Panzerkampfwagen Maus

By Christian Ankerstjerne

Introduction

The Maus (mouse) super-heavy tank was the largest tank completed by Germany during the Second World War. The design history can be traced back to 1942, in response to Hitler's expectations of Russia's heavy tank development. Hitler's design requirements emphasized heavy armor and a high-velocity gun, accepting poor mobility, creating a moving fortress. The Maus would have been escorted by lighter tanks, presumably Tiger IIs, the two of which were thought to replate the Tiger I and Panther.

Development

In March 1942, Porsche was awarded a contract for developing a 100 ton tank. During 1942, as armor requirements were increased, the weight crept up. It was decided that Porsche would continue the design work on the vehicle, with Krupp manufacturing the armor components, with Alkett handling the assembly.

Until the final gun was chosen, it was discussed between Krupp, Porsche, and Hitler. Different proposals named 105 mm, 127 mm, 128 mm, and 150 mm tank guns of different barrel lengths. Favouring a combination of a high rate of fire and penetration, Hitler eventually decided on the 12,8 cm Kw K L/55. While it was a first determined that a smaller, secondary gun was not needed, it was decided to add a co-axial short 7,5 cm Kw K L/36,5.

Production

The first prototype contract was ordered in January 1943, which was later increased to six. The first production contract called for 120, later increased to 135, Maus to be produced at 10 Maus per month, starting full production in April 1943. Production was seriously delayed, however, and the components for the first prototype were not delivered until September 1943, and the first turret not being delivered until November 1943.

On 1 November 1943, the series production was cancelled, reducing the contract to two prototypes, of which one wpiæd have a turret. At the time of cancellation, there were, in addition to the two prototypes, a total of 13 hulls and nine turrets were in various stages of completion.

Testing

Although production had been cancelled, testing of the almost-finished vehicles was ordered. In addition, Krupp continued work on the Maus until 19 August 1944, after orders to cease further work.

The first Maus prototype, with a weight in place of an operational turret, was completed by Alkett on 23 December 1943, and driven by train to the testing area. Once there, it was tested throughout the winter and spring, revealing a number of shortcomings. Most significant was the poor vision for the driver, and the inherent difficulties of towing and reparing a 188 ton vehicle. For a vehicle the size of the Maus, however, it was also shown to be surprisingly nimble. It was able to turn within its own length, and climb sloped of up to 45 degrees.

The turret for the second prototype was delivered in May 1944, and there are photographs of the second Maus prototype with its turret, but it is not know whether it was fully functional.

Operational History

Combat against, and the destruction of, the second Maus prototype is claimed both by the Russian (by land forces) and the Americans (by fighter-bombers). There is, however, no evidence of the Maus ever seing combat. The Maus currently in Kubinka is the hull of the first prototype hull with the second prototype's turret. This indicates that the second prototype was destroyed by the Germans, as shown by photographic evidence, with the Russians later combining the second prototype's turret with the first prototype hull. When this vehicle was later tested in Russia, it received the shot marks which are visible today.

Technical Information

Technical details of the Pz Kpfw Maus.
Pz Kpfw Maus
Crew
Crew
  • Commander
  • Gunner
  • Loaders (2)
  • Radio operator
  • Driver
Physical Characteristics
Weight 188 t
Length 10.09 m
Width 3.67 m
Height 3.63 m
Ground clearance 0.57 m
Ground pressure 1.45 kg/cm²
Armor
Hull, front 200 mm
Hull, sides and rear 100-180 mm
Hull, top 50-100 mm
Hull, bottom 50-100 mm
Turret, front 220-250 mm
Turret, sides and rear 200 mm
Turret, top 60 mm
Performance
Maximum speed 20 km/h
Road speed 18 km/h
Maximum grade 35°
Trench crossing 3.48 m
Vertical obstacle 75 cm
Fording depth 200 cm
Fuel capacity 2650 l
Mileage (road) 16.56 l/km
Mileage (cross-country) 42.74 l/km
Cruising range 160 km
Cross-country range 62 km
Turning radius 5 m
Engine
Make and model Daimler-Benz MB 509
Type Water cooled
Cylinders 12
Displacement 44 500 cc
Fuel Gasoline
Max. governed speed 2500 rpm
Net h.p. 1540
Armament
Main weapon 12,5 cm Kw K 44 L/55
Secondary weapon
  • 7,5 cm Kw K L/36.5
  • 7,92 mm M G 34
Ammunition Storage
Main weapon 75
Secondary weapon
  • 7,5 cm: 200
  • 7,92 mm: 1000

Additional Reading

E-100 Tiger-Maus
Information about the E-100 Tiger-Maus.

Sources

  1. JENTZ, Thomas L. Panzerkampfwagen Maus. Darlington, MD : Darlington Productions, 1997. 60 p. ISBN 0-6948793-2-8.
  2. JENTZ, Thomas L. & DOYLE, Hilary Louis. Panzer Tracts No. 6 - Schwere Panzerkampfwagen : D.W. to E-100, including the Tigers. Boyds, MD : Panzer Tracts, 2001. 60 p. ISBN 0-9708407-1-3.