PANZERKAMPFWAGEN 205 PORSCHE

The Maus was the largest and most powerful tank that has ever been made. It was constructed by the Germans nearing the end of World War Two. Cynically, the Germans nicknamed it "The Maus" (mouse) because of its sheer size.

Operation Barbarossa, the codename for the invasion of Russia in mid 1941 was at first thought by the German High Command to be an easy campaign against inferior forces with an equally inferior tank  force. However, they were soon proved to be wrong...very wrong indeed!

At that time the Russian T-34 and KV-1 tank was far superior to anything that the Germans had and the performance in combat of these tanks  accounted for the loss of a large quantity of German armor as the Germans advanced deeper into Russia.

Reports of these losses from the 'less than inferior' Russian tanks quickly reached Hitler and after the initial shock had subsided directives were issued to build better tanks. The agenda included the now famous Panther and Tiger tanks, but later Hitler wanted something even bigger and better, especially after hearing rumours that the Russians were to build a hundred ton monster tank.

Hitler realised that he needed a super tank to confront any eventualities, and on June 8th, 1942, he approached his chief tank designer, Dr Ferdinand Porsche (The same name behind today's high quality super sports cars like the Porsche 911, Porsche Carrera etc) and armaments minister Albert Speer.

He told them to design a super tank that would carry a huge 128mm or even 150mm main gun with the possibility of a second coaxial gun with a caliber of at least 75mm within the same turret.

Below is seen the Maus tank being loaded onto a train flat-bed possibly for test purposes. Another school of thought believe that this photo depicts the time when the Russians captured the Maus and packed it off to Russia for inspection.

All tanks are designed around three main deciding factors, Mobility, Protection and Firepower. Hitler stated that the  super  tank should be built around Firepower first and Protection second, whereas mobility was not a direct issue. Hitler wanted a super powerful tank that would be impervious to enemy fire but could deliver an almighty blow.

DIMENSION AND DESIGN

Graphics by V Bourguignon of France

The dimensions of the Maus were carefully considered and due to the fact that it would have to be transported by rail it could not exceed a certain width. Because of its estimated weight of over 150 tons, it would also need to be fitted with a snorkel device as small bridges would not have been able to support its weight. A wading depth of 26 feet was calculated and designed for.

                  

                     

The secret project to build this tank with firepower as the precedence went under way on August 1st, 1943, the tank was at first referred to as the Mammut  or Mammoth and was assigned a project tank build number of 205.

The hull of the tank was made by Krupp steel industries whilst the firm of Alkett (Altmarkische Kettenfabrik)  did all of the assembly work and manufactured the heavy tracks. To power the beast, a Daimler Benz Maybach V12 engine was also installed. All of the tanks electrical components came from Siemens-Schuckert. Indeed many German companies were involved in the design and construction of this tank and all of its consummate parts.

The wheels were more like rollers and there were 24 of them combined in twelve bogies, six sets on each side. It was decided that bogies would be better at supporting the colossal weight of the tank and be more dependable and reliable. It really was German engineering at its finest, with many hours spent on the technical drawing board.

The bogies were hung from a cross member that was fixed to the hull, each set of rollers had its own fully independent movement.

The tank went through extensive trials at the Böblingen test facility, Stuttgart on January 10th, 1944.  Apart from some problems with the suspension, as a direct result of the weight of the tank, the trials were a success and the tank performed as its designers had at initially intended. The only real change was to the tanks name, it was re-named  The Maus.

Graphics by V Bourguignon from France

Hitler's orders were that the tank should be ready for combat by June 1944. It was on June 9th, that the finished turret was finally installed and the Maus was again sent to the trial grounds this time at Kummersdorf. At this time, a second prototype, that had also been constructed was  tested at the same place but the installation of a new engine gave rise to big problems.

 

The engine in the Maus took up most of the internal chassis space due to its size so subsequently the fuel tanks were placed at the front lower end of the tank. There was an eight horse power auxiliary engine that provided starting power and charged up the batteries, this along with electric drive motors located at the rear, independently powered the turret and allowed full transversal in just 16 seconds.

 

All the ammunition was stowed in the middle left hand side of the hull/turret area as space was severely restricted. It has to be remembered that the turret alone weighed in at 50 tons...almost the total weight of a fully loaded, fully fuelled Panther tank! Indeed imagine a tank chassis with a Panther tank on its back and still needing the power to move along up hills, through rivers, across rough terrain etc.

The turret was basically cast in a single complete part and had additional armor, dovetail  welded to the sides and rear with extra plates to the front.

TECHNICALITIES

Drawing graphics by V Bourguignon from France

The tanks hull was 33 feet long, 12 feet wide and 12 feet tall and weighed in at a colossal 188 tons! It would have had a crew of either 5 or 6.

Armed with a colossal 128mm main gun with 32 stowed rounds and a 75mm secondary coaxial gun with 200 stowed rounds it would have destroyed any tank that was around at that time, or even today. The guns elevation was from minus 7 degrees to 23 degrees.

The Daimler Benz Maybach MB-509 engine could deliver a massive 1080 hp  @ 2400 rpm and the other engine the MB-517 could deliver 1200 hp. The maximum speed achieved (on a flat surface) was only 20 kph, otherwise 13 kph was its normal operating speed. Indeed the Maus was a very heavy and very slow lumbering giant, but as demanded by Hitler, speed was not high on the priority stakes.

Below is seen a Maus tank as it rumbles along at the test facility, notice too the rolls of spare tracks next to the building. There are also a lot of armed guards around proving how secret this whole project was.

With 2 forward and 2 reverse gears the tank could tackle a 30 degrees incline on its 3 feet wide tracks and could negotiate a 2 foot high obstacle. I would like to state that obstacles would probably have been flattened due to its weight! A tank of this weight tends to go through  things rather than over them!

