How reliable was the Tiger 2?

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Don Juan
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Don Juan » 05 Dec 2022 21:04

Erik1 wrote:
05 Dec 2022 19:45

The overhaul thing could've been a simple mistake, or are there more reasons why you think he's an "idiot"?

In the 2+ hours chat he did with Sofilein he came across as a thorough researcher I thought. He's also worked in the Abrams M1 development I believe- not that that makes him competent in WW2 tank history of course but however much overlap there is between WW2 and modern era tanks, I guess he should know a lot about tanks in general.
I've wanted to buy his Tiger book about its reliability for some time now. Some of his presumed findings are surprising and very exciting, like the super-long overhaul distance. But if there are suspect things with him, I'm open ears...

Thanks for sharing so generously and well-written about the Crusader. I should get a book on it sometime...
I watched about 15 minutes of that Sofilein video but could bear no more. The claimed "super long" engine overhaul life of the Tiger of 5000km isn't something difficult to find - it's in the Tigerfibel! Whether any Tiger engine actually achieved that in real life I strongly doubt. The Sherman, Cromwell, Comet, and T-34 engines definitely could, though. Also the claim that the Tiger had an amazing power-to weight ratio is nonsense. The Tiger weighed approx 55 tons and had a 700 hp engine, while the Cromwell weighed 28 tons and had a 600 hp engine, so you do the maths.

I'm personally quite open to the view that the Tiger was on the whole a good tank, but I know a bullshitter when I see one.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

ThatZenoGuy
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by ThatZenoGuy » 06 Dec 2022 02:21

Don Juan wrote:
05 Dec 2022 21:04
Also the claim that the Tiger had an amazing power-to weight ratio is nonsense. The Tiger weighed approx 55 tons and had a 700 hp engine, while the Cromwell weighed 28 tons and had a 600 hp engine, so you do the maths.
I mean to be fair for such a beefy big boy tank relatively early in the war, it's HP/Ton was not bad. Comparable to the Sherman in most variants.

If your heavy tank is running the same HP/Ton as your rival's mediums I'd say you're on a good footing, sure the little nibbly fast tanks will have higher HP/Ton but unless you throw a gas turbine into your heavies you're never going to catch up with them.

Cromwell is a bit of a silly tank to point out as having a higher HP/Ton because sure, the Meteor was a big beefy engine but the tank had not much else going for it. Armor comparable to an interwar French tank, gun of the early Shermans, and the inefficient christie suspension eating up internal volume.

If it didn't have such a big engine it'd have nothing going for it, especially because it showed up late in the war, not early.

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Erik1 » 06 Dec 2022 05:28

Don Juan wrote:
05 Dec 2022 21:04
Erik1 wrote:
05 Dec 2022 19:45

The overhaul thing could've been a simple mistake, or are there more reasons why you think he's an "idiot"?

In the 2+ hours chat he did with Sofilein he came across as a thorough researcher I thought. He's also worked in the Abrams M1 development I believe- not that that makes him competent in WW2 tank history of course but however much overlap there is between WW2 and modern era tanks, I guess he should know a lot about tanks in general.
I've wanted to buy his Tiger book about its reliability for some time now. Some of his presumed findings are surprising and very exciting, like the super-long overhaul distance. But if there are suspect things with him, I'm open ears...

Thanks for sharing so generously and well-written about the Crusader. I should get a book on it sometime...
I watched about 15 minutes of that Sofilein video but could bear no more. The claimed "super long" engine overhaul life of the Tiger of 5000km isn't something difficult to find - it's in the Tigerfibel! Whether any Tiger engine actually achieved that in real life I strongly doubt. The Sherman, Cromwell, Comet, and T-34 engines definitely could, though. Also the claim that the Tiger had an amazing power-to weight ratio is nonsense. The Tiger weighed approx 55 tons and had a 700 hp engine, while the Cromwell weighed 28 tons and had a 600 hp engine, so you do the maths.

I'm personally quite open to the view that the Tiger was on the whole a good tank, but I know a bullshitter when I see one.
I asked Bruce on Youtube if the 5000 km/overhaul figure was some pre-made recommendation or came from the troops in combat reports, he said combat reports. I got the impression he meant it's for the whole drivetrain, not just engine.

