German heavy tank battalions (German: schwere Panzerabteilungen), were elite battalion-sized World War II tank units, equipped with Tiger I, and later Tiger II, heavy tanks. Originally intended to fight on the offensive during breakthrough operations, the German late-war realities required them to be used in a defensive posture by providing heavy fire support and counter-attacking enemy armored breakthroughs, often organised into ad hoc Kampfgruppen.
Early formation units experimented to find the correct combination of heavy Tiger tanks supported by either medium Panzer III tanks or reconnaissance elements. In 1942 this consisted of 20 Tigers and 16 Panzer IIIs, composed of two companies, each with four platoons of two Tigers and two Panzer IIIs. Each company commander would have an additional Tiger, and battalion command would have another two.
Later formations had a standard organization of 45 Tiger Tanks, composed of three companies of 14 Tigers each, plus three command vehicles. Maintenance troubles and the mechanical unreliability of the Tigers posed a continuous problem, so often the units would field a smaller number of combat-ready tanks.
The limited number of these heavy tanks, plus their specialized role in either offensive or defensive missions, meant they were rarely permanently assigned to a single division or corps; but shuffled around according to war circumstances.
By the end of the war, the following heavy panzer detachments had been created. Early units were re-built several times by the end of the war.
Independent units attached to the German Army (Heer) were:
The only battalion permanently attached to a division:
Units attached to the Waffen-SS were:
Tank losses include losses inflicted other than by enemy tanks. Also, many tanks were abandoned by their crews due to a lack of fuel, ammunition or breakdown, especially at the end of war.