As early as 1941, the German high command envisioned far-future military technology, and numerous revolutionary technological concepts were becoming reality. According to most historians, if enough of them had been produced and deployed, they would have undoubtedly changed the outcome of WWII. Many of these "miracle weapons" were very practical notions that spawned the pillars of modern military arsenals, such as the world's first assault rifle, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and jet fighters to name a few. Then other odd conceptions appeared to be nothing more than an extension of their creator's ego. The Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus falls squarely into the latter category.

The German Panzer VIII Maus epitomized Hitler's irrational obsession with massive things and superweapons, as well as his indifference or inability to comprehend their relative cost-effectiveness in comparison to other "normal" weapons capable of accomplishing the same task at a fraction of the cost, freeing up scarce resources for other purposes that would have benefited the German war effort.

The Maus measured 33 feet in length 12.2 feet in width, and 11.9 feet in height. It was equipped with a Mercedes-Benz 500 series diesel engine capable of producing 1,200 hp. Read on, to learn more about the heaviest fully enclosed armored fighting vehicle ever built.

Related: These Are The Freakiest Military Vehicles The Germans Used In WW2

8 Developed By Porsche At The Führer's Behest

Heavy Gustav railway gun 1943
via HistoryNet

The Panzer VIII Maus arrived late in World War II and has become synonymous with Adolf Hitler's bloated, most likely deranged, ego. He demanded a 120-ton "indestructible" super-heavy tank armed with a high-capacity L/60 or L/72 gun. The Maus was most likely influenced by a trend toward creating heavy tanks that several Allied armor manufacturers were experimenting with during World War II's middle years. Of course, Hitler had to outdo them.

In March 1942, Porsche was granted the contract for the new 100-ton Panzer - VK100.01 / Porsche Typ. 205. The VK100.01 was to be built by the brilliant automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche and Dr. Muller of Krupp in response to Adolf Hitler's personal request in May 1942. Ferdinand Porsche was to oversee manufacturing of the Maus, while the Krupp Munitions Works was to create the hull, turret, and weaponry.

7 Intended To Punch Holes Through Enemy Fortifications

The Panzer VIII Maus
via Nevingtonwarmuseum

During World War II, tanks played an important role in nearly all the major combat zones, from North Africa to Russia and northern France. They were deployed as a ram to breach enemy trenches or to provide infantry support troops with a safe firing position. The Maus was designed to pierce enemy fortifications in the manner of a massive “breakthrough tank", while causing little damage to any of its components.

The concept behind this behemoth tank was that it would be virtually indestructible - essentially a moving bunker. In order to accomplish this, the Maus was to be armored with 200mm hardened steel, which would theoretically make it virtually impenetrable to any Allied tank cannon or infantry firepower on the battlefield. In addition, the thick armor extended down in an armored skirt that concealed the tank's treads, preventing them from being attacked and so immobilized. This largely contributed to the Maus's enormous weight.

6 3 Times Heavier Than The M1A2 Abrams Battle Tank Fielded By Today’s U.S. Army

The Panzer VIII Maus
via WarHistoryOnline

The Panzer VIII Maus is the world's heaviest fully enclosed armored fighting vehicle - thanks to the Type 5 Heavy, it is no longer the biggest. It tipped the scales at 180 metric tons - this equates to 376,000 pounds of pure dread. This is around three times the weight of the M1A2 Abrams a combat-proven main battle tank currently employed by the US Army and Marine Corps. It was so heavy that it required two Maus’s to pull one if it ever broke down.

Related: Ranking The 12 Best Tanks Of WWII

5 Only Two Were Ever Built

The Panzer VIII Maus
via Tankarchives 

Hitler initially wanted 150 Maus tanks but ultimately canceled the order. There were just two prototypes produced, and only one of the two prototypes produced had a turret. The first prototype V1 (Maus I), was powered by a modified Daimler-Benz MB 509, which could not provide the planned speed of 20km/h but only 13km/h in ideal conditions. The V2 was the sole fully built Panzer VIII Maus, arriving in March 1944 and receiving its engine a few months later, an updated MB 517 V12 diesel engine generating 1,200 hp.

4 Mercedes-Benz Provided Porsche With Two Engine Options

anzer_VIII_‘Maus’
via Wikimedia Commons

On January 8th, 1942, Porsche technicians began searching for suitable engines for the 100 ton Panzer Project, which eventually evolved into the Porsche VK 100.01. As a result, they began their hunt at the greatest possible location: Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart-Untertukheim. The engine in question would need to be capable of producing at least 800 hp, which is more than two Porsche Type 101/1, V-10, air-cooled engines rated at 320 hp each operating in tandem. Mercedes-Benz provided Porsche with two distinct engine configurations. The first is a tandem configuration using off-the-shelf MB 809 and MB 819 engines to generate around 800-810 hp in total. Another off-the-shelf MB 507 engine rated at approximately 800-1000 hp was the second alternative.

Related: 10 Ridiculous Myths People Still Believe About Tanks

3 Never Saw Combat

The Maus explosion
via TankArchives

The Panzer VIII Maus never saw battle, as the Soviets captured Germany's two prototypes when they overran the Kummersdorf proving grounds on April 21, 1945. Less than three weeks later, the Germans surrendered. When it became evident that the advancing Soviets would soon seize the testing center for the Panzer VIII Maus, the Germans attempted to destroy both prototypes. However, the Soviets were able to combine the two partially damaged prototypes into a single operational tank that was sent to Russia.

2 A Big, Fat Failure

Maus-Tank-Panzerkampfwagn-VIII
via TankHunter

The Maus' massive size and weight came with a proportionally high cost, rendering it almost worthless. Because the tank was too large for most bridges, it had to cross rivers by wading through fords or driving over the river's bottom while utilizing a snorkel for ventilation. Furthermore, merely getting the Maus moving was a challenge, since it was difficult to develop an engine and drive train powerful enough to move 200 tons of metal on the ground at any reasonable pace while remaining compact enough to fit within the tank. On a hard surface, the maximum speed achieved during trials was 8 mph.

1 Housed Today By The Kubinka Tank Museum, Moscow

The Panzer VIII Maus
via NationalInterest

The lone surviving example can be found at the Kubinka tank museum, located just outside of Moscow, Russia. It no longer has an engine or much equipment inside the chassis. Both armored vehicles were loaded with explosive devices to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy. The internal explosion caused significant damage to the tank chassis. The Soviets made one tank out of the lease-damaged pieces.

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