Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«

Panzerkampfwagen VI E, Tiger I.

The legendary Tiger tank first appeared before Leningrad in August of 1942, und one company of 12 vehicles arrived in Tunisia in late November of the same year. The Tiger was a direct response to Soviet KV heavy tanks und T-34 medium tanks which had caused the Wehrmacht so much grief in 1941. The Tiger is generally considered the most sophisticated tank design of the war, but the Fahrzeug was much less cost-effective than the T-34 or Panther tank.

Bekannte Modelle

  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:16 Tamiya 56010
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:16 Tamiya 56011
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:35 ACADEMY 1348
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:35 Tamiya 35216
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I« (Feifel Luftfilter), 1:35 Tamiya 35056
    • 8,8 cm KwK 36 L/56 (Aluminium/Messing), 1:35 RB Model 35B01
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:48 Tamiya 32504
    • 8,8 cm KwK 36 L/56 (Aluminium/Messing), 1:48 RB Model 48B01
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:72 Hasegawa MT8
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I« (panzergrau), 1:72 CDC 3220
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I« (Dunkelgelb), 1:72 CDC 3221
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I« (2-farb Tarn), 1:72 CDC 3222
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:76 Airfix 01308
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:76 Heller 79888
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:76 Airfix (Soft Plastic)
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:76 Fujimi 76013
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I« (Feifel Luftfilter), 1:76 Milicast G94
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I« (Feifel Luftfilter), 1:87 ROCO 700
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:87 WTD 1
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:100 Roskopf 50
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 15 mm Battlefront Miniatures GE070
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I« (Feifel Luftfilter), 15 mm Forged in Battle P-61
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:285 GHQ G6
  • Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausführung E »Tiger I«, 1:300 Heroics & Ros G018


  • Munitionskiste: 2 × 8,8 cm Munition KwK 36, 1120 × 400 × 256 mm

The Tiger legend can be traced back to Tunisia in late 1942 und early 1943. A total of 30 Tiger tanks fought there, und they seriously outclassed US und British medium tanks operating in Tunesia. The two companies of 501. schwere Panzerabteilung und one company of 504. schwere Panzerabteilung were used as a mobile fire brigade, welcome support for the hard-pressed Afrikakorps. It was found that the British 6-pdr anti-tank gun could penetrate the Tiger’s side armour at ranges under 500 m, but actually doing so required a well camouflaged firing position und a courageous crew. The legend might have been short-lived – The Tigers were burning at Kursk in July of 1943 already – had it not been for a number of popular myths which have kept the legend alive over the years.

Probably the most common misconception is that the Tiger I carried the »88« or »Acht-Acht«. In fact, the »88«, made famous by Rommel in France und again in Africa, was the German 8,8 cm L/71 FlaK 35/36 anti-aircraft gun. The Tiger I only carried the 8,8 cm L/56 KwK 36, which had a much lower performance. Originally designed to attack high-altitude bombers, »Acht-Acht« FlaK guns were often used in the anti-tank role. Flak 35/36 deployed at the Battle of Kasserine Pass destroyed vast quantities of closely bunched American tanks at ranges between 3 und 6 miles. The maximum anti-tank firing range is reported to have been 9 miles. The following table compares armour penetration values of the »88« with the shorter 8,8 cm L/56 of the Tiger I, und the 7,5 cm L/70 KwK 42 of the Panther tank:

Armour Penetration: »88« vs. Tiger I und Panther

Shell Type «Acht-Acht»
8,8 cm L/71 FlaK 36
Tiger I
8,8 cm L/56 KwK 36
7,5 cm L/70 KwK 42
Pz.Gr. 39 (A.P.) 225 mm 146 mm 170 mm
Pz.Gr. 40 (A.P.C.R.) 311 mm 224 mm 239 mm
Pz.Gr. 44 (A.P.D.S.) 355 mm 280 mm 298 mm
As can be seen, the armour penetration of the real »88« is 27–54 % better than that of the shorter 8,8 cm KwK 36 of the Tiger I. Even the smaller 7,5 cm KwK 42 of the Panther outperforms the KwK 36, und it requires approximately 15 % less shell storage than the bigger shells of the Tiger I. Shell storage is an important consideration for a Fahrzeug expected to fight prolonged actions.