If mean distance between overhauls is a good measurement of reliability it makes sense that the Tiger had a higher figure than Pz III and IV since there are several combat reports saying the Tiger is more reliable than those tanks. If Pz III was already between 2000-2500 km and overhaul kms = reliability is true, the Tigers figure must be way up there.

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Don Juan » 06 Dec 2022 11:09

ThatZenoGuy wrote:
06 Dec 2022 02:21

I mean to be fair for such a beefy big boy tank relatively early in the war, it's HP/Ton was not bad. Comparable to the Sherman in most variants.

If your heavy tank is running the same HP/Ton as your rival's mediums I'd say you're on a good footing, sure the little nibbly fast tanks will have higher HP/Ton but unless you throw a gas turbine into your heavies you're never going to catch up with them.

Cromwell is a bit of a silly tank to point out as having a higher HP/Ton because sure, the Meteor was a big beefy engine but the tank had not much else going for it. Armor comparable to an interwar French tank, gun of the early Shermans, and the inefficient christie suspension eating up internal volume.

If it didn't have such a big engine it'd have nothing going for it, especially because it showed up late in the war, not early.
Well it was Newsome who made the claim that the Tiger had an outstanding power-to-weight ratio, not me. If he had said that it was very respectable in this aspect, he would have been more correct. The Cromwell had a lot more going for it than just power to weight ratio, in respect of its overhaul life (3000 miles minimum), gradient performance, acceleration, low silhouette etc.

But then I think that all WW2 tanks are somewhat underrated in terms of the engineering achievement they represented at the time. There's a tendency to take the "ideal" tanks that appeared right at the end of the war or just after, such as the M-26, Centurion, T-54 etc, and then retrospectively gauge how the WW2 tanks fell short of this ideal, which is a bit ahistorical in my opinion. Both the Cromwell and Tiger, as well as their contemporaries were I think pioneering pieces of engineering, and taking a "this is where they fell short" attitude to any of them is a bit of a limiting point of view.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

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Don Juan
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Don Juan » 06 Dec 2022 11:20

Erik1 wrote:
06 Dec 2022 05:28

I asked Bruce on Youtube if the 5000 km/overhaul figure was some pre-made recommendation or came from the troops in combat reports, he said combat reports. I got the impression he meant it's for the whole drivetrain, not just engine.

If mean distance between overhauls is a good measurement of reliability it makes sense that the Tiger had a higher figure than Pz III and IV since there are several combat reports saying the Tiger is more reliable than those tanks. If Pz III was already between 2000-2500 km and overhaul kms = reliability is true, the Tigers figure must be way up there.
Well the Panther, which was ten tons lighter than the Tiger, had a version of the same Maybach HL230 engine, and by mid-1944 they had managed to get this up to a life mileage of approximately 1000 km (700 miles), so it's intriguing that a similar engine in the heavier Tiger would have five times the life mileage.

But...if these combat reports confirming 5000 km overhauls really exist then I am prepared to be amazed.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

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Don Juan
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Don Juan » 06 Dec 2022 22:34

I've just come across this Canadian interrogation of a Tiger crewman:

https://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/ooci ... 12698/1106

It does conform with what me might call the orthodox view of Tiger reliability, but it's a very interesting report nonetheless.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

ThatZenoGuy
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by ThatZenoGuy » 07 Dec 2022 04:03

Don Juan wrote:
06 Dec 2022 22:34
I've just come across this Canadian interrogation of a Tiger crewman:

https://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/ooci ... 12698/1106

It does conform with what me might call the orthodox view of Tiger reliability, but it's a very interesting report nonetheless.
It does conform to the unreliability of the Maybach engine the Tiger (and panther and so on) tank used. Although as I understand it, it was improved throughout the war, and was governed to help with that as well.

Was a pretty compact engine for its output, I suppose that might be a reason why it had issues?

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Erik1 » 07 Dec 2022 10:13

Don Juan wrote:
06 Dec 2022 11:20
Erik1 wrote:
06 Dec 2022 05:28

I asked Bruce on Youtube if the 5000 km/overhaul figure was some pre-made recommendation or came from the troops in combat reports, he said combat reports. I got the impression he meant it's for the whole drivetrain, not just engine.

