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Elefant Tank Destroyer

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In 1939 the Porsche company received an order from the Ordnance Department for a successor to the Panzerkampfwagen IV tank. It was to have a total weight between 25 and 30 tons and was to carry either a 75mm or 105mm gun. The resulting vehicle had the designation VK3001(P) and was known internally as the Porsche Typ 100 or Leopard. Two prototypes were built, each having two parallel air-cooled petrol engines, coupled to electric dynamos to supply electric motors driving the front sprockets. They also had a new design of torsion bar suspension.
The VK3001(P) design was overtaken by the appearance of the Soviet T-34 and was abandoned in favour of a heavier one capable of mounting an 8.8cm gun. In July 1941 Krupp of Essen received an order from the Ordnance Department to develop a tank gun derived from the 8.8cm anti-aircraft gun and with a barrel length of 56 calibres (L/56). This was to be fitted in the new Porsche design, the VK4501(P), which was ordered on 26 May 1941. This new vehicle, also known as the Type 101, retained many features of the earlier design, including the petrol-electric drive. A parallel Henschel design, the VK3601(H) was also being developed but mounting a smaller calibre tapered-barrel weapon firing tungsten steel ammunition. When it became clear that this special ammunition would not be available, the Krupp gun turret that was originally intended only for the Porsche vehicle was incorporated in a new, heavier Henschel vehicle, the VK4501(H).
The competing VK4501 designs from Porsche and Henschel were demonstrated before Hitler on 20 April 1942. The more conventional Henschel design was judged superior and was ordered into production as the PzKpfw VI Tiger. However, one hundred examples of the Porsche design, the PzKpfw VI VK4501(P) Tiger (P), were eventually built. They were assembled at the Nibelungenwerke factory, with serial numbers from 150000 to 150100. This factory was owned and operated by the Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG company which had a close association with Porsche. Ninety of the completed chassis were shipped in 1942 to the Altmärkische Kettenfabrik GmbH (Alkett) firm, of Berlin-Spandau. Three of the other vehicles were converted into recovery vehicles in the Ni-Werke factory. Three more were completed as RammTiger variants with sloped, armoured superstructures; they were designed for bringing down fortified building by ramming. The remaining four were retained for further testing and for use as trials vehicles (these had serial numbers 150004, 150005, 150013 and 150014). One of these four was used for hydraulic drive experiments. Another was equipped with Elefant armour, a production turret and Zimmerit and issued to sPzJgAbt 653, and saw service on the Eastern Front in mid 1944 (source: L. Archer).
A long barrelled version of the 8.8cm weapon, the L/71, had by now been developed and would later prove to be one of the outstanding weapons of the war. Early attempts to use it in an anti-tank role produced the lightly armoured Nashorn tank destroyer. Since there were ninety partially completed VK4501(P) chassis available, it was decided to use these to mount the 8.8cm L/71 in a new design of heavy tank destroyer. This vehicle was first demonstrated on 19 March 1943 at Rügenwalde. The only armament, the 8.8cm PaK 43/2, had a limited traverse mount in a new superstructure built at the rear of the chassis. This had 200mm frontal armour, while the basic armour of the vehicle was increased with 100mm plates attached with conical bolts to the front of the hull.

Early Production Vehicles

The vehicle was designated the Panzerjäger Tiger (P) Ferdinand in March 1943 after its designer, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. It was fitted with two standard Maybach HL 120 TRM tank engines in the middle of the chassis. These replaced the two air-cooled petrol-electric Porsche engines. It was unusual in having a rear sprocket and a front toothed idler.
Elefants were issued to two units, sPzJgAbt 653 and 654. They first saw action in Operation Zitadelle (Citadel), the attack on the Kursk salient, on 5 July 1943. By this time they would all appear to have been fitted with armoured protection over the exposed mantlet. They were largely unsuccessful due to their poor mechanical reliability and their lack of a machine gun for close defence against infantry attack.

Model Id:350
Manufacture:Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG, Nibelungen, Sankt Valentin, Austria (100 chassis manufactured 1941-42 then 90 converted to Elefant April-May 1943)

1) Kubinka NIIBT Research Collection - Foreign Vehicles, Kubinka, Russia

Number of Photos: 0
Sample Photo from Album Number 82

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Unique ID: 82
Serial Number: 150072 (Fahrgestell Nr).
Other Identification:

It was captured by Soviet forces at Kursk (source: Wikipedia). It belonged to sPzJgAbt 654 and had number “501”.