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May 12, 2017

Although the gas turbine is a fairly old invention it does not appear to have been considered for tanks until about 1945, when the first prototype – on a Jagdtiger – was developed. Contrary to popular belief the first experimental installation of a gas turbine engine in a tank took place in Austria in 1945.

The particular gas turbine was designed by the German engineer Alfred Muller with the work being done by the Nibelungenwerke in Austria, part of the group managed by Ferdinand Porsche. Although much of the work concentrated on producing a gas turbine power unit for the Panther tank, the only working prototype ever built appeared on a Jagdtiger self-propelled gun.


Oddly perhaps the prototype appeared on one of the Henschel Jagdtigers with the lateral torsion bar suspension and not the rarer Porsche version with short longitudinal torsion bars, like our exhibit. The turbine, which Porsche styled their Type 305, was a single shaft axial-flow unit to Alfred Muller’s design which was installed longitudinally in the tank’s engine compartment, but one of the problems they encountered initially was the very size of the unit when compared with a conventional engine.

The gas turbine drove forwards and downwards through a system of reduction gears into the tanks regular transmission system, it was calculated to deliver around 900 to 1,000hp which was a considerable advance over the 600hp of a Maybach V12 as normally fitted to the tank. However it also had its disadvantages.


The Tank Museum's Jagdtiger being moved into the Tiger Collection

The Tank Museum’s Jagdtiger being moved into the Tiger Collection

In order to remain unseen from the air, where Allied aircraft with Tank Busting capability dominated the skies, much of the testing of new vehicles took place in forested areas where they could not be seen and the exhaust system from the gas turbine tank rose upwards from the rear of the vehicle. The exhaust from the gas turbine emerged at 650 degrees which, according to witnesses set fire to the trees around it.

Although it was a brilliant, indeed a remarkable piece of engineering, it came too late to be of any practical use to the Third Reich. In any case the country was already desperately short of fuel and gas turbines delivering this kind of power are notoriously thirsty. The projected gas turbine Panther tank never even completed before the war ended.

Find out more about the Jagdtiger here.  

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  1. What’s the source of this information?

  2. Imagine being an Allied pilot flying over Germany looking for ground targets and suddenly you see a forest fire start.

  3. In about 1997 myself and my father went to the normal d day landing celebration and 3 oldish men we had never seen before came to talk to us. They were German tank crew. They told us sitting in a Tiger during a british ship shelling them and a heavy bomber raid was worst than any time during the eastern front conflict. G J Lancaster.

  4. Gas turbine woudld increase HP but fuel consumation is something that Germans couldn’t .

  5. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GT_101 for more accurate information.
    I first learned about this project in “Gas Turbine Powerhouse” by Dietrich Eckardt.
    As an aside, the original designer of the land-based gas turbine, which eventually ended up in M1 Abrams, was Anselm Franz, who had led the development of Jumo-004 gas turbine jet engine used in Me-262.

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