Self-propelled Anti-aircraft Weapons

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Flakpanzer I

The Flakpanzer I was a rare self propelled anti-aircraft gun conversion of the Panzer I in use by Nazi Germany during World War II. Its designation was Sd.Kfz.101 (Special Purpose Vehicle 101).

Flakpanzer 38(t)

The Flakpanzer 38(t) – officially named Flakpanzer 38(t) auf Selbstfahrlafette 38(t) Ausf M (SdKfz 140) – was a German self-propelled anti-aircraft gun used in World War II.

The Flakpanzer 38(t) was designed around the chassis of the Czech-built LT-38 tank and was built from November 1943 to February 1944, entering service in 1944. As the vehicle used the 38(t) Ausf M chassis, the engine was near the middle of the vehicle, and the armament was placed at the rear in a specially designed armoured section. The upper part folding down to allow 360-degree traverse at low elevation. During World War II, a total of 141 Flakpanzer 38(t)s were built, including the single prototype vehicle.

Flakpanzer Coelian

Flakpanzer Coelian was a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun design by Rheinmetall during World War II for the German armed forces. It was intended to be armed with two 3.7 cm FlaK 43 gun in a fully enclosed, rotating turret on the hull of a Panther medium tank but was not built before the end of the war in Europe.

In the first years of the war, the Wehrmacht had less interest in developing self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, but as the Allies developed air superiority, the need for more mobile and better-armed self-propelled anti-aircraft guns increased. The Wehrmacht had adapted a variety of wheeled and half-track vehicles to serve as mobile forward air defence positions to protect armour and infantry units in the field as well as for temporary forward area positions such as mobile headquarters and logistic points. As Allied fighter bombers and other ground attack aircraft moved from machine gun armament and bombing to air-to-ground rockets, the air defence positions were even more vulnerable. The answer was to adapt a tank chassis with a specialized turret that would protect the gun crews while they fired upon approaching Allied aircraft.

As a consequence, the German Army High Command issued a demand for an anti-aircraft tank based on the chassis of the Panther tank design. Rheinmetall developed “Coelian” in various versions, including one with four 20mm MG 151/20 guns, but kept having to revise designs based on changing government requirements (such as demands for more modern guns with longer barrels). Eventually, in May 1944 a turret with a single 5.5 cm gun was developed, together with another with twin 3.7 cm FlaK 43 guns.

However, it soon became clear that no chassis would be available for Flakpanzers for a variety of reasons, including the Allies’ landing in Normandy, the increasing Allied strategic bombing offensive, and raw material shortages. By mid-February 1945, only a wooden prototype of the desired 5.5 cm turret model on a Panther D hull had been created.

Flakpanzer IV “Möbelwagen”

The 3.7 cm FlaK auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen IV (sf) (Sd.Kfz. 161/3), nicknamed Möbelwagen (“Furniture Van”) because of its boxy turret (when closed), was a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun built from the chassis of the Panzer IV tank. It was used by the German Wehrmacht in the European Theater of World War II.

Flakpanzer IV “Wirbelwind”

The Flakpanzer IV “Wirbelwind” (Whirlwind in English) was a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun based on the Panzer IV tank. It was developed in 1944 as a successor to the earlier self-propelled anti-aircraft gun Möbelwagen.

In the first years of the war, the Wehrmacht had less interest in developing self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, but as the Allies began to gain air superiority, the need for more mobile and better-armed self-propelled anti-aircraft guns increased. During the early summer of 1944, SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Wilhelm Krause with the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend came up with the concept of the Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind. He presented the concept to SS-Obersturmbannführer Max Wünsche, commanding officer of the 12th SS Panzer Regiment and it was approved by Hitler.

The Panzer IV’s turret was removed and replaced with an open-top, nine-sided turret which housed a quadruple 2 cm Flakvierling 38 L/112.5. A closed-top design would have been preferable, but this was not possible due to the heavy smoke generated by the four anti-aircraft guns. Production of the tank was carried out by Ostbau Werke in Sagan, Silesia. Thereafter, the 2 cm shells proved less effective against aircraft so a more powerful successor was produced which eventually replaced it. Known as the Flakpanzer IV Ostwind (East Wind), the successor was equipped with a single 3.7 cm FlaK 43.

The combination of armor and rapid fire from the four guns of the Wirbelwind did make it effective against ground targets.

Between 87 and 105 Wirbelwinds were produced during the war, but due to discrepancies between the recorded production numbers at the Ostbau Works and Wehrmacht service records, the exact number will probably never be known.

Kugelblitz

The Flakpanzer IV Kugelblitz (“lightning ball”) was a German self-propelled anti-aircraft gun developed during World War II. By the end of the war, only a pilot production of five units had been completed. Unlike earlier self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, it had a fully enclosed, rotating turret.

Ostwind

The Flakpanzer IV “Ostwind” (East Wind in German) was a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun based on the Panzer IV tank. It was developed in 1944 as a successor to the earlier Flakpanzer IV/2cm Vierling Wirbelwind.

The Panzer IV’s turret was removed and replaced with an open-top, hexagonal turret which housed a 3.7 cm FlaK 43. In addition to its intended role as an anti-aircraft weapon, the fast-firing gun was highly effective against light vehicles and minor fortifications. A closed-top design would have been preferable, but this was not possible due to the heavy smoke generated by the gun.

The Ostwind’s main improvement over the Wirbelwind was the FlaK 43’s increased range and stopping power over the 2 cm Flakvierling 38 and slightly better armoring on its turret.

Although an order for 100 vehicles was placed in August, 1944, only 44 vehicles were completed (37 converted from existing Panzer IV’s and 7 new production vehicles) from December 1944 to March 195, all work being carried out by Ostbau Werke in Sagan, Silesia.

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