Panzer VIII Maus

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Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus
Metro-maus1.jpg
The Maus prototype at the Kubinka Tank Museum, Russia (2009)
Type Super-heavy tank
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Production history
Produced 1944
Number built 2 (of which 1 incomplete)
Specifications
Weight 188 tonnes (207 short tons; 185 long tons)
Length 10.2 metres (33 ft 6 in)
Width 3.71 metres (12 ft 2 in)
Height 3.63 metres (11 ft 11 in)
Crew 6

Armour

460 mm (18 in) (in the area of the mantlet)
250 mm (9.8 in) (mantlet)
240 mm (9.4 in) (turret front)[1]
220 mm (8.7 in) (turret side and rear, and hull front)
210 mm (8.3 in) (turret front behind the mantlet)
200 mm (7.9 in) (hull front)[1]

190 mm (7.5 in) (hull side and rear)
Main
armament
128 mm (5 in) KwK 44 gun L/55
(32 rounds)
Secondary
armament
75 mm (3 in) KwK 44 gun L/36.5
(co-axial) (200 rounds)
7.92 mm MG34 machine gun
Engine MB509 V12 petrol engine, DB 603 derivative (V1)
MB 517 V12 diesel engine (V2)
1080 hp
1200 hp (895 kW)
Power/weight 6.4 hp/t
Ground clearance 500 mm (20 in)
Fuel capacity 2,700 litres (590 imp gal; 710 US gal) (internal fuel tank)
1,500 litres (330 imp gal; 400 US gal) (external fuel tank)
Operational
range
160 km (99 mi) (road)
62 km (39 mi) (off road)
Speed 13 km/h (8.1 mph)

Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus ("mouse") was a German World War II super-heavy tank completed in late 1944. It is the heaviest fully enclosed armoured fighting vehicle ever built. Only two hulls and one turret were completed before the testing grounds were captured by the advancing Soviet forces.

These two prototypes – one with, one without turret – underwent trials in late 1944. The complete vehicle was 10.2 metres (33 ft 6 in) long, 3.71 metres (12 ft 2 in) wide and 3.63 metres (11.9 ft) high. Weighing 200 metric tons, the Maus's main armament was a 128 mm KwK 44 L/55 gun (55 calibers long barrel), based on the 12.8 cm Pak 44 anti-tank artillery piece also used in the casemate-type Jagdtiger tank destroyer, with an added coaxial 75 mm gun. The 128 mm gun was powerful enough to destroy all enemy armored fighting vehicles at close or medium ranges, and even some at ranges exceeding 3,500 metres (3,800 yd).[2]

The principal problem in the design of the Maus was developing an engine which was powerful enough to propel the tank, yet small enough to fit inside it. Though the specification called for a maximum speed of 20 kilometres per hour (12 mph), no engine was found that could propel the prototype at more than 13 kilometres per hour (8.1 mph) under ideal conditions. Its weight also made it unable to cross most bridges; it was intended to ford or submerge and use a snorkel to cross rivers.

It was intended to punch holes through enemy defences whilst taking almost no damage to any components. Five were ordered, but only two hulls and one turret were completed before the advancing Allies found them. Very few of Hitler's generals thought that the Maus would have been of any use.

Development[edit]

The basic design known as the VK100.01Porsche Type 205[1] was suggested by Ferdinand Porsche to Adolf Hitler in June 1942, who subsequently approved it. The design up to then had been the culmination of work done by Porsche who had won the contract for the heavy tank that March. Work on the design began in earnest; the first prototype, to be ready in 1943 was initially to receive the name Mammut (Mammoth). This was reportedly changed to Mäuschen (Little Mouse) in December 1942 and finally to Maus (Mouse) in February 1943, which became the most common name for this tank.

The Maus was designed from the start to use the "electric transmission" design which Ferdinand Porsche had used in his unsuccessful attempt to win the production contract for the Tiger. The initial powerplant was the Daimler-Benz MB 509 gasoline engine, an adaptation of Germany's largest displacement (at 44.5 litres/2,717 in³) inverted V12 aircraft engine, the Daimler-Benz DB 603, and later changed to a diesel. This drove an electrical generator, and together they occupied the entire central 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 1.1 metre-wide track, which used the same basic "contact shoe" and "connector link" design format as the Henschel-built King Tiger, was driven by its own electric motor mounted in the rear of the hull. Each set of tracks had a suspension design containing a total of 24 road wheels per side, in six bogie sets, staggered to be spread over the entire width of the track.

