to just 5 tanks (total)
Order amended to 5 Maus per month (a production speed cut of 50%)
Complete turret mockup ready
Armored hull welding complete
Serial numbers issued for production
Daimler-Benz MB509 engine arrives at test laboratory for testing. Modified to run inverted and on low octane fuel.
Second hull ordered – will be fitted with Daimler-Benz MB517 engine
Allied bombing of Krupp (Essen) slows production
Hull number 1 transferred from Krupp to Alkett for fitting of drivetrain – some machining still required
Development of Maus cancelled with order for 120 changed to a single vehicle
1 – 2
Trials programme set
Series production cancelled
Contract for 6 turrets reduced to complete just a single turret
1 – 2
Contract reduced from 6 to 2 hulls
Finished at Alkett
Test drive at Alkett
Shipped from Krupp to Alkett
Ordered to be shipped to Böblingen for tests
Shipped from Berlin to Böblingen via railway on a 14-axle Spezial Transportwagen
Unloaded at Böblingen and drove 5 km to the workshops without problems
First trials of hull number 1 (Typ 205/1) – very successful
Mid. January 1944
Assembly work at Alkett halted
Assembly and fitting of other interior components
1 – 2
Component parts (armored periscope housings and gratings for hulls 1 and 2 (Typ 205/1 and 205/2)) delivered to Alkett by Krupp
Off road trials – travels 14 km including 4.6 km off road. Failures found in rubber rings in the road wheels.
Further driving trials restarted. Wa Prüf 6 representative in attendance
Vehicle completed including addition of towing eyes
Off-road driving trials for Dr. Porsche for 6.4 km (64 km total).
Assembly work ordered transferred to Böblingen
Daimler-Benz MB509 engine installed
Shipped to Böblingen for completion
Hull number 2 (Typ 205/2) arrives at Böblingen – towed by hull number 1 to the workshops (~5 km) involving a 12% incline and icy road – successful
Assessment at Krupp that production could restart
3 – 7
Hulls 3 – 7 available at the armor workshops – welding complete
Improved road wheels fitted
Porsche requests second turret from Krupp
Production, if restarted, could deliver 2 vehicles per month
3 – 7
2 – 7
Can be completed due to bodies already finished
Trials crossing 1 m deep streams and traversing 45% slopes – successful
Vehicle later became stuck in a swampy area and had to be partially dug out – freed itself under its own power
New road wheels fitted
Mid. April 1944
Assembly at Krupp finished
3rd May 1944
Shipped from Krupp to Böblingen for modification and mounting – turret arrives bare with guns and fittings separate
4th May 1944
Unloaded at Böblingen
Turret number 1 mounted on Hull Number 2 at Böblingen
Work on turret interior
Daimler-Benz MB517 engine arrives at Böblingen
Turret number 1 assembly finished
23/6/1944 to 2/7/1944
Under repair – improved ammunition stowage
Tests on electrical turret traverse
Driving trials – tears up cobblestones
3 – 7
2 – 7
Wa Prüf 6 gives permission to scrap leftover turrets and hulls
1 – 2
All work on Maus ordered to stop
Tests on MB517 show it is superior to MB509
1 – 2
1 – E
Both vehicles moved to Kummersdorf
February to March 1944
MB509 installed in vehicle number 2 started and breaks crankshaft due to bad alignment of engine when fitted
Mid March 1945
Replacement MB517 engine sent to Kummersdorf for vehicle number 2 to replace broken MB509 engine – technicians from Porsche attend Kummersdorf to fit engine
Blown up at Kummersdorf
After May 1945
Firing tests against Maus and E-turm at Kummersdorf
March to April 1946
Turret 1 mounted on hull 2 by Soviets and shipped to USSR
Arrival at Kubinka
Typ 205/1 is hull number 1
Typ 205/2 is hull number 2
‘E’ is the ‘Einsatz Gewicht Turm’ used to simulate the weight of the actual turret Allied soldiers at the captured Krupp factory in May 1945. Behind him are the hulls of two Maus tanks and two turrets. The turret directly behind the soldier is serial number 351452, the second Maus turret. The other turrets belong to Tiger Is and are not part of the Maus program. Source: Frohlich (left) and Jentz and Doyle (right)
Maus hull serial number 351453 (Number 3 hull) laying unfinished at the Krupp plant in 1945. Source: Jentz and Doyle
A final element in the story of the Maus is a report dated 13th March 1944, 4 months after serial production had been canceled, by Dr. Muller of Krupp stating that production of the Maus hulls and turrets could be restarted if required. Five days later, on the 18th, Krupp reported that 7 Maus hulls had been finished by the armor workshops (Panzerbau) and that it had enough armor plate on hand to finish another 8 hulls.
