By Christian Ankerstjerne
By 1943, field units were requesting a heavy assault gun to support infantry against both armored and unarmored targets at ranges up to three kilometers. This was discussed at a conference on 21 February 1943, which Hitler attended.
On 22 February 1943 Wa Prüf 4 asked Krupp to develop a design based on the Tiger H3, the design which would eventually be the Tiger II, which was at the time still being developed. It was to be armed with a 128 mm gun, taken directly from the 12,8 cm Kw K (L/55) of the Pz Kpfw Maus, and would move the engine from the rear to the front of the vehicle. Krupp suggested a vehicle with 200 mm frontal armor, 100 mm side armor, and a weight of no more than 70 tons.
On 14 April 1943, Henschel & Sohn suggested a number of changes to their Tiger H3 design, including:
- Lengthening the vehicle by 30 cm.
- Reducing the proposed side armor of 100 mm to 80 mm, as 100 mm thick side armor would overload the chassis, as because the width of the existing design had reached the limit permissible for rail transportation.
- Retaining a rear-mounted engine, as a front-mounted engine would require a complete re-design of the chassis, engine, and cooling system, without any benefits to the final vehicle.
Later, on 14 May 1943, Henschel suggested further improvements, including:
- Adding a stereoscopic rangefinder.
- Adding a two-dored access to the fighting compartment on the rear of the superstructure.
- Suggesting the addition of a machine gun in a ball mount on the glacis plate.
The frontal armor of the superstructure was later increased to 250 mm. A 1:1 wooden mock-up was completed, and presented to Hitler on 20 October 1943. It was suggested to mount an 128 mm L/70 gun, in stead of the L/55. Because this gun would have moved the center of gravity forward, without any significant benefits, the idea was dropped.
In January 1944, Dr. Prof. Ferdinand Porsche suggested an alternative chassis design to Hitler. The design had four sections of two 700 mm road-wheels on each side, which could be removed individually in case of damage or maintenance, compared to the nine individual 800 mm road-wheels of the Henschel design. In addition, Porsche's design was 1.2 ton lighter, required 450 fewer work-hours, increased the space in the fighting compartment, increased the ground clearance, and reduced the cost by 404 000 Reichmark. Hitler agreed with the design, and 11 Porsche Jagdtiger were manufactured at Nibelungenwerk, including one soft-steel prototype, before production switched to the Henschel chassis. All the Porsche Jagdtiger except the prototype, Fgst. (chassis number) 305003 through 305012, had Zimmerit applied.
A command version of the Jagdtiger was built, equipped with a star antenna on the rear of the superstructure.
In August 1944, a travel lock was mounted externally on the glacis plate. In September, the early 18-tooth drive sprocket, also used on the Elefant, was replaced with a nine-tooth drive sprocket, as on the Tiger II. It was later reported that the double-link tracks of the nine-tooth sprocket created an uneven ride, which disaligned the gun. In November, the 20 ton jack was dropped, as it was deemed insufficient for a vehicle weighing more than 70 tons.
On some vehicles, a simple mount for an M G 42 was mounted on the rear deck, to be used against fighter-bombers.
Due to a lack of gun mounts for the 12,8 cm Pak 80, it was decided to equip the Jagdtiger with the 8,8 cm Pak 43 (L/71) instead. Following an Allied bombing rain on Nibelungenwerk, it was reported that the last four Jagdtiger armed with the 12,8 cm Pak 80 were to be issued to schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653 (heavy army tank destroyer battalion 653), with the following four Jagdtiger being equipped with the 8,8 cm Pak 43 (L/71). On 29 April, it was reported that the last four Jagdtiger with the 12,8 cm Pak 80 had been issued to schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653, that four Jagdtiger with the 8,8 cm Pak 43 (L/71) were expected to be delivered by the end of April, and that 17 more Jagdtiger with the 8,8 cm Pak 43 (L/71) were expected to be delivered during May.
|Armor||Eisenwerke Oberdonau||Linz, Austria|
|Chassis||Nibelungenwerk||St. Valentin, Austria|
Schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653
The first unit to be equipped with the Jagdtiger was schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653 (s H Pz Jäg Abt 653, heavy army tank destroyer battalion 653). The unit had previously fought during Kursk and in Italy with the Elefant, but the number of operational Elefant had dropped to the level of just one company.
