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Henschel King Tiger


March 24, 2017

Both turrets used on the Tiger II were designed and built by the Krupp company.  So why are they so often called the ‘Porsche’ and ‘Henschel’ turrets?


The answers can be found in the tank’s early design. This post is a greatly simplified account of the story.

The earliest work on a heavy tank armed with the 88mm KwK 43 gun was carried out by the Porsche company. The resulting design was known to the company as the Typ 180 and to the German Army as VK.45.02(P).

Ferdinand Porsche, the company’s chief designer, developed several versions of this design, each powered by a different engine or engines. His aim, or perhaps obsession is a better term, was to build a vehicle with the highest automotive performance possible. However his designs proved unreliable and none of his VK.45.02(P) variants entered production.

Porsche Turret

‘Porsche’ Turret – Curved Front

Rival firm Henschel began designing a KwK 43 armed tank in October 1942. Their hull design, originally known as VK.45.03, was approved for production as the Tiger II.

Krupp had been given a contract to design and build turrets for the VK.45.02(P) – the Porsche version. They completed fifty, and, as there were now no Porsche hulls to fit them to, delivered them to Henschel. These became the Tiger IIs with the curved front turret.

Henschel Turret

‘Henschel’ Turret – Flat Front

Later Tiger IIs were fitted with the simpler flat fronted turret, also designed by Krupp. Replacing one type of turret with the other could be done, but it required significant work and it’s unclear how often it actually happened.

In Conclusion

We can see that although inaccurate, there is a logic to the common names. The ‘Porsche turret’ is so named because it was intended for (but never fitted to) a tank hull designed by Porsche, and the ‘Henschel turret’ because it was fitted to a hull designed by that firm.

The Tank Museum has decided to refer to them as Pre-Production (curved front) and Production (flat front) turrets, as this more accurately reflects their place in the story of the Tiger II.

Find out more about The Tiger Collection exhibition here.

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  1. this is good. nice to somewhat clear up one of those topics that forever crops up.

  2. The design change of the turrets was due to the curves front creating a shot trap. Oddly, most allied heavies incorporated them at the end of the war and long after.

    • Yes. The M-36 Pershing come to mind.

  3. Hello,

    I would like to offer my own short history of the Tiger Ausf. B turret development.

    While Henschel was gearing up for their first series of Tiger with the FlaK 36 L/56 gun->KwK 36, and before the then scheduled switch to the Tiger with 75mm L/70 guns (Ausf. H2), Porsche and Krupp were tasked to develop a Tiger with the FlaK 41 L/71 88mm gun.

    This new L/71 88mm Tiger was initially simply called by Porsche the Typ 101 verstärkt (strengthened) thusly, using the VK-4501(p). By 23 March 1942 this was renamed the Typ 180, 181 for hydraulic drive. WaPrüf 6 named the vehicle VK-4501(p2) and also on March 23 1942 the VK-4502(p). By 25 January 1943 WaPrüf 6 used the name PzKpfw “Tiger” P2.

    The date 23 March 1943 is also when the first mention of sloping armour is for the Tiger verstärkt. This evolved into the VK-4502(P) chassis we know, with the forward and rear placed turret variants.

    Turret development was already given to Krupp as well as Rheinmetall in a meeting between Kolonel Fichtner, head of WaPrüf 6 and Dr. Porsche. Fichtner was not satisfied with the horseshoe shaped turret for the Tiger and requested a new turret design for the Tiger with FlaK 41 L/71 gun. There is no evidence that Rheinmetall has made any designs or concepts for the Tiger turret. Nor is there any documentation recovered that details the evolution from the horse-shoe VK-4501 turret to the turret for the Tiger verstärkt/VK-4502/4503. Also it should be noted, the contracts for Krupp and Rheinmetall stipulated turrets for Tiger chassis from BOTH Henschel and Porsche.

    At the time, the Germans had encountered the T-34 and KV-1 tanks. A major concern brought forward to Herr Dorn of Krupp was that German turret designs, including that of the MAN Panther, were very wide, whilst those on the T-34 and KV-1 were narrow, presenting a much smaller target. Herr Dorn replied that the surface area as taken by width x height would result in a taller turret front when a narrow front was desired. This also is something that relates to the Panther-II project where a Turm mit schmale Blende was being designed by Rheinmetall. That being said, the surface area of the VK-4501 turret is larger than that of the VK-4502 and the VK-4503, so Krupp managed to reduce this in their later Tiger turret designs.

    Henschel began their work on a Tiger mit FlaK 41 L/71 chassis in April 1942. The first VK-4502(h) was not much more than a slightly modified VK-4501(h) and was thrown out soon after. In October 1942 Henschel started designing the VK-4503(h) which than still used a lot of the VK-4501(h).

    In February 1943, Henschel was ordered to standardize as much as possible with the Panther II design from MAN.
    Turret development for the VK-4502(H) happened simultaneously to the one for the VK-4502(P), only different in drive, Porsche electric, Henschel hydraulic.

    Krupp states in the annual report 1941/1942 that guns and turrets were being designed for:
    – 8,8 cm Kw.K L/71 with electric turret traverse for the Porsche-Wagen (Tiger P2)
    – 8,8 cm Kw.K L/71 with hydraulic turret traverse for the Henschel-Wagen (Tiger H3)

    In November 1942, contracts for the Porsche Tiger P2 were cancelled. At a meeting between representatives of Krupp and Wegmann on December 8, 1942, the contract for 100 turrets for the Tiger P2 was discussed, and concluded that the turrets for the Tiger P2 could be sent to Wegmann for installation on the Henschel Tiger H3. At that time, the new Tiger H3 turret was begun to be designed, being completed as the drawing HSK Nr. 3470 is dated 3rd June 1943.

