How reliable was the Tiger 2?

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Erik1
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How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Erik1 » 30 Aug 2022 09:43

I've been curious about the Tiger 2's reliability for ages, and there seem to be a lot of different opinions, yet little first source data.

Jentz say reliability was "satisfactory" with adequate maintenance, other authors have said its reliability was highly problematic and prevented it from being used as an assault tank, thus rendering it a failure for its intended purpose. It's difficult for me to feel like these authors have trustworthy conclusions when there seem to be so few sources of data.

I'm only aware of 4 first sources: the readyness-rates, the Kubinka test, and 2 German combat reports that briefly touch upon it (s.Pz.Abt. 506's "Experiences with Tiger ausf. B", s.Pz.Abt. 503's combat report about Hungary).

Has anyone here come across more first source data, or enough knowledge about German tanks/T2 (examples of road-marches, battles, veteran interviews, etc) to form an impression of its reliability?

Thank you.
Last edited by Erik1 on 30 Aug 2022 18:38, edited 4 times in total.

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Christian Ankerstjerne
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Christian Ankerstjerne » 30 Aug 2022 17:21

I wrote a statistical analysis on Tiger losses last year that may be of interest:
https://panzerworld.com/tiger-losses

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Sheldrake
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Sheldrake » 30 Aug 2022 21:35

I can't find the reference, but I recall some document on the Ardennes that referred to a breakdown rate of 20% per road move. This compares badly to the 1% breakdown rate of the M4 Sherman.

Driver training may be an issue. These vehicles were complicated by 1940s standards and neither easy to drive or maintain. There were lots of little quirks that needed care to avoid damaging the vehicle or its engine.

One of the management team from Bovington told me that they needed to improvise parts out of bent wire to make 132 work. They interviewed a German veteran who told them that they had to do the same in the war.

I spent the Covid Pandemic learning to drive London Buses. There was a definite learning curve and all sorts of tricks I had to find out about what to do when my bus did not work. These were modern civilian vehicles - or rather old knackered vehicles with 300,000 miles on the clock. Nothing in the manual or in my training. But I suspect the issue would have been the same for tank drivers dealing with leading edge 1944 technology.

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Richard Stone » 09 Nov 2022 03:06

The attached article, written by US Army Lieutenant Colonel Albert Irzyk, provides interesting information comparing the Tiger's reliability to the Sherman, but does not distinguish between the Tiger 1 and 2. The article also identifies other issues that affected both tanks during the NWE campaign.

Colonel Albert Irzyk served in Sherman Tanks with the 8th Tank Battalion as part of the 4th Armored Division during the entire NWE campaign.

The article was printed in the January 1946 edition of the USA professional military reference magazine ‘Military Review’.
Armor - Sherman - Mil Review Jan 1946-1 -XXX.png
Armor - Sherman - Mil Review Jan 1946-2 -XXX.png
Armor - Sherman - Mil Review Jan 1946-3 -XXX.png
Armor - Sherman - Mil Review Jan 1946-4 -XXX.png
Armor - Sherman - Mil Review Jan 1946-5 -XXX.png
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Erik1
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Erik1 » 09 Nov 2022 19:37

Richard Stone wrote:
09 Nov 2022 03:06
The attached article, written by US Army Lieutenant Colonel Albert Irzyk, provides interesting information comparing the Tiger's reliability to the Sherman, but does not distinguish between the Tiger 1 and 2. The article also identifies other issues that affected both tanks during the NWE campaign.

Colonel Albert Irzyk served in Sherman Tanks with the 8th Tank Battalion as part of the 4th Armored Division during the entire NWE campaign.

The article was printed in the January 1946 edition of the USA professional military reference magazine ‘Military Review’.
Thanks for sharing, though I don't know if that article gave much information. The author seems to think that the lack of reliability of German heavy tanks were because of inherent design issues, but I've been told that in 1944 all German tank types had reliability issues, because of lack of maintenance and using old, worn-out tanks in service due to the desperate situation and too few replacement tanks.

About all the things he described as examples of the Sherman's strength regarding reliability, I actually wonder whether the Tiger 1 could've given it a run for its money.

Tiger was often praised as being one of or being the most reliable German tank by its users. It had maybe the longest reported distance between overhauls of all tanks in the war, a common measure of reliability- almost double that of a Sherman's. I know of a report that says the Tigers marched 400 km and were still fit for action when they arrived.