If mean distance between overhauls is a good measurement of reliability it makes sense that the Tiger had a higher figure than Pz III and IV since there are several combat reports saying the Tiger is more reliable than those tanks. If Pz III was already between 2000-2500 km and overhaul kms = reliability is true, the Tigers figure must be way up there.
Well the Panther, which was ten tons lighter than the Tiger, had a version of the same Maybach HL230 engine, and by mid-1944 they had managed to get this up to a life mileage of approximately 1000 km (700 miles), so it's intriguing that a similar engine in the heavier Tiger would have five times the life mileage.

But...if these combat reports confirming 5000 km overhauls really exist then I am prepared to be amazed.
Afaik two things were going on with the Panther's engine, one was that the Panther's waterproof engine compartment caused the engine to run hot and easily overheat when pushed in combat. This could've lowered its lifespan compared to when it was used in the Tiger. The problem was fixed only somewhat. The second was that the manufacturing quality of the maybach deteriorated during the war according to someone here. Sabotage were reported but mostly it was due to declining material quality and rushed manufacturing.

About it being reliable in the Tiger, Jentz writes:

"The first production series Tiger Fgst Nr 250001 with Motor Nr 46052 was only run-in for 25 km by Henschel before being sent to Kummersdorf for testing. During a test drive on 28 May 1942, with only 52 km on the odometer, a blockage occurred in the steering gear. This Tiger quickly went through the original and two replacement engines (Motor Nr 46051 from July lst to 3rd, Motor Nr 46065 from 6 to 8 July) and was fitted with a fourth motor, Nr 46066, after 13 July. By 3 August 1942, this Tiger had covered a total of 1046 km; by 31 March 1943 a total of 5623 km; and by 31 July 1943 a total of 7736 km.These figures clearly demonstrate that once the Tiger had overcome its teething troubles, it could withstand a lot of purposefully administered abuse during test programmes."

From a combat report:
"Regarding the overheating engines, the HL 210 engine caused no troubles during the recent time. All occurring breakdowns resulted from the low quality of driver training. In several cases engine failures have to be put down to the missing remote engine thermometer. Five engines have reached more than 3,000 km without essential failures."

The mechanics at Bovington laughed in a video about the Tigers engine being "boring" because there's never any problems with it.

Otoh Alfred Rubbel, commander of a Tiger battalion, said after the war that the engine usually didn't last 1000 km and that the fuel pumps lasted 500 km, but perhaps this a little later in the war when the newer, lower quality engines started to be issued.

I'm far from knowledgable about tanks though, unlike yourself, so I don't know how meaningful this evidence is.

And about the 5000 km figure being in the Tiger-fibel, maybe it was taken from troops in combat and then put in the book. The Tiger-fibel has pictures of destroyed Tigers so it was clearly made or was updated at the time when the Tiger was in combat.
Last edited by Erik1 on 07 Dec 2022 10:50, edited 8 times in total.

Erik1
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Erik1 » 07 Dec 2022 10:18

ThatZenoGuy wrote:
07 Dec 2022 04:03
Don Juan wrote:
06 Dec 2022 22:34
I've just come across this Canadian interrogation of a Tiger crewman:

https://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/ooci ... 12698/1106

It does conform with what me might call the orthodox view of Tiger reliability, but it's a very interesting report nonetheless.
It does conform to the unreliability of the Maybach engine the Tiger (and panther and so on) tank used. Although as I understand it, it was improved throughout the war, and was governed to help with that as well.

Was a pretty compact engine for its output, I suppose that might be a reason why it had issues?
Someone here said that according to a Maybach employee interrogation after the war the engine was not governed because it had reliability issues but to lessen the amount of spareparts it used up. I guess it was a choice made when Germany realised that they were in over their heads in the war production situation.

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Don Juan » 07 Dec 2022 10:59

ThatZenoGuy wrote:
07 Dec 2022 04:03
It does conform to the unreliability of the Maybach engine the Tiger (and panther and so on) tank used. Although as I understand it, it was improved throughout the war, and was governed to help with that as well.

