One of the most feared weapons of World War II, the King Tiger Tank (also known as Tiger Tank II) donned an almost impenetrable front armor. Produced by Henschel, the King Tiger was introduced into action on the Eastern Front in May of 1944. This tank design housed a crew of five. The main gun specification of the King Tiger was to be a variation of the 88mm anti-aircraft gun, capable of destroying enemy tanks from a great distance. The velocity of this gun was about 1000m a second when firing an amour piercing round. The gun’s accuracy allowed it to pierce 150mm of metal armor even if the tank’s position was more than 2 kilometers away from the intended target. The shell’s ability to travel at about 2200m in an estimated 2.2 seconds (and sometimes even faster) meant this tank had the capability to destroy enemy tanks from a distance, keeping the Tiger out of enemy range.
The King Tiger Tank was not without its problems. Underpowered like many of the World War II heavy tanks, the engines consumed a lot of fuel at a time when it was in short supply for the Germans. The shortage was a direct result of the allies’ bombing the German fuel tanks. The fuel consumption problem was exacerbated at the Battle of the Bulge. Here, the Tigers first appeared to do quite well, but subsequently, they literally ran out of fuel. Soldiers were forced to abandon their tanks and walk back to their lines.
In addition, despite an order to manufacture 1500 King Tiger Tanks, production was greatly hindered due to the allies’ bombing of the factories. Other problems encountered by the Tiger series included their track system, leaking seals and gaskets, and the overburdened drivetrain initially developed for a lighter vehicle. The double radius steering gear was also known for being prone to failure.
By the end of World War II, tanks were finally being developed that, at long last, surpassed the Tiger. Today, the only operable example of the infamous King Tiger from WWII (including the production turret) is on display in the Musée des Blindés, Saumur, France and is accessible to the public.