3. The Tiger’s Downside
The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E, or the Tiger I, entered service in 1942. It was a heavy tank whose main assets were thick armor that its common adversaries could not penetrate except from close range, and a powerful 88mm gun that could wreck its foes from prodigious distances. That gave Tigers an extensive safe standoff distance within which they were practically invulnerable. They were scary, and exerted a powerful psychological hold on their enemies’ imagination: few if any Allied tank crews relished the prospect of coming across Tigers.
On the other hand, Tigers were heavy, slow, guzzled fuel at prodigious rates, had a limited range, and were difficult to transport. They were also notorious for their mechanical unreliability and propensity to breakdown, and became immobilized when their overlapping wheels got jammed with snow and mud. They were also expensive to produce and difficult to manufacture, with only 1300 built during the war – a number lower than the typical monthly production figures of Soviet T-34 or American Sherman tanks.