The Jagdtiger was the heaviest armored vehicle to see service in World War Two, yet paradoxically, the vehicle has remained somewhat enigmatic with confusion over its development, production and role. The design process started out with a demand for a heavy assault gun back in 1942 when the war was still in Germany’s favor and the army needed a heavily armored and armed vehicle to smash enemy fortifications. However, by the time the Jagdtiger, based on the Tiger II tank, came along two years later, the original need for the vehicle had vanished and it was put to work as a heavy tank destroyer instead. Despite its huge size, impressive armor and powerful main gun, the Jagdtiger failed to live up to expectations.
Tank Destroyer or Assault Gun
The majority of people looking at the Jagdtiger (English: ‘Hunting Tiger’) would conclude that the use of the vehicle, the ‘hunting’ part of its name and the shape of it would undoubtedly make it a tank destroyer. Nonetheless, it was actually originally conceived as an assault gun to support the infantry. The combination of heavy armor and a powerful cannon equally adept at penetrating enemy strong points, delivering high explosive, and defeating enemy armored vehicles was the priority, with the speed seen as less important. The range of fire of the Jagdtiger’s 12.8 cm gun could classify the vehicle as a self-propelled gun (indirect fire capability had been an original requirement but was subsequently dropped), and the confusion over name and role resulted in an argument within the German military over who controlled them. If the vehicle was designated as a Sturmgeschütz (Eng. Assault Gun), it would belong to the artillery but, if it was designated as a Panzerjäger (Eng. Tank Destroyer), it would belong to the tank destroyers. The StuG. argument was bolstered by Hitler and the Inspector-General of the Panzer Troops in late March 1944. On 13th July 1944, the squabble over the name was seemingly put to rest by Heinz Guderian, Chief of the Army General Staff (who was also the General of Artillery), when he listed the vehicle as “Panzerjäger with 12.8cm Pak. L/55 on Tiger II chassis” or ‘Jagdtiger’.
The Call For a 12.8 cm Gun
As far back as spring 1942, the German Army General Staff were requesting a 12.8 cm gun mounted on a self-propelled chassis as a ‘heavy assault gun’ capable of both supporting the infantry against armored targets (such as tanks and bunkers) as well as unarmored ones. By May 1942, Hitler was ordering a rifled anti-tank gun of that caliber and, in a letter from Wa Pruef 4 (German design office for artillery) to Friedrich Krupp of Essen on 2nd February 1943, the 12.8 cm Jagdpanzer concept was born. The letter set out the idea of mounting of a 12.8 cm Stu.K. (Sturm Kanone – Assault gun) on a modified Tiger H3. The ‘Tiger H3’ concerned was the Tiger II, which was not named as such until March 1943, following the abandonment of the the VK45.02(H) project, which was known at the time as Tiger II.
The requirements for the modifications meant moving the engine forwards on the chassis with the firm of Henschel und Sohn of Kassel responsible for that part of the project. The 12.8 cm gun in question was at the time intended to be taken, along with the gun gear such as brake and recuperator, completely unchanged from the Pz.Kpfw.VIII Maus – the 12.8 cm Kw.K. L/55 (Kw.K. – Kampfwagen Kanone – Fighting vehicle gun). Strong emphasis was also placed on the removal of the muzzle brake as this allowed the use of Treibspiegel (Sabot) shells for heavy anti-armor work. Developed by Krupp as the Treibspiegel-Geschoss mit H-Kern for the 12.8 cm gun on the Maus, these were high-velocity shells with a sub-calibre core made from an 8.8 cm Pz.Gr.40. Travelling at about 1,260 m/s, they were estimated to be able to penetrate 245 mm of armor at 30 degrees from 1,000 metres away. Although this shell was not developed to the point of service and issue for the Jagdtiger, the result was that the 12.8 cm gun could not have a muzzle brake for this would have adversely affected the sabot coming off the core as it left the barrel. Not using a brake, however, meant a lot more recoil energy needed to be dealt with on the mountings for the gun.
From Early Work to the Prototype
By the end of March 1943, the chassis destined for this 12.8 cm gun was going to be either from the Panther or Tiger II. A mockup was prepared on the hull of a Panther, but this was quickly discarded as being unsuitable. Drawings from Henschel for the alternative design on a Tiger II chassis were therefore to be ready by June 1943 and, initially, Dr. Erwin Aders (design lead at Henschel) was considering armor for the design to be up to 200 mm thick on the front and up to 100 mm on the sides, although this was to be subject to change in order to keep the weight to 70-tonnes or less.
Rival Tigerjäger Designs
On 12th April 1943, Henschel presented two designs for the vehicle which was being referred to as the Tigerjäger. The first design (Design A) disregarded the plan to move the engine to the front and kept the engine at the back, but even so, the hull still had to be lengthened by 300 mm. The frontal armor for this vehicle is described by Spielberger, Jentz, and Doyle (2007) as being 150 mm at 40 degrees and 200 mm thick on the 60 degree sloping part. The side armor had been reduced though, from the 100 mm desired in March to 80 mm in order to keep the weight down.