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Destroyer500
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Destroyer500 » 10 Nov 2022 01:20

Christian Ankerstjerne wrote:
30 Aug 2022 17:21
I wrote a statistical analysis on Tiger losses last year that may be of interest:
https://panzerworld.com/tiger-losses
Thats very well written and informative good job mate

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Don Juan
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Don Juan » 04 Dec 2022 23:37

I'm pretty sure that the main cause of AFV unreliability in WW2 was poor driver training. A second major cause of unreliability was poor storage - leaving tanks in depots or even outside with little maintenance or occasional running. Neither of these phenomena tend to get flagged up as they are not as objective as design or production issues, which can be measured and subjected to obvious ameliatory action.

There's a systemic issue here of matching the sophistication of equipment to the general skill level and resources of an Army, and it is in this area where a vehicle like the Tiger 2 becomes suspect.
"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

Erik1
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Erik1 » 05 Dec 2022 12:28

Don Juan wrote:
04 Dec 2022 23:37
I'm pretty sure that the main cause of AFV unreliability in WW2 was poor driver training. A second major cause of unreliability was poor storage - leaving tanks in depots or even outside with little maintenance or occasional running. Neither of these phenomena tend to get flagged up as they are not as objective as design or production issues, which can be measured and subjected to obvious ameliatory action.

There's a systemic issue here of matching the sophistication of equipment to the general skill level and resources of an Army, and it is in this area where a vehicle like the Tiger 2 becomes suspect.
The 503rd's Hungary report reveals an example of the German military leadership not treating the Tiger 2s very well. Perhaps this was a common occurrence for the Tiger 2 battalions?

"During this week, and continuing up to today, the Abteilung was not given time to perform maintenance in spite of urgent requests continuously being made. This was partially due to the situation, but also partially due to the lack of understanding of the higher command to which the unit was subordinated, who always asked two questions: "How many are operational?" and "How many will be repaired in the next few days?" In spite ofthis, up to 30 October on average 25 to 30 Tiger lIs were operational every day. On 31 October, the Abteilung rolled to a newassignment under the LVII.Panzer-Korps in the Kecskomet area to catch the penetrating Russian wedges. In very difficult, partially swampy terrain that was unsuitable for Panzers, damage began to appear, especially to drive sprockets, tracks, track tension adjusters, and engine cooling fans. Within a few days, due to a shortage of replacement parts that were ordered on time but not delivered on time and then only partially, this led to most of the Tiger lIs breaking down."

The brief mentions of reliability in the report sounds positive:

"The complete route of combat (250km) was covered without any major mechanical breakdowns. In these battles the Tiger II Ausf B has performed remarkably well regarding armour, armament and mechanical reliability. Tanks receiving up to 20 hits without falling out were not a rarity."

How good is 250 km in combat without any "major breakdowns" in WW2? Anyone wanna guess?

The "remarkable" performance in reliability, I hesitate to think the Tiger 2 had remarkable reliability compared to other German tanks, so maybe they mean remarkable compared to previous Tiger 2 reliability performance when it was plauged with quite severe teething problems?

"In summary it can be said that the Tiger II has proven itself in every way and is a weapon that is feared by the enemy. The concentrated Tiger-Abteilung correctly employed tactically will always bring success. But most of the higher commands that were encountered did not perceive the technical and tactical importance of a Tiger-Abteilung."

The "proven itself in every way" must surely include reliability and so it sounds like the crews didnt think the Tiger 2 has any inherent flaws causing bad reliability. I've heard about how terrible it was during the Ardennes offensive though, but maybe it was not treated well and not the tank's fault.

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Don Juan
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Don Juan » 05 Dec 2022 16:21

Well 250 km is 155 miles in proper units, so having no major breakdowns over this distance is really very good. The more pertinent question is, could the Tiger II perform in this manner again and again and again?

I think the "remarkable" reliability would be in reference to its battle weight, which iirc was around 70 tons, which is huge for a tank of that era - I don't think any other major nation produced service tanks even close to that figure.

But the report you quote adds to my growing feeling that the unreliability of tanks in WW2 tended to be circumstantial rather than inherent. An example I am more familiar with is the British Crusader tank, which gained a terrible reputation for unreliability in the Middle East but performed perfectly well in Home Forces in Britain. There have been lots of explanations offered for this difference over the years, usually concerning the supposedly harsher climate in the desert, but I think the simplest and most accurate explanation is that the British Army in the Middle East was incompetent.
"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 Jan-Hendrik » 05 Dec 2022 18:03

Well, recalling talks to veets of sPzabt. 503/FFH:

A Tiger II could run 1000km... with a good driver...without major maintenance
With a bad driver not 50km...


