Tiger, tiger, burning bright…
The German Sturmtiger was a hell of an armoured vehicle – not a tank, per se, but rather an assault gun. And even then, not so much a gun, as rocket-powered mortar, firing massive 380mm ordnance that was capable of levelling buildings and bunkers alike with aplomb.
There aren’t a lot of surviving Sturmtigers from World War II, however – in fact, there are only two: one in Russia, and one in Germany. In fact, there weren’t all that many even made – only 18 and one prototype were ever build. It’s hardly surprising – it only went into production until 1944, and it only started rolling off the production lines in September.
A year later, the war would be over, Germany defeated, and while the Sturmtiger – more accurately the Sturmmörserwagen 606/4 mit 38 cm RW 61, which really doesn’t roll off the tongue, was being used not so much for the offensive, bunker-busting role it had been designed for, but for last ditch, desperate defences of the crumbling Reich.
Why am I waffling on about this lumbering warmachine? Well, to give a bit of background to a really cool bit of tech that World of Tanks developer Wargaming was showing off up at the Australian Armor and Artillery Museum in Cairns this weekend just past, where punters could rock up and get to experience a truly unique virtual look at the Sturmtiger.
The Museum’s collection is good – trust me, it’s REALLY good – but the limited number of surviving hulls make the Sturmtiger out of the collector’s reach. Replicas are good – and there are some fine replicas at the museum, too – but Wargaming’s effort went a step further, by using Microsoft’s Hololens to recreate not just the Sturmtiger itself, but also show it in action.
The brief tour – it’s not interactive, but you can walk around the vehicle while it’s playing – walks (or is that rolls?) viewers through the Sturmtiger’s history and production, but it also takes advantage of the medium to do something that even a replica cannot do – it peels away the massively thick armor to show the ‘Tiger in action, including what its main gun looks like when being fired. It was super-impressive – and I say this is as someone’s whose seen one of those two surviving tanks! I’m never going to see one rolling around though, and definitely never one firing its main cannon, so I may have “Ooh!”-ed and “Aah!”-ed quite a lot.
Okay, the friendly Wargaming people and even a few bystanders may have had bit of a laugh at the dumb look of joy on my face. Then they had a go, and they kinda got where I was coming from.
Aside from getting to see a virtual Sturmtiger launch its 38cm projectile down-range, wandering around the museum was a hoot, and the museum was hosting its annual Ausarmorfest event as well, which mean about a dozen of its vehicles were out back, engines rumbling for actual rides and demonstrations. There were WW2 reenactors on hand to give everything a slight feel of authenticity (years of playing Wolfenstein and Medal of Honor has given me a deep, almost physical reaction to seeing German soldiers, let me tell you!), and yes, I got some way fun tank rides in.
You just don’t understand the scale and power of these steel beasts until you see them up close, and seeing them in action scales up the awe even more.
I’ve not played World of Tanks for a few months… Unsurprisingly I’ve a sudden urge to go back to the game… In the meantime, here’s a quick gallery of some of the tanks at the museum that you can tool around with in World of Tanks – in the flesh!
David Hollingworth was a guest of Wargaming Asia at this event.