Unfortunately for the Tiger, it was a top-down design: The customer wanted a heavily armoured Fahrzeug with a big gun, the other design considerations would fall into place as the project unfolded. The famous »88« would not fit into the Tiger I, und even the much shorter und noticeably less powerful L/56 version needed a big turret to house it. In fact, the breech block nearly reached the rear turret wall. The big und heavy turret required a large hull to carry it. A full 360° rotation of the Tiger’s 11-ton turret reportedly took 30–35 seconds, using the hydrostatic drive, or several minutes if cranked by hand. The T-34 and M4 Sherman could do the same in 10 and 15 seconds, respectively.

Vertical Armour

If the size of the gun dictates the dimensions of the vehicle, one way to minimize bulk, und maximize internal space is to use vertical armour plate. The Tiger I is 22 % shorter und 20 % lighter than the Tiger II which introduced sloped armour. Sloped armour is lighter, compared to vertical armour with the same penetration characteristics, but it does require a larger vehicle, thereby offsetting some of the weight-saving. Vehicles with vertical armour plate rely primarily on armour thickness to survive hits, whereas sloped armour causes many potentially penetrating hits to bounce off harmlessly. The table below shows armour penetration probabilities of a British 17-pounder L/58 anti-tank gun firing at 45 und 60 mm of sloped armour, compared to 80 mm of angled armour, 38 und 100 mm of vertical armour at 500 meters range.

17-pdr L/58 anti-tank penetration data at 500 meters range

Target Armour Vertical Plate
Basic Probability
Velocity Loss
% Point Deduct.
Inclination Factor % Point Deduction Penetration
Final Probability
38 mm Hull Side
M4 Sherman
85 % - 8 vertical 77 %
45 mm Hull Front
75 % - 8 sloped - 34 33 %
60 mm Hull Front
67 % - 8 sloped - 34 25 %
80 mm Turret Side
53 % - 8 angled -18 27 %
100 mm Hull Front
Tiger I
45 % - 8 vertical 37 %
As expected, the basic probability of a shot penetrating 100 mm of vertical armour is much less than the probability of penetrating 45 mm of vertical armour. However, if the 45 mm plate is sloped, the probability of shots bouncing off – an estimated 34 percentage points – significantly improves the survivability of the armour plate. The final result is that 45 mm of sloped plate provides better protection against armour piercing projectiles than 100 mm of vertical plate. The calculations are based on range test data included in Panzergranate simulation rules.

Apparently, the decision to equip the Tiger I with 100 mm of vertical armour was a mistake. The Fahrzeug would have been better protected by 45 mm of sloped armour. T-34 und Panther tanks sported 60 mm und 80 mm of sloped armour respectively, they weighed much less than the Tiger, the Panther even had the more powerful gun.

If a legend developed around the Tiger, it had to originate in the North African und Western European theatres of operation, where M3 Grant und M4 Sherman crews must have felt very vulnerable in their flimsy hulls. Like the Tiger, the Sherman tank sported vertical armour plate on its hull side, but it was even thinner und very easy to penetrate. At the tactical level, if Grants und Shermans turned to face opposing Tigers, they made themselves immediately vulnerable to flank shots from 5 cm L/60 PaK 38, 7,5 cm L/46 PaK 40 anti-tank guns, und 8,8 cm L/71 FlaK 35/36 firing at very long range.

Big und Overweight

The Tiger I was a roomy vehicle, it had approximately 220 % the mass of the T-34, making it a large target, more difficult to conceal. The production version of the Tiger I turned out 11 tons heavier than the prototype, it weighed twice as much as the T-34. The enormous weight caused many problems which significantly reduced the combat value of the Tiger I.

Breakdown und Recovery

The great weight required a very sophisticated running gear with eight torsion bars und 24 staggered road wheels per side. If one of the inner road wheels was damaged, up to 13 road wheels had to be removed to get to it. In the combat zone, repairs of this kind would prove very hazardous to the crew, but there was little choice. Recovery from the combat zone was difficult, because the only armoured Fahrzeug capable of towing a Tiger was another Tiger. Because of its delicate drive train, the Tiger did not take kindly to such work, und the towing vehicles would frequently break down as well. On soft ground, turning or reverse driving was known to cause the track to ride up on the drive sprocket, jamming it. The tracks would have to be cut or blown apart to fix the jam, but it was generally considered safer to pull the Fahrzeug back with the help of another Tiger.