The width of the fighting compartment for the tank had been reduced too by 40 mm, as it would otherwise be too large to be shipped by rail. With an agreement on 14th April on the new design of the gun and the adoption of two-piece ammunition which simplified stowage, the whole gun and mounting could be moved 200 mm further back on the hull thus improving the center of gravity and taking off a lot of the load on the front wheels. Reducing the rail profile and keeping the heavy armor meant the movement of the gun was slightly restricted and reduced the depression available by 1 degree (from -8 to -7). A final modification was the lowering of the driver’s seat by 100 mm which lowered the plate over his head. This cover was designed to be a large plate encompassing both of the forward crew hatches (driver and radio operator) and was removable by a series of set-screws attaching it to the roof plate of the lower hull, allowing for the transmission to be removed. “This design choice was in response to lessons learned on the Tiger I and VK45.02(H) projects”. Neither of these had a removable cover and extracting the transmission for repairs involved first lifting the turret out of the hull! The Tiger II had a removable cover, though the turret had to be turned to allow full access. The cover did not solve the problems for this Tigerjäger design as even though there was no turret,the overhang of the gun prevented transmission removal; it therefore required the gun to be withdrawn from the casemate to do this task, no small job.
The second design (Design B) for a Tigerjäger followed the original requirement for the engine moved into the front but had significant drawbacks, not least that the vehicle was too large to ship by rail. The desired -8 gun depression could also not be achieved because with the engine and ancillaries in front of the casemate, it raised the hull roof. The gun would also have impeded maintenance of the engine whilst offering no substantial advantages over Design A. Design B, despite being the initial design demanded, was dropped. The Jagdtiger would follow the layout of Tigerjäger Design A.
The 12.8 cm Panzerjäger
By 5th May 1943, the vehicle, now being referred to as the ‘12.8 cm Panzerjäger’, was determined to weigh 75 tonnes. It was to have the field of motion for the 12.8 cm gun widened from 15 degrees each way to 18 degrees, but still wanting +15 to -8 for elevation. Based on the Tiger II, the armor was this new vehicle determined to be 200 mm thick on the front of the body, 80mm on the sides and back, and 30 mm on the roof. This roof thickness was an obvious compromise considering the Tiger I and Tiger II were to have 40 mm thick rooves to protect from plunging shell fire and aircraft attack. The 12.8 cm Panzerjäger dimensions were roughly fixed too: about 10 m long, 3.59 m wide and 3.47 m high. Fitted with the same 800 mm wide tracks as the Tiger II, this vehicle had a longer ground-contact length of 4.635 m resulting in a ground pressure of just 1.01 kg/cm2. Based upon these dimensions and the decided layout, a wooden mockup was ordered, although the design of the gun was not going to be finished by Krupp until 1st July 1943 and design changes were still taking place.
Henschel, to simplify production, had requested that the hulls be made separately to the casemate, but this was rejected as it made fire and waterproofing harder, and a rectangular hatch (700 mm x 600 mm) was added in the rear of the casemate for removal of the gun. The requirements set in May had slipped by June that year when Wa Pruef 6 agreed to allow just 10 degrees of traverse each side and -7.5 degrees of depression.
Around May 1943, Henschel had determined that as a result of design changes, the weight had been brought down to 70 tonnes complete (the hull alone weighing 43-tonnes) with 200 mm thick frontal armor, 80 mm on the sides and rear, and a casemate roof now 40 mm thick. Drawings for this vehicle were to be finished and submitted to Wa Pruef 6 by 15th June with the expectation that a prototype would be finished in December.
The wooden mockup of the vehicle referred to as the ‘12.8 cm Tiger-Jaeger’ was ready in September, as it was inspected on 28th September by Colonel Crohn (Wa Pruef 6) and Major Weiche (Inspector-General Armoured Troops), who recommended the elimination of aiming spot lamps, firing ports and the gunner’s hatch. Other changes included the enlargement of the commander’s hatch and rearrangement of the periscopes. The relatively small changes to the roof were added to a decision to increase the upper front plate from 200 mm to 250 mm and to make the hull roof 40 mm thick.
The amended and full-size wooden mockup was then shown off to Hitler on 20th October 1943 at the troop training centre at Ayrs, East Prussia, identified as ‘heavy Panzerjäger with 12.8 cm L/55 on Tiger II chassis.’
Production was approved for this 12.8 cm Panzerjäger and the first production vehicle was ready on 6th April 1944.
Layout and Crew
Having considered both the Panther and Tiger hulls for the mount for the 12.8 cm gun, the vehicle selected for use was the Tiger II which was, at the time, still on the drawing board at Henschel. In order to fit the gun onto the chassis of the Tiger II, the chassis had to be lengthened by 260 mm and on top of this hull was placed a large flat-sided casmate for housing the main gun and four of the crew. The engine remained at the back and the transmission at the front, as on the Tiger II, and the hull crew positions were also retained. Inside this giant casemate would fit the no-less enormous 12.8 cm gun breech. In essence, this was the layout of the Jagdtiger, a box with a gun in the front of it sat on top of a Tiger II chassis.