On top of this, the order to send unused armor to the Sturmgeschütz program back in October 1943, immediately prior to the Maus program being canceled, seems to have been interpreted fairly liberally, as there was clearly a lot of armor plate still available. There were enough, in fact, for about another 30 hulls and turrets as well as 15 more hulls and 9 turrets’ worth of cut plate. Those 30 hulls and turrets’ worth of armor should have been sent away to the Sturmgeschütz program, but having retained them at Krupp for whatever reason, in spite of no orders for them, Krupp now had enough material to fabricate 45 Maus hulls and 39 turrets from that material plus the 7 finished hulls and armor prepared for 8 more, a total of 60 or so hulls and 39 turrets. On 23rd March 1944, despite the program having been canceled, Wa Prüf 6 was under orders from Hitler to accelerate testing and to resume development of the Maus.
Porsche contacted Krupp around this time to request not only delivery of the second turret for the existing Maus hulls (two hulls one turret), but also for a follow-on design of a turret known as Maus II.
On 1st April 1944, when looking at restarting Maus production, it was determined that an additional 200 workers would need to be allocated and that even then the rate would be just one or two tanks per month. This would be restarting production from vehicle 8 onwards as, by this time, 2 hulls had been finished and shipped out leaving 6 partially completed hulls awaiting scrapping. Approval to scrap hulls 3 to 6 was given on 27th July 1944. There were to be no more Maus completed, 2 had been built and were going to be tested.
The left-over pieces though were not scrapped. A British report from 1945 shows that three Maus hulls and turrets were found at Meppen (Krupp’s proving ground) with the hulls on their sides and turrets upside down. The examination showed the highest number found to be number 6. A complete 12.8 cm Kw.K. 44 monobloc gun with coaxially mounted 7.5 cm Kw.K. 44 monobloc gun (on the right) was found on the same range a few miles away. The British examination of records at the range showed that this 12.8 cm Kw.K. 44 (Maus) had been rechristened ‘12.8 cm Kw.K. 82’ and that ammunition (and presumably that gun) had been delivered in November 1943 and that ammunition was there by at least 3rd January 1944. 12.8 cm gun and 7.5 mm gun on dual mount (left) and what is believed to be the 15 cm gun (the muzzle has been sabotaged) with 7.5 cm gun on dual mount (right) as found on a cradle at the Krupp firing range, Meppen, 1945. Source: UK National Archives
The three recovered hulls and turrets found by the 21st Army Group at Meppen in 1945. It is interesting to note that the turrets had not yet had the roof plates holes cut out for the cupola and hatches. Source: UK National Archives
Sturmgeschütz (15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug)
This was a brief idea from May 1944 to consider how and if a 15 cm or 17.4 cm gun could be mounted on the chassis of a Maus to compete with the same idea based on the E100 hull. Less than a month after being floated as an idea, it was discounted in favor of considering the E100 hull-project instead. No Sturmgeschütz (15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf Mausfahrzeug) was ever built and no drawings are known to survive.
