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Tiger II Befehlspanzer

n model by Toni Canfora
n images and text by Martin Waligorski 

Few tanks emphasize the tremendous development of armour technology during the Wolrd War II years better than SdKfz 182 PzKpfw VI Tiger II, today also known as the King Tiger. Weighting a massive 70 ton (compared to 25 ton of the Panzer IV with remained the mainstay of German panzer divisions until the end of the conflict, or to 55 ton of the Tiger I), this tank was bigger, meaner, more powerful and complex than any other vehicle on the battlefield with perhaps the only exception being the Soviet JS-3 tank, which by the way arrived too late to meet Tiger II in combat to any significant extent.

The King Tiger was born in the similar way as its older sibling, the Tiger. Once again Porsche and Henschel were asked for designs which were to incorporate the latest sloped armor and the installation of the long-barrel 88 mm Flak gun. Like before, both companies delivered their designs, ald like before, Porsche's insistence on electric transmission lead to rejection of his design, the contract going once again to Henschel.

The first Tiger IIs were completed by Henschel in January 1944, a few months behind the original schedule which made it impossible to achieve the Inpekteur der Panzertruppen's goal of  having 100 Tiger IIs available for a spring offensive in 1944. When the sPzAbt. 501 took the Tiger II to action near the Polish town of Kielce in August 1944, they had only 45 Tigers and a lot of remaining teething troubles to cope with.

The production run continued through March 1945 for a total of three prototypes and 489 production series tanks.

It was a massive and formidable vehicle, designed to dominate the battlefield, which it did. Frontal attack on this tank by any weapon available to the Allies was out of question.

As usual with German weapon designs of the period, superior size and technology couldn't alone make the trick: there were simply too few King Tigers to make a difference. Also, dwindling transport logistics coupled with very special rail transport requirements imposed by the sheer weight and size of the vehicle hampered the mobility of the units, limiting the tank's operational usefulness.

The model

A few of the Tiger II vehicles were adapted to the role of command tanks (Befehlspanzer). The command version was equipped with an additional mast aerial at the rear of the hull, and the loader acted as second radio operator. The ammunition stowage in the rear of the turret was reduced to make installation of the appropriate radio equipment possible.

Toni Canfora built this model from the Tamiya kit. As usual, the tracks benefit greatly from being replaced by metal ones, in this case from Friul Model. With fenders removed, the tracks are a prominent focal point of the model.

The gun barrel comes from Gunnar Jansson and the replacement mantlet has been sculpted in Duro plastic putty. The same putty was also used to recreate weld seams around the hull.

Toni replaced all exterior details on the hull with photoetched or scratchbuilt parts. The majority of these items come from Aber photoecthed set for the King Tiger.

The extra "tree" antenna characteristic of the commander's version was scratchbuilt.

Toni airbrushed the "ambush" camouflage scheme on the model with Tamiya acrylics. The weathering was added using Humbrol enamels, artists oils and pastel chalks.

The markings came from Archer Fine Transfers. "555" was a tank that served with 502. Schwere Panzerabteilung during Battle of Berlin, 1945. It were the tanks of this unit that lead the breakthrough at Halbe, which went into history as one of the bloodiest fights in the collapsing Third Reich. In preparation of the Soviet offensive across Oder, the sPzAbt. 502 was deployed in the area of Diedersdorf-Litzen together with the 9th Army.

Although the army could hold the Oder-front near Frankfurt am Oder, other segments of the defense soon collapsed under enormous Russian pressure. By end-April the 9th Army was bypassed and encircled by the 1st Ukrainian and 1st Belorussian fronts. The last five Tiger IIs of sPzAbt. 502 were used to lead a desperate breakout, followed by tens of thousands of soldiers and refugees. In three days the enormous column moved through woods and villages, constantly attacked and fired upon by waiting Russians on both flanks. Despite all the fire from Russian artillery, T-34s and anti-tank guns, the five Tigers were able to establish a breakthrough, however, almost 60 thousand German soldiers and civilian refugees perished in the exodus. The Reich outlasted their sacrifice for another nine days.


Additional images, click to enlarge



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