The Jagdtiger had a crew of six men. The crew in the hull retained their role and positions from the Tiger II, with the driver located in the front left and the radio operator in the front right. This radio operator also had control over the secondary armament, a machine gun located in a mount in the glacis to his front. In the casemate were the remaining 4 crew. This crew consisted of a commander (front right), the gunner (front left), and two loaders located in the rear of the casemate. By 1945, with severe pressures on training caused by the war, some tank crews were even sent directly to the Nibelungen works to help with the production of the tanks they were to crew, both as a means to help familiarise them with the vehicles but also to help with production.
Just as with Henschel, where the bodies of the Tiger and Tiger II were made by Krupp and then shipped to them for finishing and fitting into a fighting tank, the same is true of the Jagdtiger. The Nibelungen works did the construction, fitting, and assembly of components including the gun, but the basic armored hull was made at a different site, namely the Eisenwerke Oberdonau (Oberdonau Iron Works) in Linz, modern-day Austria.
The first prototype vehicle was assembled in Workshop VIII at the Nibelungen plant in Autumn 1943 but was fitted with a trial superstructure, Porsche suspension, and no armament. The hole in the glacis for the machine gun mount was blanked off and the vehicle was used for running trials. The second prototype was not finished until the new year and both prototypes (305001 with Porsche suspension and 305002 with Henschel suspension) were then delivered to the Army Ordnance Office for testing in February 1944.
Despite the delivery of 15 hulls from Eisenwerke Oberdonau in April, 12 more in May, and 10 more in June 1944, production of further vehicles did not begin until June 1944, with just a single vehicle complete as production problems, including the preparation of machinery and rails inside the plant, were being resolved. Firstly, the Nibelungen works had to make changes to the production line in order to accomodate the fact that after the first batch of vehicles (10)* fitted with Porsche suspension had been finished, all future vehicles were going to have Henschel suspension. That was not the only production issue either. Eisenwerke Oberdonau had some production problems of their own which then caused knock-on problems for the Nibelungen works, not least of which affected quality. Vehicle 3005005, a Porsche suspension Jagdtiger, had such defects with the construction of the armor at the front that it was unfit for service and relegated to homeland use. The protracted development of the gun and mount had caused problems too which now became apparent. The Nibelungen works had to grind off up to 40 mm of steel from the inside walls of the casemate in places to allow the gun to traverse fully, and the cradle for the gun was a problem too. It was being made larger than it was designed to be and thus fouling on the front plate. This meant it had to be moved forward slightly with the outcome that it now fouled on the hull roof, restricting depression to just 6.5 degrees. With little option but to approve this 0.5 degree loss of depression, Wa Pruef 6 agreed to the changes but wanted them fixed as production went forward.
*Including the prototype this means 11 Jagdtigers were built with Porsche suspension: chassis numbers 305001, 305003-305012
Other changes of a minor nature were made internally to the gun elevation mechanism, gun bridge, ammunition racks, and gunner’s seat. Externally, throughout production only five things were changed of consequence: the omission of sheet-metal shields over the exhausts (July 1944); the addition of a barrel brace (gun crutch) (August 1944); the addition of Zimmerit (from September 1944); the fitting of external hooks on the casemate sides for spare track links (December 1944); and the addition of ‘mushrooms’ (Pilzen) on the upper edges of the side and rear plates which were mountings for attaching a small crane.
Following a 12th October 1944 discussion with Hitler, it was planned to produce just 150 of these vehicles after which production would be switched over to the Panther. The planned 150 was broken down to an estimated rate of 30 Jagdtigers per month, a figure based on the availability of the 12.8 cm gun barrels, although 50 vehicles per month were demanded of the plant at Nibelungen which was building them.
Thirty guns a month would mean a complete production run of 5 months, and fifty vehicles a month would have reduced this to just 3 months worth of production. By 25th October 1944, with delays in the production of the Jagdtiger not meeting the numbers demanded, Hitler ordered that 53 12.8 cm anti tank guns from the Jagdtiger program should be mounted on captured Russian or French carriages to fulfill the needs of the army in the short-term.
The original order for 150 Jagdtigers was increased on 3rd January 1945 by Hitler, who demanded the continuation of production even though the production of the 12.8 cm gun barrels was a significant bottleneck in production. By the end of 1944, just 49 Jagdtigers plus the two prototypes had been finished, well behind the original schedule. Production was therefore scheduled to run through April 1945 with another 100 Jagdtigers planned, after which production would switch to the Tiger II instead. The Jagdtiger was not to be terminated however; production would simply switch to the firm of Jung in Jungenthal instead, with the first 5 planned to be ready in May 1945, 15 in June, and then 25 per month through to the end of the year.
