Panzer VIII Maus

The Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus (Sd.Kfz 205) is the heaviest tank with completed working prototypes built during World War II. The basic design known as the VK70001/Porsche Type 2005 was suggested by Ferdinand Porsche to Adolf Hitler in June of 1942, who subsequently approved it. The design up to then had been the culmination of work done by Porsche who had won the contract for the heavy tank that March. Work on the design began in earnest and the first prototype would be ready in 1943 and was initially received the name Mammut (Mammoth). This was reportedly changed to Maeuschen (Mousy) in December of 1942 and finally Maus (Mouse) in February of 1943.



Missing image
side view of the Maus

The tank's hull was 10.1 meters long, 3.67 meters wide and 3.66 meters tall. Weighing about 188 metric tons (or about 207 short tons), the Maus's main armament was a 128 mm cannon with a coaxial 75 mm gun and steel armor ranging from 40-240 mm. A total of nine were in various stages of completion when the war ended with two completed. The Maus would have had a crew of either 5 or 6 and a total production of between 150 and 200 was planned for one version of it.

The principal problem in development of the Maus was finding a powerful enough engine for its weight that could be carried in the tank. Though the design called for a max speed of 20 km/h, no engine was found that could power the prototype to reach more than 13 km/h under ideal conditions. The weight also made impossible to cross most bridges. Due to its size it could still ford relatively deep streams, but for deeper ones it was designed to be able to submerge and drive across the river bottom. Another Maus would supply power to it via a cable till it reached the other side and the crew received air through a large snorkel.

The Maus was relatively slow moving and logistically demanding, but could potentially have been a formidable weapon in certain defensive positions where extensive movement was not required. In a assault, it would have a level of usefulness most similar to British Infantry tanks which also sacrificed mobility for armor protection.

Development history

A Maus prototype with a dummy turret being tested
A Maus prototype with a dummy turret being tested

The initial plan for the Maus was for the prototype to have been completed by the summer of 1943, with monthly production scheduled to run at five vehicles per month after delivery of the prototype. The work on the Maus would be divided between Krupp, responsible for the chassis, armament and turret and Alkett, who would be responsible for final assembly.

In the first specifications, the Maus tank was designed to weight around 100 tons and was to be armed with a 150 mm main gun and a 20 mm coaxial secondary gun. Other armament solutions were also looked at, with various versions of 150 mm, naval 127 mm and 128 mm guns looked at. On the insistence of Hitler himself, the armament ultimately chosen was a 128 mm main gun with a coaxial 75 mm gun. This decision was taken in January of 1943.

By May 1943, a wooden mockup of the final Maus configuration was ready and presented to Hitler, who approved it for mass production and ordered a first series of 150. At this point, the estimated weight of the Maus was to be 188 tons.

Development work on the Maus continued, but in October 1943 Hitler cancelled the order, which was followed in November by the order to stop development of the Maus altogether.

Nevertheless, work continued and the first, turretless prototype, the V1 was assembled by Alkett in December 1943. Tests started the same month, with a mock turret fitted of the same weight as the real turret.

The principal problem with the Maus that emerged from this test was he power to weight ratio: there was no engine powerful enough to give it anything like the 20 km/h demanded by the specifications. The modified Daimler-Benz MB 509 engine used in the prototype was only able to move at 13 km/h and only under ideal conditions. The suspension system used by the Maus also had to be adjusted to enable it to take the tank's weight.

Another issue found was that the Maus was simply too heavy to cross most, if not all bridges. As a result an alternative system was developed, where the Maus would instead ford the rivers it needed to cross. Due to its size it could ford relatively deep streams, but for deeper ones it was designed to be able to submerge and drive across the river bottom. Another Maus would supply power to it via a cable till it reached the other side and the crew received air through a large snorkel, which allowed to go up to 45 feet deep underwater.