S H Pz Jäg Abt 653 was intended to be deployed during the Ardennes offensive, but did not reach the front in time to see any action. The unit was then assigned to 17. SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Division, with the intension of deploying it during the Nordwind offensive. Due to mechanical problems, however, only three Jagdtiger were operational at the start of the offensive.
On 9 January 1945, three Jagdtiger of the first company saw the first action with 17. SS-Pz Gren Div around the city of Rimling. One Jagdtiger, tactical number 134, was knocked out by a Bazooka through the side armor, which detonated the ammunition, killing the crew. In the following weeks, the Jagdtiger of s H Pz Jäg Abt 653 continued to support 17. SS-Pz Gren Div, including support fire against bunkers. Reports on the Jagdtiger were very favorable, with several Allied bunkers being destroyed, and one Medium Tank, M4 reported as destroyed. The day after, the unit received orders to support 10. SS-Panzer-Division.
On 23 January 1945, s H Pz Jäg Abt 653 reported to have reached full strength, with the following vehicles:
- 42 Jagdtiger, in three companies of 14 Jagdtiger each
- Command platoon: 3 Sd Kfz 251/6 command half-tracks, as no command Jagdtiger had been completed yet
- Reconnaissance platoon: 7 Sd Kfz 251
- Engineering platoon: 2 Sd Kfz 251/7 engineering vehicles
- Anti-aircraft platoon: 3 Sd Kfz 7/1 (2 cm Flakvierling)
- Armored anti-aircraft platoon: 4 Möbelwagen and 2 Wirbelwind
- Recovery section: 4 Bergepanther
Late January, one Jagdtiger was captured by the Allies during an attack.
The automotive experiences with the Jagdtiger by s H Pz Jäg Abt 653 were not impressive. After about 200 km of travel, six Jagdtiger had major engine failures, while four had minor engine failures. These damages were mainly due to the weight of the Jagdtiger, pushing the capacity of the Tiger II chassis and Maybach HL 230 P 30 engine to the limit. On 1 February, out of 41 Jagdtiger, only 22 were operational. In addition, it was reported that to tow a Jagdtiger, one Bergepanther and two Sd Kfz 9 were needed. In mid-February, all Jagdtiger were ordered to halt, because of their unreliability.
On 14 March, during a night-time battle, a US column is destroyed. The following day, French colonial forces crossed the Moder river at Oberhoffen, with s H Pz Jäg Abt 653 firing at the attackers. On 16 March, as s H Pz Jäg Abt 653 counter-attacked, seven Jagdtiger were disabled by fighter-bombers and artillery. Only two could be salvaged, the remaining being destroyed by their crew. Two further Jagdtiger are destroyed by their crew on 17, 18, and 22 March during rearguard action.
On 22 March, three Jagdtiger of the second company of s H Pz Jäg Abt 653 near the city of Böhl reported to have destroyed nine tanks and two armored cars. After an artillery barrage and infantry attack, one Jagdtiger was destroyed to prevent capture, while another was destroyed by artillery. Another three Jagdtiger of the third company of s H Pz Jäg Abt 653 took up position in the city of Neustadt, from where they attacked US armored forces, reporting a total of 25 tanks and tank destroyers destroyed. While the Jagdtiger were hit several times by US anti-tank rounds, none of the shells penetrated. One of the Jagdtiger broke down, and another ran out of ammunition and was destroyed, while the last crossed the Rhine.
