The German heavy tank of choice during World War II, the Tiger was a formidable adversary, bringing massive armour and firepower to the theatre of war.
Along with the Panzer, the Tiger is one of the most iconic German tanks of the Second World War. A monster conglomeration of metal and man, built to puncture holes in allied forces from the snowy plains of Russia, through the rolling countryside of France, to the dusty desert plains of North Africa, the Tiger was feared and rightly so, as it was an efficient and powerful killer. It was armed with a 8.8cm main gun, capable of firing rounds that not only tore through enemy armour but also carried highly explosive tips which literally ripped man and machine in two.
On top of all this, it also sported armour that was impregnable at wide firing angles and distances and was driven by commanders who had already proved themselves in warfare. It was due to these attributes that Tiger tanks accounted for thousands of allied kills.
Central to the Tiger’s success was the radical change in its design philosophy. Switching from the traditional all-rounder designs of earlier German tanks, the Tiger was built with a focus on massive armour and firepower at the expense of manoeuvrability.
This gave the Tiger the stopping power to pierce any armour the allied forces brought to the field of war, while also greatly minimizing the probability of having its own armour broken. In fact, with 100mm (3.9″) frontal hull armour, as well as the basically impregnable 120mm (4.7″) frontal turret armour, attempting to take on a Tiger from the front was almost impossible. Indeed, historically in order to take out a Tiger allied forces were often forced to flank it so they could target the weaker side and rear armour, as well as getting as close as possible to maximize the chance of piercing it.
On the other hand, the firepower that this new breed of tank gave the German forces meant it didn’t need anywhere near that level of refinement in order to score a hit. The Krupp-made 8.8cm KwK 36 L/56 gun allowed German gunners to hit targets well over 1,100 metres away no bigger than 50cm3. In fact, reports from the time indicate that Tigers took out numerous allied tanks at a range of over a mile (1,600 metres), thanks to their gun’s flat trajectory and expulsion of rounds at high velocity. Ammunition types could be varied too, allowing the gunner to load the Tiger’s main gun with rounds to suit most situations, be that highly explosive anti-tank shells, armour piercing rounds or anti-infantry incendiary shrapnel rounds.
Of course, as we know from the unfolding of history, the Tiger’s dominance was short lived. This was due to multiple factors but mainly stemmed from its costly production – limiting the amount of units that were actually produced compared to its contemporaries -and also its poor mobility over certain types of terrain. Indeed, the Tiger was often too heavy for bridges and therefore had to drive through shallow rivers and gullies, a dangerous process considering the fragile nature of its multi-wheel, interlapped design, as in cold weather water, snow and mud often jammed them badly. Of course, the final nail in the T-34’s coffin was at the close of the war, when much of Germany’s armaments were destroyed post defeat.
Top 3 deadliest tanks of WW2
1. Tiger – Twice as long in production than either the M26 or Iosif Stalin, the Tiger was one of the most technically advanced, and deadliest, tanks of the age.
2. M26 Pershing – The American counterpart to the Tiger, the M26 Pershing was produced during WWII. It was lighter and quicker than the Tiger, with an impressive M3 90mm gun.
3. Iosif Stalin – The Russian equivalent of the Tiger, the Iosif Stalin evolved through numerous iterations throughout WWII. The tank sported a massive D25-T 122mm gun and was very light.