I intend to make Tiger Tales a series of articles covering the more obscure and unknown tanks from the Tiger chassis. The articles will more then likely not be very lengthily and may not always have photos simply because photos or drawings do not or did not exist to illustrate the design in question. – NEMO
The VK.45.02 Henschel is one of those tanks that is not an exotic tank like the VK.45.02 Porsche. It is a much more tame design by comparison. Although “design” is really the not right word for it, as the VK.45.02(H) was always more of a production modification than anything of the “normal” VK.45.01(H) Tiger I tank.
There were three proposals and attempts to produce the VK.45.02(H) during the war and all three were shot down almost as quickly as they were proposed. Lastly, one should keep in mind that the first 250 VK.45.01(H) Tiger I tanks were equipped with HL 210 P45 motors and the first 250 Panthers with the HL210 P30 motors.
The first proposal for the VK.45.02(H) stems from an August 19th 1942 request to install the Panther HL 230 P30 motor in the Tiger I tank. This request was followed up by Maybach, who proposed a transitional Tiger tank, the VK.45.02(H), between the then in production VK.45.01(H) and the planned VK.45.03 (SS: Tiger II), so that as of vehicle number 200 onward, the VK.45.02(H) could be equipped with the Panther HL 230 P30 engine, Panther cooling system, Panther ventilation and what amounted to the Panther rear end. According to a study by Maybach, the rear plate of the VK.45.01(H) would only need to be angled 2 degrees out of vertical. Mind you, Henschel had only produced a total of 9 Tigers by the end of August 1942 and Tiger number 200 would not be reached until April of 1943. By the end of August, the proposal by Maybach for the VK.45.02(H) was rejected by Albert Speer and one would think that that would be the end of the VK.45.02(H), but the idea would just not die.
The VK.45.02(H) was brought up yet again in October of 1942. This time, the delivery plan for the VK.45.03 was being put together and finalized. 424 Tigers were still on contract at that time to be finished before the start of the VK.45.03 production was declared to be impossible. So, a transition vehicle was proposed again, as the VK.45.02(H), with 170 vehicles to be produced and the total number of Series 1 and 2 vehicles to be increased to a total of 500 (CN: From 424.) so that the Type 3 (VK.45.03) could be produced from vehicle 501 onwards.
(CN: I took some liberty with the wording to make it more correct as the person who translated the book from German to English has some grammatical issues.)
Oberst [Colonel] Thomale however rejected this proposal to put the VK.45.02(H) in the middle between the two design runs and he approved the beginning of VK.45.03 (Type 3) production for September 1943. It was also suggested that the VK.45.02 should have its front plate inclined at less than 40 degrees(CN: But I have no clue as to what is going on with the inclination of the VK.45.02′s plate as it is just one line of text… There is no real context. Some brief background though: Oberst [Colonel] Thomale had been working with the Tiger Program since the beginning. At first as an ongoing liaison officer and shortly thereafter as one of two chairmen of the Tiger Commission, whose job was to recommend to Hitler, which tank to manufacture in November of 1942.)
The third proposal is a little more obscure and I am not sure if it would have been labeled VK.45.02(H), but from the wording and timing of the proposal itself, it is more the likely that the name would apply. In the autumn of 1942, Henschel tried to persuade the Ordnance Office to accept an intern solution to new developments, that would lead to the VK.45.03. The proposal was that the Tiger Type “E” was to be equipped with a curved bow plate. By retaining the earlier “L 600C” steering mechanism of the Type “E”, an intern solution between the stepped hull of the Type “E” and “Tiger II” hull would be created, but the proposal was rejected.
The VK.45.02(H) never came up again after November 1942 and nothing ever came of any of the proposals. Nothing was found in other sources either, but considering the vagueness of the proposals I did not expect to find much. It was after all, at best, a proposal.
Tiger I and II and their Variants (English edition), Walter Spielberger, pg 92, 96 and 106.
Silentstalker’s afterword: A quick explanation about the numbers used in this article. Nemo uses “VK.XX.XX(X)” format for the VK vehicles. The use of the dot after the VK shortcut is not common in literature (as far as I can tell), but it is not wrong – since it struck me as odd as well, I went to check the book (granted, German edition) and it is really there on some places.