On 25th February 1945, ‘extreme measures’ were ordered by Hitler to increase production of the Jagdtiger, which included the temporary expedient of fitting an 8.8 cm gun (the 8.8 cm KwK. Pak. 43/3) in lieu of the 12.8 cm piece if there were insufficient 12.8 cm guns available. During this period, by way of context, production of the Tiger II which had started in September 1943 was supposed to be reaching 50 vehicles a month from April through June 1944 (150 vehicles), but only 53 vehicles were completed during that period. By February 1945, when the ‘extreme measures’ were ordered to produce the Jagdtiger, production of the Tiger II was supposed to be 150 units a month but had only managed 42.
Neither the rate of 30 per month (gun production) or 50 per month (vehicle production) were ever actually met, with monthly production in the region of 20 or fewer each month due to shortages of materials and labor combined with the effects of Allied bombing.
By the end of February 1945, just 74 vehicles (chassis number 305001 to 305075*) were completed. Along with the original prototype vehicle, this meant that production reached just 50% of the original requirement.
The official production number of Jagdtigers is usually quoted as running from serial number 305001 to 305075, meaning a total production of 74 vehicles. Chamberlain and Doyle (1997), state that chassis numbers went from 305001 to 305077 which would mean 76 vehicles. Winninger (2013) provides a production table from the factory showing serial 305075 was a March production serial number and that March production was to run from 305075 to 305081, with seven vehicles listed as delivered. April production lists serial number 305082 to 305088, another 7 vehicles, and then 305089 to 305098 (10 vehicles), with just 3 delivered. Some of these were supposed to be fitted with the 8.8 cm gun under Sonderkraftfahrzeug number Sd.Kfz.185 and some were built but not accepted, meaning the exact number of 12.8 cm armed Jagdtiger produced cannot be accurately determined.
The Jagdtiger, as can be expected of an assault gun, had the bulk of its armor at the front, with armor 250 mm thick on the front of the casemate, 150 mm thick on the glacis, and 100 mm thick on the lower front. The forward part of the hull had a 50 mm thick roof, although the rest of the roof over the casemate and engine deck was 40 mm thick. Of note here is that the roof of the casemate was not welded into place like the roof of the Tiger or Tiger II, but was actually bolted onto the superstructure.
The lower hull sides were 80 mm thick and so were the upper hull sides, but these were also sloped inwards at 25 degrees affording the crew inside a good deal of protection from enemy fire as long as they remained facing the enemy or at an oblique angle.
Even the rear of the Jagdtiger had 80 mm thick plates including the pair of large gas-tight doors at the back. The thinnest parts of the armor were under the sponsons over the tracks which were just 25 mm thick, and under the engine which was also 25 mm thick. The forward part of the lower hull was 40 mm thick providing good protection for the crew from mines. One final note on the armor is that was it not face-hardened, but rolled homogenous plate.
Gun, Ammunition, and Performance
In February 1943, the letter from Wa Pruef 4 made it clear that the 12.8 cm gun for the vehicle was to be the same type as the one for the Pz.Kpfw. Maus: a 12.8 cm Kw.K. L/55 with the same gun gear and no muzzle brake. The elevation limits demanded were +15 to -8 degrees with a traversing field of 15 degrees each side. A design of this 12.8 cm gun was therefore requested to be ready by 10th March 1943, and after Krupp handed in the design for the 12.8 cm Stu.K on 28th April 1943, Henschel submitted its own FK-based design which moved the pivot point of the gun 120 mm further back. This moving of the gun’s pivot point allowed a depression of -7.5 degrees to where the gun met the roof, which despite a desire to lower it by 100 mm, could only be lowered by 50 mm instead.
Alone, this gun weighed 5,500 kg, with the cradle adding a further 1,000 kg. The reason for the delay in designing the mounting seems to stem from these issues over gun balance, as the designers at Henschel wanted the gun mounted further back in order to improve weight distribution,and as a result, a model of the gun was not ready from Krupp until 1st July that year. Development of the 12.8 cm gun though was slow, and the first 12.8 cm gun was not ready until the middle of August 1944. When first shown, the gun was mounted on a captured Soviet 152 mm M37 433(r) mount and later on a captured French 155 mm GBF-T cannon 419(f). It should be borne in mind too that the gun was not specifically designed for the Jagdtiger, the firm of Krupp had originally started developing this gun before the Jagdtiger was even planned.
On 15th May 1942 Hitler had expanded development of a 12.8 cm gun to include Rheinmetall-Borsig of Düsseldorf, and Skoda-Werke Pilsen and Aktiengesellschaft (A.G.) to assist Krupp in order to get the gun into production as soon as possible.
First firing trials of a 12.8 cm gun with Armor Piercing ammunition took place at Meppen in October 1943.
Even with their assistance, the work was slow. Rheinmetall’s design for the 12.8 cm gun reached the stage of several prototypes but was not approved, while the design from Skoda-Werke never left the drawing board. As such, only the Krupp 12.8 cm gun (made by Krupp at the Bertawerke in Breslau and at the Krupp plant in Essen) was ever mounted in the Jagdtiger and only about 160 of these guns were ever made.
