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PzKpfw VIII Maus superheavy tank

Written by Sakhal

During the Second World War Germany destined a large amount of effort and resources to develop a super-heavy combat armored vehicle. There were two tank models under development, the Maus and the E-100, but none of them was finally adopted for service. In June 1942 Ferdinand Porsche approached the possibility of building a huge tank armed with a 150-millimeter cannon in a fully rotating turret, incorporating as well a 20 millimeters co-axial cannon. In that time, Porsche was at the head of the German Tank Commission and hence he had a considerable influence with Hitler, who urged the development of super-heavy tanks. The majority of tank designers and theorists were opposed to the employment of such tanks. When this type of project was suggested for the first time, the vehicle was referenced as the Mammut, project number 205. The firm Alkett started to assemble the first tank the 1st August 1943. In mid September Krupp provided the hull, and the new tank, known then as Maus, made its first trial in Alkett the 23rd December 1943. The 10th January 1944 the tank was sent to Boolingen, near Stuttgart, for extensive tests. Apart from small problems with the suspension, the tests had notable success.

In that time Hitler gave directly to Porsche the order of having the tank ready in June. The 9th June the turret was mounted and adjusted to the hull, and were effectuated more tests that were satisfactory, so in the beginning of October it was ordered to send the tank to the Kummersdorf test fields. A second prototype, the Maus II, was sent to Kummersdorf but it did not pass the trials. This model had a different engine, with considerable problems. At the end of the war nine prototypes more were in different states of production. There were plans for 150 units to be built, but finally these vehicles were exploded by the Germans themselves before the arrival of the Russians. In the illustration below we can see the Maus I completed with a KwK L/55 128-millimeter cannon and a 20-millimeter cannon as co-axial cannon. This first version was propelled by a gasoline engine Mercedes-Benz MB 509, which was originally an aircraft engine, an which should allow the Maus to reach a theoretical speed of 20 kilometers/hour in road, but in the practice it seems that speed never exceded 13 kilometers/hour.

PzKpfw VIII Maus superheavy tank

The cutaway illustration below corresponds to the Maus II. In this second version the 20 millimeters co-axial cannon was replaced by an L/36 75-millimeter cannon and the gasoline engine was replaced by a Diesel engine MB 517 with 12 cylinders in V, which developed 1200 horsepower. The new co-axial cannon exasperated the problem of a limited ammunition storage, which required additional space and caused additional weight; 32 rounds were carried for the 128-millimeter cannon and 200 rounds for the 75 millimeters co-axial cannon. It is notable the propulsion system that was adopted in this tank, similar to the one used in Diesel-electric locomotives. The engine did not move directly the tank, but instead it was used the principle of "electric transmission", where the fuel-driven engine moved an electric generator, which in turn gave energy to two electrical motors located in the rear of the tank, one for each track. We can see clearly the components of this system in the illustration.

The Maus could be waterproofed and cross a riverbed 12 meters depth, taking advantage of the propulsion system by electric motors, provided that another tank in the shore would supply electricity through a cable. Once the first tank passed the river, the roles could be reversed to allow the second tank to cross the river as well. But size and weight were the ruin of the Maus. Speed was scarcely 13 kilometers/hour and the tracks damaged the pavement of the roads and the vibrations cracked the crystals of the nearby houses wherever the Maus transited. The excessive weight caused the tank to sink in any terrain that had a minimal amount of humidity, despite having tracks that were 110 centimeters wide, and for covering a distance of 180 kilometers, the Maus required 4200 liters of fuel, something that Germany was not in position to afford. The Maus was considered obsolete even prior being built, for it was clear that, given its size and its vulnerability in the highly dynamic battlefield of the Second World War, this tank would not be adapted to the combat.

PzKpfw VIII Maus superheavy tank

Specifications for Maus I

Crew: 6

Armament: One KwK L/55 128-millimeter cannon; one 20 millimeters co-axial cannon

Armor: 250 millimeters in cannon mantlet, 210 millimeters in turret front behind the mantlet, 240 millimeters in turret front, 220 millimeters in turret sides and rear, 200 millimeters in hull front, 190 millimeters in hull sides and rear

Length (total): 10.1 meters

Width: 3.67 meters

Height: 3.63 meters

Weight: 188 tonnes

Ground pressure: 1.45 kilograms/square centimeter

Power/weight relation: 5.84 horsepower per tonne

Engine: Daimler-Benz MB 509 water-cooled gasoline engine with 12 cylinders in V, developing 1080 horsepower at 2400 revolutions per minute

Maximum speed (in road): 20 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 186 kilometers

Fuel load: 2700 liters plus 1500 liters in external bidons

Maximum surmountable step: 0.72 meters

Maximum surmountable trench: 4.5 meters

Maximum slope: 30 degrees

Article updated: 2014-12-22

Categories: Tanks - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-04-06

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