The Panzerkampfwagen VI, commonly known as Tiger I, was a World War II German tank that entered service with the Wehrmacht in late 1942. It was the most feared and most lethal armoured vehicle of the war. Because of its powerful 88-mm, high-velocity gun and thick armor, it was deemed the best tank of this armed conflict. It took ten Sherman tanks to destroy a Tiger. Shells fired from 75mm artillery guns simply bounced off of the side of the tank, and, in the hands of German tank aces such as Michael Wittmann and Kurt “Panzer” Meyer, it was even more lethal, acquiring an aura of invincibility. This German tank saw combat action for the first time on September 23, 1942, in the Leningrad Campaign.
The Tiger I tank was designed by Ferdinand Porsche in 1942 to overcome the Soviet T-34 threat and manufactured by Henschel from 1942 to 1945, with 1,355 units produced in that period of time. It weighed 57 tons, measured 7.26 m in length, 3.75 m in width, and 3 m in height. It had a crew of 5 men; commander, gunner, loader, machine gun operator, and driver. The Tiger Ausf.E frontal hull armor was 100mm thick and the frontal turret armor 110-mm thick, as opposed to the 80 mm frontal hull and 50 mm frontal turret armor of the Panzer IV. On the sides and rear, the armor was 80-mm thick. At the beginning the top and bottom armor was 25mm thick, but later, it was thickened to 40 mm. The armor used was high-quality interlocking steel plates, which were stepped and welded rather than riveted.
Drawing showing the ammunition storage distribution in the Tiger I
The Tiger tank was powered by a 12-cylinder, 641 hp, Maybach HL210 P45 engine, which could reach a maximum speed of 24 mph, and had an operational range of 120 miles. It had a Maybach-Olvar hydraulically-controlled gearbox. The Tiger I was armed with an 88 mm KwK gun, which had a flat trajectory and extremely accurate Zeiss Turmzielfernrohr TZF 9b sights and could hit a target at 2,000 m away, and two 7.92mm MG-34 machine guns. This 88mm gun used armor-piercing capped ballistic cap, armor-piercing composite rigid, and high explosive anti-tank amunition. The Soviet T-34 equipped with the 76.2 mm gun could not penetrate the Tiger frontally at any range, and could only achieve a side penetration at approximately 500 m firing the BR-350P APCR ammunition, but that rarely happened as the Tiger could knock out the T-34 tank at 1,000 m.
Panzerkampfwagen VI, Tiger I, footage