Despite some commentary on the internet to the contrary, this 12.8 cm had nothing to do with the entirely different 12.8 cm Flak 40 anti-aircraft gun which ended up being mounted on the two VK30.01(H) Tiger chassis, popularly know as Sturer Emil. What is more, the antiaircraft 12.8 cm was a two-piece barrel design, whereas the Pak. 12.8 cm was a single-piece barrel. Moreover, the ammunition for the anti-aircraft gun was unitary, whereas on this 12.8 cm it was to be a two-piece design to save internal space.
Once finished, this new Krupp gun was designated the 12.8 cm Pak. 44 L/55 (Pak – Panzerabwehrkanone) and later redesignated as the 12.8 cm Pak. 80. This gun was big and heavy; the barrel alone weighed 2.2 tonnes and was 7.02 metres long (rifling extended for 6.61 m of this) meaning that two barrel supports were needed for when the vehicle was travelling, one on the front glacis of the tank and a second internally within the casemate.
Despite the delay in development and delivery of this gun, Colonel Crohn wrote to Krupp on 24th September 1943 suggesting an improvement to the firepower before the first 12.8 cm L/55 was even finished. This new gun suggested was a 12.8 cm Kw.K. L/70 which could fit into the original and unmodified Krupp-mount for the L/55. Krupp replied to that idea on 21st October 1943, stating that it had completed a drawing of this plan and that with the 12.8 cm L/70 fitted, the centre-of-gravity of the vehicle was seriously affected, making it significantly nose-heavy and causing the gun to overhang the front by about 4.9 m. The solution offered by Krupp to this problem was to suggest an alternative scheme with the casemate moved once more to the rear with the engine-forwards, just like the Tigerjäger Design B. The idea for this longer 12.8 cm gun was then discontinued and the focus returned to the 12.8 cm L/55 instead.
The ‘extreme measures’ ordered by Hitler on 25th February 1945 to increase Jagdtiger production had included the possibility of substituting an 8.8 cm gun in lieu of the 12.8 cm piece to increase the speed of production. The fitting, or otherwise of this gun has been subject to a lot of confusion but it never entered service and in the end, these measures proved unproductive.
The original specifications called for a gun with a range of up to 21 km but a weight of less than 6.5 tonnes. This requirement would indicate that the gun for the Jagdtiger (an assault gun) was for use as artillery indirect-fire as much as it was for direct-fire. Traverse for the gun was limited to 10 degrees left and 10 degrees right with elevation ranging from -7 to +10 degrees. Direct-fire sighting from the telescopes ranged the gun for targets up to 4 km for the Panzergranate 43 Armor Piercing High Explosive (APCBC-HE) shell and 8 km for the Sp.Gr. L/50 high explosive shell.
Despite the original consideration of a special high-velocity anti-armor shell with a sub-caliber core, no such shell was deployed on the Jagdtiger. These shells known as Treibspiegel-Geschoss mit H-Kern used the 8.8 cm Pz.Gr.40 as the armor piercing core of the shell and were being developed for the Maus program at the time the gun was selected for modification into the Jagdtiger program. With the arrival of the Pz.Gr.43 and the significant increase it brought in terms of penetrating armor, the experimental and expensive idea for these sub-calibre rounds was effectively redundant. They have been included in the following table for the purposes of reference only.
Looking at the performance data from the various sources for the performance of the Pz.Gr.39 and Pz.Gr.43 provides a great deal of confusion, and not just in modern scholarship. A British intelligence report from 1944 quoting figures from a captured German document provided identical performance for the Pz.Gr.43 to that usually quoted in modern literature for the Pz.Gr.39. Contemporary documents from Germany also show a Pz.Gr.39 as Capped (APC) and not Ballistic Capped (APCBC) with those figures. What is unusual about the British intelligence document is that it quotes both the Pz.39 and the Pz.Gr.43 together, whereas other sources usually reference just the Pz.Gr.39 and omit Pz.Gr.43 performance. The question therefore is which is right and which is wrong. A table (below) is provided for comparison.
Secondary armament for the Jagdtiger consisted of a single MG.34 mounted in the front-right of the hull. For this machine gun, 1,500 rounds of ammunition were carried.
The huge gun left little space for ammunition stowage. Ammunition was stored in the floor and side walls of the casemate and, even using two-piece ammunition, the Jagdtiger could carry just 40 rounds of ammunition. It is not known how many 8.8 cm rounds could have been carried for the vehicles (if any) which were fitted with that caliber gun, although it may not have been many more, as the 8.8 cm ammunition was single piece, which would have made stowage harder and less efficient. One final note on 12.8 cm armament is that at some point another gun between the 12.8 cm L/55 and the L/70 was contemplated. This was also a 12.8 cm gun but had a barrel length of L/66. It was not just the gun which changed either; the entire structure was lower by about 20 cm because of adjustments to the mounts for the gun. With the L/66, the gun projected 4.4 m from the front of the tank but still provided an elevation range of +15 to -7.5.
