88mm Flak Series – Flugabwehrkanone


88mm Flak (Flugabwehrkanone) Series
"Acht komma Acht"
by George Parada

88mm Flak
88mm Flak

After the battle at Halfaya Pass a member of Rommel’s staff overheard a captured British tank driver under interrogation expressing his indignation: "In my opinion," said the Englishman with an unfriendly glance at a near-by 88,"it is unfair to use ‘flak’ against our tanks."

A German artilleryman who was sitting on his haunches near by, listening to the interpretation, interjected excitedly, "Ja, and I think it most unfair of you to attack with tanks whose armour nothing but an 88 will penetrate."

 


German 88mm gun is probably the best known artillery piece of World War II. First time 88mm saw combat was in Spain during the Civil War in 1936, where it proved itself to be not only excellent anti-aircraft gun but also ideal tank killer due to its high muzzle velocity and efficient heavy projectile. It again proved to be an excellent anti-tank gun in France in 1940, especially against heavily armored French Char B1-bis heavy tanks and British Mk.II Matilda infantry tanks. By the time when it arrived in North Africa it was a feared tank killer, which could knock any Allied tank at distances well over 1000 meters. It again proved its reputation in Russia, where it was the only gun capable of dealing with Soviet T-34/76 medium tanks and KW-1 heavy tanks, before the arrival of heavier German tanks. 88mm Flak guns were also used as field artillery – e.g. during the Battle of the Bulge.The only problem with 88mm Flak series was its height and weight, which forced it in action to rely on its power and range rather than concealment. During the war 88mm Flak series guns were used aside of the German Army by Italy and captured examples were often used by the Allies including US Army in late 1944 in Western Europe. After the war many 88mm Flak series guns were used by many countries including former Yugoslavia and Denmark.

 

Prototype of Flak 18 was developed as early as 1928 by Krupp of Essen in cooperation with Swedish Bofors, but entered production after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933/34. It was mounted on pivoted cruciform carriage, which was carried by two single axle trailers, which allowed it to be quickly dismounted. Flak 18 had single piece barrel. Next model Flak 36 was basically Flak 18 with multi-section barrel and new type of transport trailers. Flak 36 was followed by Flak 37, which was an improved Flak 36 with revised fire control data transmission system, which made the gun more suited for static rather than mobile use. Flak 36 and Flak 37 differ from each other by the carriages. Flak 18 was transported using lighter trailer (Sonderanhaenger 201) and was lighter in transport than later models, which used Sonderanhaenger 202 by 1200kg. All three models were interchangeable and often Flak 18 barrels were mounted on Flak 37 carriages. Also during production various changes were introduced including new trailers, various mounting (e.g. railway flatcars and coastal defenses). In August of 1944, there were some 10704 Flak 18, 36 and 37 guns in service.

88mm Flak guns at Aberdeen
88mm Flak guns at Aberdeen

Early 88mm Flak 18 and late 88mm Flak 18 guns at Aberdeen, USA.
Photo provided by Alec Corapinski.
In 1942, Flak 41 (Geraet 37) gun was introduced but small number was produced by Rheinmetall due to early technical probelms. It was a complicated weapon and development continued until 1943. It was prone to problems with ammunition, since cases often jammed on extraction after firing. Two types of gun barrels were used – three and four section. First examples were used in Tunisia but due to technical problems following their debut Flak 41 guns were used exclusively within Germany, where they could be properly maintained and serviced if needed. Only 157 Flak 41 guns were in use as of August of 1944 and 318 in January of 1945. When it worked without problems it was an excellent artillery piece and from a technical point of view it is regarded as the best German anti-aircraft gun of the war.

Last model Flak 37/41 was a combination of Flak 41 gun barrel with Flak 37 carriage, but because of technical problems only 13 were produced.

88mm Flak 36
88mm Flak 36

88mm Flak 36 in the Imperial War Museum in England.
Photo provided by Dmitry Pyatakhin.