    The road to mounting the Serien Turm seems to have started at 17th February 1943 as OberstLt Crohn from WaPrüf 6 said that the new Tiger H3 turret with sloped turret front, was to be produced starting when the first 50 already under production turrets were completed at Krupp. The bulge in the side armour of the turret is eliminated in a drawing by Krupp 2 AKF 31702, which Henschel used in drawing HSK Nr. 3470. This turret design is the one accepted by WaPrüf 6 for mass-production. The only component taken over from the Tiger Ausf. E was the cast armour cupola which was originally designed for the cancelled Tiger P2.

    Walter J. Spielberger in his “Panzerkampfwagen Tiger und seine Abarten” refers to the turrets as Henschel and Porsche. I must stress that the book is excellent reference material, but you do need to have updated references as well. Jentz VK 45.02 to Tiger II corrects the mistakes made by Spielberger.

    What exactly is the genesis might lie in the development history of what would become the Tiger Ausf. B.

    Early on in Tiger Ausf. E production, it was already desired to get the longer Flak 41 88 mm gun in a tank turret. The first steps in the long development process was made by Porsche and Krupp who set out to start designs for a chassis and turret. Porsche would, after the first 100 VK-4501(P) with the Kw.K 56 L/56 88 mm gun, switch to production of a Tiger with L/71 88 mm gun. This all was done before VK-4501(P) was cancelled as the Panzerkampfwagen VI P and contracts switched for the chassis to Panzerjäger Tiger (P) production.

    Both Henschel and Porsche, while also working on the VK-4501 with the L/56 gun, were to come up with designs for the new L/71 gun in a new turret. It had already been deduced that the longer gun couldn’t be mounted in the VK-4501 turret.

    Henschel did minimally changed design, as did Porsche. Both VK-4502 designs were based heavily on their respective VK-4501 designs, the biggest difference being the inclusion of sloping armour.

    In the end, both designs, the Henschel one rather quickly, the Porsche later, were rejected. Porsche was longer in the running, as the company had no role in Tiger Ausf. H1 production. Henschel was still ramping up their production and was fully occupied with that.

    Krupp had designed a turret, which they refer to in a financial year report as based on BOTH the Henschel and Porsche chassis. There is 1 difference between the 2, Henschel used hydraulic drive for the turret, while Porsche was electric. Once the contracts for Porsche were rescinded, the already produced turrets were converted to hydraulic drive and sent to Henschel.

    During forging of the curved turret front plate, in several cases, the armour had cracked. Krupp had offered to repair those defective frontal armour pieces and subject some to firing tests to prove they were still reliable. Apart from that, it also turned out that the turret design was extremely complicated. The turret front plate, once bent, had to be fitted in an exacting process to the turret side interlocks. Also, the turret side on the left required a bulge to accommodate the commander’s cupola.

    Therefore, before even 1 Tiger Ausf. B was completed, it was decided to re-design the turret with a more simplified layout. The turret front was straightened and set at a slight angle, the turret side wall angle was set higher to eliminate the bulge. Starting with the 51st turret, this new design was implemented as the Serienturm.

  4. Looking forward to seeing the new display soon, only live down the road so could be very soon. Good luck.

  5. The article is a good summery of the technical history. Well done!

    And there had been some other different turret designs for the later “paper panzers” like the Panther II, the E-50, the E-100 and even the Mouse (a.k.a. Porsche Type 205). Some might be “real”, some might be pure fantasy, like the different turrets for the E-100 series with the so called Mouse (or Porsche) Turret, the Krupp (or light/small Mouse Turret), the “Henschel”-Turret (enlarged Kingtiger Turret) or the Up-Armored “Henschel”-Turret (a kind of Kingtiger Turret, combined with the turretfront of the Panther F “Narrow Turret).

    Well for the Kingtiger it is easy, because there had been real specimen of the different turrets, but for the “paper tanks” there are only plans of not always knowm origin or just simply guess work.

    • The Panther II wasn’t a late war project, it was started and cancelled in early 1943.

      I don’t get where you found any reference to your so called light/small Maus turret, a Henschel turret for the Maus, none of those ever existed.

      The only other Maus turret was the one with the sloped straight front, and the 75 mm gun mounted above the 128mm gun.

  6. Is there any truth to the fact that Krupp’s ending production on the initial turret design (after the first 50 had been produced, through November 1943), was related to the return of 50 “Ferdinand” panzerjagers from the Eastern Front in September, 1943? I’ve heard that far beyond adding a front hull machine gun and a commander’s cupola, Dr. Porsche held out hope that all 50 of his returning petrol-electric chassis might be converted back into tanks of the VK45.02 Hintern (rear-turret) design. If this was approved, Porsche planned to install a new forced-ventilation system to deal with overheating issues, along with his new dual V-10 engines. The failure of the V-10 engine test (which would have finally allowed for adequate propulsion power) brought an end to this scenario.

    At that time, I understand that three finished Porsche VK45.02 Hintern prototypes already existed. The Ferdinands (and the single completed Porsche VK45.01 Tiger 1) had all achieve very high kill-ratios in combat during the summer of 1943. So the real issue Porsche was then focused on was a new forced ventilation-cooling system, in conjunction with greatly increased engine power, in securing a shot at a limited-production run of his petrol-electric Tiger II. I don’t know if there is any documentation in existence that supports this, but it sure seems like the mind of Dr. Porsche at work.

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