German Fantasy TanksThere was a reason the Third Reich developed fantasy tanks that had no realistic chance of being made. German industry always had a full staff of designers coming up with fantastic concepts that stretched the limits of imagination. Among the practical reasons for engineers to hit the drawing boards:
- Original ideas sometimes were worked up on a company's own dime and then a prototype would be shown to Hitler during his occasional visits to the testing grounds at Kummersdorf or Rechlin, with the possibility that he might be impressed enough to order them;
|The Ratte would have had two guns of this size.|
The behemoth was completely impossible; its two MAN U-boat engines would have burned a liter of gasoline every 30 meters and destroyed every road or bridge that it encountered. A snorkel such as those used on U-boats would have been necessary for river crossings, and the Landkreuzers would have had to travel in pairs because their engines would not work underwater and they would need to use each others' power during crossings. What sort of land targets would be worth that size of artillery shell also is a wonderful question. Above all, the Allied air forces would be as attracted to such giants as a moth to a flame, endangering the 40-man crew. Speer made an excellent decision to terminate the projects.
|Hitler was into big guns. Here, he inspects the Schwerer Gustav, which some designers wished to turn into a tank.|
Other projects came a little closer to completion but were still completely preposterous.
Geschützwagen Tiger für 17cm Kanone 72(Sf)
|Hull of 17cm Kanone 72 (Sf) Geschutzwagen Tiger - German prototype of the self-propelled gun with 17 mm cannon. Only the hull and wheels were built.|
This was a heavy self-propelled gun. It was somewhat similar to the Elefant, which, despite its sad reputation, actually was a quite useful weapon. Tank destroyers without moving turrets such as the Stug were all the rage as the war dragged on, because turrets were complicated and expensive, and you could get 80% of the value of a tank at a fraction of the cost. Turrets also were a supply bottleneck, requiring all sorts of precise moving parts such as numerous ball bearings.
|A view of the GW Tiger from the rear.|
Krupp developed the running gear to use in other projects. A preliminary plan of the GW Tiger, which received the official designation Geschutzwagen Tiger, was ready in early 1943. It was planned to use the self-propelled undercarriage of the Tiger II with an engine capacity of 650 hp - the same used in the Tiger, though that was upgraded to 700 hp later. It was to use a Maybach engine and an Olvar transmission. The main armament was planned as a massive 170-mm gun 17 cm Kanone 72, which could send the 68-kg projectile at a distance of 25,500 meters, or perhaps even a 210-mm howitzer (21cm Morser) with a range of 111-kg projectile about 17,300 meters. Maximum angle pointing both types of guns in the vertical plane was from +65 ° to -5 °, horizontal angle pointing is 360 °. In view of the large size of these weapons, the tank would only be able to carry 5 rounds as a full load.
For comparison, the Tiger II had a 8.8 cm (88 mm) KwK 43 L/71 gun. So the GW Tiger would have been a massive step up in firepower, along with everything else. It was another manifestation of the "gigantism" which appear in many late-war German designs.
|American soldier surveying the hull of the GW Tiger.|
The crew of the GW Tiger would have consisted of eight people: a driver, gunner, commander, gunner and four ammunition handlers (the shells being so huge).
Krupp scrimped on the armor in order to save weight and precious nickel: maximum armor thickness was 60 mm in the front of the chassis, compared to the Tiger II's 185 mm. That would have been justified because this was a weapon to stand back and blast away, not get in the thick of the battle. Fighting weight of this self-propelled guns was estimated at 60 tons, roughly the same as the Tiger II.
|American soldiers inside the prototype GW Tiger hull. It would have made quite a lumbering target.|
The layout and construction of the prototype body on the Tiger II chassis was completed, as the pictures show, but that was it. In February 1945, on the orders of the Minister of Armaments Speer, all work was stopped. The Allies came into possession of the unfinished hull and scrapped it. They mystery lingers as to why the Germans had so many unrealistic weapons programmes in development at the end of the war, but the twin sirens of desperation and propaganda probably explain that.