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Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus: The Heaviest Tank Ever Built in Human History

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    Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus: The Heaviest Tank Ever Built in Human History

    Defense is one aspect that is really needed in a country. Without adequate defense, a country will be very easy for enemies to enter.

    One of the defense tools that almost every country has is tanks. Tanks themselves are large vehicles that can fire with large explosive power. But do you know the name of the largest tank in the world?

    A tank is an armored fighting vehicle that is driven using chain wheels. The main characteristics are its armor which is made of armor, its weapon which is a large cannon, and its high mobility to move smoothly in all terrain. Although tanks are expensive vehicles and require a lot of logistical supplies.

    Tanks are also the most powerful land weapons and can be used on any terrain for modern warfare, except in forests and urban areas. This is because the tank's long-range capabilities cannot be used, the tank driver's vision is limited, and the tank's cannon cannot rotate optimally. Tanks were combat vehicles that were first used in World War I to break the deadlock in trench warfare strategies.

    The fighting conditions in World War I on the Western Front gave the British Army the idea to develop a vehicle that could cross enemy trenches, destroy barbed wire, and be impervious to machine gun fire.

    When the first tanks were made in British factories, workers were told that they were making a tracked water transport vehicle, so the manufacture of this fighting vehicle was kept secret.

    Tank vehicles were first tested by the British military on 6 September 1915. Tanks were first used in World War I when Captain H. W. Mortimore brought a Mark I tank in the Battle of the Somme on 1 5 September 1916.

    France developed the Schneider CAI tank which was made from a Holt Catterpilar tractor and was first used on April 16 1917. Massive use of tanks in combat occurred at the Battle of Cambria on November 21 1917.

    The need for tanks in World War I was massive. So, during World War II, one of which was initiated by Germany, the country planned a tank that was strong and resistant to enemy attacks. So the concept was created to make the largest tank weighing almost 188, called the Panzer VIII Maus or Panzerkampfwagen.

    Tank designed by Ferdinand Porsche 5 prototypes ordered by the Nazi army. However, only two were completed before World War II ended.

    Initially, the name used was Mäuschen or little mouse. However, with its large size, it finally changed its name to Maus.

    During the height of the Second World War, Adolf Hitler pursued the design of the world's heaviest super tank that would crush Germany's enemies on the battlefield. The German Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus was the heaviest tank ever created, weighing in at 188 tonnes.

    Armed with a powerful gun, protected by thicker armour, and powered by an engine created by Porsche, the Panzer VIII was the secret monster tank that never was.

    The Maus tank was designed to contend with the Russian tank models which had thicker armour and heavier firepower. Production on the super heavy tank began in 1943, and the Maus was first fitted with a 15cm gun, but this was later changed to a 12.8cm gun.

    During the planning stage, the addition of a flamethrower to the tank was considered but later dropped. The tank was protected by 200mm thick armour plating on its front and had a maximum speed of 25km/h (15.5mph).

    Its Porsche engine had 1,750 horsepower and could travel a maximum distance of 190km before refuelling. The super tank would have been crewed by six men, and was 10m long, 3.71m wide and 3.7m high.

    Due to the size and weight of the Maus, it was unlikely it could have travelled across bridges or difficult terrains. Only two Maus tanks were ever created and tested in late 1944.

    The two prototypes were later blown up before the advancing Russian army reached the testing grounds in 1945, and it is unlikely any Maus tanks ever saw combat.

    The Russian forces married the turret from the second tank with the hull from the first and took the vehicle to Moscow for evaluation. The surviving hybrid tank is on display at the Russian Tank Museum at Kubinka.

    Even though it is named a rat, this tank is 10.1 meters long, 3.63 meters wide and 3.66 meters high. To be able to control the tank, which has a V12 diesel engine that can produce almost 1,200 horsepower, requires a crew of 6 people.

    A final element in the story of the Maus is a report dated 13th March 1944, 4 months after serial production had been canceled, by Dr. Muller of Krupp stating that production of the Maus hulls and turrets could be restarted if required. Five days later, on the 18th, Krupp reported that 7 Maus hulls had been finished by the armor workshops (Panzerbau) and that it had enough armor plate on hand to finish another 8 hulls.

    On top of this, the order to send unused armor to the Sturmgeschütz program back in October 1943, immediately prior to the Maus program being canceled, seems to have been interpreted fairly liberally, as there was clearly a lot of armor plate still available. There were enough, in fact, for about another 30 hulls and turrets as well as 15 more hulls and 9 turrets’ worth of cut plate. 

    Those 30 hulls and turrets’ worth of armor should have been sent away to the Sturmgeschütz program, but having retained them at Krupp for whatever reason, in spite of no orders for them, Krupp now had enough material to fabricate 45 Maus hulls and 39 turrets from that material plus the 7 finished hulls and armor prepared for 8 more, a total of 60 or so hulls and 39 turrets. 

    On 23rd March 1944, despite the program having been canceled, Wa Prüf 6 was under orders from Hitler to accelerate testing and to resume development of the Maus.

    Porsche contacted Krupp around this time to request not only delivery of the second turret for the existing Maus hulls (two hulls one turret), but also for a follow-on design of a turret known as Maus II.

    On 1st April 1944, when looking at restarting Maus production, it was determined that an additional 200 workers would need to be allocated and that even then the rate would be just one or two tanks per month. 

    This would be restarting production from vehicle 8 onwards as, by this time, 2 hulls had been finished and shipped out leaving 6 partially completed hulls awaiting scrapping. Approval to scrap hulls 3 to 6 was given on 27th July 1944. There were to be no more Maus completed, 2 had been built and were going to be tested.

    The left-over pieces though were not scrapped. A British report from 1945 shows that three Maus hulls and turrets were found at Meppen (Krupp’s proving ground) with the hulls on their sides and turrets upside down. The examination showed the highest number found to be number 6. A complete 12.8 cm Kw.K. 44 monobloc gun with coaxially mounted 7.5 cm Kw.K. 44 monobloc gun (on the right) was found on the same range a few miles away. 

    The British examination of records at the range showed that this 12.8 cm Kw.K. 44 (Maus) had been rechristened ‘12.8 cm Kw.K. 82’ and that ammunition (and presumably that gun) had been delivered in November 1943 and that ammunition was there by at least 3rd January 1944.

    After World War II ended, the commander of the Soviet Union's armed forces ordered the frame of the Panzer VIII Maus to be incorporated. On 4 March 1946, assembly and trials were completed and the Maus tank was taken to the Kubinka Tank Museum for storage and exhibition.

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