After the action west of the Rhine, only three out of 31 Jagdtiger were operational. On 30 March, three Jagdtiger out of eight operational were sent to counter an approaching US unit, while the rest of the unit retreated. One bogged down, while the other lost a track when fired upon by a Medium Tank, M4, and subsequently destroyed.
On 5 April, while fighting French forces, one Jagdtiger was destroyed, and another broke down and was destroyed by its crew. Until 16 April, a further 10 Jagdtiger were destroyed by their crews. Three were lost during the battle of Crailsheim-Nürnberg, and on 26 April, out of 14 Jagdtiger, only one was operational.
On 5 May and 7 May, s H Pz Jäg Abt 653 surrendered to US forces, with only four operational Jagdtiger, the remainder being lost mainly to breakdowns and accidents.
Schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653
While created in January 1945, the commanders of s H Pz Jäg Abt 512 were selected. They included Otto Carius, previously a Tiger I commander with schwere Panzer-Abteilung 502, and Albert Ernst, who had previously fought in both the Nashorn and Jagdpanther. As the first company of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 511 was being re-equipped with Jagdpanzer 38 instead of the Tiger, the crews were transferred to the second company of s H Pz Jäg Abt 512. As the crews were used to a tank with a rotating turret, they were frustrated with having to turn the entire vehicle for aiming. In addition, the Jagdtiger was considerably less reliable than the Tiger I they were used to. s H Pz Jäg Abt 512 was intended to have 33 Jagdtiger, but due to production delays, only received a total of 25, arriving during March.
Intended to fight the Allied bridgehead at Remagen, delays due to poor communication and the threat from Allied fighter-bombers meant that it took ten days to bring the first five Jagdtiger of the second company of s H Pz Jäg Abt 512 into action. Being used only as a rearguard unit, the Jagdtiger did not see any actual combat.
During the end of March, first company of s H Pz Jäg Abt 512 went into action against US tank during rearguard actions, losing four Jagdtiger, three of them to breakdowns. During the combat around Herborn, the Jagdtiger were able to successfully engage US tanks at ranges exceeding three kilometers, reporting more than 30 destroyed vehicles.
First company of s H Pz Jäg Abt 512 was expanded with four Sturmgeschütz III, a Pz Kpfw IV platoon, and a platoon of self-propelled 37 mm anti-aircraft guns, creating Kampfgruppe Ernst (battle group Ernst).
Second company of s H Pz Jäg Abt 512 had been ordered to the city of Unna, where they on 8 April destroyed more than 20 US tanks and armored cars trying to capture the city. Retreating from Unna, one Jagdtiger was lost against US tanks.
On 11 April, ten Jagdtiger, three Pz Kpfw IV, four Sturmgeschütz IV, and four anti-aircraft vehicles of Kampfgruppe Ernst set up position on a ridge. As a US armored column approached, the unit opened fire, destroying at least 50 vehicles, including 11 Medium Tank, M4's. The US forces withdrew, and engaged with fighter-bombers, two of which were destroyed, while destroying one Jagdtiger, and damaging another.
On the same day, Jagdtiger from the second company of s H Pz Jäg Abt 653 had engaged US forces at a range of over five kilometers. The day after, the unit halted a US attack. As the situation was rapidly deteriorating, however, on 15 April, the remaining six Jagdtiger were destroyed by their crews.
A total of four Medium Tank, M4's were reported destroyed on 12 and 13 April by Kampfgruppe Ernst, two a ranges exceeding four kilometers. On 14 April, Kampfgruppe Ernst was the only unit still fighting in the Iserlohn area. After the commanding officer, general Buchs, fled the area, captain Ernst was the highest-ranking officer in the area. To prevent the loss of civilian life, on 16 April, Kampfgruppe Ernst surrendered to the US 99th Infantry Division in Iserlohn. This surrender is widely covered by a newsreel and photographs.
