In the WWII history, the German Tiger tanks include two categaries of heavy tanks:
- Tiger I, often shortened to Tiger, officially known as Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E (Production time: 1942-1944).
- Tiger II, often shortened to King Tiger, officially known as Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B (Production time: 1943-1945).
The development of heavy tanks, which eventually became the Tiger I, started in Germany as early as 1937. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the appearance of the formidable Soviet T-34 and KV tanks on the Eastern Front accelerated the development of Tiger I tank.
The Tiger’s predecessors balanced mobility, armour and firepower. The Tiger I emphasised firepower and armour. On May 26, 1941, Hitler decided that the extremely effective 8.8 cm Flak 41 should be installed on Tiger I as main guns. However, because of the challenge to mount the 8.8 cm Flak 41 in the turret, the 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 was adopted, which is also deadly accurate and powerful, capable of first round hits at a range exceeding 1000 m.
Armour plates of Tiger I were completely made of maraging steel, which is known for possessing superior strength and toughness. The frontal armour of Tiger I is 100 mm thick, while the armour of the sides is 60 mm thick. The top and bottom armour is 25 mm thick. The turret of Tiger I is outfitted with a motor to traverse quickly to engage targets, with the maximum speed being 360 deg in 60 seconds. Fine adjustment is made manually using hand traverse and elevation wheels.
Tiger I measures 6.3 m long, 3.7 m wide, and 3.0 m high, with 5 crews. It weighs 56.9 tons. The engine drives front sprockets. The suspension used 16 torsion bars, with eight suspension arms on each side. The road wheels’ diameter is 80 cm. To support the considerable weight of the Tiger, the tracks are 72.5 cm wide. It typically takes 20 min to change tracks. The suspensions and gearboxes reached their design limits.
Every Tiger I cost as much as two Panzer IV tanks or four Sturmgeschütz III to build. Because of its high cost, only 1,347 Tiger I tanks were produced during WWII. (From August 1942 to August 1944. After August 1944, the production of Tiger I was replaced by King Tiger).
(Taigen 1/16 Advanced Metal Tiger I. The picture was taken by TankArmy.com in Australia on July 7, 2012.)
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