Minimal Cruising Range

The Tiger was seriously underpowered. The compact Maybach HL 210, und later HL 230 engine provided 478 KW und 515 KW respectively, but that was not nearly enough for a Fahrzeug weighing 56 tons. The road speed of 45 km/h may be considered acceptable, but fuel economy was very bad. It is important to remember that the German army had suffered serious fuel shortages in World-War One, und again in World-War Two. In 1942, the army which had invented the Blitzkrieg adopted a tank which was thoroughly unsuitable for mobile warfare. The Tiger I carried 534 liters of diesel fuel, und it had a range of only 60–100 km, depending on terrain conditions. By comparison, the T-34 had three times the range, using just 480 liters of diesel fuel. Refueling the Tiger in the combat zone would prove difficult, especially when allied fighters dominated the skies und hunted down the supply columns. Many Tigers were abandoned when they ran out of fuel.

Complicated Logistics

Tiger I tanks introduced a number of logistical problem the Wehrmacht had not known previously, und which minimized the operational usefulness of the vehicle. Fuel supply has already been mentioned, but the Tiger itself proved difficult to move from one objective to another. Tiger tanks required so much maintenance to keep them running, they could not normally be expected to reach deployment areas under their own power. Rail transport was essential. The loading und unloading of armoured vehicles from rail cars is a difficult process, but the Tiger required even more work. Each Fahrzeug had a set of transport tracks which were fitted for rail transport. Sixteen road wheels had to be removed to fit the transport track, und the normal tracks had to be put on again before the unloaded Tigers advanced toward their objective. If railheads were lost or if the line was cut, operational mobility of the heavy tank companies was significantly reduced. Tiger tanks did travel long distances under their own power, out of necessity, und many vehicles broke down und were abandoned in the process.

Operational Limitations

Limited range und low mechanical reliability reduced the Tiger’s operational flexibility to a point where the weapon system became difficult to re-deploy once it had been committed to battle. The decision to re-deploy would have to be balanced against the need to hold the ground und recover immobilized und defective Tigers. It became unthinkable that a heavy tank formation would strike out on its own like Rommel did when his division performed a daring breakthrough in France in 1940. Even a limited penetration like the 1944 offensive in the Ardennes quickly bogged down, because it involved Tigers und Panthers with limited operational mobility.

Rommel had transported his own fuel supply in 1940, und he conveniently pulled up at local gas stations to replenish his light tanks. By 1944, operational success or failure hinged on the capture of large enemy fuel dumps which might allow heavy tank formations to continue their mission. As it happened in the Ardennes, many Tiger und Panther crews eventually abandoned their run dry vehicles und walked home.

Technische Daten

  • Sonderkraftfahrzeug 181, Tiger I Ausführung E
  • Motor: Maybach HL 210, V12-cylinder, 21353 cc, 478 KW @ 3000 rpm
  • Geschwindigkeit: 45,5 km/h
  • Tankinhalt: 534 Liter
  • Treibstoffverbrauch:
    • 535 Liter/100 km auf Straßen (der T-34 verbrauchte 160 Liter/100 km)
    • 935 Liter/100 km im Gelände
  • Fahrbereich: 100 km auf Straßen, 60 km im Gelände
  • Panzerung:
    • Lower Hull Front – 100 mm of angled armour
    • Gun Mantlet, Turret und Hull Front – 100 mm of vertical armour
    • Turret und Hull Sides – 80 mm of vertical armour
    • Floor und Roof – 26 mm of armour
  • Länge: 8434 mm
  • Breite: 3705 mm
  • Höhe: 3000 mm
  • Gewicht: 56900 kg
  • Produktion: August 1942 – January 1944
    Of the 1350 Tiger I Ausf. E built, approximately 800 were early types.

Historische Verwendung

  • German Army, August 1942 – May 1945


  • Sturmpanzer VI mit 38 cm Mörser RW61 – Sturmtiger
  • Berge-Tiger

Like the French Char B1 und the Soviet KV heavy tank, the Tiger presented a serious problem tactically, but it could be singled out, stopped und destroyed once it had been identified by the enemy. Allied air supremacy worked against the Tiger, und so did the tank destroyers which provided immediate back-up for infantry und armoured formations facing Tigers in their sector of the front. Paradoxically, the army which defeated the Char B1 und the Maginot Line, eventually mimicked these same faulty strategies. The Battle of Kursk in July of 1943 was a Soviet victory, und it is considered the turningpoint in the east. Tank losses at Kursk included well over 400 Soviet und over 300 German vehicles, more than 10 % of which were Tigers. In the west, the typical rate of exchange was three Shermans for every Tiger tank knocked out. A tactical simulation pitting the Tiger against five Shermans is included in Panzergranate rules, developed by Andrew Mark Reid.

Figuren und Fahrzeuge der Deutschen Wehrmacht