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Amazing Planet - Amazing Fun

Biggest tank in WWII was called Maus (mouse)

Pet project of Adolf Hitler, which few were aware of, appears to have been a superheavy tank that would have dwarfed even the King Tiger. Dubbed the Mouse, this behemoth of doubtful military value was to weigh 207 tons, combat loaded. Two were actually built, although they were never equipped with their armament.

This German drawing shows a sectionalized elevation of the Mouse hull. The following salient features may be diingtinguished: driver's seat and periscope; radio operator's seat and radio; radio antenna; air intakes for main engine; main engine; generator; the right motor of the two electric motors driving the sprockets; auxiliary fuel tank. The coaxial 75-mm gun is on the right of the turret; its position relative to the 128-mm gun is shown in dotted outline.

German Tank Maus Drawing

The development of super heavy tank started as early as 1941, when Krupp started the studies of superheavy Soviet tanks. In early 1942, Krupp produced designs of Tiger-Maus (VK7001) and PzKpfw VII Lowe (VK7201), but on March 5/6th of 1942, order for heavier tank was placed. Lowe never reached the prototype stage but paved the way for their successor's development. On March 21/22nd of 1942, Porsche received the contract for new 100-ton Panzer - VK10001 / Porsche Typ 205. On April 14/15th, it specified that new 100-ton tank must carry at least 100 rounds of ammunition. VK10001 was to be developed by Professor Ferdinand Porsche and Dr.Muller (Krupp) at the personal demand of Adolf Hitler made in May of 1942. He demanded 120-ton "indestructible" super-heavy tank armed with high performance L/60 or L/72 gun.

Maus tests at Boblingen
Maus with simulated turret during tests at Boblingen.
Destroyed Maus at Kummersdorf
Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus destroyed at Kummersdorf, 1945.

The task of producing hulls, turrets and armament was given to Krupp, while Alkett was responsible for the assembly. First specifications demanded that armament should consist of 150mm L/40 gun and 20mm MG151/20 heavy machine gun, while usage of 128mm L/50 was under consideration. It was stated that prototype should be operational before the Spring of 1943. On June 23rd of 1942, Porsche provided their design for improved VK10001 armed with turret mounted 150mm L/37 and 105mm L/70 guns. Porsche promised that first prototype will be ready in May of 1943. In December of 1942, new armaments such as 150mm gun, 127mm naval gun, 128mm Flak and the longest version of 128mm were considered. Also in the same month, it was restated that first vehicle was to be ready in Summer of 1943, followed by the production 5 per month. First official names VK10001 and Porsche Typ 205 ("Mammoth") were used in April of 1942, followed by Maeuschen (Mousy) in December of 1942 and Maus (Mouse) in February of 1943. In January of 1943, Hitler decided that the Maeuschen was to be fitted with turret mounted with 128mm and 75mm guns, while turret mounted with 150mm KwK 44 L/38 or 170mm KwK 44 gun was to be designed for future use. Specification for ammunition storage space were never met and decreased by further modifications.

Captured Maus hull at Krupp plant in Essen
Captured Maus hull and turret at Krupp plant in Essen, 1945.
German tank Maus

From the designs emerged 188 tonnes heavy monster. On May 1st of 1943, wooden mockup of the Maus was presented to Adolf Hitler, who agreed on production and ordered series of 150 to be produced. On November 4 of 1943, development of Maus was to be ceased and only one was to be completed for evaluation. In October of 1943, original order placed by Hitler for 150 vehicles was cancelled. On December 24th of 1943, first turretless prototype was completed by Alkett and was put to the extensive tests. During the tests, the Maus could hardly move due to its enormous weight and power/weight ratio. First prototype V1 (Maus I), was powered by modified Daimler-Benz MB 509 (developed from DB 603 aircraft engine), which could not provide planned speed of 20km/h but only 13km/h in ideal conditions. Also problems arouse with suspension system which had to be modified in order to take the weight of the vehicle. Another problem that emerged from its weight, was that simply there were no bridges able to take the its weight. To overcome this problem Maus had to be provided with a "snorkel" arrangement which allowed it to submerse to the maximum depth of 8 meters. In December of 1943, V1 was fitted with (Belastungsgewicht) simulated turret (representing the weight of the turret) and was tested. Maus I was applied with camouflage paint and marked with red star and hammer and sickle disguised as a captured Russian vehicle.

