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Tiger I – pathetic reliability?
The AFV ASSOCIATION was formed in 1964 to support the thoughts and research of all those interested in Armored Fighting Vehicles and related topics, such as AFV drawings. The emphasis has always been on sharing information and communicating with other members of similar interests; e.g. German armor, Japanese AFVs, or whatever.
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lehr
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 11:16 am
Post subject: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

This was posted on a forum on BoardGameGeek (I have the quote below so you do not have to use the link - for some reason BGG web pages can take a long time to download).

Geek List: wargames worth pre-ordering

The game’s designer gives some history of one of the units:

BTW, a little history of that counter....

That counter is schwere Panzer-Kompanie Hummel (K.St.N. 1176(f.g)) and was equipped with 14 PzKpfw VI Tiger Is...

It was formed in July 1944 at the Pz.Ers.Abt.500 in Paderborn, Germany as an "Alarmeinheit". After recovering from wounds in Italy, Hauptmann Hans Hummel was placed in command. Hummel selected his subcommanders available at PzErsAbt 500 from the officers present he knew from fighting in Italy with Pz.Abt 504.

His unit was alerted at around 12:30am on September 18th and was ordered to report to the Arnhem area. The unit arrived at Bocholt station on the morning of the 19th.

With the rail line blocked from allied air interdiction and other traffic proceeding in both directions, and with no tank transporters available, Hummel was ordered to proceed the 80 kms with the Tigers under their own power.

Tigers, as many of you might know, are not the most reliable of tanks under heavy use and all but 2 broke down during the trip. The two lucky tanks to make the trip without braking down were commanded by Leutnant Knaack and Feldwebel Barneki. They arrived around nightfall of the 19th at the Arnhem bridge perimeter.

The entire unit was not fully formed until the 24th - sans 3 Tigers.


Only 2 out of 14 Tiger Is (14%) made the 80km (50 mile) trip without breakdown. Compared with many other theaters of WWII, Holland in September does not seem like it would have the most demanding terrain or weather.

Is this reliability typical of Tiger Is?

What about other WWII tanks?

If 14 Shermans set out on the same trip how many would make it without breaking down?

What about 14 T-34s?

What about 14 AFVs with which you have personal experience (including post WWII)?

I am sure a lot depends on the condition of the tanks at the start of the trip, but the above performance just seems really bad. It seems like reliability like this would greatly reduce the effectiveness of an AFV especially on the offensive.

Any comments, knowledge and experience greatly appreciated.
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Sabot
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 12:54 pm
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

The Tiger got a bad reputation (mechanically) at Kursk because they were deployed without first working all of the bugs out of them. Additionally, in wintery muddy weather, the mud would freeze between the road wheels overnight and immobilize the tank.

It also suffered from poor fuel consumption. I do not know the range of the tank off hand, but I believe it was less than 100 miles.

The Sherman was a mechanically sound vehicle and a 50 mile trip would have been easy to accomplish. The Sherman came with about four different engine types and fuel efficiency and reliability depended on which engine was being used.

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PattonCurator
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 1:38 pm
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

Agree about the Shermans - very reliable - probably 13 of the 14 would make the 50 mile trip (and the 14th would probably make it late after the crew repaired it. The T34 also has the same rugged reliability.

Charles
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Dubliner
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 2:55 pm
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

nt


Last edited by Dubliner on Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:06 am; edited 1 time in total
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clausb
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 3:45 pm
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

- lehr
Only 2 out of 14 Tiger Is (14%) made the 80km (50 mile) trip without breakdown. Compared with many other theaters of WWII, Holland in September does not seem like it would have the most demanding terrain or weather.

Is this reliability typical of Tiger Is?


The Tiger was a heavy and fairly complicated vehicle which needed a lot of maintenance to operate properly. IIRC the operation manuals for the Tiger states that the crew has to check a number of things on the vehicle for every 15km of road march and fix any problems encountered. So you need crews that know their mount, you need conditions that allows the crew to take care of the vehicle and of course you need spares and maintenance units to fix any problems that occur during the roadmarch. Once you start removing some of those prerequisites for keeping your Tiger happy, chances are there will be trouble.

