Maus Tank
Panzer 8 - WW2 World Largest Tank

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Panzerkampfwagen VIII - Maus Tank - the world largest tank

Maus is the name of the largest tank design ever built. Designed in 1942 by Ferdinand Porsche under direct order from Adolf Hitler. The Maus would have had a crew of either 5 or 6. The tank's hull was 10.1 meters long, 3.67 meters wide and 3.66 meters tall. Weighing 188 tons, the Maus was armed with a 128mm cannon and a coaxial 75mm gun, and covered with 180-240mm of armor. Only two were produced. One was destroyed by the Germans at Kummersdorf to prevent its capture by the Soviets, and the sole surviving Maus tank is currently in the Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia. Nine others were in various stages of completion when the war ended. None ever saw combat.

A larger tank, the 1000-tonne Krupp P 1000 "Ratte", started construction but was cancelled before completion. It would have carried two 280mm guns (mounted in the same type of gun turret used in Scharnhorst and Gneisenau warships), a single 128mm gun, eight 20mm Flak 38 anti-aircraft guns and two 15mm Mauser MG 151/15 guns.

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Weight: 188 Tons
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

Development history

The initial plan for the Maus tank was for the prototype to have been completed by the summer of 1943, with monthly production scheduled to run at five vehicles per month after delivery of the prototype. The work on the Maus would be divided between Krupp, responsible for the chassis, armament and turret and Alkett, who would be responsible for final assembly.

The Maus tank was originally designed to weigh approximately 100 tons and be armed with a 128 mm main gun and a 75 mm co-axial secondary gun. Other armament solutions were also looked at: various versions of 150 mm and 128 mm guns. Hitler himself insisted that the armament chosen should be a 128 mm main gun with a coaxial 75 mm gun. This decision was taken in January of 1943.

By May 1943, a wooden mockup of the final Maus configuration was ready and presented to Hitler, who approved it for mass production and ordered a first series of 150. At this point, the estimated weight of the Maus was 188 tons. However, there is a story that concerns the main armament of the Maus being changed by Hitler who said that the 128 mm gun looked like a ┤toy gun┤ when compared to the tank, causing the 128 mm to be replaced by a 150 mm gun.

Development work on the Maus continued, but in October 1943 Hitler cancelled the order, which was followed in November by the order to stop development of the Maus altogether but to continue the construction of the prototypes.

The first, turretless prototype (V1) was assembled by Alkett in December 1943. Tests started the same month, with a mock turret fitted of the same weight as the real turret.

The principal problem with the Maus that emerged from this test was its power-to-weight ratio. There was no engine powerful enough to give it anything like the 20 km/h demanded by the design specifications. The modified gasoline-fuelled Daimler-Benz MB 509 engine used in the prototype was only able to move at 13 km/h and only under ideal conditions. The suspension system used by the Maus also had to be adjusted to enable it to take the tank's weight.

Another issue found was that the Maus was simply too heavy to cross bridges. As a result an alternative system was developed, where the Maus would instead ford the rivers it needed to cross. Due to its size it could ford relatively deep streams, but for deeper ones it was to submerge and drive across the river bottom. The solution required tanks to be paired up. One Maus would supply electrical power to the crossing vehicle via a cable until it reached the other side. The crew would receive air through a large snorkel, which was sufficiently long for the tank to go 45 feet (13 m) underwater.

In March 1944 the second prototype, the V2, was delivered. It differed in many details from the V1 prototype. In mid-1944, the V2 prototype was fitted with a powerplant and the first produced Maus turret. This turret was fitted with a 128 mm KwK 44 L/55 gun, with coaxial 75 mm KwK 44 L/36.5 gun and a 7.92 mm MG34 for anti-aircraft armament. The V1 prototype was supposed to be fitted with the second produced turret, but this never happened.

By July 1944, Krupp was in the process of producing four more Maus hulls, but they were ordered to halt production and scrap these. Krupp stopped all work on it in August 1944. Meanwhile, the V2 prototype started tests in September 1944, fitted with a Daimler-Benz MB 517 diesel engine, new electric steering system and a Skoda Works designed running gear and tracks.

There was as also a special railroad car made for transporting the Maus prototypes.

Operational use

The working Maus prototypes remained at Kummersdorf and at the proving grounds in B÷blingen. In the last weeks of the war the V1 with the dummy turret was captured by the advancing Soviet forces in the vicinity of the western batteries of the Kummersdorf artillery firing grounds. It had been mechanically sabotaged by the Germans before abandoning it. The V2 prototype with the armed turret was dispatched to Berlin for its defense but broke down at Stamplager, near Zossen. It was blown up by its crew to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. It did not see any combat.

The Russian Commander of Armored and Mechanized troops ordered hull V1 to be mated with the turret of V2. The Russians used six 18t half-tracks to pull the 55 ton turret off the burnt out hull. The combined V1 hull/V2 turret vehicle was completed in Germany and sent back to the USSR for further testing. It arrived there on May 4, 1946. When further testing was completed the vehicle was taken over by Kubinka for storage where it is now on display.

Text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License


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Maus Tank
Panzer 8 - WW2 World Largest Tank