Use Against Ground Targets

While the use of 88 mm anti-aircraft guns against tanks and bunkers has often been attributed to improvisation by Rommel, this use was planned before the war started.

Equipment and organization

The gun used was the 8,8 cm Flak 18, towed by the 8-ton Sd Kfz 7 prime mover. It had a cruciform gun carriage with foldable side booms, and a large gun shield.

The guns were organized into platoons with two guns each, the Geschützzug 8,8 cm Flak 18 (zu 2 Geschütze) (mot Z), in accordance with K St N 447 table of organization and equipment.

In addition to the towed guns, a self-propelled variant was constructed based on the 12-ton Sd Kfz 8 prime mover. This vehicle had the gun placed on the bed of the vehicle. A total of 10 mounted 8,8 cm Flak 18 were mounted on Sd Kfz 8. These vehicles were given to Panzerjäger-Abteilung 8 of 8. Infanterie-Division. They fought in Poland, France, and finally Russia until 1943.

Creation of units

On 31 August 1938, the following anti-tank battalions were ordered to be equipped with 88 mm anti-aircraft platoons:

Army corps Division Battalion Number of platoons
III. Armee-Korps 3. Infanterie-Division Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 3 2
VIII. Armee-Korps 8. Infanterie-Division Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 4
18. Infanterie-Division Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 18 2
28. Infanterie-Division Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 28 4
XIII. Armee-Korps 10. Infanterie-Division Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 10 5
XVII. Armee-Korps 44. Infanterie-Division Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 46 2
- 2. Panzer-Division Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 38 2

On 3 September 1938, the Luftwaffe was ordered to make available guns and personnel for the training and handling of the guns. A total of 24 officers, 108 NCOs, and 660 enlisted were allocated from the Luftwaffe.

Training and tactics

Under the purview of the commander-in-cheif of the German Army, Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Brauchitsch, on 16 and 17 September 1938, the Luftwaffe held a training sessions at the army artillery school at Jüterbog. The purpose of the session was the use of 88 mm anti-aircraft guns in mobile anti-aircraft platoons against ground targets, especially bunkers and precision fire, and to gather experience on their use. Participating in the training was the commanders of the anti-tank battalions listed above.

After the training session, the personnel in Jüterbog were to further train the personnel of the divisional anti-tank battalions according to the guidelines in the document below.

Guidelines for the Use of Mobile 88 mm Anti-aircraft Platoons Against Ground Targets

1. Tasks

a) Fighting and destroying bunkers.

b) Anti-tank tasks.

2. Organization

In platoons of 2 guns behind 8 ton prime movers or on 12 ton prime movers.

3. Chain of command

a) Supply-wise assignment under the divisional anti-tank battalion, which is responsible for all supplies.

b) Tactical assignment under the divisional commander. He issues the order for deployment, including which the unit to which the platoons are to be allocated in order to complete the combat mission. When carrying out the tasks in 1a) they are mainly assigned to the infantry. When carrying out the tasks in 1b) they are to be assigned to the anti-tank battalion.

The decision to deploy requires careful consideration due to the scarce ammunition supply.

4. Carrying out the combat tasks

A) Against bunkers:

a) The combat is usually done using gunnery methods, engaging the target with direct fire.

Crucial for success is flawless target spotting, proper fire positions against the target that are taken unnoticed or undisturbed, and quick and as far as possible surprising opening of fire. To this purpose, early scouting to the last detail of the fire position and the routes of approach are or particular importance.

b) Before the scouting begins, target reconnaissance must determine:

The exact location of the bunker and the openings to be fired upon. The desired fire position must be positioned relative to the target in such a way that the lateral angle of impact if not flatter than 1000 mils1. Otherwise, the shells will slide off to the side.

Approximate size of the target. The way in which the distance of the desired fire position and the size of the target relates to each other is this: It must be so close to the target that a 30 percent hit probability is certain. (See point 5e - technical details)

Furthermore it must be clarified if the combat mission allows for setting up the fire position during nighttime, or if it must be set up during the day.

c) The platoon commander, gun commander, and prime mover driver must take part in the scouting. Participation by the gunners is also required if firing is to start immediately after setting up the position.

The scouting covers the routes of approach, the fire position, and the supply position.

The routes of approach for the towed gun must be hard and reasonably flat. They must not be visible from the target or from other points within enemy territory and must be of sufficient width (see point 5b - tehinical details).

The terrain must be used so that the fire position has the shells have the greatest possible hit probability and penetration capability (see point 5f - technical details), and that the necessary elevation to the target is not less than -4°.