Sadly there is no information about this proposed modification, but based on the discussion over improving the performance of the L/55, it would likely date to the end of 1943, although some unverified information suggests it was considered as late as November 1944. One additional feature other than the gun and lower casemate is the large box-structure at the back over the engine deck. Unfortunately only this side view is available, so the shape of this box is debatable. From the drawing, it does appear that the engine deck may be slightly shorter than on the production Jagdtiger, although this may simply be a mistake on the drawing as the dimensions are primarily concerned with the front end and not the back.
There is no point in having either a large gun or an effective shell if you cannot get the gun on target and get the shell to hit said target, and with a rate of fire of just 3 rounds per minute, the Jagdtiger was significantly slower to fire than other tanks, meaning it was all the more important that what was fired hit the target. One problem was the lack of a turret, which hindered all-round observation, and as a result, the Jagdtiger was fitted with a rotating hatch for the commander on the front right of the casemate with a periscope integrated into it. In front of this periscope was a rectangular flap within the hatch which could be opened separately. Through that hatch-within-a-hatch, the commander could insert a stereoscopic rangefinder. The commander was also provided with a single fixed periscope facing to the right.
The gunner of the Jagdtiger, who was sat in the front left, did not have a roof hatch, but instead, had a large curved sliding cover through which a Winkelzielfernrohr (WZF) 2/1 10x magnification aiming telescope projected out. Behind this cover, on the roof, was a further periscope in a rotating mount and two more fixed periscopes pointed diagonally backwards from the rear corner at each side of the casemate.
In February 1943, it was decided that optics for the main gun were to consist of an Sfl.Z.F.5 and Rbl.F36 sight for both direct and indirect fire. Using the WZF 2/1 angled periscope, the vehicle could deliver accurate fire out to 4km with the Pz.Gr.43 and 8km with the Spr.Gr. L/5.0, although the original plan for indirect fire had been dropped along the way. The Jagdtiger was now just a direct-fire vehicle. Production vehicles were fitted with the Sfl.14Z and WZF 217 sights for the primary armament. Test firings of the 12.8cm gun showed the accuracy to be excellent with the Pz.Gr.43 achieving hits within 50% of the width and height of the target between 46cm and 86cm of the centre at 1000m, and between 90 cm and 118 cm at 2000 m. This was slightly worse for the standard AP shell with an accuracy of 128 cm to 134 cm of the centre of the target at 2000 m.
Other than extending the hull, the suspension and running gear of the Jagdtiger was essentially unchanged from the Tiger II. It consisted of full width torsion bars for each of the nine wheel stations fitted with 800 mm diameter steel wheels running over 80 mm wide tracks with 95 links per side and a ground clearance of 460 mm.
One curiosity for many is that two early Jagdtigers (hulls 1 and 4) were fitted with the Porsche running gear from the Elefant for the purposes of evaluation after Dr. Porsche had convinced Hitler of the benefits of his suspension in January 1944. Consisting of four wheel-units made from a pair of 700 mm diameter steel road wheels on each side, the Porsche system offered a production advantage over the Henschel running gear. Porsche promised than it took a third less time to produce than Henschel’s system, reduced the hull construction time as well as machining time, required less maintenance, and could actually be completely replaced in the field without removing other parts and without the use of a jack.
Despite the use of Porsche suspension, the system still used torsion bars – 1,077 mm long bars – but these were mounted longitudinally rather than transversely across the hull, and had pairs of wheels connected on a bogie attached to the bar. This reduced the number of bars to just 4 with two pairs of wheels on each bar, and in so doing, saved about 1,200 kg in weight, 450 man-hours of work time, gained 100 mm more ground clearance, and saved RM 404,000 (Reichsmarks) in cost. Much more importantly though, the use of this suspension freed up space inside the vehicle, an entire cubic metre extra in fact.
However, this Porsche system was not adopted and only ten of the chassis were ever fitted with this system. The promise it held for improvements were simply not borne out by trials held in May 1944, and it failed to live up to the desired performance. In particular, it resulted in a lot of shaking on a hard road when driven at 14-15 km/h. Initially, this was blamed on the Type Gg 24/800/300 tracks, and as a result, these were switched for the Type Kgs 64/640/130 tracks from the Elefant, but to no avail. With testing behind it having proven unsuccessful, the Porsche system was abandoned and the Henschel system was retained instead. As a result, by September 1944, only production of the Henschel suspension Jagdtigers was underway.
The transmission for the Jagdtiger was the same standard gearbox as on the Tiger II, a Maybach eight-speed OLVAR OG40-1216B (made by Adlerwerke of Frankfurt and Zahnradfabrik of Friedrichshafen) connected to the same Maybach HL 230 P30 TRM as fitted to the Tiger II and Panther. This engine was simply underpowered for a vehicle of the bulk of the Tiger II, let alone this even heavier Jagdtiger. One option which was still at the planning stage by the end of the war was the replacement of that Maybach engine with a 16-cylinder X engine made by Simmering-Pauker.