On 1 April, third company of s H Pz Jäg Abt 512 with five Jagdtiger, together with a number of other units scrambled together around Paderborn, fought off a US attack. The day after, one Jagdtiger was destroyed by US forces, and another broke down, while the last three Jagdtiger of s H Pz Jäg Abt 512 being transported to the Harz mountains. Between 10 and 15 April, the last Jagdtiger of the third company of s H Pz Jäg Abt 512 broke down.
Panzer-Kompanie Kummersdorf, not to be confused with Panzer-Abteilung Kummersdorf, fielded a single Jagdtiger. On 31 March 1945, it had the following organization:
|Three tank platoons (limited mobility)|
|Armored reconnaissance platoon||
|Infantry platoon||No armor|
|Tank platoon (immobile)||
On 20 April, Panzer-Kompanie Kummersdorf was reported as being in transit in the Wünsdorf area from Luckau to Neuhof together with Begleits-Kompanie I, forming Verband Möws.
On 21 April, Kampfgruppe Möws is listed as containing the following units:
- Staff of Panzer-Abteilung II/36
- 4./Panzer-Regiment 11 (ten Panther with infra-red equipment)
- schweren Panzer-Jäger-Kompanie 614 (four Elefant)
- Panzer-Grenadier-Kompanie (gp) Ülzen (14 Sd Kfz 251 with infra-red equipment)
- Panzer-Kompanie Kummersdorf
- Begleits-Kompanie 1
- Panzer-Jäger-Kompanie (mot) Dresden (three platoons with three towed anti-tank guns each; one platoon was located 12 kilometers from Wünsdorf)
The battle group was assigned to Kampfgruppe Oberst Käther in southern Zossen.
On 22 April, the first three of the above parts of the battle group are mentioned as being assigned to [lang=de]Kampfgruppe Ritter, still in the Zossen area, with no further mention of Panzer-Kompanie Kummersdorf.
|August||Reserve, Panzerjäger-Lehrgang Mielau||3||-|
|September||Schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653||1||8 October|
|Ersatzheer Döllersheim||3||7 October|
|October||Schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653||1||23 October|
|Ersatzheer||3||23 October 1944|
|November||Schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653||9||11 December|
|December||Schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653||1||12 December|
|January||Schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653||1||-|
|March||Schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 512||25||-|
|April||Schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653||4||-|
|Weight||75 200 kg|
|Length||With barrel||10.50 m|
|Without barrel||7.45 m|
|Firing height||2.15 m|
|Ground clearance||0.46 m|
|Ground pressure||1.11 kg/cm2|
|Armament and ammunition|
|Gun||Model||12,8 cm Pak 80|
|Handguns||Model||Submachine guns (2)|
|Sides and rear||80 mm|
|Maximum speed||34.6 km/h|
|Road||Sustained speed||20 km/h|
|Medium terrain||Sustained speed||10 km/h|
|Terrain||Trench crossing||1.80 m|
|Vertical climb||0.80 m|
|Engine and fuel|
|Model||HL 230 P30|
|Rated speed||2500 rpm|
|Fuel capacity||860 l|
- It is unclear which vehicle this refers to. Back
- Notiz für Führervortrag am 31.3.45. Berlin : Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, 1945. 8 p. Gen. Insp. d. Pz. Tr. Org. Nr. 440/45 g.Kdos.. NARA T78 R622.
- Notiz. Abteilung Organization K, 1945. 1 p. BArch RH 10/128.
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- PAWLAS, Karl R. Waffen-Revue W 127 - Datenblätter für Heeres-Waffen, -Fahrzeuge und Gerät. Nurnberg : Publizistisches Archiv für Militär- und Waffenwessen, 1976. 248 p. ISBN 3-88088-213-4.
- SPIELBERGER, Walter J., DOYLE, Hilary Louis & JENTZ, Thomas L. Schwere Jagdpanzer : Entwicklung - Fertigung - Einsatz. Stuttgart : Motorbuch Verlag, 2003. 202 p. ISBN 3-613-01517-X.
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