Historical Information for Jagdtiger
With the success of the StuG III in the tank destroyer role, the military leadership of Nazi Germany decided to use the chassis of existing armored fighting vehicles as the basis for tank destroyers with the substitution of heavier guns and thicker armor. German tank destroyers lack turrets, and as a result they were capable of mounting larger caliber guns. The lack of a turret also reduces their production time and cost, as fewer complex components need to be manufactured.
A wooden model of the Jagdtiger, presented to Adolf Hitler on October 20, 1943, can be seen behind the heavy Italian tank P 26/40
In early 1942 a request was made by the Army General Staff to mount a 128 mm gun on a self-propelled armored chassis. On May 18, 1942 Adolf Hitler ordered that the 128 mm gun be utilized in the tank destroyer role, rather than for infantry support. Firing tests of the 128 mm gun showed to have a high percentage of hits; lower caliber heavy shells such as the 88 mm and 105 mm were also tested.
By early 1943 a decision was made to install a 128 mm gun on a Panther or Tiger I chassis as a heavy assault gun. The Panther chassis was considered unsuitable after a wooden mockup of the design was constructed. On October 20, 1943 another wooden mockup of the Jagdtiger was constructed on a Tiger II chassis, and presented to Hitler in East Prussia. Two prototypes were produced; a version with the eight road wheel Porsche suspension system (number 305001) and a version with the Henschel nine overlapping wheel suspension system (number 305002) as used on the production Tiger II, were completed in February 1944. It was originally designated as Jagdpanzer VI, but was later named the Jagdtiger. It received the series number Sd.Kfz. 186.
The Jagdtiger was a logical extension of the creation of Jagdpanzer designs from tank designs, such as the Jagdpanther from the Panther tank. The Jagdtiger used a boxy superstructure on top of a lengthened Tiger II chassis. The resulting vehicle featured very heavy armor and the 128 mm PaK 44 L/55 gun capable of defeating any tank fielded in World War II, even at long ranges (+3,500 m). It had 250 mm armor on the turret front and 150 mm on the glacis plate, which made it invulnerable to any frontal fire. However, it lacked a traversable turret and the main gun mount had a limited traverse of only 10 degrees; the entire vehicle had to be turned to aim outside that narrow field of fire.
The Jagdtiger suffered from a variety of mechanical and technical problems due to its immense weight and under-powered engine. The vehicle had frequent breakdowns; ultimately more Jagdtigers were lost to mechanical problems or lack of fuel than to enemy action.
150 Jagdtigers were ordered but only half that number were produced. Eleven of them, serial numbers 305001 and 305003 to 305012, were produced with the Porsche suspension (8 roadwheels); all following used the Henschel suspension (9 roadwheels).
Production figures vary depending on source and other factors such as if prototypes are included and if those made after VE day are included. Totals range from about 77 to 88 produced from July 1944 to May 1945. Approximately 48 from July 1944 to the end of December 1944; 36 from January to April 1945, serial numbers from 305001 to 305088 (such as examples from May 45, and pre-production prototypes, and whether incomplete chassis are counted).
Some sources say no more vehicles were completed after February. Towards the end some were lacking important equipment and could not be used operationally, or could not be deployed to units.
Only two heavy antitank battalions (schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung), numbered 512 and 653, were equipped with Jagdtigers, with the first vehicles reaching the units in September 1944. About 20% were lost in combat; most were destroyed by their own crews when abandoned, chiefly due to mechanical breakdowns or lack of fuel in the desperate final stages of the war.
The gun used separate-loading ammunition, which meant that two loaders were used to insert the projectile and the cased propelling charge separately. This resulted in a slow rate of fire. The tremendous amount of smoke would often give away the position of the vehicle, in addition to momentarily blinding the crew, although the latter was a moot point, owing to the very slow reload time.
Technical Information Jagdtiger