Panzerjäger Tiger (P) mit 8.8 PaK 42/2 (L/71)/ 'Ferdinand'/ 'Elefant'

The Panzerjäger Tiger (P) mit 8.8 PaK 42/2 (L/71)/ 'Ferdinand'/ 'Elefant' was a very heavy tank destroyer produced using ninety hulls that had been built for the failed Porsche Tiger (P).

The Tiger (P) was Porsche's attempt to build a heavy tank capable of carrying an 88mm gun. An order was placed for 100 of them before the design had been properly tested, and when trials began on the prototype it became clear that there were serious problems with the suspension and the drive train. Porsche used a petrol-electric drive system, with two Porsche designed engines driving two generators which in turn powered two electric motors. Unfortunately the engines were unreliable, and the entire system was prone to overheating. The unusual suspension, with longitudinal torsion bars mounted low down on the outside of the hull, was also prone to failures. Production of the Tiger (P) fell badly behind schedule, and on 22 November the decision was made to complete 90 of them as an assault gun, which would be armed with the long 8.8cm L/71 gun. Alkett was to design the vehicle, which would be assembled at the Nibelungenwerke. One prototype was also produced, so 91 of the Tiger (P) hulls became assault guns.

The new vehicle had several names. During 1943 it was known as the 'Ferdinand', a tribute to Dr Ferdinand Porsche.

The internal layout was changed for the Ferdinand. On the Tiger (P) the engines, generators and drive motors were all at the rear, with a single fighting compartment at the front, containing the turret and driving positions. On the Ferdinand the driver and radio operator were at the front. Behind them was the engine compartment, which now carried two 300hp Maybach engines. Fue; tanks were carried on either side of this compartment. Next came the fighting compartment, with space for the commander, gunner and two loaders. Finally at the rear was a transmission compartment, which contained the electric motors for the rear drive wheels.

This change was reflected in the external appearance. The basic superstructure remained intact, with the turret ring removed. A new upper superstructure covered the rear half of the vehicle. This had sloping sides and rear, and a slightly less sloped front. The gun emerged from the centre of the front panel, and had a limited traverse.

On 6 February 1943 Hitler ordered that all 90 should be sent to the front as fast as possible. The first was completed by March 1943, and all 90 by the end of May.

The Ferdinand was originally issued to two independent heavy tank detachments - schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 653 and schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 654. On 8 June 1943 these two regiments were used to form a new heavy Panzerjager regiment - schwere Panzerjager-Abteilung 656, with the 653rd becoming I./Panzerjager-Regiment 656 and the 654th becoming II./Panzerjager-Regiment 656.

Panzer-Regiment 656 took part in the battle of Kursk, where the Ferdinand made its combat debut. It proved to be effective at long range, as would be expected for a vehicle armed with the long 88mm gun, but suffered heavy losses. The biggest problem was the weight of the vehicle, which made damaged Ferdinands difficult to recover. Once the Germans were forced to retreat at Kursk, any damaged Ferdinands had to be destroyed to prevent them falling into Russian hands. Despite these failings, the Ferdinand may have reached a kill to loss ratio of 10-1. 

In September the two Ferdinand detachments were removed from the 656th, and reverted to their original numbers. They remained on the Eastern Front to the end of 1944, although the Ferdinands may have been concentrated in the 653rd.

At the end of 1943 the surviving Ferdinands (forty-eight in total) were withdrawn for a refit. During this period they were given a hull machine gun and a commander's cupola. During this period they were also renamed the 'Elefant'. The new name was officially introduced in February 1944, but didn’t become common until May.

Early in 1944 the first of the modified vehicles were issued to I.Kompanie/ schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 653. This unit was then sent to Italy to attack the Anzio bridgehead. The company had 11 Ferdinands and one Berge-Ferdinand. On 29 February 1944 all eleven were in working order. During the period when the Germans were on the offensive only two were lost. This changed after the start of the successful Allied offensive of May-June 1944. Two were lost in late May and four in June, leaving only three, which were withdrawn to Vienna in August.

Early in 1944 the 654th began to convert to the Jadgpanther. In September 1944 the 653rd converted to the Jadgtiger. The remaining handful of Elefants were used on the Eastern Front, with some even surviving to take part in the battle of Berlin. Although the Ferdinand/ Elefant hadn't been a massive success (mainly due to reliability problems), it was a good use of the Porsche Tiger hulls that were already being constructed, and an effective tank killer when working.

Names
Panzerjäger Tiger (P) mit 8.9 PaK 42/2 (L/71)
Sturmgeschütz mit 8.8cm PaK43/2
Sd Kfz 184
'Ferdinand'
'Elefant'

Stats
Production: 90
Length: 8.14m
Hull Length: 2.97m
Hull Width: 3.38m
Height: 2.97m
Crew: 6
Weight: 65 tons
Engine: 2 x Maybach HL210TRM, 265 metric HP each
Generators: 2 x Siemens Schuckert Type K58-8 (500 V-A)
Electric Motors: Siemens 230 KW at 1,300rpm
Max Speed: 30 km/hr
Max Range: 150 km on roads, 90km cross-country
Armament: One 8.8cm Pak43/2 L/71 and up to two 7.92mm MG34 machine guns
Armour:

Armour

Armour

Front

Side

Rear

Top/ Bottom

Superstructure

200mm

80mm

80mm

30mm

Hull

100mm

60-80mm

80mm

20-50mm

Gun mantlet

25mm

 

 

 

 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 September 2017), Panzerjäger Tiger (P) mit 8.8 PaK 42/2 (L/71)/ 'Ferdinand'/ 'Elefant' , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_panzerjager_ferdinand_elefant.html

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