The position must make it possible to approach from both the flanks or the front, as well as performing the horizontal positioning of the guns. The most useful positions are concealed or semi-concealed (edge) positions. This allows the guns to already be in their fire positions once they are unlimbered; this allowed the unlimbered guns to be handled with pull ropes alone. When the situation and terrain allows it, the guns can also be fired while limbered behind the prime mover.

The artillery observation is usually done from the guns. If the situation and the terrain conditions allows observation from the side, it must be close enough to allow the commands for handling the gun to be heard clearly. When looking towards the sun, especially when it is low, makes the gunners and observers tasks considerably more difficult.

The supply position must be placed near the fire position and must be shielded against being spotted from the ground.

During daytime the guns must be ready to fire before they are put into position. Setting up positions during the day requires the unit commander to take particular steps to suppress the enemy weapons by fire or smoke. When setting up positions during nighttime it is usually necessary to conceal the sound of the prime movers driving with one's own fire.

The easiest approach is to do the scouting during the afternoon and set up positions during the night, and then surprisingly open fire on the target at dawn and quickly leave the position.

The distance from the fire position to the target must be determined as accurately as possible before opening fire in order to achive hits with the first rounds. If possible, Em.-Personal1 of the infantry is the be used.

The ammunition used for spotting fire is to be high-explosive shells, for effective fire armor-piercing shells. The amount of ammunitions needed to complete the combat mission is to be placed in the fire position, and in the immediate vicinity of the guns.

Firing method: The person who fires estimates the distance or has it measured by the allocated Em.-Personal of the infantry, and orders the type of shell, the target, and the firing angle.

The person who fires (platoon or gun commander) observes the shot and improves direction and distance according to its result.

B) For anti-tank combat, employment is to be platoon- og gun-wise. Due to the poor maneuverability and the height of the guns, the employment must be ordered in good time. The positions and the roads leading to them must be scouted and familiar to the commanders. The guns must be in position when the tanks move into their area of effect. They will therefore frequently have be used in depth in the anti-tank defense.

Fighting targets follows the general guidelines for anti-tank units.

Armor-piercing shells are to be fired at the front line.

5. Technical details

a) Driving speed in terrain:

10-15 km/h.

b) Height from the ground of the upper edge of the gun shield

On carriage behind prime mover: About 2.9 meters

On mount on 12 ton prime mover: 3.65 meters

Maximum width in driving position: 2.3 meters

Maximum width when combat ready (horizontal support booms): 3.7 meters

c) The 8 ton prime movers will gradually be equipped with pull ropes. They are intended for setting up and changing positions.

d) The initial ammunition allocation is:

  • 50 high-explosive rounds
  • 150 armor-piercing rounds

Of these, six are to be immediate given to the gun, and 24 to the prime mover. For the 12 ton prime mover, only 25 rounds in total.

e) Hit probability

At a target size of approximately is a … % hit probability to be expected at a distance of approximately … m
1 square meter 50% 700 m
40% 835 m
30% 1000 m
20% 1220 m
½ square meter 50% 460 m
40% 570 m
30% 710 m
20% 900 m
¼ square meter 50% 315 m
40% 385 m
30% 480 m
20% 635 m

f) Penetration capability

Distance 500 m 1000 m 1500 m 2000 m
88 mm armor-piercing grenade at 70° to 90° impact angle
Against armor, armor penetration 71 mm 67 mm 65 mm 63 mm
Against concrete, concrete penetration 1100 mm 1000 mm 900 mm 800 mm
88 mm high explosive grenade (impact fuse without delay)
Against armor, armor penetration 28 mm 25 mm 23 mm 20 mm

g) It is not necessary to fully deploy the side booms of the gun carriage when traversing horizontally at up to 10° to the right and left of the longtitudal axis, but it is recommended if the fire position is not completely horizontal. In either case, the side booms must at least be placed into a horizontal position.

To achive a better stability of unlimbered guns, it must be ensured that the air brakes of the trainers are not vented.2

h) Point of reference for the gunners: The openings or center of target, i.e., the center of the parts of the target that are to be precisely described in each fire command.

