Tiger Tank Maintenance Schedule

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by SteveDee, Aug 20, 2019.

  1. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    I'm sure you 'tank-types' will laugh at my simple question (but all I know about tanks is that the Italian tanks had 3 reverse gears...in case the enemy attacked from the rear).

    But my question is this: in this linked Bovington video it states that every hour of Tiger run-time required 10 hours of maintenance (...its now 200 hours). How did that work when these tanks were deployed in battle? Did they run each tank for an hour then stop? Did they always have 9 spare tanks ready to keep up the pressure? How big was the maintenance team? Which bits wore out?

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  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    It's more an indicator of just what an issue maintenance & recovery proved on the German heavies.
    A British after action report from Italy ('Who killed Mr Tiger') found a remarkably high number of casualties (maybe 7 of 12 surveyed, will check this evening) had been defeated by mechanical issues & an inability to recover machines disabled by relatively minor faults.
    It's all very well to field machinery that pushes the technological envelope, but such stuff requires a level of support that in many cases was not really available.

    Eg. Officially, three giant 'FAMO' SD.kfz 9 half tracks were the method to recover something as large as Tiger, but they weren't often available, so what have you got powerful enough to tow one?
    Answer: quite possibly another Tiger, pulling a machine that is likely to have fallen to engine or transmission fragility. Guess what's likely to happen...

    It isnt so much that Tiger was inherently bad.
    More that Tiger was often not as well supported as it's designers envisioned or its operators hoped.
    The allied infrastructure of bulldozers, ARVs, Wreckers & transporters was so significant. Theoretically Germany had good Bergepanzers, trailers etc, but never in enough numbers.

    There's also an issue with specific ease of maintenance.
    Talk to anyone that's worked on 131s engine, and they'll tell you what a bugger it is to reach anything. Need to work on a Panther transmission - first remove the turret...

    Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-311-0904-04A _Italien _Zugkraftwagen _Panzer_VI_(Tiger_I).jpg atlf3u0ra9r01.jpg c830d8a1ab105cdcc19e00cf2b622718.jpg images.jpg

    A big one with a BFG, but not the armoured panacea it's often made out as.
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  3. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    The Maybach engines fitted to Tiger were advanced. Good power from a relatively small pack. But they were at the bleeding edge of what was actually possible.
    Compact form meant very thin cylinder walls in places. They sometimes cracked or deformed, as the mettalurgy wasn't always of a suitable standard.
    Fan drives gave great trouble.
    Interleaved wheels over torsion bars meant a great deal more work to fix a common tank issue. Full width torsion bars a great form of heavy suspension over more conventional springs, but again require precise mettalurgy & are complicated if jammed.

    Mix the above & more into the exigencies of the field & strained infrastructure & you have problems.

    Throw in a slave/forced labour factory force & further issues emerge.

    Not near the books at the mo & probably high on 2 stroke strimmer fumes but will endeavour to dig out more detail later.
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  4. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    talking of maintenance - are you sure service and maintenance has been accorded to your machine - unless you follow 2 stroke strimmers around in parks etc ...... :whistle:

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  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Completely dismantled while knowing it would eventually prove to be the usual 'old fuel'.
    Ferdinand Porsche had no input to this machine. More one of Hirohito's boys.
    (A warning: if buying your domestic partner heavy gardening gear as an expensive asked-for present - bear in mind that years of quite unpleasant labour may also be the by-product of your benevolence... The gift that bites back.)
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  6. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Nicholas Moran ("The Chieftain") made an argument in a recent video that the Tiger was good insofar as it was intended to be used as a breakthrough tank at key locations, and thus it was okay (paraphrasing here) that the maintenance requirements were high in that it wasn't intended to be constantly in the line.

    Except, of course, when things go pear-shaped...
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  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Ah - well I usually buy 2 stroke gear from a German company that "doesnt move" [in other words it is s....] if you follow my drift, strimmers, chainsaws and the like - but you have reminded me that I need to check out their catalogue as I need to start thinking about Xmas pressies for 'er indoors'

  8. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    The Tiger's bad points are:

    Maintenance intensive
    Poor cross country performance in soft ground conditions
    Difficult to recover
    Low life mileage between overhauls.

    The Tiger's good points are:

    Looks cool
    Sells books
    Enthuses video gamers
    Keeps Bovington Tank Museum financially viable
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  9. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    ....and they scare the living daylights out of anything coming the other way.....