Tigers of s.SS-PzAbt 101 travelled about 300 kilometers on the road from Northern France to Normandy in June 1944, starting out with 45 tanks on June 7th and was down to 17 operational Tigers on June 12th. Most of the reminder had broken down along the road. It is evident that once tanks start to brake down along a 300 kilometer journey, it is impossible for the maintenance company to help everyone and things will start to fall apart. I has to be said that this battalion did come under allied air attack as well, which clearly didn't help the situation any. AFAIK no Tigers were lossed to allied airpower until June 13th.
A major problem for s.SS-PzAbt 101 was that their new Tiges used the steel-rimmed wheels which were very hard on the tracks, particularily the tracks pins, when travelling on hard surfaces.

IIRC Kompanie Hummel took over their Tigers from Pz.Ers.u.Ausb.Abt 500, a training formation, so they might have been well used vehicles to begin with.

- lehr
What about other WWII tanks?

If 14 Shermans set out on the same trip how many would make it without breaking down?

What about 14 T-34s?


WWII tanks were generally fragile beasts compared with modern equipment, but neither the Sherman nor the T-34 were as heavy and complex as the Tiger I. They would probably suffer a lot less from the strains of a long roadmarch and the Sherman in particular would benefit from its rubber rimmed wheels and rubber-bushed track pins.

That said, T-34s were not really known for their production quality or reliability, at least through parts of the war, so my money would be on the Sherman as the more reliable, everything else being equal.

- lehr
I am sure a lot depends on the condition of the tanks at the start of the trip, but the above performance just seems really bad. It seems like reliability like this would greatly reduce the effectiveness of an AFV especially on the offensive.


Indeed. But I think we have to keep in mind the day and age of these machines. In WWI, you could start with 400 tanks and in a couple of days you would have very few left in operational condition, the rest being mostly broken down or stuck rather than destroyed. That lesson was carried over to WWII which is why early war German armoured divisions had up to 350 tanks. That way they could afford to have half of them out of order and still pack a punch. That was clearly demonstrated during the Battle for France when a division could drop to 50% of its strength in a few days of operation and then raise the figure to 80% after a day or two of maintenance and repair.

My 2 ørers worth anyway

Claus B

PS: Sabot, the Tiger was first employed around Leningrad in November 1942, I think you are confusing it with the Panther, which had some serious issues during its combat debut at Kursk in 1943 (and several months after that as well, but that's a different issue).
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mike_Duplessis
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 11:22 am
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

I rather wonder if it was less a problem with the Tigers and more a problem with German maintenance units. You hear about American tank maintenance units doing heroic work all night long in order to get the tanks back up and running in the morning. Now that i recall, the book "Deathtraps" had some especially nasty things to say about the original Sherman radial engine. In that book I recall he broke-down what proportion of men in a Tank Battalion were involved in vehicle maintenance, and it was a grotesquely large number. By '44 Germany probably couldn't afford the manpower for an effective maintenance section.
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J.McGillivray
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 3:47 pm
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

The following is from “German Tanks of World War II� by Dr. S. Hart and Dr. R. Hart.(p.123-124)

“One engagement, during the 1944 Allied campaign in Italy, highlights the difficulties the Germans faced thanks to the poor cross-country performance, mechanical unreliability and the sheer physical bulk of the Tiger I tank. Between 23 and 25 May 1944, the 16Tigers of the 3rd Company, 506th Heavy Tank Battalion fought a costly engagement around Cori. On 23 May, the company advanced across a railway embankment and engaged Allied armour, but during the crossing three Tigers were disabled, two with track problems and one with gearbox failure. The Tiger's 2.02m (6ft Sin) barrel-overhang also proved a problem, as two other Tiger tanks accidentally jammed their guns into the soil as they came down the steep-sided embankment and had to be towed clear. Eventually 13 Tigers continued the advance during which they knocked out six Sherman tanks. During this attack, however, Allied artillery damaged another Tiger which withdrew back to a German workshop. The next day Allied anti-tank fire disabled another Tiger which was blown up by its crew.