Production Costs

8,8 cm Flak 18
Price 31 750 Reichmark
Man-hours 4500
Production time 8 months
Iron 26 000 kg
Molybdenum 1.0 kg
Chromium 35.6 kg
Vanadium 1.3 kg
Magnesium 44.6 kg
Tin 0.1 kg
Copper 15.2 kg
Lead 1.29 kg
Zinc 11.4 kg
Nickel 26.9 kg
Rubber 192.6 kg
Silicon 22.4

Technical Information

8,8 cm Flak 18, 36, and 37
Gun
Caliber 88 mm
Weight of gun 5150 kg
Barrel length 4.93 m
Barrel length in calibers 56 m
Firing height 1.6 m
Range (max) 14 860 m
Altitude (max) 10 600 m
Rate of fire 20 rounds per minute
Barrel life 2000-2500 rounds
Mount
Maximum elevation 85°
Minimum depression -3°
Traverse 360°

Armor Penetration

Round Shot type Weight (shot) Muzzle velocity Range
100 m 500 m 1000 m 1500 m 2000 m
8,8 cm Pzgr 39 APCBC-HE 10.20 kg 773 m/s 120 mm 110 mm 99 mm 91 mm 83 mm
8,8 cm Pzgr 40 APCR 7.30 kg 930 m/s 171 mm 156 mm 138 mm 123 mm 110 mm
Gr 39 Hl HEAT 7.65 kg 600 m/s 90 mm 90 mm 90 mm 90 mm 90 mm

Ammunition

Round Type Muzzle velocity Weight Explosive contents
Round Shot Round Shot
8,8 cm Spgr Patr L/4,5 (Kz.) HE - m/s 14.7 kg 9.0 kg 3755 g 785 g
8,8 cm Pzgr Patr APCBC-HE - m/s 15.3 kg 9.5 kg 3130 g 160 g
8,8 cm Pzgr Patr 39 APCBC-HE 773 m/s 16.3 kg 10.2 kg 3 029 g 59 g
8,8 cm Spgr Patr L/4,5 (Kz.) (Üb R) HE (training) - m/s - kg - kg 3115 g 145 g
8,8 cm Spgr Patr L/4,5 (Kz.) (Üb W) HE (training) - m/s - kg - kg 3160 g 190 g
8,8 cm Pzgr Patr L/4,5 (Üb) Training - m/s - kg - kg 2920 g - g

Additional Reading

8,8 cm Flak 41
Information about the 8,8 cm Flak 41.
8,8 cm Kw K 36 (L/56)
Information about the 8,8 cm Kw K 35 (L/56).

Notes

  1. 56.25 degrees Back
  2. It is unclear how the air brakes of the trailers are relevant to unlimbered guns. It is possible that this is a mistake by the author of the report, and that his is intended to refer to limbered guns instead. Back

Sources

  1. 8,8 cm Flakzüge. Inspektorat 6 (IV b), 1938. 2 p. AHA/In 6 (IV b) Nr. 1269/37 g.Kdos.. DHI 500-12451-000003.
  2. Gerät- und Personalverteilung für 8,8 cm Flakzüge. Inspektorat 4 (VI a), 1938. 6 p. AHA/In 4 (VI a) Nr. 1287/37 g.Kdos.. DHI 500-12451-000003.
  3. Geschoßringbuch Band I. Berlin : Heereswaffenamt, 1939. 111 p. D 460/1+.
  4. Merkblatt für die Munition der 8,8 cm Flugabwehrkanone 18 (8,8 cm Flak 18) und der 8,8 cm Flugabwehrkanone 36 (8,8 cm Flak 36). Berlin : Heereswaffenamt, 1942. H Dv 481/541.
  5. HAHN, Fritz. Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933-1943 : Band 1. Koblenz : Bernard & Graefe Verlag, 1987. 239 p. ISBN 3-7637-5831-3.
  6. JENTZ, Thomas L. & DOYLE, Hilary Louis. Panzer Tracts No. 7-1 - Panzerjaeger (3.7 cm Tak to Pz.Sfl.Ic) : development and employment from 1927 to 1941. Boyds, MD : Panzer Tracts, 2004. 72 p. ISBN 0-9744862-3-X.
  7. PAWLAS, Karl R. Waffen-Revue W 127 - Datenblätter für Heeres-Waffen, -Fahrzeuge und Gerät. Nurnberg : Publizistisches Archiv für Militär- und Waffenwessen, 1976. 248 p. ISBN 3-88088-213-4.
  8. VON BRAUCHITSCH, Generalfeldmarschall Walther. Bewegliche 8,8cm Flakzüge. Berlin : Inspektorat 4, 1938. 8 p. AHA/In 4 Nr. 1357/38 g.Kdos.. DHI 500-12451-000155.
  9. VON BRAUCHITSCH, Generalfeldmarschall Walther. Ausbildung an den von der Luftwaffe zur Verfügung gestellten 8,8cm Flakgeschützen. Berlin : Inspektorat 4, 1938. 3 p. AHA/In 4 Nr. 1288/38 g.Kdos.. DHI 500-12451-000155.
  10. von Wedelstaedt. Zusammenstellung der Explosivstoffgewichte für deutsche Munition (zu H. Dv. 450 Rdnr. 46). Berlin : Heereswaffenamt, 1944. 39 p. Merkblatt geheim 28/1.