8.8cm FlaK 18 / FlaK 36 / FlaK 37 (German 88) Anti-Aircraft / Anti-Tank Gun
The FlaK 18 series was developed in secrecy by Germans in Sweden to escape the restrictions of the Versaille Treaty of 1919.
Authored By Martin Foray; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
After World War 1 concluded in the armistice of November of 1918, the German Empire was held largely to blame by the victorious powers. As such, in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed that restricted (at least on paper) the military power of Germany for the foreseeable future. The nation was limited to development and production of armored cars
, a small standing army of a hundred thousand strong and no armed aircraft
of any kind. This restriction also stemmed to the development of artillery weapons
as well as naval power
. However, the restrictions were proving to be more of a formality as the years progressed for the German war machine would be under new direction and lit by the fires of a new ambition. To abide by the limitations of the 1919 treaty, the Germans secretly began programs to help bolster her anemic army. One such development became a powerful field gun of 88mm caliber. Such was the secrecy behind its development that its engineers at Krupp sent a collection of experts to nearby Sweden to continue work on the weapon. This effectively allowed the engineers complete freedom to design and develop a capable battlefield weapon outside of the confines of the Versailles Treaty.
In conjunction with Swedish engineers at Bofors and utilizing secret German government funding, the Krupp team outputted a new 75mm weapon suitable for anti-aircraft work. However, German Army authorities were not sold on the idea of such a weapon and requested a more powerful, heavier alternative which resulted in the Bofors-Krupp of 88mm caliber in the early 1930s. After the requisite field evaluations, the 88mm gun was selected for serial production - as the "8.8cm FlaK 18" (known casually and simply as the "88") - to begin in 1933 out of Essen, Germany. Incidentally, development of the weapon coincided the Fascist Party's rise to dominance across German politics. Within time, their enigmatic leader, Adolf Hitler, would control every facet of the country and lead the nation to world war.
It proved common practice for any German military weapon developed in secrecy after the 1919 treaty to be designated simply as "Model 18" to not arouse suspicion. After full-scale war had found Europe, the Germans went back to marking the follow-up variants based on the year of their introduction.
At its core, the FlaK 18 was an impressive feat of engineering. The long single-piece barrel was set atop a complex gun mounting that contained all applicable elevation and traverse controls. The weapon was large and required no fewer than seven operators to function to its specifications. The most characteristic feature of this class of weapon was its cruciform base which was folded up during transport. Transport was further facilitated by the double-axle design that sported four road wheels. Not only did this allow the weapon to be transported by vehicle tow but it could also allow its crew to wheel the weapon into a new position (with some work of course). The gun barrel could be set to fire directly upwards or direct frontwards, engaging both aerial and ground targets with equal fervor.
Within time, a newer model appeared and this became known as the FlaK 36. The FlaK 36 was differentiated from her predecessor by its three-piece barrel assembly. This design revision was necessitated by the wearing down of the firing chamber barrel section in the previous model, requiring the entire assembly to be replaced. Instead, for the FlaK 36, only the worn out portion was actually replaced thanks to the sectioned barrel system.
The FlaK 37 was a further development of the FlaK 36 and included a revised fire control system for improved communications between the gun itself and the control systems used by the gunnery crew, resulting in improved performance and capabilities. The new model made for a dedicated stabilized static gun mount as oppose to the original's design which was intended for rough field usage.