German Tank Maus German Tank Maus

In March of 1944, second prototype V2 (Maus II) which differed in numerous details from V1 was produced. V2 lacked the powerplant, which was fitted in mid 1944. On April 9th of 1944, Krupp produced the turret, which in June of 1944, was delivered and then mounted on V2 and tested. Krupp produced a turret mounted with 128mm KwK 44 L/55 gun with coaxial 75mm KwK 44 L/36.5 gun and 7.92mm MG34, providing the Maus with an enormous firepower. Maus' main gun could penetrate front, side and rear armor (at 30 degrees from vertical) of Sherman, Cromwell, Churchill, T-34/85 and JS-2 tanks at ranges of 3500+ meters. Turret included mounts for rangefinder (by Zeiss), but was not fully finished and some of the missing components were shipped later on.

German Tank Maus German Tank Maus

Maus I was to be fitted with Krupp's second turret but it was never delivered and it remained fitted with simulated turret. On July 25th of 1944, Krupp reported that two hulls will be available soon and two more later on. On July 27th of 1944, Krupp was ordered to scrap those four hulls. On August 19th of 1944, Krupp informed Porsche that it was order to stop further work on Maus. In September of 1944, second prototype started its tests. It was installed with Daimler-Benz MB 517 diesel engine that made little difference in comparison with previously used engine. Advanced electric steering system was used to steer the vehicle. Its running gear designed by Skoda, consisted of double-wheeled trucks supported by twelve return rollers with 1100mm wide tracks. The crew had to be provided with oxygen supplied by built-on fans/ventilators when all the hatches were closed. In order to transport the Maus, special 14-axle railroad transport car (Verladewagon) was produced by Graz-Simmering-Pauker Works in Vienna. From mid January to early October of 1944, trials took place at armored vehicle proving grounds in Kummersdorf (near Berlin) and then at Porsche proving grounds at Boblingen. Tests were long, delayed by engine failures and production delays caused by Allied bomber attacks on German factories. During tests, it was determined that in case of any failure each Maus would have to be towed by two other Maus tanks. It is also reported that Germans worked on Flakzwilling 8.8cm auf Maus, which was to be Maus mounted with a modified turret housing two 88mm Flak 43 guns and used as heavy Flakpanzer.

German Tank Maus Maus with camouflage paint
Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus applied with camouflage paint.

Some sources state that according to Porsche, Hitler's aim for the Maus was to plug holes in the Atlantic coastal defenses on the Western Front, where it's limited range and mobility wouldn't have been too much of a hindrance. The popular version states that V2 prototype was blown up by the personnel at proving grounds in Kummersdorf, while some sources state that actually V2 saw combat while defending the facility at Kummersdorf. When war ended, almost finished V1 turret and third hull were found at Krupp facilities in Essen. Overall, Maus was an interesting design but it would be of limited combat value because of its poor mobility and heavy weight making it more of a mobile fortification rather than a super tank. One fully assembled example (V2 turret mounted on V1 hull) was tested at Kubinka in 1951/52 and can be seen today in the Museum of Armored Forces in Kubinka (near Moscow) in Russia.


Armament

For the main armament, a pea-shooter like an 88-mm gun was ignored. Selected instead was the powerful 128-mm tank and antitank gun, which was later to be replaced by a 150-mm piece 38 calibers in length. (The standard German medium field howitzer 15 cm s.F.H. 18 is only 29.5 calibers in length.) Instead of mounting a 7.9-mm machine gun coaxially, the Mouse was to have a 75-mm antitank gun 76 calibers in length next to the 128- or 150-mm gun. A machine cannon for antiaircraft was to be mounted in the turret roof, along with a smoke grenade projector.

