Panzer Maus (1942)
Genesis of a monster. (2009's David Bocquelet Archive)
This was by far the most gigantic battlefield monster that have ever been built. In the straight line of the panzer tree, this was to be the number VIII. It came after a constant upsizing of existing tanks, and the latest which was also the biggest operational tank in 1945, the Panzer VII Jagdtiger, based on the Königtiger. The latter was quite impressive with its 71 tons, and 128 mm gun. But the VK701 Porsche Type 205 as it was known was a project drawn as early as 1942 and suggested to Hitler by Ferdinand Porsche in June. As it perfectly matched the wagnerian obsessions of Hitler, it was immediately approved and the contract granted, with the objective to built the first operational machines by march 1944. However, this was really a monster of a tank, stretching all technological previous achievements by Porsche to the very edge. Despite Porsche's enthusiasm and the great scepticism of the Wehrmacht, the first prototype, V1 was to be ready in 1943.
Design.First V1 prototype, officially named SdKfz 205, was first officially dubed "Mammut", but this was changed by derision "Maüschen" (little mouse) and then simply "Maus". The main project was based around the impressive KWK 44 L/55 Kanone (128 mm or 5in) which was soon used by the Jagdtiger, but with a rotative turret, which means that the Maus was a regular tank and not a tank-hunter. With a sheer weight of 100 tons, energy as well as tracks were soon imposing special measures. A diesel was fitted, coupled with a huge electric generator which took one third of the total lenght of the hull, causing the turret to be pushed backwards.
Porsche insisted to put on the test his project of a fully electric transmission. Consequentely, the driver was completely isolated at the front, only communicating by his headgear with the tank chief. The tracks were anormally 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 narrow hull, entirely filled by the propulsion system, the Maus was to be very cramped. The 128 mm gun was coupled with a coaxial 75 mm. Armour was also extremely thick, ranging from 190 mm on the sides and rear to 250 mm on the frontal part of the turret. For memory, the figures were even bigger than any of the "Panzerschiff" of the Deutschland class. Later, it was decided to increase the roof protection to 220 mm in order to cope with Russian Ll2 Sturmovik attacks.
The prototype :A wooden mock-up was presented to Hitler and his staff by may, 1, 1943. Although not impressed by the 128 mm, ordering a 150 mm gun instead, the first 150 command was passed. Production was scheduled to start on the fall of 1943, 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 defence caused Guderian to refuse the tank, as it was not a hunter but would have fought in close support to the infantry. However, as the war progressed, Hitler abruptly cancelled the production order in october 1943 and cancelled 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, and as the tests goes along, two major problems occured. The first was the power-to-weight ratio so poor that the 20 km/h figure was never achieved, but 13 km/h at best in ideal conditions. Plus, suspension has to be revamped, and a major tactical problem occured : Crossing any bridge was impossible, so it was planned to have the Tanks operating in pair, one crossing the stream on electrical power, provided by the cable of the second, the crew having air supply by the mean of a long snorkel.
Fate.The second prototype, V2 was ready in march 1944 and began testings. It was later fitted with the first production Krupp Turret fitted with the production armament, including a Mg34 machine gun for anti-aircraft defence, and later a Daimler-Benz MB 517 diesel engine (in september), new electrical powerplant and skoda tracks and suspension system. However, as soon as krupp started the building of four more hulls, cancellation order has 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. Soonafter, the Soviet command ordered the V2
Other developments and projects.As clearly in mid-1944 the real threat came from the air, one project seen to save the Maus production was to convert some into "flakpanzers", with a rapid-fire, very long range twin 88 mm Flak battery, also known as the "Flakzwilling", with a crew of eight and a radar-guiding command car. The project never reached the production line and is known only by captured drawings. In the same line of monster project of the Maus, there was even a another one, known as projekt E100 (Or Entwicklung-100). It was specified by the Waffenamt in june 1943, as a Tiger-based model equipped with a Maus turret and various ordinance guns, but notably the new Krupp KwK 44 149 mm. The final issue was to have a lighter, faster, more standart-built Maus version ready by the fall of 1944. Projected speed was 40 km/h, and final weight about 138 tons. A hunter version was also scheduled to use the 173 mm KwK 44. Propulsion was assumed by a V12 Maybach of 700 or 1200 hp. The entire project was cancelled by the beginning of 1944, followed by the Maus itself, but the incomplete hull was discovered by allied forces on the factory floor in 1945.
The land-kreuzer.But all these attempts was shadowed by another Hitler dream of epic proportions : The Land-Kreuzer ("land cruiser"), also officially known as Projekt P1000 Ratte. This was to be the first of a new kind of "land battleships" (or "land ironclads" as decribed by H.G. Wells a century before), a mobile fortress capable of leading an entire panzerdivision while covering the offensive by long range, powerful battleships guns, anti-aircraft defence, and beeing a coordinating HQ as well. It was designed by Krupp submarine chief-engineer and officer Grote, suggesting it to Hitler, which immediately approved the plan in june 1942. This was a 1000-tons super-heavy tank, equipped with a naval "panzerschiff" twin mount 280 mm turret, one Maus 128 mm, eight 20 mm AA guns, and two Mg42 Mgs. It was so big that a unique six tracks system (two pairs of three) was conceived. It was to be motorized by a pair of submarine MAN diesel engines. Armour was impregnable, with 250 mm hardened steel plates. To cope with the problem of crossing bridges, river crossings were envisioned due to the sheer height of the tank, allowing it to be partially submerged. The wide hull contained a small bay for BMW Motorcycles, several storage rooms, a compact infirmary area, and a self-contained lavatory system... On the beginning of 1943, Albert Speer then in charge of the war production cancelled the project, as well as a self-propelled gun version of 1500 tons, the P-1500 "monster", armed with the 800 mm Dora/schwerer gustav gun.
A "What-if" of a Panzer VIII Tiger IIP MAUS on operation in december 1945, with victory markings on the barrel, unit markings, and winter camouflage. This would have been a formidable opponent for any tank of the time, including the new JsIII Stalin, even most of the heavy tank hunters which were produced in 1945.
Historical of the Maus on Achtung panzer...
|Panzer VIII type 205 "MAUS" specs.|
|Dimensions :||10,10x3,67x3,63 m|
|Total weight, battle ready :||188 Tons|
Daimler-Benz MB509 gasoline V12 1080 hp (V1)
Daimler-Benz MB517 Diesel 12 cyl 1200 cv (V2)
|Speed :||20km/h as designed|
|Range/consumption :||60-190 km -4200 liters|
|Armament :|| 128 mm KwK 44 L/55
75 mm KwK 44 L/36.5
1 x 7.92 mm MG34
|Armour :||From 50 to 250 mm|
|Ammunition used||Panzergranate 40/43 Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (Tungsten Core).|
|Total production||Two prototypes 1944|
Germans Tanks of ww2