2cm FlaK 30 Towed Anti-Aircraft Cannon
The 2cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft system was based on a Swiss design for the German Navy.
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The manufacturing automotive and defense firm of Rheinmetall-Borsig was given a defense contract by the German government to produce a new light anti-aircraft gun system. Design work began in the early 1930s to coincide with the German military's rearmament program that ended up producing a myriad of excellent armored vehicles
and artillery systems. The requirement called for a 20mm caliber gun system to help combat low-flying attack aircraft and was to be somewhat portable in nature, able to be towed along roads by a vehicle and set into position by its operating crew. The resulting design was finalized, evaluated and accepted into the German Army inventory as the "2cm FlaK 30" (FlaK = "Fliegerabwehrkanone", translating to "anti-aircraft cannon"). Serial production was soon underway by 1934 and the weapon reach operational status in 1935. Before World War 2 officially began in September of 1939 with the German/Soviet invasion of Poland, the FlaK 30 was purchased by the governments of China and, interestingly, the Netherlands.
The 2cm FlaK 30 was crewed by five personnel though, in practice, this was often reduced to save on manpower particularly when the weapon system was installed as a static defense mount. It sported two road wheels for ground transport and turning in place for fine-tuning the angle of fire. The single gun barrel was set between the two wheel fenders and situated atop a mount. The barrel was chambered for the 20x138mm B cartridge to which these projectiles were fed into the firing chamber by a 20-round box magazine. Elevation was set to +90 and -12 degrees and, due to its wheeled nature, true traversal was essentially unlimited at 360 degrees. Weight was 992 lbs, requiring the strength of multiple soldiers to help place her into position during the heat of battle. Operationally, the gun exhibited a rate-of-fire between 120 and 180 rounds per minute. Muzzle velocity was rated at 2,953 feet per second with an effective range out to 2,406 yards.
When set up as "ready-to-fire", the FlaK 30 rested upon a triangular firing platform with a simple two-piece seat for the gunner at the rear. The gunner would sight the weapon utilizing a complex reflector sight which only became more time consuming to operate with the addition of predictor mechanisms. After a short period of operational action, this sighting system eventually gave way to a simple point-and-shoot iron sight arrangement for the sake of simplicity in manufacturing and function for when in the field.
Once in combat, the FlaK 30 would prove just as adept at tackling ground-based targets as aerial ones, this accomplished by using special purpose armor-piercing ammunition in place of the exploding aerial type. The FlaK 30 could be transported to fronts anywhere the Wehrmacht was fighting by land vehicle and fixed into place in minutes. The Luftwaffe also found value in the army-based system and set up networks of FlaK 30 systems for defense of air bases
and the like. In an interesting, oft-overlooked approach to such defense, the FlaK 30 also served aboard German "armored" trains to help protect supplies from enemy machine gun, bomb and rocket attacks at low levels. It also proved a well-documented defense mount on various German halftrack
and adaptable military truck chassis for the sake of simple mobile air defense that could protect convoys in transit. Beyond its use by the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe, the FlaK 30 was also accepted into service by the Kriegsmarine
for use on warships (as the "C/38") where her penetrative powers and aircraft deterrent were highly appreciated in the dual-purpose role.
The FlaK 30 series was not without fault, however, for the feed mechanism was mysteriously prone to jamming throughout her operational tenure. Perhaps more importantly, her inherent rate-of-fire was judged as slow by the start of 1941, unable to compete with the advancing pace of enemy aircraft technology in terms of speed. As such, the FlaK 30 was revised to become the "FlaK 38" variant with its 220 rounds-per-minute firing action. This inevitably led the original FlaK 30 system to fall out of favor with commanders whom naturally preferred the extended capabilities of the newer FlaK 38. Therefore, FlaK 30 was left to run out its operational life alongside its replacement and the remaining lot were operated until they mechanically broke down beyond repair or were lost to the enemy. Regardless, the FlaK 30 was in operational service with the Germans until the end of the war in 1945.
The German firearms firm of Mauser was also contracted during war time production to manufacture the FlaK 30 in a handier form for use by German paratroopers and mountain troops. The gun mount was revised as lighter and less complex and the end-product was designated as the "2cm GebFlaK 38". Production quickly ensued in 1941 and the weapon was made operational the following year.
Another notable FlaK 30 incarnation became the "2cm Flakvierling 38" air defense system. This weapon sported 4 x 20mm FlaK 30 cannons, set as pairs on a turning/elevating gun mount, and appeared from Mach of 1940 onwards while still utilizing the original's 20-round box magazine feed. The combined rate-of-fire was approximately 800 rounds per minute. Mauser was also tabbed for its design and manufacture and a recommended crew of eight was needed for operation.
Finland became another operator of note for the FlaK 30 air defense system.