Was a pretty compact engine for its output, I suppose that might be a reason why it had issues?
I haven't researched German tank engines very extensively, but there's a Russian article here which suggests that the main problem was that the cylinders were packed too closely together:

https://en.topwar.ru/171818-tankovyj-mo ... -zile.html
Last edited by Don Juan on 07 Dec 2022 11:08, edited 1 time in total.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Don Juan » 07 Dec 2022 11:04

Erik1 wrote:
07 Dec 2022 10:13

Afaik two things were going on with the Panther's engine, one was that the Panther's waterproof engine compartment caused the engine to run hot and easily overheat when pushed in combat. This could've lowered its lifespan compared to when it was used in the Tiger. The problem was fixed only somewhat. The second was that the manufacturing quality of the maybach deteriorated during the war according to someone here. Sabotage were reported but mostly it was due to declining material quality and rushed manufacturing.

About it being reliable in the Tiger, Jentz writes:

"The first production series Tiger Fgst Nr 250001 with Motor Nr 46052 was only run-in for 25 km by Henschel before being sent to Kummersdorf for testing. During a test drive on 28 May 1942, with only 52 km on the odometer, a blockage occurred in the steering gear. This Tiger quickly went through the original and two replacement engines (Motor Nr 46051 from July lst to 3rd, Motor Nr 46065 from 6 to 8 July) and was fitted with a fourth motor, Nr 46066, after 13 July. By 3 August 1942, this Tiger had covered a total of 1046 km; by 31 March 1943 a total of 5623 km; and by 31 July 1943 a total of 7736 km.These figures clearly demonstrate that once the Tiger had overcome its teething troubles, it could withstand a lot of purposefully administered abuse during test programmes."

From a combat report:
"Regarding the overheating engines, the HL 210 engine caused no troubles during the recent time. All occurring breakdowns resulted from the low quality of driver training. In several cases engine failures have to be put down to the missing remote engine thermometer. Five engines have reached more than 3,000 km without essential failures."

The mechanics at Bovington laughed in a video about the Tigers engine being "boring" because there's never any problems with it.

Otoh Alfred Rubbel, commander of a Tiger battalion, said after the war that the engine usually didn't last 1000 km and that the fuel pumps lasted 500 km, but perhaps this a little later in the war when the newer, lower quality engines started to be issued.

I'm far from knowledgable about tanks though, unlike yourself, so I don't know how meaningful this evidence is.

And about the 5000 km figure being in the Tiger-fibel, maybe it was taken from troops in combat and then put in the book. The Tiger-fibel has pictures of destroyed Tigers so it was clearly made or was updated at the time when the Tiger was in combat.
What you will tend to find as you research tanks more deeply is that there is a lot of contradictory evidence and so it is difficult to come to firm conclusions. Maybe the most accurate thing that could be said about both basic models of the Tiger is not that they were "unreliable" but that they were difficult to operate reliably, i.e. you needed very well-trained crews with excellently maintained vehicles and plentiful spares in order to get the best out of them, and these three factors rarely came together during the exigencies of the war.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Michael Kenny » 11 Dec 2022 13:42

Saying the Tiger was comparable to the Panther and Pz IV in terms of reliability only works if those tanks were themselves 'reliable'. They were not. I looked at the Panzerlage totals for The West and in May 44 there was a 1200/200 (rounded) split in tanks fit/in repair. That appears to be an unduly high number of 'non combat' repairs.

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Westphalia1812 » 11 Dec 2022 22:39

Michael Kenny wrote:
11 Dec 2022 13:42

I looked at the Panzerlage totals for The West and in May 44 there was a 1200/200 (rounded) split in tanks fit/in repair.
Do you know the archival number for the document? I guess its from the Generalinspekteur (RH 10).

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Erik1 » 14 Dec 2022 05:37

Michael Kenny wrote:
11 Dec 2022 13:42
Saying the Tiger was comparable to the Panther and Pz IV in terms of reliability only works if those tanks were themselves 'reliable'. They were not. I looked at the Panzerlage totals for The West and in May 44 there was a 1200/200 (rounded) split in tanks fit/in repair. That appears to be an unduly high number of 'non combat' repairs.
I don't know anything for sure myself, I'm not an expert, but It's been said here and elsewhere that in 1944 German tanks will look worse for several reasons, all as an outcome of the worsening situation.

