Historical Information for Panzer VIII (Mous)
The Maus (Mouse) was a project endorsed by Hitler and entrusted to Dr. Ferdinand Porsche in June 1942. By this time Hitler might probably have found that the Herr Doktor was much better with cars than military vehicles. The Maus would have been an enormous juggernaut weighing more than 188 tons, carrying a 128mm KwK L/55 and a co-axial 75mm L/36 in the turret and a 20mm bow gun. Armor would have been up to 240mm thick. The suspension system for such a monstrosity brought numerous and enormous problems from the beginning. Initial plans for torsion bars had to be abandoned in favor of volute (spiral) springs. Power was an equally challenging problem and an air-cooled Mercedes-Benz petrol aircraft engine generating 1,080 bhp at 2,400 rpm was tested in the first prototype. A diesel engine in the second blew up under the pressure. The Maus never entered production.
The tank's hull was 10.1 metres long, 3.67 metres wide and 3.66 metres tall. Weighing about 180 tonnes (or about 188 short tons), the Maus's main armament was a 128 mm cannon with a coaxial 75 mm gun and steel armour ranging from 60-240 mm. A total of nine were in various stages of completion when the war ended with two completed. The Maus would have had a crew of either 5 or 6 and a total production of between 150 and 200 was planned for one version of it.
The principal problem in development of the Maus was finding a powerful enough engine for its weight that could be carried in the tank. Though the design called for a maximum speed of 20 km/h, no engine was found that could power the prototype to more than 13 km/h under ideal conditions. The weight also made it impossible to cross most bridges. It could ford due to its size or submerge and use a snorkel.
The Maus was designed from the start to use the "electric transmission" idea Ferdinand Porsche had used in his attempt to win the production contract for the Tiger I tank that Henschel & Sohn of Kassel won, which ended up with 90 "Porsche Tiger" hulls remaining unused, and were used instead to serve as the hull of the Elefant tank destroyer. The gasoline engine (the later prototypes were to use a diesel engine instead) in the Maus prototypes, that drove the massive electrical generator, together occupied the entire central rear two-thirds of the Maus' hull, cutting off the forward driver's compartment in the hull from direct access to the turret from within the tank. Each metre-wide track, which used the same basic "contact shoe" and "connector link" design format as the Henschel-built Tiger II used, had its own electric motor mounted in the rear of the hull; the tracks had no direct mechanical connection to the internal combustion engine that powered the Maus.
The integral outer armor side panels which protected the tracks and suspension, due to the unprecedently wide tracks used, led to the hull of the Maus having a narrow lengthwise "tunnel" remaining inside the hull, to house the engine and generator of the tank's powertrain under and to the rear of the turret. The amount of armour was substantial, the front lower hull (glacis plate) was about 200 mm (8 in) thick, sloped at 35 degrees to the vertical. The sides of the hull were 180 mm (7 in) and the rear 160 mm (6.3 in). The turret was 240 mm (9.5 in) to the front and 200 mm to the sides with a roof of 60 mm (2.3 in). As a result of its low power and huge bulk the Maus was relatively slow moving and logistically demanding, but could potentially have been a formidable weapon in certain defensive positions where extensive movement was not required, and where its weight would serve to its advantage by making it a stable gun platform. In an assault, it would have been less useful but it had the benefit of a turret where a vehicle like the 128 mm armed Jagdtiger tank destroyer did not. This was not a major hindrance because by the time it was built, the German army had almost entirely abandoned Blitzkrieg tactics.
The initial plan for the Maus was for the prototype to have been completed by the summer of 1943, with monthly production scheduled to run at five vehicles per month after delivery of the prototype. The work on the Maus would be divided between Krupp, responsible for the chassis, armament and turret and Alkett , who would be responsible for final assembly.
The Maus tank was originally designed to weigh approximately 100 tons and be armed with a 128 mm main gun and a 75 mm co-axial secondary gun. Additional armament options were studied including various versions of 150 mm and 128 mm guns. Hitler himself in January 1943 insisted that the armament be a 128 mm main gun with a coaxial 75 mm gun. By May 1943, a wooden mockup of the final Maus configuration was ready and presented to Hitler, who approved it for mass production, ordering a first series of 150. At this point, the estimated weight of the Maus was 188 tons. However, there is a story that concerns the main armament of the Maus being changed by Hitler who said that the 128 mm gun looked like a ´toy gun´ when compared to the tank, causing the 128 mm to be replaced by a 150 mm gun.
Development work on the Maus continued, but in October 1943 Hitler cancelled the order, which was followed in November by the order to stop development of the Maus altogether but to continue the construction of the prototypes.
The first, turretless prototype (V1) was assembled by Alkett in December 1943. Tests started the same month, with a mock turret fitted of the same weight as the real turret. The principal problem with the Maus that emerged from this test was its power-to-weight ratio. There was no engine powerful enough to give it anything like the 20 km/h demanded by the design specifications. The modified gasoline-fuelled Daimler-Benz MB 509 engine used in the prototype was only able to move at 13 km/h and only under ideal conditions. The suspension system used by the Maus also had to be adjusted to enable it to take the tank's weight.
Another issue found was that the Maus was simply too heavy to cross bridges. As a result an alternative system was developed, where the Maus would instead ford the rivers it needed to cross. Due to its size it could ford relatively deep streams, but for deeper ones it was to submerge and drive across the river bottom. The solution required tanks to be paired up. One Maus would supply electrical power to the crossing vehicle via a cable until it reached the other side. The crew would receive air through a large snorkel, which was long enough for the tank to go 45 feet (13 m) underwater.
A plan for an anti-aircraft version of the Maus was formed, dubbed the Flakzwilling 8.8cm Auf Maus, to have two 88mm guns in a special turret for engaging enemy aircraft
In March 1944 the second prototype, the V2, was delivered. It differed in many details from the V1 prototype. In mid-1944, the V2 prototype was fitted with a powerplant and the first produced Maus turret. This turret was fitted with a 128 mm KwK 44 L/55 gun, with coaxial 75 mm KwK 44 L/36.5 gun and a 7.92 mm MG34 for anti-aircraft armament. The V1 prototype was supposed to be fitted with the second produced turret, but this never happened. By July 1944, Krupp was in the process of producing four more Maus hulls, but they were ordered to halt production and scrap these. Krupp stopped all work on it in August 1944. Meanwhile, the V2 prototype started tests in September 1944, fitted with a Daimler-Benz MB 517 diesel engine, new electric steering system and a Skoda Works designed running gear and tracks.
There was also a special railroad car made for transporting the Maus prototypes.