Delivering up to 800 horsepower*, this 36.5 litre* engine would have provided a significant performance boost for the Jagdtiger, and for that matter, potentially for the Tiger II and Panther as well. The engine had the added advantage that it was more compact than the HL230 and well suited to the tight confines of a tank’s engine bay. The most noticeable change adding this engine to the Jagdtiger would have made would have been seen at the back with the exhaust near to the top of the back plate. The engine was never fitted and how far along plans were to incorporate it into production is unknown.
*some sources provide data for the X16 engine as 36.5 litre producing up to 760 hp and there is also an 18 cylinder version although data on both is often contradictory.
From the end of 1944 onwards, the exteriors of Jagdtigers produced at Nibelungen were painted in a red anti-corrosion primer which was then painted over in varying quality with dark yellow and green. The interiors which had previously been painted an ivory colour were left in the red primer colour instead to save time. Camouflage was left to units to apply in the field once they had received their vehicles.
The first user of the Jagdtiger was supposed to be 3rd Company Panzerjäger Training Abteilung 130, which was scheduled to receive 14 vehicles in March 1944, with two assigned to company staff and the three platoons receiving four each. Due to delays in production, that plan did not materialize and instead, the first user became Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 653 (s.Pz. Jg.Abt. 653), which had previously been operating the Elefant. By the end of November 1944, this unit had received 16 Jagdtigers.
1st Company s.Pz.Jg.Abt.653 took 14 Jagdtigers to the Western Front in December 1944 for the planned offensive in the Ardennes. Back on 3rd November 1944, these 14 Jagdtigers had been earmarked to form part of 3rd Company s.SS.Pz.Abt.501, but this was revoked by Hitler the next day. As it was, the 14 Jagdtigers were sent, but due to rail transportation issues resulting from Allied bombing, only 6 Jagdtigers managed to get to a staging area behind the lines at Blankenheim and took no part in the offensive. On 23rd December 1944, they were withdrawn as the entire s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 was being redeployed in order to take part in Operation Nordwind (Eng: Northwind).
On New Years Eve 1944, three Jagdtigers of s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 under the command of Commander Major Fromme and subordinated to the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division ‘Gotz von Berlichingen’, 1st Army of Army Group G, took part in the operation. This unit saw sporadic action against American forces in the Schwenningen-Chiemsee area of Southern Germany but the successes were minor and after just a few days the unit was disbanded. At around this time, s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 had a listed strength of just six Jagdtigers on 4th January 1945. By 9th January 1945, s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 was down to just two Jagdtigers in operational condition in the area of Boppard, where there was a repair depot, albeit without cranes. Of note on maintenance is that in the period from 30th December 1944 to 26th April 1945, s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 had a peak of 41 Jagdtigers with a peak operational readiness of 38 out of 41 on 15th March 1945 and its lowest operational readiness on 22nd March with just 2 out of 33 Jagdtigers operational.
Two Jagdtigers of s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 took part in combat near to an enemy bunker line adjacent to the German town of Auenheim on 17th January 1945. Attached to XIV SS Army Corps, they were used for fire support for an infantry attack. The next day, they were in action again against American forces and the German report on their action showed that their accuracy at 1,000 m against the enemy bunker was excellent, and after just two shots, the armored cupola of the bunker was burning. When the Americans counterattacked with tanks, one Sherman was hit and knocked out by means of a high explosive shell. In total, these two Jagdtigers fired 56 shells (46 HE and 10 Anti-tank) and suffered no losses to enemy fire. The unit did lose at least one Jagdtiger in this period though; it was later captured by US forces after having been abandoned in working order.
On 5th February 1945, s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 had 22 Jagdtigers ready for action and a further 19 under repair when it supported the left flank of First Army of Army Group G in action in the region of the Drusenheimer Forest near to the French/German border. Whatever tactical successes the unit may have had however were at odds with the totally hopeless strategic position, and on 5th May 1945, the remaining Jagdtigers of s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 surrendered to Allied forces near Amstetten, where Soviet and American forces had met. One Jagdtiger surrendered here was subsequently taken back to the Soviet Union and remains in the collection at Kubinka.
The other user of the Jagdtiger was s.Pz.Abt.512, formed 11th February 1945 at Paderborn from the remnants of s.Pz.Abt.424 (formerly s.Pz.Abt.501) and with troops from s.Pz.Abt.511. Forty-two Jagdtigers were destined for this unit consisting of 10 for each of three companies (30), one for each of the company commanders (3), and one for each platoon commander (9), and it was expected to be fully operational by the beginning of March 1945.
1st company s.Pzj. Abt. 512 under the command of Oberleutnant Ernst had only half its nominal complement of 12 Jagdtigers when it engaged US forces at the Remagen bridgehead. These six tanks first retreated to the area of Siegen and then on through the Ludenscheid-Hagen area to the Ergste region, and then once more to relieve German forces at Unna.
2nd Company, under the Command of Oberleutnant Carius, was shipped by rail to the area of Siegburg where it fought alongside LIII Panzer Corps. Two vehicles were lost and 2nd Company retreated along the Sieg when two more were lost to enemy air attacks. There were two further losses in combat around Siegen and Weidenau to mechanical failure.
