The German Jagdtiger tank destroyer was built in two variants: one with a Porsche suspension and one with a Henschel one. The former was deemed poor and removed from production. This fact is stated in every publication dedicated to the Jagdtiger, but is not discussed in detail. In this article we won't stop at brief descriptions, questionable overviews, and conclusions, but instead will discuss how German late war tank suspensions were developed, cover the Porsche suspension, then present the history of the Jagdtiger's suspension in the appropriate context. Our tale will be based on an analysis of the design rather than compilations of opinions of other authors.
Development of running gear
One of the biggest issues the Germans came across in their work was the insufficient lifespan of rubber tires. One attempt to improve their lifespan was the use of additional interleaved road wheels. This worked, but as new tanks became heavier and heavier even this approach failed. The outermost row of the 57 ton Tiger H1's road wheels had to be made removable so it could fit into the railway gauge for transport, but even then the lifespan of the rubber tires left much to be desired. Meanwhile, the future Tiger II was going to weigh over 65 tons.
|Drawings of the Tiger II's road wheels with internal shock absorption.
|Trials of the new wheels and tracks on the first Panther prototype, summer 1943.
|Assembling transport and combat tracks on the Tiger II and Jagdtiger.
|Cutaway drawing of the suspension bogey.
|Suspension drawings (via Harold Biondo).
|Blueprint of the first type of bogey with a skid (via Harold Biondo).
|A British drawing of the first suspension variant with skids that supported the upper run of the track. This suspension was tested on chassis #305001 (via Harold Biondo).
|Chassis #305001 on trials. A gun was later installed for a full comparison with the Henschel chassis. The skid of the first bogey can be seen.
|A Henschel type idler photographed on chassis #305001
|A Porsche type idler used starting with chassis #305003.
|Jagdtiger #305003 with Ferdinand tracks and Porsche idlers. Switching out the tracks didn't help.
- The shaking from the alternating guide horn tracks was enough to upset the calibration of the gun. The suspension was too rigid.
- The singular road wheels loaded the tracks unevenly, as a result of which track links bent and track pins broke when driving cross-country.
- The presence of different and incompatible types of running gear on the same vehicle made repairs more complicated.
|Gg 26/800/300 tracks close up, courtesy of Panzer Fakten group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/PanzerFacts)
|The second Tiger II prototype with Kgs 73/800/152 track links. The can be distinguished from the Gg 24 and Gg 26 by the presence of guide horns on each track link as opposed to every other one.
|Jagdtiger #305004 running gear, Bovington tank museum.
|Suspension, running gear, and tracks of the Maus tank. The composite alternating tracks can be seen.
|Finishing hulls at Nibelungenwerke. The factory received Henschel's complicated suspension design without much enthusiasm.