THE NEW 88 AND ITS CARRIAGES
German experiences with Soviet heavy tanks have resulted in
the production of some very powerful guns. Among these is the
Model 1943 88-mm gun. This improved 88 has a very high
muzzle velocity, which enables gunners to lay on and hit even
distant moving targets with considerable ease. In fact, the trajectory
followed by the projectile is so flat that, with certain
sights, the gunner can make his own elevation calculations up to
a range of 3,700 yards for high-explosive projectiles and 4,400
yards for armor-piercing projectiles. A trajectory as flat as this
naturally means that gunners can open fire on tanks and other
armored vehicles without preliminary registration. The rise of
the shell in its flight seldom will be greater than the height of a
Besides being used as a direct-laid gun, the variations of the
Model 1943 can also fire either time-fuzed or percussion
20.68-pound, high-explosive shells as far as 16,570 yards.
The verified armor-penetration capabilities of the Model 43
88's are remarkable. With the newer type of 22.4-pound capped
armor-piercing shell (with ballistic cap to provide streamlining),
the following can be achieved:
|(shell hitting at right angles to the armor)|
|1,000 yards||7.87 inches|
|2,000 yards||6.61 inches|
|2,500 yards||6.02 inches|
|When mounted on a carriage like that of the old Flak 18, the new
88 is called the 8.8-cm Pak 43. Here a piece is sited on an Italian hill
crest, to open fire instantly on targets entering the valley.
|The new 88 on a conventional artillery carriage is called the 8.8-cm
Pak 43/41. This view shows it in defilade on the reverse slope of a
hill. It has just scored a hit on a tank appearing on the skyline.
The Model 43 88's have certain drawbacks, however. While
raising the muzzle velocity, the Germans have tried to keep
down the weight of the gun. The result is a light tube with a
considerably reduced safety factor. Therefore, German gun
crews have been warned not to use high-velocity ammunition in
Model 1943 tubes which have fired as many as 500 rounds. To
preserve the gun tube against erosion, they may fire high-explosive
shell with a low-velocity propellant rated at 1,080 feet per
second. This ammunition gives a maximum range of only 7,765
Thus far the Model 43 88's have appeared in the new Royal
Tiger tank; in the "Elephant" (formerly called the "Ferdinand"),
the "Rhinoceros" (formerly called the "Hornet"), and
Panzerjäger Panther tank destroyers; and on two towed
carriages (the Pak 43 and the Pak 43/41). Of these, the
heavily-armored "Elephant" chassis has been found to be too
cumbersome and mechanically unreliable. The "Rhinoceros" chassis
is too slow; its armor is open on top, and provides protection
only against shell splinters and caliber .30 bullets. The Pak
43/41 ground mount also appears to be unsatisfactory. Its
conventional split-trail artillery carriage must be so heavy (9,660
pounds) that the complete piece weighs almost as much as the
12,300-pound 150-mm medium gun-howitzer s.F.H. 18. Such
a weight precludes manhandling, and is a great handicap in getting
the gun trained on a target which appears from an angle
not covered by the carriage's 60-degree traverse.
|The upper photograph shows the armor thicknesses on the Panzerjäger
Panther. The close-up below indicates points vulnerable to
infantry attack: sight opening (1), hatches (2), ventilators (3),
periscopes (4), and the rear door (5).
More suitable is the Pak 43 carriage, which has wheel bogies
in the front and rear, like all 88-mm Flak 18. This carriage not
only better distributes the weight over the ground, but permits
firing from the wheels with a 60-degree traverse. If the out
riggers are emplaced, full 360-degree traverse is possible. With
bogies removed, the Pak 43 has a very low, silhouette for so
large a piece. Emplaced on commanding ground, the capabilities
of its high-velocity tube and all-round traverse make it a
formidable weapon. In the case of the Pak 43 illustrated on
page 53, the site chosen was on the forward slope of a hill.