In March 1944 the second prototype, the V2 was delivered, which differed in many details from the V1 prototype. In Mid-1944, this V2 prototype was fitted with a powerplant and the first produced Maus turret. This turret was fitted with a 128mm KwK 44 L/55 gun, with coaxial 75mm KwK 44 L/36.5 gun and 7.92mm MG34 as secondary armament.

The V1 prototype was supposed to be fitted with the second produced turret, but this never happened.

By July 1944, Krupp was in the process of producing four more Maus hulls, but they were ordered to halt production and scrap these. Krupp stopped all work on it in August 1944.

Meanwhile, the V2 prototype started tests in September 1944, fitted with a Daimler-Benz MB 517 diesel engine, new electric steering system and a Skoda Works designed running gear and tracks.

There was as also a special railroad car made for transporting the Maus prototypes.

Operational Use

Missing image
A front side view of the destroyed Maus, one of two that left Kummersdorf

Most of the life of the working Maus prototypes was in testing around Kummersdorf and at the proving grounds in Böblingen, but the V1 and V2 versions were also involved in one known mission in a combat area that ended in both tanks being over-run and captured by Soviet forces. One fully operational design and one with a dummy turret were ordered to flee the factory development complex at Kummersdorf to avoid advancing Soviet forces. One prototype, the one with a dummy turret broke down several miles away from the factory and was abandoned. The second continued further and is generally reported to have also broken down, and then destroyed by the crew who then left the area. Some sources state the second prototype was destroyed by enemy fire and not scuttled, but this has neither been proven nor disproven.

One Maus tank is currently in the Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia, which consists of either the partially complete turret and hulls in the factory, or one turret and one hull from each of the two prototypes that attempted to flee, or some combination of the two.

Data and Specifications

  • Weight
  • Dimensions (V2)
    • Length:10.09 m
    • Width:3.67 m
    • Height:3.63 m
  • Speed: 13 Km/h on road
  • Range: roughly 160 km On roads, 62 km off road.
  • Armament of Krupp turret for the V2 Prototype
  • Alternate main gun armaments (not tested)
  • Engines
  • MB509 (gasoline), tested in V1 and V2
  • MB517 (diesel, tested in V2 prototype
  • Crew: 5-6
  • Ground Pressure
    • 140 kPa (20 psi)
  • Production
    • 1 complete (V2), 1 complete but with dummy turret (V1)
    • 9 total at various levels of completion. (at Essen and Kummersdorf)
  • Armor (V2)
    • Front lower hull (Glacis plate approximately 200 mm (8 in), sloped at 35 degrees to the vertical.
    • Side hull: 180 mm (7 in) thick,
    • Rear hull: 160 mm (6.3 in) thick.
    • Turret front: 240 mm (9.5 in) thick
    • Turret sides: 200 mm (8 in)
    • Turret roof: 60mm (2.3 in)

See also

External Links and Sources

German armored fighting vehicles of World War II
Panzer I | Panzer II | Panzer III | Panzer IV | Panther | Tiger III | Panzer 35(t) | Panzer 38(t)
Self-propelled artillery
Wespe | Hummel | Grille | Panzerwerfer
Assault guns
StuG III | StuG IV | StuH 42 | Brummbär | Sturmtiger
Tank destroyers
Panzerjäger I | Marder I , II , III | Hetzer | Jagdpanzer IV | Jagdpanther | Nashorn | Jagdtiger | Elefant
Armored half-tracks Armored cars
SdKfz 4 | 250 | 251 | 252 | 253 Sdkfz 221/22/23 | Sdkfz 231/32/34/63
Self propelled anti-aircraft
Flakpanzer IV: Möbelwagen, Wirbelwind, Ostwind, Kugelblitz | Gepard
Maus | P-1000 Ratte | E- series | Panther II | Waffentrager | Neubaufahrzeug
Proposed designs
P-1500 'Monster' | Panzer VII 'Löwe' | Panzer IX
German armored fighting vehicle production during World War II
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