As a prelude to the post-war concept of a single “main battle tank” design, vehicles during World War II tended to be categorized as light, medium, and heavy, depending on their use. In this last category, tanks had grown in size, weight, and firepower to counter ever-improving anti-tank weapon systems. This resulted in changes in tactics and doctrine to better integrate heavy armor into a combined arms system. This was especially true on the Eastern Front, where the open terrain promoted armor action and a rapid cycle of improvements. The Soviets were quick to develop vehicles that were able to fight the Tiger I on an equal footing by late 1943, such as the up-gunned T-34/85 and the self-propelled ISU-152s. Because the American T-26/M-26 Pershing arrived late in the war, and the British Centurion not at all, only the Soviet IS-2 serves as an example of a heavy design that was fielded in large battlefield numbers. The Soviet drive to cut off enemy forces in East Prussia during Operation Solstice (February 1945) is a prime example of this conflict. The Germans, had limited resources, and were strategically on the defensive, but enjoyed ever-shorter logistic distances as they retreated, and fought in an environment and terrain that played to the strengths of the technically-superior King Tiger. The IS-2 was lighter, more maneuverable, and far more numerous, and used these assets to its advantage. This battle, fought in the closing months of the war, depicts the classic late-war contrast between the military doctrines of Germany and the Soviet Union.
About King Tiger vs IS-2
This book examines the technology and strategy that defined the outcome of the battles between the King Tiger and the IS-2. The Soviets had been quick to develop tanks that could fight the Tiger on an equal footing, but these were developed as part of a completely different strategy than that employed by the Germans. The King Tiger was a modern marvel, and remained unmatched in one-on-one combat. Technologically superior, with greater firepower and better armour than the Soviet IS-2, the King Tiger was a formidable opponent. However, the IS-2 was lighter, more manoeuvrable and most importantly, far more numerous. With overwhelming numerical superiority the Soviets were able to simply overwhelm their opponents, negating the technical superiority of the King Tiger.
“Author David R. Higgins brings to us a wealth of historical, tactical, doctrinal, technical, organizational, and archival information about the ultimate armor adversaries of World War Two.” -Frederick Boucher, AeroScale