Thanks to its range, and to the lack of cover in target areas, the
gun could open instant and effective fire as soon as hostile
infantry or vehicles were detected on the crests of surrounding
hills, or in the defiles between them. While the Pak 43 on this
carriage offers formidable opposition for armored vehicles and
direct-laid weapons, its light shield (two thicknesses of 5 mm
each) gives no side and rear protection for the gun crew. As a
result, the Pak 43 is especially vulnerable to indirect-laid
In this last respect, the Panzerjäger Panther is an improvement
on the Pak 43. By mounting the Model 43 88 in a well-armored
box on a Panther chassis, the Germans have provided
good protection for crew and gun. Because of the Panther
chassis, the Panzerjäger Panther is also a very handy weapon.
Little traverse is built into the gun mount, but the Panther
suspension is so built that the driver can swing the chassis around
without forward movement. At present the Panzerjäger Panther
is believed to be used as an unusual infantry-support weapon.
Dug-in well to the rear of the main line of resistance, it uses its
long-range, direct-fire capabilities to deal with elusive targets
attacking German positions. Its excellent armor ordinarily
would permit it to act as an assault gun, or to fight tanks at
close range, but scarcity of tanks and bombed-out production
lines cause the Germans to keep the Panzerjäger Panthers out of
close-range fighting, except in emergencies. In their present role
of linking up strong points, these vehicles may prove difficult
weapons to combat, especially when their suspension is protected
|The well-armored Royal Tiger is better armed than the standard Tiger.
The Model 43 88 has a length of 71 calibers (71 times 88 mm), as
compared with 56 calibers for the older Tiger's KwK 36. The Model 43
has a muzzle velocity of 2,460 feet per second with high explosive,
and as much as 3,708 feet per second with armor-piercing rounds.
Since the time of flight of an armor-piercing round at a range of
2,200 yards is 2.2 seconds or less, accuracy and correction
of fire against moving targets is greater than with older tank
and antitank guns.
Of the carriages for the new Model 43 88, the best known
is the improved Tiger tank called the Royal Tiger (Königstiger).
This Tiger, first introduced on the Eastern Front in the winter
of 1943-44, weighs 75 tons in action (more than 66 British
tons). Just as important as the gun to the Royal Tiger's combat
efficiency is its new armor, which is sloped for added resistance
to armor-piercing projectiles (see page 57). In fact, the Royal
Tiger looks much like the Panther, except for the fact that the
side superstructure armor slants upward from rear to front.
The turret is noticeably different, also.
As in the case of all recent German tanks, the tracks of the
Royal Tiger are very wide -- 2 feet
8 1/2 inches. This not only
lessens the likelihood of serious damage by a single mine, but
means that the weight is so distributed that the tank can climb
a 35-degree slope or a 2-foot 9-inch
step, and can ford streams
5 feet 9 inches deep. The Royal Tiger can do 24 miles an hour
on roads, but only 9 to 12 miles an hour in cross-country travel.
For close-in defense, the Royal Tiger has a coaxial 7.92-mm
machine gun next to the 88, and another in the hull. An
anti-aircraft machine-gun mounting is fitted on top of the commander's
cupola. The crew of five (the commander, gunner, loader,
who are in the turret, and the driver and radio operator, who
are in the front of the hull) have only one pistol port. This port
is in the door in the rear of the turret, and consists of a conical
plug closed by a chain. If the crew find it necessary to open
hatches for observation or to use small arms, the following openings
|Hatch over driver
Hatch over radio operator
Hatch on top of commander's cupola
Hatch on right of top
Hatch on rear slope
Door in rear plate
(1) The German designation for the "Royal Tiger" was
Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf B (SdKfz 182), other designations included:
Pz.Kpfw. Tiger (8.8cm Kw.K. L/71), Tiger II, Königstiger, and PzKpfw Tiger Ausf B.
The "Royal Tiger" and "King Tiger" names are postwar or Allied
versions of the Königstiger name.
(2) The Tiger II illustrated was captured in France by the Allies in 1944. The vehicle
originally served as
"104" with 1 Kompanie, s.SS-Pz.Abt. 101.
(3) For more information on the Lone Sentry website on the German 88-mm, see:
"German 88 MM in the Libyan Battle"
The Battle of the Omars: Appendix A.