No sooner was the Tiger in production than the decision was taken to develop an even better armed and armoured version, especially to counter any vehicle that the Soviets could introduce in the future. Once again Henschel and Porsche were asked to prepare designs. Porsche first designed a tank based on the earlier VK 4501 design and armed with a 15-cm (5.9-in) gun. This was rejected in favour of a new design with a turret-mounted 88mm (3.46-in) gun, which was soon cancelled as its electric transmission used too much copper, which at that time was in short supply. By this time the turrets were already in production and these were subsequently fitted to ear
ly-production Henschel tanks. The VK 4503(H) Henschel design was completed in October 1943, somewhat later than anticipated as a decision was taken to incorporate components of the projected Panther II tank.
Production of the Tiger II, or Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger II Ausf B (SdKfz 182) to give its correct designation, got under way at Kassel in December 1943 alongside the Tiger, the first 50 production vehicles being completed with the Porsche turret. All subsequent tanks had the Henschel turret, and a total of 485 vehicles was built.
The Tiger II first saw action on the Eastern Front in May 1944 and on the Western Front in Normandy in August of the same year, the Western Allies calling it the Royal Tiger or King Tiger while the Germans called it the Königstiger (King Tiger).
In many respects the Tiger II was similar in layout to the Panther tank, and was powered by the same engine as later production Panthers, resulting in a much lower power-to-weight ratio, and the tank was therefore much slower and less mobile than the Panther. While its armour gave almost complete protection against all of the guns fitted to Allied tanks, the Tiger II was unreliable and its bulk made it difficult to move about the battlefield and to conceal. Many were abandoned or destroyed by their crews when they ran out of fuel and no additional supplies were to hand.
The hull of the Tiger II was of allwelded construction with a maximum thickness of 150 mm (5,9 in) in the front of the hull. The driver was seated at the front on the left, with the bow machinegunner/radio operator to his right. The turret was of welded construction with a maximum thickness of 100mm (3,9 in) at the front, and accommodated the commander and gunner on the left with the loader on the right. The engine was at the hull rear. Main armament comprised a long-barrelled 88mm (3.46-in) KwK 43 gun that could fire armour-piercing and HE ammunition, the former having a much higher muzzle velocity than the equivalent round fired by the Tiger. A 7.92-mm (0.31-in) MG 34 was mounted co-axial with the main armament, and another weapon was mounted in the hull front. Totals of 84 rounds of 88-mm (3.46-in) and 5,850 rounds of 7.92-mm (0.31-in) machinegun ammunition were carried. The Tiger II chassis was also used as the basis for the Jagdtiger B, which was armed with a 128-mm (5.04-in) gun in a new superstructure with limited traverse; only 48 of these powerful tank destroyers had been built by the end of the war.
Specification PzKpfw VI Tiger II Ausf B Crew: 5 Weight: 69700 kg (153,660 lb) Dimensions: length (including armament) 10.26 m (33 ft 8 in); length (hull) 7,26 m (23 ft 9.75 in); width 3,75 m (12 ft 3.5 in); height 3.09 m(10 ft 1.5 in) Powerplant: one Maybach HL 230 P 30 12-cylinder petrol engine developing 700 hp (522 kW) Performance: maximum road speed 38 km/h (24 mph); maximum road range 110 km (68 miles); fording 1.6m (5 ft 3 in); gradient 60 per cent; vertical obstacle 0.85 m (2 ft 10 in); trench 2.50 m (8 ft 2 in)