Due to the return "run" of the uniquely wide tracks used being completely enclosed within the fixed outer side armor panels that defined its overall hull width, with the inner vertical lengthwise walls of the hull used to mount the suspension components, a narrow lengthwise "tub" remained between the hull's inner armored walls, under and to the rear of the turret to house the engine and generator of the tank's powertrain.[clarification needed]>[3]

The armour was substantial: the hull front was 220 millimetres (8.7 in) thick, the sides and rear of the hull were up to 190 millimetres (7.5 in). The turret armour was even thicker, the turret front was up to 220 millimetres (8.7 in) and the sides and rear 200 millimetres (7.9 in). The mantlet was 250 millimetres (9.8 in), and combined with the turret armour behind, the protection level at that section was even higher.

The initial plan for the Maus was for the prototype to have been completed by mid-1943, with monthly production scheduled to run at ten 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. In January 1943 Hitler himself insisted that the armament be a 128 mm main gun with a coaxial 75 mm gun. The 128 mm KwK 44 designed for the Maus was later reused under the designation PaK 44 in the casemate-style Jagdtiger tank destroyer.

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.

In his book Panzer Leader, Heinz Guderian wrote:

On May 1 a wooden model of the "Maus", a tank project of Porsche and Krupp, was shown to Hitler. It was intended to mount a 150 mm gun. The total weight of the tank was supposed to reach 175 tons. It should be considered that after the design changes on Hitler's instructions the tank will weigh 200 tons. The model didn't have a single machine gun for close combat, and for this reason I had to reject it. It had the same design flaw that made the Elefant unsuitable for close combat. In the end, the tank will inevitably have to wage a close combat since it operates in cooperation with the infantry. An intense debate started, and except for me, all of the present found the "Maus" magnificent. It was promising to be exactly that, a "giant".[4]

The lack of close combat armament was later rectified; the final version of the Maus featured a close defense mortar, a machine gun and three ports for submachine guns in the turret.

V1[edit]

The first, turretless prototype (V1) was assembled by Alkett in December 1943. Tests started the same month, with a mockup turret fitted of the same weight as the real turret.[1] In June 1944 the production turret, with armament, was used for tests.[1]

The Maus was surprisingly agile for its 188 ton weight. Its minimal turning radius was 7.25 m, almost twice that of a Tiger I at 3.55m, but significantly less the 18.6 m for an M4 Sherman mid production.

The Maus was 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) under water.

V2[edit]

In March[citation needed] 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,[1] new electric steering system and a Skoda Works designed running gear and tracks.

There was also a special railroad carriage made for transporting the Maus prototypes.

Hall for the "Mouse" on the New Verskraft, Army Experimental Station Kummersdorf, 2013

Capture[edit]

The working Maus prototypes remained at Kummersdorf after being tested at Böblingen. Maus V2 was ordered to Wünsdorf to protect the OKH, probably 205/1 was ordered there, too, as support for the 205/2 if it drove into mud or to help with diving through rivers (where it would have served as generator unit for 205/2). 205/2 ended at the Hindenburgplatz, in front of the bunker Maybach I, where it was destroyed by placing charges in the engine and fighting compartments. Because it had ammunition stowed under the turret, it was damaged more extensively than 205/1, with the turret being more or less intact. Maus V1 did not reach this area.

After the war, the Soviet Commander of Armored and Mechanized troops ordered the hull of V1 to be mated with the turret of V2. The Soviets used six German FAMO-built 18t German half-tracks, the largest half-track vehicles that Germany built in the war years, to pull the 55 ton turret off the destroyed hull. The combined V1 hull/V2 turret vehicle was completed in Germany and sent back to the USSR for further testing. It arrived there on May 4, 1946. When further testing was completed the vehicle was taken over by the Kubinka Tank Museum for storage where it is now on display.

Restoration project[edit]

On April 11, 2014, Wargaming announced that they will co-operate with Kubinka to restore the Maus to working condition.[5] The museum seems to have downplayed the restoration project according to its own news release.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f Chamberlain, Peter; Doyle, Hilary (2004). Jentz, Thomas L., ed. Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two. Silverdale Books. p. 148. ISBN 1-84509-012-8. 
  2. ^ Parada, George. "Panzer VIII Maus". Achtung Panzer. 
  3. ^ ""The German Mouse" from Intelligence Bulletin, March 1946". LoneSentry.com. March 1946. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  4. ^ Guderian, H., "Panzer Leader", Smolensk, 1999, chapter 10, page 426-427
  5. ^ Reconstruction of the Maus
  6. ^ http://www.mbtvt.ru/photoreports/novosti/14-aprelya-2014-goda

Bibliography

  • Sergeev, Gelto (1997). German Super Heavy Tank Maus. Model Art, Japan
  • Robert Dale Arndt Jr. Strange Vehicles of Pre-War Germany & the Third Reich (1928-1945), 2006, IRP Publication

External links[edit]