One of the more unlikely off-shoots of Maus development was the consideration, in late September/early October 1943, to use series-production Maus turrets as static defensive structures. The situation had been forced upon Speer (the Armaments Minister) by a lack of steel-casting capacity for the 12.8 cm and 15 cm Panzerturm (armored fortress turrets) and, as the Maus was designed to be able to mount a 15 cm gun, these turrets might be a solution to the fortress-turret shortage.
The result was that Krupp was asked to prepare a design for such an installation and duly, on 2nd November 1943, it did just that, providing a drawing of a Maus turret (with a reinforced roof) for use on a bunker (Turm ‘Maus’ für ortsfesten Einsatz – Maus turret for a fixed installation). With the cancellation of the Maus turret production just 3 days later on the 5th, the idea became impossible and was abandoned, although quite how realistic the idea was anyway is debatable.
Turm ‘Maus’ für ortsfesten Einsatz (Maus Turmstellung) 2nd November 1943. Source: Jentz and Doyle
John Milson, writing in 1973 about the Maus, questioned just how much the men responsible for the design of vehicles like the Maus really believed in the value of such a machine as a weapon of war. He doubted that they really believed in these projects and, whilst certainly they may have denounced them post-war as ludicrous and wasteful, their actions during the war belie this. Porsche, in particular, was pressing hard for the Maus project right from the start, and even after it was canceled, in order to restart it – hardly the actions of a man who felt it was pointless.
It was clearly felt by many in the industry that manufacturing a technical solution was possible to ensure dominance over the increasingly better armored, better-armed enemy tanks that were being encountered in superior numbers. Dr. Porsche also no doubt reveled in the engineering of the vehicle he had designed and made full use of his political connections to gain and maintain support for the Maus long after its perceived utility was over.
As a piece of engineering, the Maus is impressive in the challenges it created and the solutions presented. However, the size, armor, and firepower were simply an extravagance Germany did not need and could ill afford in terms of time, money, and material. There is no realistic consideration that the Maus, even if produced in numbers, could have made any substantial effect in a campaign or the war. It is far more likely that the ignominious fate which awaited the single finished vehicle would have been shared by any others that were built: namely, being abandoned when it ran out of fuel or broke down and then being blown up by its own crews, a fate which befell many other German heavy tanks. Yet the Maus is still around, preserved at Kubinka and marking the top-end of what a tank could really be in terms of armor and firepower during the Second World War.
The 1st Maus hull mated with the 1st Maus turret as it stands today at the Kubinka tank museum in Russia. While the tank looks complete on the outside, it is almost completely gutted on the inside. Photo by Craig Moore
6 (commander, gunner, 2 x loaders, driver, radio operator)
V1 – Daimler-Benz MB 507 V-12 Petrol
V2 – Daimler Benz MB 517 V-12 Petrol 44.5 litre – 1,200 hp @ 2,500 rpm
8 hp auxiliary petrol engine providing power to create overpressure inside, air conditioning, gas filtration, heating, battery charging and for snorkelling
3.5 litres per km
2 m (without preparation), 7.9 m (submersible) with snorkel tube fitted
Front – 215 mm rounded
Sides – 205 mm at 30 deg.
Rear – 205 mm at 10 deg.
Roof – 60 mm at 90 deg.
Basket walls – 55 mm
Floor- 93 mm
Front Glacis – 205 mm at 55 deg.
Lower front – 205 mm at 35 deg.
Track guards – 100 mm at 10 deg.
Sponson floor Front – 50 mm at 75 deg.
Sponson floor Middle – 50 mm at 90 deg.
Sponson floor Rear – 50 mm at 85 deg.
Sides Upper – 173 mm at 0 deg.
Sides Lower (skirt) – 105 mm at 0 deg.
Sides hull inner – 80 mm at 0 deg.
Rear Upper – 153 mm at 40 deg.
Rear Lower – 153 mm at 30 deg.
Floor front – 100 mm at 90 deg.
Floor middle and rear – 50 mm at 90 deg.
Roof Front – 103 mm at 90 deg.
Roof Middle – 60 mm at 90 deg.
Roof Rear – 60 mm at 90 deg.
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