German engineers, concerned over the effect of turns upon track performance, made this electric-powered, remote controlled, large-scale wooden replica.

Maus Electric Wooden Replica

Size

In size, the Mouse was considerably larger than any German tank. Its length of 33 feet made it nearly 50 percent longer than the King Tiger. Because of rail transport considerations. its width was kept to 12 feet (that of the Royal Tiger and Tiger). A 12-foot height made it a considerable target. In order to reduce the ground pressure so that the tank could have some mobility, the tracks had to be made very wide—all of 43.3 inches. With the tracks taking up over 7 of its 12 feet of width, the Mouse presents a very strange appearance indeed from either a front or rear view. With such a track width, and a ground contact of 19 feet 3 inches, the Mouse keeps its ground pressure down to about 20 pounds per square inch—about twice that of the original Tiger.

A head-on view of the Mouse model affords an idea of the formidable appearance of the original Maus. Note the exceptional width of the tracks.

Maus head-on view

Power plants

Designing an engine sufficiently powerful to provide motive power for the mammoth fighting vehicle was a serious problem. Though the Germans tried two engines, both around 1,200 horsepower (as compared to the Royal Tiger's 590), neither could be expected to provide a speed of more than 10 to 12 miles an hour. The Mouse can, however, cross a 14-foot trench and climb a 2-foot 4-inch step. Whatever the military possibilities of the Mouse might be, it certainly gave designers space in which to run hog wild on various features which they had always been anxious to install in tanks. One of these gadgets was an auxiliary power plant. This plant permitted pressurizing of the crew compartment, which in turn meant better submersion qualities when fording, and good antigas protection. Auxiliary power also permitted heating and battery recharging.

Maus at Kummersdorf German Tank Maus

Underwater?

One of the fancy installations was equipment designed for fording in water 45 feet deep—a characteristic made necessary by weight limits of bridges. Besides sealing of hatches and vents, aided by pressurizing, submersion was to be made possible by the installation of a giant cylindrical chimney or trunk, so large that it could serve as a crew escape passage if need be. The tanks were intended to ford in pairs, one powering the electric transmission of the other by cable.

The Mouse was designed to ford up to 45 feet of water. To do so, the tank was made watertight. A trunk was fitted over the hull escape hatch, and trunk extensions bolted over the engine vents. The trunk contalned an escape ladder, and was divided into three sections, the number used varying with water depth. A second Mouse supplied electricity to the fording Mouse motors through a cable attached to the rear, as shown.

Maus with snorkel

Transmission

The electric transmission was in itself an engineering experiment of some magnitude. This type of transmission had first been used on the big Elephant assault gun-tank destroyer in 1943, and was considered by some eminent German designers as the best type of transmission—if perfected—for heavy tanks. Another interesting feature of the Mouse from the engineerig point of view was the return from torsion bar suspension—such as was used in the Pz. Kpfw. III, the Panther, the Tiger, and the King Tiger—to a spring suspension. An improved torsion bar design had been considered for the Mouse, but was abandoned in favor of a volute spring type suspension. Whereas such a heavy tank might conceivably have had some limited military usefulness in breakthrough operations, it was no project for Nazi Germany experimentation in 1943, 1944, and 1945. For not only did German authorities waste time of engineers and production facilities on the two test models, but they even went so far as to construct a special flat car for rail transport.

Sectionalized plan view of the Mouse hull gives another view of many of the features shown in the first illustration. The driver's and radio operator's seats (left) are flanked by the main fuel tanks. Just to their rear is the main engine, flanked by air pumps and radiators. Further to the rear is the generator, with ammunition stowage in the sponsons on either side. In the sponson on the front right of the generator is the auxiliary engine, with storage batteries to its rear. To the rear of the hull, also in the sponsons, are the motors furnishing the electric drive. The actual transmission is in the deep part of hull between the motors, behind generator.

