Due to the success of the StuG III and the Marder series, the idea of using pre-existing chassis for self-propelled guns would continue with the Jagdtiger. It was in 1943 that a mock-up of the Jagdtiger was shown in Prussia to Hitler.
With the Führer’s approval, the vehicle went into production. The Jagdtiger was based on the Tiger II chassis, albeit slightly longer to accommodate the larger gun. Fixed casemates were utilised as a way to keep costs of production down when compared to making a vehicle with a turret-mounted heavy gun. The vehicle featured heavy armour, and the 128mm PAK 44 L/55 was more than capable of defeating any tank during the war. Able to shoot at targets over two miles away, this was one of the most lethal tank hunters of the war.
However the entire vehicle had to turn itself in able to draw a bead on a target, making it vulnerable to flank or rear attack. The tank hunter also suffered various problems mechanically due to its immense weight and size, with more Jagdtigers simply breaking down than being taken out by enemy fire.
Eleven of these 80 tonne behemoths were under the command of one Otto Carius, a Tiger ace who once said of these vehicles, that he could not use them to their full potential, simply due to the cumbersome nature of moving the vehicles and the constant need to reconfigure the guns due to jarring on the move. Nevertheless the formidable power of the gun more than made up for these short-comings. Otto himself even reported that one round went straight through a building, out the other side and destroyed an American tank behind it!
One key aspect to success with the Jagdtiger was to keep the vehicle’s thick frontal armour facing the enemy. Too many inexperienced crews lost their lives and vehicles simply by turning the vehicle at the wrong time, exposing its relatively weaker rear and side armour to enemy fire. Enemy tanks had a hard time trying to get through the tank hunter’s front armour, and a well-camouflaged Jagdtiger would be deadly for any approaching enemy amour.
Camouflage was the tank destroyer’s best friend and helped one company destroy 16 Sherman tanks and roughly 30 other targets, such as trucks and jeeps, at the loss of only one Jagdtiger! The sheer volume of smoke generated from the main gun however could also give the game away to any watching enemy armour, which was then able to pick out the Jagdtiger from the smoke alone.
Adolf Hitler himself even had plans to turn the Jagdtiger into an enormous flamethrower, but for unknown reasons it was never made.
The Jagdtigers that were built were split between two key units, the Panzerjager Abteilurrg 653 and the Panzerjager Abteilung 512, and would see action on the Western and Eastern Front.
Article written by Sam Phillips
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