“The company was then ordered to withdraw. While five Tigers held back an Allied attack, the remaining six tanks tried to tow away the three disabled Tigers by the embankment. However, the strain caused four of the six towing Tigers to break down. The Germans then had to destroy the three disabled tanks by the embankment and use the remaining two Tigers to tow back the four that had broken down. By the time the company had withdrawn to Cori, two of its five rearguard tanks had been disabled (one by Allied fire and the other because of a gearbox fault) while one of the two towing tanks had also broken down. Hence, while the three operational rearguard Tigers continued to block the Allied advance, back at Cori the company commander could deploy just one working Tiger and six disabled ones. With the rearguard now unable to stop the Allied advance into Cori, and with recovery vehicles unable to reach the company in time, the commander ordered the destruction of the six disabled Tigers to prevent them falling into Allied hands, while his remaining four tanks withdrew north. The company had lost 12 Tigers, but only three had been disabled by Allied fire. Clearly, the Tiger's mechanical unreliability was more of a threat than Allied fire.�
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Dontos
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 4:54 pm
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

As a career Tanker, I can only imagine the utter frustration of the crews. Knowing that they man such a powerful vehicle, but having to 'scuttle' them due to mechanical unreliability.

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clausb
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 11:53 am
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

- J.McGillivray
The following is from “German Tanks of World War II� by Dr. S. Hart and Dr. R. Hart.(p.123-124)

“One engagement, during the 1944 Allied campaign in Italy, highlights the difficulties the Germans faced thanks to the poor cross-country performance, mechanical unreliability and the sheer physical bulk of the Tiger I tank. Between 23 and 25 May 1944, the 16Tigers of the 3rd Company, 506th Heavy Tank Battalion fought a costly engagement around Cori.


In all fairness, this particular example is one of the worst performances of a Tiger unit and hardly typical. The unit was 3. Kompanie s.PzAbt 508 and there are at least two different accounts of what happened.

The company was caught in the middle of a major allied advance and apparently had no backup from the battalion maintenance company which had the heavy recovery vehicles. In the end, tanks with even minor damage, combat or mechanical, had to blown up or left to the enemy as the allies were advancing past the damaged vehicles. In such situations, armour losses are always high, regardless of type.

If you look at the incident, you start with three tanks breaking down on May 23rd. Two threw their tracks, which was not, to my knowledge, a common complaint with the Tiger, so it should probably not be put down to unreliability but rather accident (bad maintenance, bad driving, bad terriain or bad luck). One had transmission trouble, which is more like the kind of fault you would ascribe to mechanical deficiencies.

Then they try to recover the three broken down tanks by towing them after six other Tigers. AFAIK this procedure was actually forbidden unless there was imminent danger of the damaged tank falling into enemy hands. Tigers were not designed for such work, they had enough trouble shifting their own weight around.
Here the stories start to differ. In the Hart & Hart account, four of the towing tanks brakes down with transmission damage and one additional tank brakes down towing while two Tigers are trying to tow four other Tigers - a somewhat dubious claim, I think! In any case, this means that five Tigers broke down with transmission damage from towing.
In the report quoted by Jentz, four tanks of the six towing brakes down and then gets towed in turn by four other Tigers. These four Tigers make it, but later two of them brakes down transmission damage as well and it is tempting to assume that this had to do with the fact that they had been acting as recovery vehicles for most of the day. Another one of these four also brakes down later in the day with unspecified "technical problems".

Hart & Hart mentions another, non-towing Tiger braking down with transmission trouble later as well, which makes it two "unprovoked" transmission failures. In the Jentz account, you can argue that only one tank suffered from "unprovoked" transmission trouble while all the others broke down because of misuse.

When the allied forces neared the collection point for the damaged vehicles, the Tigers were blown up - six according to Hart & Hart, nine according to the Jentz report.

One could argue that if the company had the support from the necessary recovery vehicles, they might have lost between five and seven fewer tanks, namely those that broke down trying to recover the other losses.

During its time in Italy prior to this incident (from mid-february), the battalion managed to keep about 57% of its vehicles operational on average, with a low of 17% and a high of 93%. And it did see a fair amount of combat in the period.

