As reported in the press and as previously indicated in Tactical and Technical Trends (No. 18, p. 6) a German heavy tank has been in action in Tunisia. So far as can be definitely determined, this is the first time the Germans have used a heavy tank in combat. Whether or not it is the Pz.Kw. 6 cannot be definitely stated. At least one heavy tank has been captured, and while complete details are not yet available, there is sufficient reasonably confirmed data to warrant at least a partial tentative description at this time.
The chief features of this tank are the 88-mm gun, 4-inch frontal armor, heavy weight, and lack of spaced armor. The accompanying sketch roughly indicates the appearance of the tank, but should not be accepted as wholly accurate.
The tank has a crew of 5. It is about 20 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 9 1/2 feet high. The gun overhangs the nose by almost 7 feet. It is reported that the weight is 56 tons or, with modifications, as much as 62 tons.
The power unit is a single 12-cylinder engine. A speed of at least 20 mph can be achieved. Two types of track are thought to exist: an operational track 2 feet 4.5 inches wide, and a loading track which is just under 2 feet. The suspension system consists of a front driving sprocket, a small rear idler, and 24 Christie-type wheels on each side giving it an appearance similar to the familiar German half-track suspension system. There are 8 axles.
There is no armor skirting for protection of the suspension. The armor plating is as follows:
Lower nose plate . . . . . . . . 62 mm (2.4 in), 60° inwards
Upper nose plate . . . . . . . . 102 mm (4 in), 20° inwards
Front plate . . . . . . . . . . . 62 mm (2.4 in), 80° outwards
Driver plate . . . . . . . . . . 102 mm (4 in), 10° outwards
Turret sides and rear . . . . . . 82 mm (3.2 in), vertical
Lower sides (behind bogies) . . . 62 mm (2.4 in), vertical
Upper sides . . . . . . . . . . . 82 mm (3.2 in), vertical
Rear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 mm (3.2 in), 20° inwards
Floor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 mm (1 in)
Top . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 mm (1 in)
The turret front and mantlet range in thickness between a minimum of 97 mm (3.8 in) to a (possible) maximum of 200 mm (7.9 in). It appears that the armor is not face-hardened.
The armament of the tank consists of an 88-mm gun and two 7.92-mm (.315-in) machine guns. The 88-mm has a double-baffle muzzle brake and fires the same fixed ammunition as the usual 88-mm AA/AT gun. As already indicated, the gun overhangs the nose of the tank by almost 7 feet. The turret rotates through 360 degrees and is probably power-operated. Three smoke-generator dischargers are located on each side of the turret.
Comment: From the above characteristics, it is apparent that the Pz.Kw. 6 is designed to be larger and more powerful than the Pz.Kw. 4. As far as known, a Pz.Kw. 5 tank has not been used in combat. The noteworthy differences between the Pz.Kw. 4 and Pz.Kw. 6 are as follows:
Armor Pz.Kw. 4 Pz.Kw. 6 Minimum 20 mm 26 mm Maximum 50 to 80 mm 102 mm Principal Armament 75-mm (long-barrelled gun) 88-mm (AA/AT gun)
A 360-degree rotating turret is used in both the Pz.Kw. 6 and Pz.Kw. 4.
The appearance of the Pz.Kw. 6 indicates that the Germans continue to see the need for a fully armored vehicle equipped with a weapon capable of dealing with hostile tanks as well as with other targets that might hold up the advance of attacking elements.
This tank is undoubtedly an effective weapon, but not necessarily formidable. In the first place, a vehicle weighing from 56 to 62 tons presents many difficult logistical problems. Also, it is reported that one heavy tank was destroyed by a British six-pounder (57-mm) antitank gun at a range of about 500 yards; out of 20 rounds fired, 5 penetrated the tank, 1 piercing the side of the turret and coming out the other side, and another penetrating an upper side plate at an angle of impact of about 15 degrees.