Some reasons I recall are:
1. Germany's increasing tank shortage means that they try to repair damaged tanks more often, including badly damaged ones, and this keeps them in the records. The Allieds often had replacement tanks ready and tanks with even minor damage were often scrapped entirely.
2. Commanders of tank units were hesitant to hand over badly damaged tanks to repair units out of fear that when repaired they'd be given to other units and not be replaced. They drag these tanks with themselves, hoping for a lull in the fighting where they can be repaired.
3. The increasingly desperate fighting means tank units are sometimes getting adequate breaks for maintenance. They also start to keep an increasing amount of old and worn out tanks in service, which should've normally been scrapped or sent away for major overhaul.
4. The crews are becoming increasingly less trained: bad drivers, badly done maintenace, etc.
5. Quality control issues in manufacturing are increasing, not just of armor plate but the quality of metal and rubber of internal systems. An unknown amount of sabotage is also definitely going on.
6. Supply difficulties with spare parts and the manufacturing of too few spare parts on purpose as a desperate trade off for manufacturing more tanks.

Pz III or IV might never have been as reliable as the Sherman but comparing 1944 German figures to Allied ones to get a picture of the inherent performance difference for the tanks is probably really unfair, if this is true.

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Don Juan » 15 Dec 2022 13:19

Erik1 wrote:
14 Dec 2022 05:37

I don't know anything for sure myself, I'm not an expert, but It's been said here and elsewhere that in 1944 German tanks will look worse for several reasons, all as an outcome of the worsening situation.

Some reasons I recall are:
1. Germany's increasing tank shortage means that they try to repair damaged tanks more often, including badly damaged ones, and this keeps them in the records. The Allieds often had replacement tanks ready and tanks with even minor damage were often scrapped entirely.
2. Commanders of tank units were hesitant to hand over badly damaged tanks to repair units out of fear that when repaired they'd be given to other units and not be replaced. They drag these tanks with themselves, hoping for a lull in the fighting where they can be repaired.
3. The increasingly desperate fighting means tank units are sometimes getting adequate breaks for maintenance. They also start to keep an increasing amount of old and worn out tanks in service, which should've normally been scrapped or sent away for major overhaul.
4. The crews are becoming increasingly less trained: bad drivers, badly done maintenace, etc.
5. Quality control issues in manufacturing are increasing, not just of armor plate but the quality of metal and rubber of internal systems. An unknown amount of sabotage is also definitely going on.
6. Supply difficulties with spare parts and the manufacturing of too few spare parts on purpose as a desperate trade off for manufacturing more tanks.

Pz III or IV might never have been as reliable as the Sherman but comparing 1944 German figures to Allied ones to get a picture of the inherent performance difference for the tanks is probably really unfair, if this is true.
The Western Allies did NOT scrap tanks "with even minor damage" and any "historian" who is spreading this nonsense needs their backsides kicking. The Allies only scrapped tanks if they were write-offs, and even then these would be pooled for cannibalisation, because as the automotive components of these vehicles (engines, gearboxes, final drives) generally had tremendous durability they could be re-used even if the rest of the tank was a wreck. The British were even sending Meteor engines from written-off Cromwells in Normandy back to England to be installed in new production tanks.

Otherwise, the whole issue of the degradation of German tank performance is a chicken-and-egg situation. The final drives of a Sherman or a Cromwell were expected to last a minimum of 3000 miles (5000 km) under constant severe usage. Therefore the theoretical (not actual) spares requirement for these items from wear and tear across the whole of NWE during 1944 and 1945 would have been pretty much nil. This wasn't true in reality of course, but the inherent durability of these components meant that there was never likely to be a spares shortage because the spares required would have been easily controllable. Compare that with a Panther where the final drives generally needed to be checked and have new components fitted every 150 km (I can scarcely believe this but I am assured it is true).

If you produce tanks that eat up spares, you cannot then complain that the tanks would be reliable "if only" the spares were available. If you don't produce enough spares because you are desperate to produce new spares-eating tanks then the problem still lies with the nature of the tanks. The same applies if you are having to produce spares with lower quality materials because so many are wanted. Also if the tanks constantly need new spares fitting then they are going to require more fitters and mechanics than Allied tanks, and so be a drain on manpower - after all those skilled men could be doing something far more useful, such as crewing tanks!

This is a systemic problem that cannot be analysed from one direction (i.e. the tanks were good "if only"). German tanks were as much a burden on the system that supported them as vice-versa.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

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