Pz.Jg. VI Tiger(P)Ferdinand/Elefant

Ferdinand (1943)

Weigth 68 tons
Crew 6
Weapons 88mm L71,2 StuK 43/2 gun with 50 rounds
Armor hull 30-200mm (nose and front 100mm+100mm, sides and rear 80mm, top 30mm, bottom 20mm+30mm); super-structure 30-200mm (front 200mm, sides and rear 80mm, top 30mm)
Engine two 300hp gasoline Maybach HL 120 TRM, 12-cylinders on V, liquid cooled
Speed 20Km/h
Autonomy 153Km
Length (max) 8,13m
Width 3,39m
Height 3,00m

Advantages: super-heavy armor protection, heavy fire power (thanks to the might 88mm) on vast ranges

Disadvantages: mechanical unreliability, low speed because of the poor engine's power, lack of anti-infantry defence (before Kursk), low ammo storage room

In action...

When the Tiger tank proposed by Porsche was rejected 90 chassis (sufficient to equip two heavy armored battalions) were although ordered because Porsche project used an air-cooled engine that would have proved useful in North Africa. Conseguent bad news from the front did the entire project to be aborted: it was then proposed to use them as vector for a new super-heavy assault gun carrying the mighty 88mm L71,2 gun in a massively armored hull and super-structure.

The advanced Porsche petrol-electric engine was too ready to faults and was too complex to manufacture and maintain: it was immediately replaced by two standard petrol Maybach 230 HL engines, the same which equipped the Panzer IV: a total horse power of 600hp was too few for such a monster resulting in very poor off-road capabilities. Hitler himself pushed the entire project and so "Ferdinand" (after Dr. Ferdinand Porsche) production was speeded up.

Ferdinand on its way to the front, Kursk, July 1943

The two schwerePanzerJaeger abteilungen (653 and 654, 45 and 44 tanks respectevely, along with other ten ammunition carrier Pz IIIs each) joined a SturmPanzerAbteilung 216 (equipped with 55 Brummbars), forming the schwerePanzerJaeger regiment 656. This indipendent unit was at direct orders of the German 9th Army, Orel sector during the German attempt to cut the Kursk salient. Along with the heavy Tiger tanks these vechicles appeared as the only able to sustain and counterbeat the heavy fire from Soviet artillery and entrenched massed tanks.

By this, they were split in several groups of at least fifteen units, assigned to several divisions. From the first day they were employed as breaktrough assault tanks being able to pierce the Soviet defences. Then, due to lack of MG, they proved to be a complete failure. Artillery fire separated infantry from tanks and, without it, Elefants were defenceless because lacking MGs. To get better cooperation a temporary, ill-fated field attempt to mount a rear platform for embarking infantry resulted only in additional losses between the soldiers: as Ferdinands were not able to protect themselves against anti-tank squads, they were unable to protect infantry from MG nests. Because of this 44 Ferdinands were lost in the fightings.

Ferdinand knocked out at Kursk (1943)

Ferdinand is commonly remembered for this unsuccess but this was due to the use of the tank, not its design: when employed in its AT role Ferdinand proved to be a powerful defensive platform, capable of knocking out a T-34 on a 4,710 meters range. A Wehrmacht communicate on August 6th told that the two battalions had been credited for the destruction of 502 enemy tanks in the Orel sector!

The regiment was following put in action in the retreat to block the continous Soviet assaults. In late Autumn 1943 the Russian pierced the German front and directed themselves against the important mining center of Nikopol. The Ferdinands of the s.Pz.Jg.Rgt. 656 still being able to engage were thrown in the battle. By November 26th they claimed 56 Russian tanks kills.

In January 1944 the survivors (fifty tanks) were sent back to the Nibelungenwerke factory, Austria for badly needed modernizations as a commander's cupola and a hull's MG. Zimmerit coating was added as well. By then they saw action in Italy and then came back in Russia, being officially named "Elefant".

Ferdinand and Elefant differences (Photo by Herr Oberst)

With their 88mm L71,2 gun Elefants were surely able to pierce any allied tank but expecially on Italy's road and because of German shortage of replacements and spare parts many crews were forced to destroy them to avoid them to be captured.

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