On 11th April 1945, 2nd Company, which had only been cleared for combat on 30th March, was involved in the defence of Unna against the 1st and 9th US Armies advancing on Paderborn. The five Jagdtigers of the unit stood no chance of halting the American advance. 2nd Company was at a strength of just 7 Jagdtigers by the time of its surrender on 15th April. The 1st and 3rd Companies of s.Pzj. Abt. 512 fared no better and surrendered on 16th April at Iserlohn. In its short existence the unit had achieved relatively little, although 1st Company was credited with the destruction of 16 enemy tanks in the region south of Unna alone, meaning in one way that these vehicles were eclipsing their Allied rivals, albeit too little and far too late for Germany.
Nine Jagdtigers of s.Pz.Jg.Abt.512 remained in Austria though and were put to use by the 6th SS Panzer Army. On 9th May 1945, they engaged Soviet tank forces and destroyed several enemy tanks before they abandoned their last two serviceable vehicles and retreated towards the Americans to surrender to them rather than the Soviets. An unknown number of Jagdtigers were also used in the region of the Harz Mountains at the end of the war.
The fate of many Jagdtigers was simply to be abandoned or blown up by their own crews. Maintenance was a huge issue as the already overstressed components intended for the Tiger II were stretched yet further with the additional 10 tonnes from this vehicle. A lack of spare parts, a lack of maintenance equipment such a heavy recovery vehicles, cranes, and specialist tools combined with inexperienced crews (especially drivers) meant that the Jagdtiger never reached its potential on the battlefield. The value of the vehicle is also questionable. Big, heavy, and labor intensive, the Jagdtiger cost the equivalent of two Panzer IVs to construct and on the battlefield they failed to provide a return on this enormous investment worthy of their cost. The consideration of bigger guns like the L/70 when the L/55 was sufficient for the work at hand, the changing between suspension types at the start of production, and the rush to get the Jagdtiger into service stand in contrast to what it achieved. The largest and heaviest tank to see service in WW2 simply failed to perform. The expectations placed upon it as some kind of panacea to fundamental failings in German military strategy, where bigger and heavier tanks with bigger and more powerful guns could stem the tide of Allied armor attacking Germany from both sides, were misplaced. Worse still, the resources it consumed were actually counterproductive to Germany’s war aims. Nonetheless, the Jagdtiger remains a powerful symbol of both the technical advances and also the limits on German industry in a wartime economy.
Jagdtiger #305004 fitted with Porsche suspension – The Tank Museum, Bovington, UK
Jagdtiger #305020 fitted with Henschel suspension – Fort Benning, Georgia, USA
Jagdtiger #305083 fitted with Henschel suspension – Kubinka Tank Museum, Kubinka
Jagdtiger in a ‘Dunkelgelb’ scheme.
Jagdtiger in a 3-tone camoflauge scheme
Jagdtiger 331 of 3rd Kompanie, Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653, Germany, March 1945
Jagdtiger 102, Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653, Germany, March 1945
These illustrations were produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.
|Dimensions (L-w-h)||10.654 x (including gun) x 3.625 x 2.945 meters|
|Total weight, battle ready||72.5 tonnes (Porsche suspension) 73.5 tonnes (Henschel suspension)|
|Crew||6 (Driver, Radio operator/hull machine gunner, Commander, Gunner, 2 Loaders)|
|Propulsion||Maybach HL230 P30 TRM 700hp Petrol engine|
|Suspensions||Double torsion bars and interleaved wheels|
|Speed (late model)||38 km/h (road)|
|Armament||12.8 cm PaK 44 L/55 -7° to +15° elevation, traverse 10° R and 10° L|
|Armor||Glacis: 150mm at 50 deg.
Hull Front (Lower): 100mm at 50 deg.
Hull Front (Roof): 50mm
Hull Sides (Lower) 80mm (vertical)
Hull Sides (Upper & Casemate): 80mm at 25 deg.
Hull Rear 80mm at 30 deg.
Casemate (Roof): 40mm
Casemate (Front): 250mm at 15 deg.
Casemate (Rear) 80mm at 5 deg
Engine Deck: 40mm
Floor (Front): 40mm
Floor (Rear): 25mm
|For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index|
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Spielberger, W., Doyle, H., Jentz, T. (2007). Heavy Jagdpanzer: Development, Production, Operations. Schiffer Military History, PA, USA
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Winninger, M. (2013). OKH Toy Factory. History Facts Publishing
Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3
The third issue covers WW1 armored vehicles — Hotchkiss Htk46 and Schneider CA and CD in Italian Service. WW2 section contains two splendid stories of the US and German ‘Heavy Armor’ — T29 Heavy Tank and Jagdtiger.
Our Archive section covers the history of early requirements for the Soviet heavy (large) tank. Worth mentioning, that the article is based on documents never published before.
It also contains a modeling article on how to create a terrain for diorama. And the last article from our colleagues and friends from Plane Encyclopedia covers the story of Northrop’s Early LRI Contenders — N-126 Delta Scorpion, N-144 and N-149!
All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you!