Weapons of World War Two
8.8 cm Flak 36/37 and Krauss Mafei SdKfz 7
The origins of the 88-millimeter cannon date back to the First World War, when the German High Staff, increasingly worried about the enemy air activity, decided to study a type of cannon for specific antiaircraft utilization. The researchers decided that the best caliber for such purpose was the 88, or better said, the 8.8, according to the German custom of expressing calibers in centimeters instead of millimeters. So it was built the first model of 88 millimeters in History, which gave good results, but the war was already lost, and the weapon fell into oblivion.
But in the years preceding the rearmament, many German technicians went abroad to benevolent companies that allowed, under a convenient coverage, to develop experiments and test the prototypes of which in the future would be the powerful weapons of the resurgent Wehrmacht. So it was born, in the workshops Bofors in Sweden, the new antiaircraft cannon which, in virtue of its origin, was denominated 8.8 cm Fliegerabwehrkanone 18 (8.8 cm Anti-Aircraft Cannon Mark 18). This piece, installed on a cross-shaped carriage supported by a cart with two sets of wheels, could be transported by a suitable tractor. It had its baptism of fire, as many other weapons, in the Spanish Civil War, where, due to unexpected necessity, it had to fire against tanks, demonstrating exceptional capability.
But some defects were found on it, such as an excessive complexity in the replacement of the bore worn out by the shooting and a poor performance in the type of tractor employed. Hence, it was accordingly modified, and from the old Flak 18 was obtained the Flak 36/37, which would become famous in the battlefields as the terror of the armored vehicles. From this model would come the successive types 41, 43 and 43/41. But, continuing with the 36/37 (the most known type, represented in the illustration), this one had its debut in the sands of Cyrenaica, where it played havoc with the Allied tanks and conquered the well deserved fame that would accompany it during the entire war.
The crew comprised twelve operators, but if needed six could be enough. The rate of fire was impressive: from 15 to 20 shots per minute, which could have a maximum range of 10600 meters in antiaircraft fire and 14680 meters in ground fire. Naturally, in antitank fire, the range was lesser, because the trajectory of the projectile should be almost flat. The cannon could be quickly deployed, but if needed it could open fire while in the transport carriage. The crew was transported in a large artillery tractor which in the course of the war would be always bound to the Flak 36/37, and which would become as famous as the cannon itself.
It was the SdKfz 7, a half-track of interspersed wheel arrangement able to easily tow the 7 tonnes of the cannon and its carriage, plus 1300 kilograms of load. The Krauss Maffei, as it was more commonly known, was produced in almost 5000 examplars, which were used in every front, sometimes modified by suppressing the seats in the compartment behind the driver, to be replaced by a light cannon or a quadruple 20-millimeter cannon. The series exemplars for towing the Flak 36/37 were provided with side canvas doors fitted with transparent mica windows, which are missing in the illustration due to being a model destined to operate in areas of hot climate.
Length with cart: 7.77 meters
Width with cart: 2.31 meters
Height with cart: 2.40 meters
Length without cart: 5.79 meters
Width without cart: 5.14 meters
Height without cart: 2.10 meters
Weight with carriage: About 6000 kilograms
Horizontal firing arc: 360 degrees
Vertical firing arc: -3 to +90 degrees
Breech: Of horizontal wedge
Caliber: 88 millimeters
Length in calibers: 56
Length: 6.85 meters
Width: 2.40 meters
Height: 2.76 meters
Ground clearance: 40 centimeters
Weight (empty): 9750 kilograms
Weight (full load): 11550 kilograms
Engine: Maybach HL62 TUK of gasoline and 140 horsepower
Maximum speed on road: 50 kilometers/hour
Operational range: 300 kilometers without towing; 100 kilometers with towing
Maximum surmountable trench: 1.80 meters
Maximum surmountable slope: 24 degrees without towing; 12 degrees with towing
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