 

THE TESTING CONTINUED

The fuel tank capacity was 2,700 liters (593 imperial gallons) with an extra 1,500 liter (329 imperial gallons) fuel tank attached to the back of the hull. This fuel tank of course would have been empty by the time the tank got within range of the enemy. Modern tanks, especially Russian tanks still use this strategy today.

The hull had  a 200mm (8 inches) thick sloped armor plate with 180mm (7 inches) thick side and rear armor. The turret armor being 240mm (9½ inches) thick at the front and 200mm thick on the sides.

As stated earlier, this tank had so much armor plating the result was that it had very poor speed and atrocious mobility but if no enemy tanks shells could penetrate the armor then why worry!

A close up of the frontal sloping armor plate, that was nearly ten inches thick! And would probably have been impenetrable to any round fired at it.  These photos were taken of the sole surviving  Maus tank. It sits in the Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia.

 

Quite an impressive view of the Maus. In this photo the thickness of the armor plating can be appreciated as can the slope that the armor was set at to help to deflect enemy shell hits.  The Maus has recently been repainted in its original camouflage scheme by specialists from the Russian historical preservation society. As have all of the vehicles situated there.

A view of the Maus from the rear shows that the external fuel tank is missing from this vehicle but it is still very impressive.

Photo by D.Y Overlord "jack of all trades"

The tracks in particular are very wide and exceptionally heavy duty, needed to enable all 188 tons to move over rough terrain. It was a fantastic feat of engineering to produce such a monster, considering that Germany was lacking in many resources during the closing stages of World War Two when this tank was being produced.

In the above picture, shell and bullet impact indentations can be observed in the armor plating, these were probably done during tests of this tank by the Russians in 1952 to determine the strength of the glacis plate. After all, Kubinka was the Russians main secret tank testing ground at the time.

CONCLUSION

The Maus took too long to produce from the drawing board to a finished product. By the time it was ready to go into full production the war was nearly at an end.  Germany and its tank production in the Second World War was too full of changes and upgrading of 'best sellers' like the Tiger I.

If the Germans had just stuck to one great design and mass produced it like the Russians did with their highly successful T-34, then they might have been more superior in battle. After all, all wars are wars of attrition and 55,000 T-34's are going to beat 1000 Tigers.

Below is shown an Russian T-34, of which around 55,000 were produced during World War Two. This is not counting the tens of thousands of KV-1, KV-2 and Joseph Stalin tanks.  The Russians were churning out tanks by the tens of thousands whilst Germany was making them in their hundreds.

 

The Russians  basically stuck to 3 of 4 basic tank designs, and all the spares for T-34's for example were 100% percent interchangeable with every other T-34 that was made. Unlike the Germans who could not get spare parts for obsolete three month old tanks because they made so many different types and variants, always upgrading specifications and modernising already proven designs.

There were in fact only two prototype Maus tanks ever built to full completion and the sole surviving tank is now, as stated, situated in the Russian Tank Museum at Kubinka.  The other tank was destroyed by the Germans at Kummersdorf as Russians were advancing. Below a squad of Russian soldiers inspect the Maus tank.

Below, this Maus wasn't so lucky, The Germans had packed explosives inside it which were then detonated, subsequently blowing it up.

 

This measure was taken to stop it being captured by the Russians. The dove-tail weld where the armor plates were keyed in  down the front of the slanted glacis plate are quite visible in the above photo.

 

In the image above, the 50 ton turret is dragged off the wreck by the Russians for further inspection using a captured German half-track. You can clearly see the hawsers around the turret and one connected to a shank that was screwed into the turret for lifting purposes. Observe in the photo below that this shank was not in place when that actual photo was taken.

 

A clever model maker by the name of Hideki Shimawaki has duplicated the scene from the above photo and created a rather interesting diorama depicting the destruction of the Maus....as seen below.

The total destruction of the Maus tank is quite evident in this photo. One can presume that when the tank was blown up the turret blew into the air only to come down on the hull and caused even more damage by its shear weight. The big 128mm barrel also appears to have embedded itself into the earth quite a way.

The photo above actually shows that the other side of the Maus is relatively still in one piece, with the wide tracks still in place and going around the roller wheels and drive sprocket.

Imagine the explosion needed though to throw a 50 ton turret up into the air, the same internal force that has completely blown away the armor plating off the other side.  The result of the Germans determination not to let the Maus fall into enemy hands. 

SUPER SCRAP

Fortunately for the Allies, the whole Maus tank project was a complete waste of time, effort and resources. A total of 9 of these super tanks were actually in various stages of completion but the war ended before they could be completed.

There is no known record of the Maus tank having actually been in any sort of combat.

Below a British officer stands in front of a partly manufactured Maus at the factory where they were being assembled.  Indeed the war ended too quick for these tanks to be finished and put into combat...luckily for the allies.

Below an American soldier takes notes about what was discovered in the factory. I bet he is writing "Big bloody tank found!"  Many tank enthusiasts today believe that it was a shame that this tank did not see any action, all that manpower, work and effort all for nothing. A huge feat of mammoth engineering that did not reach fruition but just went down the drain.

I wonder how the Maus it would have faired up against a barrage of enemy fire from the allies Sherman's?  The Allies could just about deal with Tiger tanks as it was, let alone a monster like this.  Maus tanks may have turned the tide of war had there been enough of them, but it was just too late the hero.

The whole Maus project was a complete display of utter futility and desperation in the face of the enemy. But wow! What a tank!

Click the image below to visit Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia

In 1998 when this webpage first appeared it was the only page on the internet about the Maus tank, since then several more have appeared.  I won't link to them as most of their information came from here in the first place!

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Page created February 19th 2002.  Updated May12th 2014