Regarding the brit tank units in my area in my youth they had on a Verlegungsmarsch of 100km at least on or two left behind with major breakdown :D

Was in the 90s....

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Erik1
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Erik1 » 05 Dec 2022 18:16

Don Juan wrote:
05 Dec 2022 16:21
Well 250 km is 155 miles in proper units, so having no major breakdowns over this distance is really very good. The more pertinent question is, could the Tiger II perform in this manner again and again and again?

I think the "remarkable" reliability would be in reference to its battle weight, which iirc was around 70 tons, which is huge for a tank of that era - I don't think any other major nation produced service tanks even close to that figure.

But the report you quote adds to my growing feeling that the unreliability of tanks in WW2 tended to be circumstantial rather than inherent. An example I am more familiar with is the British Crusader tank, which gained a terrible reputation for unreliability in the Middle East but performed perfectly well in Home Forces in Britain. There have been lots of explanations offered for this difference over the years, usually concerning the supposedly harsher climate in the desert, but I think the simplest and most accurate explanation is that the British Army in the Middle East was incompetent.
Afaik no book has any numbers for average distance between overhauls or breakdowns for the Tiger II, so I guess we just won't know much more besides the brief scraps of data in the few combat reports, and Jentz opinion that it was fine, which we don't know the sources of because he never revealed them.

I've heard about the Crusader and its awful reliability: Bruce Newsome had a laugh about it in a video he did with Sofilein. Apparently it had a distance between overhauls of just 200 miles in the desert. :o

I didn't know that it performed fine in the UK though. It's off topic but what were the reasons it became so spectacularly unreliable?

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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Erik1 » 05 Dec 2022 18:20

Jan-Hendrik wrote:
05 Dec 2022 18:03
Well, recalling talks to veets of sPzabt. 503/FFH:

A Tiger II could run 1000km... with a good driver...without major maintenance
With a bad driver not 50km...


Regarding the brit tank units in my area in my youth they had on a Verlegungsmarsch of 100km at least on or two left behind with major breakdown :D

Was in the 90s....

Jan-Hendrik
You've talked with veterans? Very interesting, now I really want to know more, and not just about Tiger reliability.

The difference between good and bad drivers is surprisingly large.
So 1000km between breakdowns? Did they ever say anything about distance between overhauls/major maintenance procedure?
Did they say anything else about the Tiger 2? Opinions about it for example.

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Don Juan
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Re: How reliable was the Tiger 2?

Post by Don Juan » 05 Dec 2022 18:57

Erik1 wrote:
05 Dec 2022 18:16
Afaik no book has any numbers for average distance between overhauls or breakdowns for the Tiger II, so I guess we just won't know much more besides the brief scraps of data in the few combat reports, and Jentz opinion that it was fine, which we don't know the sources of because he never revealed them.

I've heard about the Crusader and its awful reliability: Bruce Newsome had a laugh about it in a video he did with Sofilein. Apparently it had a distance between overhauls of just 200 miles in the desert. :o

I didn't know that it performed fine in the UK though. It's off topic but what were the reasons it became so spectacularly unreliable?
Bruce Newsome is an idiot who doesn't know what he is talking about. The overhaul life of the Crusader in the desert AND in the UK was 1200 to 1500 miles (~2000 to 2500 km), which was almost exactly the same as the Panzer III. However in the desert the Crusader's period between overhauls would be peppered with breakdowns, which didn't happen anything like as much in the UK.

I don't know exactly why the Crusader was unreliable in the desert, but by a process of elimination I think the two most likely reasons where firstly corrosion during shipping and secondly poor driver training in the Middle East. Shipping of tanks to Egypt was via the Cape, so the tanks would spend six to eight weeks on board ship being exposed to salty air, which wasn't so bad on a relatively simple tank like the Stuart or Valentine, but quite harsh on a more complex one like the Crusader. Middle East Forces trained their crews in their own AFV School at Abbassia in Cairo, and I suspect (but cannot confirm) that the training this school offered was inferior to the training in the UK. Other than that the usual reasons given for Crusader unreliability in the Middle East, for example the supposedly dustier conditions of the desert, don't really apply because dust was just as prevalent in England, as demonstrated by various field trial reports.

Regarding the Tiger II, I would guess that the overhaul life would have been around 500 miles (~800 km) as that would correlate with the A39 Tortoise, which was of an equivalent weight. The more complex a tank is, the more crew training and experience becomes a vital factor in reliability, so the inherent reliability becomes more difficult to assess. There is a general belief that "reliability" is an objective characteristic, whereas I think it is a much more circumstantial one than is generally perceived.
"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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