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The FlaK 18 was arguably the most famous multi-purpose artillery piece used by Germany during World War II.

Description

Since it was originally designed to bring down aircraft, the FlaK 18 could fire 88 mm shells (earning it the nickname "88") at a distance of up to 8,000 meters. In order to operate properly, it required a crew of seven to ten men and it had a maximum rate of fire of about 15 rounds per minute.[1]

The barrel of the FlaK 18 could fire at an elevation that varied from -3 degrees to +85 degrees and the muzzle velocity was about 820 meters per second. The gun itself could traverse a total of 36 degrees and it could penetrate up to 90 mm of armor protection at a distance of about 1,820 meters.

The total length of the FlaK 18 was about 7.6 meters while the total weight was about 6,803 kilograms. One of the main features that allowed the FlaK 18 to be such a success was that it could be given a carriage mounting wheels meaning that it had the ability to be towed via half-track which was crucial in order to be able to follow up with the fast moving tanks of Blitzkrieg.

Also crucial to the FlaK success was that it could fulfill almost any role that it was given truly giving it the legendary title of "anti-everything".[2]

Variants

The first variant of the FlaK 18 series was the FlaK 36 which had numerous changes made with the main new feature being a multi-sectioned barrel which made it easier to replace. The FlaK 36 also sported a new and improved carriage that could the gun could fire from without properly setting up if necessary. Some models were even given a small shield to help protect the crew. The next variant of the FlaK 18 series was the FlaK 37 and it's main feature was that it had improved fire-control instruments.[3] The final variant of the FlaK 18 series was the FlaK 41 and it had numerous changes made so that it was far more effective against aircraft. 

History

FlaK 18 in France

A German FlaK 18 crew rests besides their gun in France, 1944.

The FlaK 18 was first developed in 1932 by the German manufacturer Krupp in secret and by 1933, the FlaK had already entered service. The first time the FlaK 18 entered service was in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and it was here that it was first judged that the FlaK 18 could be used in the anti-vehicle role.[4] Once more, the FlaK 18 was brought into service along the Western Front when World War II began. It was notably used especially during the North African Campaign against British tanks. After it's grand success there, it was quickly given to as many units in almost all branches of the German Armed Forces as soon as was possible. It also became very popular among its crews and it was then even put into vehicles. These vehicles include the Panzer VI Tiger and Jagdpanther. In total, about 18,000 FlaK 18s were produced during the war.

References

  1. http://ww2total.com/WW2/Weapons/Artillery/Guns/German/Flak-36/88mm-Flak.htm
  2. http://efour4ever.com/88.htm
  3. http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=442
  4. http://www.wwiivehicles.com/germany/guns/88-mm/88-mm-flak-18.asp


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