What was actually learnt...& maybe some food for thought

G’day all
Whilst spending a long weekend doing a vertical Tiger I build, a thought occurred to me about this tank.
Much has been written about the Brits’ capture of ‘131’ in North Africa & sent back to the UK for analysis. However, & correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t found much online about what the Allies actually learnt from German tank engineering of the time. Since none of the Allies had encountered such a tank before, was the intent of analysing the Tiger, a way of the Allies confirming or dispelling their fears of this tank? Almost in the same way that people who fear sharks, for example, study & learn about them, in the hope that the more they understand them, the less they fear them.

Quite a few designs of the war focused on sloped armour to reduce penetration, yet the Tiger design was opposite this, relying on sheer thickness of steel & a bloody big gun.
Granted there were engineering concepts which may have seemed logical at the time to the Germans, but ultimately proved flawed, & I’m sure the Allies must’ve reviewed those & considered the same. However, it always struck me…did we actually learn anything beneficial WRT MBT design/engineering from the Tiger? Was the Panther thought to be the better platform to learn from?
Interesting too, that tank evolution then was so quick yet so short. 1938 & most tanks were light, cruiser styles with small calibre guns. Within 6 years, most countries had shifted to SPG-type platforms to achieve the same result. Today…one of the most significant tanks ever built is 40-odd years old in thinking, having had a gun upsizing & ‘how to fight’ upgrades, essentially, in it’s life.

This topic isn’t meant to open up a huge debate or anything like that, just to offer up some lateral thinking…

Well…the Churchill, Cromwell, Comet, et al. were all basically slab-sided, so it wasn’t much of an issue for the British. At least not until Centurion!
:grinning: :canada:

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I read that there were complaints about the design of the Comet when it became known that it would have a syepped front and vertical drivers and machine gun plate. Some felt let down that the sloped design of the Panther hadn’t been learnt from. As a result they trialled a sloped plate on a Comet and found that there was little difference in terms of protection.
The Comet does appear to owe more to the Tiger in appearance than the Panther, except it is obviously smaller than both. It did have a relatively bigger turret, allowing a bigger gun, than earlier British tanks. It does also appear to be a direct precursor of the Centurion, which certainly seems to have been a response to the Tiger and Panther, except better.
Always struck me as notable that late German tank design still favoured interleaved wheels, but as far as I know, it was never used in post war designs.

Yes. The Germans were comfortable to use individual wheel/torsion bar set-up on early designs eg. Pz III/IV, yet ventured away from that as newer designs got bigger & heavier. I’ve often wondered how much mileage the Germans would’ve got out of the Tiger & Panther, had they used a suspension set-up akin to what we see now on MBT’s

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By April 21, 1943, when 121 was captured, tanks like the T26 were already in development. Everyone was working on better stuff. They knew about the 88. They knew about torsion bars. They knew about face hardened steel. They knew about the types of shot needed to punch through heavy armor. They knew about German optics. In my opinion, they learned they needed to get the better stuff to the battlefield as quickly as possible.

With regards sloped armor, some designers made the connection between sloped armor and weight savings very early on, long before World War II. For example, star formation fortresses essentially represent sloped armor for castles.

When World War II began, many tank designs were thrown into the caldron of battle. Over time, it was clearly demonstrated to all parties involved that advances in gun and shot design necessitated vehicles with heavier armor to survive. Heavier armor increases weight. Increased weight limits operational use. Sloping armor decreases weight, restoring operational use while maintaining sufficient protection. I doubt anyone needed to see a Panther to realize sloped armor was better. In my opinion, advances in gun design drove up vehicle weighs to the point where sloping armor became an absolute requirement.


I suspect that your average British boffin took one look at the Tiger and thought the whole thing to be far too big, incredibly expensive and much too complicated. There’s a war on, damnit.

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the tiger was big and heavy. It was the first tank to use hydro static drives and that alone was a big improvement. Had lots of armor when compared to the rest, plus it had a main gun that wasn’t just bigger (diameter) and much faster than anything ever put in a tank. The suspension was a light year better than anything else employed. The U.S. got a T34 tank from the USSR, and it didn’t begin to meet up with all the hype. Yet by 1943; it was starting to show it’s age.

Then along comes the Panther. Built out of interlocking dovetail plates that were then welded together. Absolutely the strongest hull ever built (with the Tiger II being an exception). Allied tanks couldn’t penetrate it at 500 yards, while the 75mm gun could do the same at 1200 yards. It to used a hydro static drive as well as being steered as an automobile. The 75mm L48 gun would actually penetrate deeper than the 88mm out of the Tiger! (not that it mattered much) Just look at the new MBT’s and you’ll see lessons learned from the Panther. One design issue with it and the Tiger were the complicated road wheel assembly. Early ones had a final drive issue, but that was taken care of in the Panther A.