Bottom line is that I think this story is more about the Tigers mechanical fragility than it unreliability. It did not stand up well to abuse, but does that make it unreliable? And of course it speaks of the problems involved in being overrun by the enemy!

Claus B
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lehr
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 10:52 am
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

Thanks to all for your replies. It's easy to see the importance of firepower, armor and mobility, but now I have a greater appreciation for the importance of reliability and maintenance support.
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Dirk
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 11:26 am
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

great thread - interesting discussion .

My 2 cents - The Tiger did the job it was designed for and thus could perhaps be viewed as a success.

Only thing was that the support system for the Tiger was not implemented , IIRC from a post-graduate course in Logistics Engineering I had :

Support the design and design the support .

My humble opinion Wink

Dirk
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mike_Duplessis
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:31 pm
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

One problem the late Tiger II chassis' had to worry about that I don't think the early Tiger I chassis did was slave labor teams being forced to assemble them. I recall (working of distant memory here) there's an account in the big 653rd book of Jadgtigers leaving the factory near war's en and hardly making it 40 miles out of town before most of them had broken down. It seems the radiators were so shoddily constructed that coolant flow was drastically restricted, quickly causing breakdowns due to overheating. It's tempting to imagine a heroic slave laborer risking death while purposefully soldering the radiators half-shut.

Its funny comparing this discussion with contemporary Allied accounts of German armor. It seems the grass in always greener on the other side. From the U.S. side the German tanks appeared to have better flotation (ground pressure), maneuverability, optics, armor, guns, engines (compared to the old radial), and pretty much everything else! Well, The U.S. tankers did prefer their own radios, turret drives, and HC smoke shell. But that's about it.
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clausb
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 7:47 am
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

- mike_Duplessis
One problem the late Tiger II chassis' had to worry about that I don't think the early Tiger I chassis did was slave labor teams being forced to assemble them. I recall (working of distant memory here) there's an account in the big 653rd book of Jadgtigers leaving the factory near war's en and hardly making it 40 miles out of town before most of them had broken down. It seems the radiators were so shoddily constructed that coolant flow was drastically restricted, quickly causing breakdowns due to overheating. It's tempting to imagine a heroic slave laborer risking death while purposefully soldering the radiators half-shut.


Or just doing sloppy work due to lack of training, skill, and motivation. But definately a factor - in one German plant (MAN Nürnberg), 55% of the work was made by foreign labour, non-Germans drafted as workers in the occupied countries.

- mike_Duplessis
Its funny comparing this discussion with contemporary Allied accounts of German armor. It seems the grass in always greener on the other side. From the U.S. side the German tanks appeared to have better flotation (ground pressure), maneuverability, optics, armor, guns, engines (compared to the old radial), and pretty much everything else! Well, The U.S. tankers did prefer their own radios, turret drives, and HC smoke shell. But that's about it.


That is really a different issue. Reliability, logistics and production concerns probably becomes a moot point if you are in the field, looking down the barrel of a bigger and badder enemy tank. On the other hand, if reliability, logistics and production does not work, you wont even have a tank, at least not at working one Smile

Claus B
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J.McGillivray
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2006 8:31 am
Post subject: Re: Tiger I – pathetic reliability?

Robin Neillands in his book “The Desert Rats 7th Armoured Division 1940 – 1945� sums things up nicely as followers:

“At this point it may be necessary to explain to a section of the readership that the successful development of a new weapon is far from being the end of the story. The weapon will have a designed range of technical features and benefits, but at least half the effectiveness of any weapon in battle will depend on how it is used, manned, serviced and deployed in battle….. How a weapon is used is therefore as critical to its success as its designed technical performance.�

People who sing the praises of the German cats often talk of their performance under ideal theoretical conditions; although those conditions were seldom encountered in the field. One must take into consideration the actual conditions there the cats were used, or misused.

For example the Panthers with their excellent gun and well sloped armoured, were often thrown into reckless, rushed, poorly planned and poorly supported counter attacks, in Normandy; which exposed the weaknesses of their design.

The most important fact that one must consider is that the Germans, in spite of their Tigers and Panthers, still lost the war. In other words the big cats failed to get the job done!
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