Model: Lenght of Barrel in Calibres: Barrel Length: Combat Weight (kg): Transport Weight (kg): Max Barrel Elevation (degrees):
Flak 18 L/56 4.93m 5000 8200 85
Flak 36 L/56 4.93m 5000 8200 85
Flak 37 L/56 4.93m 5000 8200 85
Flak 41 L/74 6.54m 7840 11240 90
Flak 37/41 L/88 7.74m 5250 8450 85

Model:

Initial Projectile Speed:

Projectile Weight:

Max Horizontal/Vertical Range:

Rate of Fire:

Armor Penetration:

Flak 18
Flak 36
Flak 37

HE – 820m/s

AP – 795m/s

HE – 9kg

AP – 9.5kg

14815-14860m
8000-10600m

15-20rpm

Pzgr – 98mm@100m
78mm@1500m

Pzgr 39 – 128mm@100m
97mm@1500m

Pzgr 40 – 185mm@100m
123mm@1500m

HL Gr 39 – 90mm up to 3000m

Flak 41

HE – 1000m/s

AP – 980m/s

Subcaliber – 1125m/s

HE – 9.4kg

AP – 10kg

Subcaliber – 7.5kg

19735-20000m
10675-15000m

20-25rpm

AP – 194mm@100m
159mm@1000m
127mm@2000m

Subcaliber – 237mm@100m
192mm@1000m
152mm@2000m

Flak 37/41

HE – 1000m/s

AP – 980m/s

Subcaliber – 1125m/s

HE – 9.4kg

AP – 10kg

Subcaliber – 7.5kg

20000m
12350-14700m

15-20rpm

AP – 194mm@100m
159mm@1000m
127mm@2000m

Subcaliber – 237mm@100m
192mm@1000m
152mm@2000m

 


88mm Flak (Flugabwehrkanone) 18
by Mike Koenig

88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak

 

88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak

 

This gun was part of a search light AA unit. You will notice the many heavy, multi-circuit plugs wired into the gun.Any number of guns could be connected and wired back to the gunnery command center. This center consisted of a generator trailer, a searchlight trailer and a targeting device. All guns in the battery were wired into this central guidance unit.

 

In defending a location against allied night bombing raids the searchlight would first "acquire" a target. The operator of the targeting device would then visually track the target as seen with the searchlight. The targeting device itself would automatically transmit angle and elevation readings directly to the indicators on each gun.

You will notice that all the attitude indicator dials on the gun have both a small and a large indicator. The smaller indicator would display the targeting instructions transmitted down from the central targeting device. The gunners had only to track their indicators (move their individual guns) to follow and match those sent down from the central spotter to follow a moving target.

88mm Flak
88mm Flak

In this manor the firepower of all weapons in a battery could be brought to bare on one target with devastating results.

88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak

88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak

88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak

Above: Dials for Folgezeigeempfaenger (for anti-aircraft fire from a central director).

The two halves of the trailer were almost totally identical. The only difference being the seat for the brake operator. This wheel set withthe seat might be used as the rear pair but there was no structural reason why it could not be used as the front set in a pinch. Both wheel sets had a lever operated brake.

The towing tongue was pinned to the guide bar of the wheel set intended to be used as the front unit but this tongue was totally interchangeable. Both wheel sets had steerable wheels. On the set being used in the rear, the steering guide bar would be locked and this unit’s wheels would become fixed. On the front, set the guide bar remained unlocked and the swing of the tongue, side to side, would steer the front wheels of the trailer.

To pick up the gun, the wheel sets were backed over the main attachment points on the gun base and rocked back to allow large hooks on the wheelsets to engage the lifting points on the gun base. Lift chains were attached and each unit had it’s own hand crank winch to raise the gunbase up into the receiver mounted underneath the wheel set.

I am told that a well practiced crew could dismount a gun and be ready to fire in 20 seconds and remount the gun for traveling in less than a minute.

88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak

88mm Flak
88mm Flak

88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak
88mm Flak

 


All photographs were provided and are property of Mike Koenig.
From the collection of 2nd Armored Productions.

 


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