The Tiger II was huge, and way too heavy for it’s drive train. The main gun was even more powerful than the Tiger I. It’s hull construction was much stronger due to the inter locking design. What it needed was about two hundred more horse power and a much heavier final drive (maybe beef up the transmission as well). It lacked overland (off road) speed and drank fuel like it was to no end.

The real issue with the Panther and Tiger II was cost and speed of manufacture. Yet compared with something modern its about the same. It takes 30 days to build an M1 Abrams to give you an idea. Production needs were not ready for that in 1944. The T26 is often thought of as one of the greatest tanks built, but was it? Probably would have been the M46 which for the most part is similar, but also made all the improvements into one rolling unit. Somewhere and somehow one has to add in the British Centurion tanks. Somewhat under gunned in the early models, but well designed. It needed something better than the 20 pounder. Rest of it was good to better.


I think its widely accepted that all things considered, the Panther’s 75mm gun was a much more effective weapon than the Tiger’s 88mm.

Again, in comparison, Allied armour was average - but if you can produce 50 000 average vehicles quickly, it becomes a battle of statistics. A lot of people forget that factories win wars, not armies.

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Examination of Tiger 131 revealed that the gearbox was based on a British Merritt-Brown design! Who was learning from whom?

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Armor design boils down to three factors, mobility, firepower, and armor protection. Any one can be increased at the expense of one or both of the others… For example, increasing armor protection will invariably reduce mobility due to increased weight. Conversely, mobility can be increased by reducing armor protection. Larger guns require larger vehicles increasing weight and reducing mobility. The key is finding the right balance that maximizes all three elements.

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… and a more powerful engine is usually larger so it requires a larger vehicle with more internal volume to protect so the weight increases so all of the added power does not increase the hp/ton ratio.
When the weapons side of the design team sees the larger chassis they start thinking about larger (heavier) weapons. A more powerful gun can lead to a demand for more armour (basically to be able to protect against being fired at by a similar or the same gun. When the weight increases it will need more hp to keep it moving. And thus the design keeps going around and around in the spiral of increasing weight-size-power …

They were? Source? I thought even the French had terrible trouble with theirs.

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Lots of words and many sources.
The Panther A had improvements but there wasn’t a final solution for the final drives and steering gear.

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I don’t think the allies had much to learn from the Tiger. There’s nothing in that design that wasn’t well known by every engineer on the planet, as others have already posted. Torsion bar suspension was invented in the 1930s and by early WW2 had advanced to the point that quite heavy vehicles could use it (e.g. the KV-1 had torsion bar suspension in 1940; the Panzer III had it even earlier). There was nothing innovative in the armor, gun, transmission or powerplant.

It was just a really big, expensive, formidable tank. It was obvious that the Germans would produce it in very small numbers, and that weapons already in the field or in development could defeat it.

So, honestly, I think the allied response to the Tiger was pretty much correct all around.

As for any effect on later designs, I don’t think there is much directly. The gun-armor race was constant, and was driven more by the T-34 than anything else. But in terms of specific technologies, despite the myths, the western powers were ahead of anything the Germans or USSR did.

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I don’t think that’s a valid statement. In Britain perhaps it was true. But e.g. French tank design had stressed heavier guns right from WW1, and soviet designs had typically tended towards heavier firepower also.

In the 1930s an awful lot of the world’s tanks were envisioned as infantry-support vehicles, and the experience of WW2 and since has been that combined infantry & tank teams are key parts of the combined arms approach. By mid-WW2, most armies were converging on unit organizations that combined both.

You’re right that no postwar designs that entered production had interleaved or overlapping road wheels. There were some French designs that toyed with the idea but they were never built in numbers. I think the designers worldwide concluded it was a shite idea.

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We shouldn’t assume sloped armor is always better - it’s not. It’s a very, very old idea. You can see it in castles and in warships long before WW2.

All other things being equal, sloping armor improves protection and can save weight. But all other things are never equal. Sloping armor tends to decrease internal space, which can affect other things. It can make the vehicle too cramped to crew efficiently (looking at you, T-34 and panther) reduce stowage room (IS-2) so that too-little ammo is carried, reduce turret ring diameter (T-34) etc.

So whether or to what extent armor should be sloped is just another aspect of design that is subject to compromise. The Tiger, with its vertical surfaces, stowed a lot of ammo. The M4 had a huge turret ring, which made crewing it a lot more efficient and allowed significant up-gunning.

The Panther was not the first tank to have interlocking plates welded together.

The Panther had a 75mm L/70 gun. not L/48. The L/48 was the gun on the Panzer IV and stugs.

Uhhhh…I may be wrong here, but didn’t the Panther have a 7.5 cm. L 70 gun? :roll_eyes: Just sayin’…(slightly sarcastically!).
:grinning: :canada:

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