The Tiger II was a heavy tank used by the German Army (Wehrmacht) during the Second World War, successor of the more famous Tiger I. It was unofficially nicknamed Königstiger ("Bengal tiger") by the Germans and King Tiger or Royal Tiger by the Allies. Here are some information about its history.
Its main armament was one of the most powerful of the time for an armoured vehicle, being an 88 mm (3.46 in) KwK 43, with a length of 71 calibers (that is, around 6.3 m or 20.5 ft), the same used by the tank destroyers Nashorn, Jagdpanther and Elefant: it was capable of taking out every allied tank from a distance of 2.5 km (1.6 mi), well beyond the range they could pose a threat. The secondary armament consisted in two MG 34 7.92 mm (0.31 in) machine guns, one coaxial to the main gun and the other in the frontal hull.
The armour varied in thickness from 25 mm (0.98 in) of the hull bottom to the 150 mm (5.9 in) of the hull front, reaching 185 mm (7.3 in) in the turret front. Unlike its predecessor, Tiger II's armour was sloped, thus increasing its actual thickness and the possibility that the incoming shots would ricochet on it. This made the tank virtually invulnerable from the front, whereas it could be still attacked from the sides and the rear. Moreover, the weld seams tended to break if hit, and due to the lower quality of late-war steel alloys, a shot even if not penetrating could still project a number of fragments from the opposite side of the armour plate (spalling), thus heavily injuring the crew.
The overall weight was almost 70 tonnes, which caused in the early models a big strain to the gear and the suspensions. Nonetheless the tank was quite agile compared to the contemporary models. The power plant was the same used for the Tiger I, a 23-litres Maybach V12 petrol engine, providing 690 hp of power, not enough for such weight and too much fuel-thirsty. It could move the vehicle to a velocity of about 40 km/h (25 mph) on road and 15-20 km/h (9-12 mph) cross-country, with a range respectively of 170 km (105 mi) and 120 km (74.5 mi).
The vehicle was designed in 1943 and produced from 1944 to the end of the conflict. Its official designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B and its ordnance inventory number was Sd.Kfz. 182. Only 492 were built, due both to the high cost and complexity of the production, requiring a big amount of work hours to assemble it, and to the heavy Allied bombings on the manufacturing plants.
The Tiger II fought both in the Western and the Eastern fronts, organized into heavy tank battalions (schwere Panzer-Abteilungen). Its first combat use was in Normandy in July 1944. Today less than a dozen survive; the only one in running conditions is on display at Musée des Blindés in Saumur, France.