Wednesday, 3 January 2018

King Tiger Intel

"To chiefs of staff and unit commanders
Personally to the chief of operations.

September 8th, 1944

Attached is information on the new German heavy tank "King Tiger" (Konigstiger) and methods of combat against it.

The Army commander ordered that the information is to be distributed to all officers and tank/SPG crews.

Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, Colonel Ganshin
Chief of the Army Staff Office, Captain Romanovskiy

Report on the new German tank "King Tiger" (Konigstiger) and methods of combat against it

Elements of the 1st Ukrainian Front captured 4 King Tiger tanks near Szydłów, one of them in fully working order, on August 12th, 1944. Near Korozvenki, two more nonfunctional King Tiger tanks were captured.

Preliminary characteristics of the King Tiger are as follows:
  • Mass: heavy
  • Combat weight: 68 tons
  • Tank length with gun forward: 10.5 m
  • Width: 3.7 m
  • Armour:
    • Front: 180 mm
    • Side: 80 mm
    • Rear: 80 mm
    • Floor and roof: 40 mm
  • Armament:
    • One 88 mm gun
    • Two machineguns
  • Ammunition: 60 rounds
  • Engine: Maybach (gasoline)
  • Engine power: 600-650 hp
  • Top speed: 40 kph
  • Range:
    • Off-road: 100 km
    • Highway: 140 km
  • Suspension: torsion bar
  • Number of road wheels: 9 per side
  • Track link width: 800 mm
  • Radio: two, one of them for command use
  • Crew: 6
    • Commander
    • Gunner
    • Loader
    • Assistant driver, also radio operator
    • Driver
    • Radio operator/hull gunner
According to preliminary information, King Tiger tanks are used as breakthrough tanks by the Germans. For example: during fighting from August 12th to 15th, King Tiger tanks drove ahead of T-6 tanks, and several tanks were on the flanks.

The most prominent weaknesses and methods of combat against this tank are:
  • Use all methods applied against Tiger and Panther tanks in combat.
  • The weakest parts of the new tank are the gun, turret ring, suspension, rear armour, and turret roof.
  • The side armour of the hull and turret can be reliably penetrated by 50-76 mm guns, especially by 57, 85, 122, 152 mm guns, and IS tanks.
Conclusions: based on the main characteristics, it is clear that the King Tiger tank is a modernization of the T-6 "Tiger" tank, with front armour thickened from 100 to 180 mm, which increased the mass from 56 to 68 tons."


  1. Fine print at the bottom: Also knocks out even IS tanks clean from 2600 meters away.

    1. Not reliably it doesn't. 1500 meters a more accurate estimation for a reliable kill via a turret hit. That figure, and the figure for hull hits too, highly depends on what flavor of IS we're talking about.

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    3. You seem to be confused, there is no such note.

    4. Plus IS turret is not so homogenous in protection like Tiger and Panther one. In case of non angled or slightly angled turret front, PaK 42 and 43 must hit 950 mm wide turret section to penetrate it from close to bigger distances. That is from 2200 mm total width of the turret. In battle conditions where soviet tank move after performed shot, it takes a lot of shots even for PaK 43 to knock it at that distance.
      Sorry for stupid spamming, I made mistakes when I confused reply button and when I mesured Tamiya model casts.

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  3. Actually not so long ago there was a picture of an IS-2 knocked out via the turret from a Nashorn/Hornisse with the same 8,8/L70 not so long ago.

    1. I know exactly what picture you're talking about, but did you take notice of exactly *where* the turret hit/penetration was located?

      It's as Crabtree says. You have to hit about the area of a large postcard (about the size of a man's open hand, I'd say) to hit that vulnerable spot, 100 mm of rounded "cheek" armor with little slope, in front of the loader's position. Hit above and below that spot, and the shot likely ricochets due to the slope. Hit to the loader's right, you're now hitting 100 mm of highly sloped (> 60 degrees) side turret casting armor--another bounce.

      On the IS-2 mod 1944 as you go towards the gun, you hit 120 mm of mantlet + 80 mm of turret armor once you hit the mantlet, around the gun itself is a bracket with c. 230 mm--both likely bounces. Move to the armor in front of the gunner the armor thins down to about 80 mm + 80 mm. Yes, spaced armor like like 20 % less effective than a single plate, but there's also approximately a 20 % enhancement in the other direction for the rounding/slope, so the original thickness is about what you'd have to get through. And my table says the 88/L71 goes through 160 mm of armor (50 % chance) at 1500 m. That's probably your biggest, best, target and chance at that range.

      The IS-2 mod 1943 would be an easier kill for a turret hit, but you'd still have to hit the corresponding "postcard" in front of the gunner. There the mantlet is smaller and its armor not as thick, so a penetration there would be more likely, though you'd still get bounces due to slope at 1500 m.

      So, your chances at long range is all about hitting "postcard"-sized targets with a gun capable of only hitting targets within a diameter of about a meter-plus from the aiming point at 2000 meters (let alone 2600 meters). A takeout at that range is certainly possible, but it's definitely more a lucky hit rather than the expected result.

      Personally, in our (admittedly hypothetical and unrealistic) engagement of an equal number of Tiger IIs vs IS-2s I'd bet on the IS-2s. The IS-2s should keep the distance to about 2000 meters, where save for low-probability hits they're pretty safe, and hammer the Tigers with their powerful OF-471 HE rounds. The OF-471 rounds are perfectly capable of doing severe damage to the Tigers, from incapacitating equipment and crew due to the concussive effects, to tearing off tracks and running gear and cracking and spalling the armor, up through blowing holes in the Tiger's 30-mm chassis deck armor by hits on the lower part of the turret. It's less choosy about where it needs to hit to score results.