    Battlegroup Fehrmann Tiger v. three British Comets, 3RTR
    Don Juan likes this.
  10. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Maintenance on those complicated beasts was no walk in the park either.
  11. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    IIRC it was officially forbidden to try to tow a Tiger with another Tiger because that could overstrain the tower's powertrain. It was often done anyway. But if the things went wrong to do that might have consequencies. Now from top of my head, so numbers are not necessarily correct, but in Italy sPz.Abt 508? was ordered to participate a counterattack, at first the 10 Tigers had to negociate a railway enbankment that was too much for three of them, they suffered powertrain failures, the others managed to get across and shot up some 10 - 15 Shermans but still the counterattack failed and Germans were forced to retreat. The battalion CO decided to try to tow the three disabled Tigers away. With no recovery vehicle available, he ordered three Tigers to tow those disabled ones. But that was too much for two of the towers and a little while later there were five disabled Tigers. The CO didn't give up and ordered the five still working Tigers to tow the other five. In the end there were one propertly working Tiger and one which just managed to crawl towards maintenance point. The other eight were lost. The CO was recalled to Berlin and sacked.
  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Assault tanks? IIRC in the Ardennes, CO of KG Peiper, 1st SS Pz Div, placed the cumbersome Tiger II's in the tail of his column. I don't have exact statistics, but many of these tanks were lost either as a result of mechanical failures or because they ran out of gas. Not many were retrieved.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
  13. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Dug out my copy of this.

    It perhaps says something that the standard German Panzer repair unit attached to a Panzer Abteilung was the Panzer-Werkstattzug (Workshop platoon), but the Tiger Abteilungs received a full Workstattkompanie, as normally allocated to Panzer Regiments.
    Obviously the components were heavier & thus more men/machinery required, but it does at least go to show that more support was required per tank.

    When those heavy units were engaged, they were also (theoretically) followed more closely by specialist recovery teams & vehicles.

    Some nuggets from the text (my bold):

    Report compiled by Paderborn Training School from s.Pz.Abt. 501, 502 & 503:
    June '43 :
    "Five Zgkw.18t (Famo) normally meet the needs of a Tiger Company, so 15 per.Abt. To recover a Tiger three Zugmaschinen are usually needed, only two if the roads have a good surface. In difficult terrain or ice, snow, mud, often 6-8 Zugmaschinen were needed for recovering & an additional 2 for braking the Tiger. In the Southern sector of the front, Tigers were recovered by Tigers over a distance of more than 150km. The Zugmaschinen had already failed due to overstraining or were used for loading trains."

    March '43 from 501 in Tunisia:
    "On hard ground an immobilised Tiger can normally be recovered easily by 2 Zgkw. The Tiger is rigidly attached with towing bars. The power of the 18t Zgkw is sufficient to recover a Tiger. However one Zgkw cannot manage longer recovery routes because the the Tiger pushes the Zgkw to the side. Because of this, a second Zgkw must be attached with cables. This results in holding the rigidly attached Zgkw straight.
    When recovering a Tiger over mountain roads with steep declines & tight curves, it is absolutely necessary to weigh down the Tiger with an attached heavy vehicle (at best a Pz.III), otherwise the Tiger becomes unmanageable on the downgrade & will push off the side in spite of a second Zgkw being attached.
    In emergencies, without aid or paying attention to suspension or track damage, one Pz.III managed to recover a broken-down Tiger out of enemy-threatened sectors for 1-3km. In these cases, try to restrict recovery to the shortest distance because the steering brakes in the Pz.III are much overtaxed. Recovering a Tiger with another Tiger has still not been satisfactorily accomplished because the necessary rigid towing devices are not available & the tow coupling on on the rear of the Tiger is unusable. The Tow bars, especially the 'Herzstuck' with which the Zgkw are outfitted , do not fit on the Tiger's rear tow coupling.
    It is a given that the Tiger must be used to recover another Tiger [especially under any fire ]... for the long term Zgkw are too weak for recovering Tigers. They get torn up. The rear transverse frame is not strong enough & is not attached strongly enough to the side members."

    It goes on, for pages.
    Recovery machines suffering burnt out clutches or being unavailable, metal failures on towing tackle, shackles & bolts bending, cynicism about the official 3 Zgkw being enough. Etc. Etc. Etc.
    Training & equipment is improved & Bergepanzers envisioned (though it may seem odd to people who don't follow German infrastructure they were not ready on day one), but the crux is that heavy machines created recovery problems an order of magnitude higher than the mediums. Even before reaching whatever workshop could do the repairs.

    (Anyone interested should consider Friedl's books. Nicely produced by the Panzerwrecks people. Very well-illustrated & detailed. Not bad prices.)
  14. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

  15. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Our first impression of a Famo on seeing Mr Wheatcroft's initial restored example was that it was near the size of a terraced house turned on it's side. Certainly dwarfs most WW2 vehicles.
    When as many as ten of the beasts might be required for rough recovery, something isn't quite right...

    famo f.jpg

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  16. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Occurs that some may not be familiar with the Tigerfibel.
    There are English translations out there, but with a bit of effort the basic day-to-day maintenance can be understood:
    Tiger I Information Center - The Tigerfibel

    Though in truth, the overall tone tells more of how precious the machines were seen as. Mechanical delicacy is rarely stated, but often implied...

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  17. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    If the figures quoted are correct speaks volumes about German productivity

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