Flak Guns

Flakbatterie Karow 1944 Emil
Flakhelfer anti-aircraft gun crew in 1944.

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20 mm Flak 30

The Flak 30 (Flugabwehrkanone 30) and improved Flak 38 were 20 mm anti-aircraft guns used by various German forces throughout World War II. It was not only the primary German light anti-aircraft gun, but by far the most numerously produced German artillery piece throughout the war. It was produced in a variety of models, notably the Flakvierling 38 which combined four Flak 38 autocannons onto a single carriage.

20 mm Flakvierling 38

Even as the Flak 30 was entering service, the Luftwaffe and Heer (army) branches of the Wehrmacht had doubts about its effectiveness, given the ever-increasing speeds of low-altitude fighter-bombers and attack aircraft. The Army in particular felt the proper solution was the introduction of the 37 mm caliber weapons they had been developing since the 1920s, which had a rate of fire about the same as the Flak 38, but fired a round with almost eight times the weight. This not only made the rounds deadlier on impact, but their higher energy and ballistic coefficient allowed them to travel much longer distances, allowing the gun to engage targets at longer ranges. This meant it could keep enemy aircraft under fire over longer time spans.

The 20 mm weapons had always had weak development perspectives, often being reconfigured or redesigned just enough to allow the weapons to find use. Indeed, it came as a surprise when Rheinmetall introduced the 2 cm Flakvierling 38, which improved the weapon just enough to make it competitive once again. The term Vierling literally translates to “quadruplet” and refers to the four 20 mm gun constituting the design.

The Flakvierling weapon consisted of quad-mounted 2 cm Flak 38 AA guns with collapsing seats, folding handles, and ammunition racks. The mount had a triangular base with a jack at each leg for levelling the gun. The tracker traversed and elevated the mount manually using two handwheels. When raised, the weapon measured 307 cm (10 feet 1 inch) high.

Each of the four mounted guns had a separate magazine that held only 20 rounds. This meant that a maximum combined rate of fire of 1,400 rounds per minute was reduced practically to 800 rounds per minute for combat use – which would still require that a magazine to be replaced every six seconds, on each of the four guns.

The gun was fired by a set of two pedals — each of which fired two diametrically opposite barrels — in either semi-automatic or fully automatic mode. The effective vertical range was 2,200 metres. It was also used just as effectively against ground targets as it was against low-flying aircraft.

3.7 cm Flak 18/36/37/43

The 3.7 cm Flak 18/36/37/43 was a series of anti-aircraft cannon produced by Nazi Germany that saw widespread service in the Second World War. The cannon was fully automatic and effective against aircraft flying at altitudes up to 4,200 m.  The cannon was produced in both towed and self-propelled versions. Having a flexible doctrine, the Germans used their anti-aircraft pieces in ground support roles as well; 37 mm caliber guns were no exception to that. With Germany’s defeat, production ceased and, overall, 37 mm caliber anti-aircraft cannon fell into gradual disuse, being replaced by the Bofors 40 mm gun and later, by 35-mm anti-aircraft pieces produced in Switzerland.

105 mm FlaK 38

The 10.5 cm FlaK 38 was a German anti-aircraft gun used during World War II by the Luftwaffe as a competitor to the famed 8.8 cm FlaK 18. An improved version was introduced as the 10.5 cm FlaK 39.

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German Military History with a focus on World War 2 History including other areas of German History