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Genesis of a monster
This was, by far, the heaviest battlefield monster to have ever been built. In the Panzer tree line, it was meant to be number VIII. The Maus was in line with the German trend of making bigger and bigger tanks, and another good example is the heaviest AFV in service during WWII, the Jagdtiger, based on the Königstiger chassis. The latter was quite impressive, with its 71 ton weight and 128 mm (5.04 in) gun.
But the VK 100.01 Porsche Type 205, as it was known, was a project drawn as early as 1942, and suggested to Hitler by Ferdinand Porsche in June that year. As it perfectly matched the Wagnerian visions and obsessions of Hitler, it was immediately approved and the contract granted, with the objective of building the first operational machine by March 1944. However, this was really a monster of a tank, stretching all previous technological achievements to the very edge. Thanks to Porsche’s enthusiasm and despite the great skepticism of the Wehrmacht, the first prototype, the V1, was ready in 1943.
The first V1 prototype, officially named Sd.Kfz.205, was at first dubbed “Mammut”, but this was changed, in derision to the ironic name “Maüschen” (little mouse), and then simply “Maus”. The main project was based around the impressive KwK 44 L/55 Kanone 128 mm (5 in) gun, which was also used by the Jagdtiger tank-hunter. With a sheer weight of 100 tons, power and track requirements soon imposed special measures. A diesel engine was fitted, coupled with a huge electric generator, which took one-third of the total length of the hull, causing the turret to be pushed back to the rear of chassis.
The V1 prototype undergoing cross-country tests without the finished turret.
Porsche insisted to test his project of a fully electric transmission. Consequently, the driver was completely isolated at the front, only communicating with the tank commander through his headgear. The tracks were abnormally wide, one meter and ten centimeters in size, and extremely thick, but were based on the usual Henschel model of a “contact shoe and connector link”, previously used on the King Tiger. Due to the size of the tracks and a rather narrow hull for such a behemoth, largely occupied by the propulsion system, the Maus was very cramped.
The armor was also extremely thick, ranging from 180 mm (7.08 in) on the sides and rear to 250 mm (9.84 in) on the frontal part of the turret. These figures were bigger those of any of the “Panzerschiff” of the Deutschland class heavily armored cruisers. Later, it was decided to increase the roof protection to 220 mm (8.66 in), in order to cope with Russian Il-2 Sturmovik attacks.
An imposing vehicle such as this needs an equally imposing weapon. Main armament of the Maus consisted of the 128 mm (5 in) KwK 44 L/55 Tank Gun. The same gun carried by the Panzerjäger Tiger Ausf. B, better known as the Jagdtiger. It fired separately loading (shell then propellant) 2-piece ammunition. Its main Anti-Tank round being the PzGr.43 APCBC-HE (Armor-Piercing Capped Ballistic-Cap High Explosive). The gun would propel these huge, 28kg projectiles at a muzzle velocity of 950 m/s. These could penetrate 200 mm (7.9 in) of armor sloped at 30 degrees at 1000 meters, and 148 mm (5.8 in) at 2,000 mm (2,200 yd) range.
The Maus also dispensed with the usual coaxial machine gun, it instead carrying a coaxial 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 44 L/36.5. The gun was originally intended to be a pre-war L24 gun. However, the muzzle had to extend to 36 calibers to avoid the propellant gasses entering the engine ventilation system.
The V1 & V2 prototypes
A wooden mock-up was presented to Hitler and his staff on May 1, 1943. The German dictator was not impressed by the 128 mm gun (5 in), ordering a 150 mm (5.9 in) gun instead. However, the first order for 150 vehicles was given for the 128 mm (5 in) version. Production was scheduled to start in the fall of 1943, shared between Krupp for the parts and Alkett for the final assembly. Estimated final weight was about 188 tons, but Hitler insisted that it was 200. The lack of a machine gun for close defense caused Guderian to refuse the tank, as it was not a tank destroyer, and had to fight in close support with infantry.
The scale of the Maus can be appreciated in this image
However, as the war progressed, Hitler abruptly canceled the production order in October 1943 and canceled to project in November. Despite the setback, Porsche struggled to have the first prototype ready in December at Alkett. Tests began immediately. In June 1944, a real turret was ready and mounted on the hull.
As the tests progressed, two major problems became evident. The first was that the power-to-weight ratio so poor that the 20 km/h (12 mph) maximum speed figure was never achieved. The Maus could barely reach 13 km/h (8 mph) in ideal conditions. Also, the suspension had to be revamped. The other major problem was of a tactical nature. Crossing any bridge was impossible, so it was planned to have the tanks operating in pairs, one crossing the stream on electrical power, provided by a cable from the second, the air being supplied through a long snorkel.
The V1 and V2 seen together.
The second prototype, the V2, was ready in March 1944 and also began trials. It was later fitted with the first Krupp turret fitted with the intended armament, including an MG 34 machine gun for anti-aircraft defense and, later, a Daimler-Benz MB 517 diesel engine (in September), new electrical power plant and Skoda tracks and suspension system. However, as soon as Krupp started the construction of four more hulls, the cancellation order came in August.
In fact, the two prototypes were nevertheless tested until their capture at Kummersdorf, near Böblingen, by Soviet forces, in the vicinity of abandoned artillery batteries, probably sabotaged. Some stories were told of the prototype firing at the advancing forces, but it was proved false.
The V2 prototype lays destroyed at kummersdorf.
Soon after, the Soviet command ordered the V2 turret to be mounted on V1, and the tank was tested again in Germany, and then carried to the USSR for additional tests near Kubinka, in 1946. It is now displayed at the Kubinka museum. The tank was so big, that the building it sits in was effectively built around it.
Panzer VIII Type 205 Maus specifications
|Dimensions||10.1 x 3.67 x 3.63 m (33.13x12x11.9 ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||188 tons|
|Propulsion||Daimler-Benz MB509 gasoline V12, 1080 hp (V1)
Daimler-Benz MB517 Diesel 12 cyl, 1200 hp (V2)
|Speed||Designed to reach 20 km/h (12 mph)|
|Range/consumption||60-190 km (37-118 mi)/4200 liters|
|Armament||128 mm (5 in) KwK 44 L/55
75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 44 L/36.5
1 x 7.92 mm (0.3 in) MG-34
|Armor||From 50 to 250 mm (1.96-9.84 in)|
|Ammunition used||Panzergranate 40/43 Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (Tungsten Core)|
|Total production||Two prototypes built in 1944|
Links & Resources
The Maus on Wikipedia
History of the Maus on Achtung Panzer
Opsprey Publish, New Vanguard #216, Super-Heavy Tanks of World War II
Panzer Tracts No.6-3, Schwere Panzerkampfwagen Maus and E-100, development and production from 1942 to 1945. Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle.
The Porsche Type 205 compared to a Polish TK tankette. It shows, immediately, the German Panzer development in four years. Behind the tankette, the V1 prototype, as it was found by the Soviets, in September 1944. The turret was a dummy, but shaped and loaded like the real one. Before testing it at Kubinka, the Russians mounted the V2 turret on the V1 hull. Camouflage was the autumn one, but there were no markings, as it was never commissioned.
Fictitious Maus of a schwere Abteilung defending east Berlin in the fall of 1945.