German Tank Maus Diagram

The drawbacks inherent in such a heavy tank are patent. Weigh not only denies practically every bridge in existence to the Mouse, but it impedes rail movement unless railways are properly reinforced at bridges, culverts, and other weak points. Fording to 45-foot depths would have solved many of the stream-crossing problems in Europe, but it seems that the Mouse could actually cross in water no deeper than 26 feet. Though sitting in a rolling fortress, the six men of the Mouse crew are practically as blind as in any tank. Because of low speed and high silhouette their vehicle would be most vulnerable to hits. Since it is reasonable to suppose that heavily fortified, static positions suitable for attack by a Mouse would also be fitted with very heavy, high-velocity guns capable of antitank fire, the even occasional combat value of the Mouse comes into question. The German 128-mm Pak 44 (also known in modified forms as the 12.8 cm Pak 80) is reputed to be able to penetrate 7 inches of armor at 2,000 yards. Since the Germans actually had their Pak 44 in service in 1945, when the Mouse was not yet in the production stage, it would appear that the Germans had the antidote before the giant tanks were ready. Moreover, in the later days of the war, a rolling colossus like a Mouse would have been almost impossible to conceal, and would have fallen an easy prey to air power.

The Mouse was as vulnerable to close-in attack as any other tank, if not more so. The large hull openings were a particular disadvantage. Note their extent: the grills of the engine access hatch, the grilled air vents which flank it, and the grills under the rear of the turret, which cool the electric motors. The auxiliary fuel tank on the rear was a considerable fire hazard.

German Tank Maus Top view

The psychological factor thus appears to have played a large part in the demand for construction of the Mouse. The German Army would never have desired such a tank, especially in 1942 when its design was apparently initiated. On the other hand, it would have made lurid headlines and Sunday supplement copy in both Allied and German press circles. But whatever the public reaction might have been, it seems questionable that the Mouse could have exerted any psychological effect on Russian, British, or American front-line troops unless the Germans possessed almost overwhelming strength, as they did when they crushed the Maginot Line in 1940. In 1944-45 it would have been too easy a mark for Allied gun and planes the first instant it appeared.

The size and weight of the Mouse made necessary extremely wide tracks in relation to hull width. This view also shows half of the engine air-cooling system (left), and rear of right fuel tank, with an oil tank just to its left.

Maus cutaway
Weight: 188000kg
Crew: 6 men
Engine: Daimler-Benz MB 509 / 12-cylinder / 1080hp (V1)
Daimler-Benz MB 517 Diesel / 12-cylinder / 1200hp (V2)
Fuel Capacity: 2650-2700 liters + 1500 liters in reserve tank
Speed: 13-20km/h
Range: Road: 160-190km
Cross-Country: 62km
Lenght: 10.09m
Width: 3.67m
Height: 3.63m
Armament: 128mm KwK 44 L/55 & 75mm KwK 44 L/36.5
1 x 7.92mm MG34
Ammo: 128mm - 55-68 rounds
75mm - 200 rounds
Armor (mm/angle): Turret Roof: 60/90
Gun Mantlet: 250/round
Front Turret: 220-240/round
Superstructure Roof: 50-100/9
Front Glacis Plate: 200/55
Hull Front: 200/35
Belly Plate Fore: 100/90
Side Turret: 200/30
Hull Side Upper: 180/0
Hull Side Lower: 100+80/0
Rear Turret: 200/15
Hull Rear Upper: 150/37
Hull Rear Lower: 150/30
Belly Plate Aft: 50/90
Penetration of Armor Plate at 30 degrees from Vertical.
Ammunition: 100m 500m 1000m 1500m 2000m 3000m 4000m
Panzergranate 40/43 223mm 212mm 200mm 189mm 178mm 156mm 140mm
Pzgr.40/43 (APCR) - Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (Tungsten Core)


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