Key Point: Midway through World War II, Nazi Germany decided to take its huge 128-millimeter antiaircraft gun and stick it on its biggest, baddest tank. The result was the monstrous Jagdtiger (“Hunting Tiger”), then heaviest tank to see action in World War II—and still heavier than modern M1 Abrams and Leopard 2 tanks! But the vehicle’s terrifying bulk proved to be its own worst enemy.
During World War II, German factories churned out numerous turretless assault guns (Sturmgeschutz) and tank destroyers (Jagdpanzers) based on each major tank chassis. Though the lack of a turret made them less capable in offensive operations, they were cheaper to build, could carry heavier guns and armor, and remained highly effective at ambushing enemy tanks or providing fire support. Therefore, a turretless version of the huge seventy-ton Tiger II tank was seen as a natural platform for the 128-millimeter gun. A full-scale wooden mockup of the Jagdtiger was presented to Hitler on October 20, 1943, and the führer enthusiastically approved production.
The Jagdtiger was nearly eleven meters long and three meters tall, and tipped the scales at seventy-nine short tons—or eighty-three fully loaded with ammunition and a crew of six. Much of that weight went into 250 millimeters of armor protection in the casemate superstructure housing the main gun; however, the lower hull had only fifteen centimeters, and the sides and rear eight. Thus, while the front armor was practically invulnerable, it remained susceptible to shots to the side, rear and top.