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Panzer VI Tiger Ausf. H1

After years of research for a heavy next generation tank, German designers were eventually required to quickly produce one by Hitler’s 53rd birthday in April 1942. It would be armed with the most powerful German gun, the 88mm, which was used both as a heavy anti-aircraft gun and as an anti-tank gun. Two prototypes were ready for Hitler’s birthday, and one, by Henschel, was selected for production. Officially marked Panzer VI, it was the first German tank which was given a name, they named it Tiger.

1350 Tigers were produced between August 1942 and August 1944, when production shifted to the heavier and even more powerful Tiger II, which was named King Tiger.

There were only two variants of the Tiger, a gunless command tank, and a strange heavy rockets launcher version of which only 10 were produced. The gunless command tank was equipped with a winch for its secondary role of tank tow, a sign of the many technical problems that caused the loss of many German tanks.

The Tiger was an outstanding design. Many modern tanks are remote descendants of it. It had an extremely powerful gun and matching optics, which allowed it to kill every other tank from a longer range. It had very thick armor which made it almost indestructible from front. But it was also very complex for production and maintenance, unlike its American and Russian enemies which were mass produced in great numbers and were very reliable in the field.

Its complex suspension wheels system, designed to carry its heavy weight, could get stuck with stones and even with mud, a severe problem for a tank. This was particularly severe in the Russian winter, where frozen mud totally immobilized Tigers during the night, making them sitting ducks in the morning, when the Russians attacked. It also had two sets of tracks, one for roads and one for the field and combat, an even greater complexity.

The Tiger was a heavy tank (55 tons) with a crew of five. It carried 84 rounds for its killer 88mm gun, and was also armed with two machine guns, one coaxial and one above the front hull, with almost 6000 rounds. It was slower than other tanks and had a road range of just 100km, which was an increasing problem as Germany’s fuel supply was decimated towards the end of the war, but in the battlefield its firepower and protection were unmatched.

PzKpfw VI Tiger Ausf. H1

PzKpfw VI Tiger Ausf. H1

PzKpfw VI Tiger Ausf. H1

PzKpfw VI Tiger Ausf. H1

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