Bigger is always better. Or is it? In the Second World War, Nazis decided to improve their weapons so they glued the 128-millimeter antiaircraft gun to their biggest tank and they got the Jagdtiger, the largest tank in the entire war. Even though the size could have frightened the enemies, it was the only thing scary about this machine.
The Germans produced new weaponry all the time, and they were assembling a bunch of turretless assault guns and tank destroyers based on every major tank chassis. These were less capable in the operations due to the lack of the turret, but they were quite movable and great for an ambush. Moreover, they could carry large amounts of armor and guns to the battlefield. Since it had no turret, the Germans saw the opportunity to add the 128-millimeter gun.
The result was the Jagdtiger, the tank which was 11 meters long and 3 meters tall. When fully loaded, the tank weighed 83 tons, which was too much even back in the 1940s. The front end of this beast provided full protection, but the panzer was vulnerable from every other side. Since it was too heavy, the tank could reach speeds of only nine mph, while the range was 50-75 miles depending on terrain. The 690 horsepower engine lacked the power to move this heavy structure. As for the gun, it had only 10 degrees traverse to either side and it took too much time to reload it.
Back in the day, Tiger ace Otto Carius didn’t like the “secret weapon that could still save Germany.” In his autobiography, Tigers in the Mud, Carius wrote: “Any large traversing of the cannon had to be effected by movement of the entire vehicle. Because of that, transmissions and steering differentials were soon out of order. . . . A better idea for the travel lock of the eight-meter long cannon of our ‘Hunting Tiger’ was also necessary. It had to be removed from outside during contact with the enemy. Locking down the barrel during a road march was necessary, of course. Otherwise the mountain brackets would have been worn out too quickly, and exact aiming would have been impossible. . . . We discovered that the cannon, because of its enormous length, was battered about so much as a result of even a short move off the road that its alignment no longer agreed with that of the optics.”
Near the end of the war, between February 1944 and May 1945, the factory in St. Valentin Austria assembled approximately 85 chassis for the Jagdtiger. Most of these chassis were equipped with nine-wheel suspension, but a small number used the eight-wheel Porsche-designed configuration. Even though the entire structures were prepared, the guns were lacking.
While it can be said that these war machines were flawed, when positioned well, these tanks could do a whole lot of damage. They were deadly, but the opportunities to destroy the enemies lacked severely, and that was one of the reasons Jugdtigers were almost useless. Still, the tanks proved their worth in the Battle of the Ruhr in 1945 and British officer George Forty described what he saw in his book German Tanks of World War II.
“I remember vividly coming across what seemed to be an entire regiment of Sherman tanks which had been completely annihilated. There were Shermans lying in heaps everywhere one looked, turrets blown off, hulls ripped apart, most had clearly been brewed up. . . . They had been advancing with the grain of the country and had clearly been taken by surprise from a flank. The follow-up echelon had then turned right-handed towards their tormentor, but had found little cover along their new line of advance. The author of all this carnage was one single Jagdtiger, whose immense bulk still occupied a perfect fire position in a farmyard at the top of a commanding hill feature.”