7.7cm Feldkanone 16 (FK16)
The 7.7cm Feldkanone 16 field gun of the Imperial German Army was developed by Krupp to increase capabilities of the preceding 7.7cm FK 96 design.
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The Imperial German Army adopted the 7.7cm FK 96 field gun in 1896 though this system was almost immediately made obsolete with the arrival of the French Canon de 75 modele 1897 the following year. The modele 1897 utilized a revolutionary recoil system fitted under the barrel which made for a more efficient weapon - the gun could be fired without it being moved out of place by the recoil force, having to be retrained on a target area. This led to excellent accuracy and rates of fire which the German gun could not match. The French gun managed a range out to 8,550 meters using standard High Explosive (HE) projectiles and went on to see service up to the end of World War 2 in 1945.
In 1904, the German Army attempted a modernization of their FK 96 stock by adding its own recoil mechanism under the barrel and a new carriage assembly with gun shield. This improved the type as a battlefield weapon and it served German gunnery crews into World War 1 (1914-1918). However, the once-fluid nature of the war that began in July of 1914 grew into a network of stagnate fronts to begin the bloody business of "Trench Warfare". As battlefields became deeper, the range of the FK 96 was seriously undermined with an effective, accurate reach of just 6,000 yards (9,200 yards maximum).
This limitation brought forth a new need for an artillery piece offering greater engagement ranges. The storied German concern of Krupp manufactured a new gun to fit this requirement as the "7.7cm FK 16" and it was quickly introduced in 1916 to help shore up German artillery stocks. The new weapon was given a longer barrel, which provided a range out to 11,700 yards, and a box-type carriage taken from the 10.5cm Feldhaubitze 98/09 field howitzer. Recoil was managed through a hydro-spring system and the weapon's caliber remained 7.7cm (77mm) for logistical friendliness. Each shell weighed approximately 16lbs and was made available in several flavors to suit tactical needs (HE, Shrapnel, illumination, smoke, poison gas). Shells were fed through a horizontal sliding breech block (as in the FK 96) and elevation controls spanned -10 to +40 degrees while traverse was 4-degrees to either side. The gun barrel sat atop a heavy mounting which was mated to the two-wheeled steel carriage. Transport was by horse team and the crew numbered five personnel. The system as a whole weighed some 2,900lbs and sported a barrel length of nearly 9 feet - much larger and heavier than the preceding FK 96 design it replaced which made it a more cumbersome weapon to field.
Once in action, the hasty development and shortened testing cycle of the new field gun turned up key deficiencies that were largely related to poor quality in manufacture of both guns and projectiles. Despite this, the need was great and Krupp delivered on 3,000 units for the German Army between 1916 and 1918. The FK 16 certainly held tactical value in being able to lob its projectiles thousands of meters away with direct line of sight or indirect fire. With access to a variable store of munitions, the gunnery crew could engage dug-in enemy personnel hiding in trenches, assault hardened fortifications and attack enemy machine gun nests with relative impunity. The weapon could also fire dreaded poison gas shells to both psychologically and physically damage the enemy. When the British unleashed their tank offensives in 1917, the FK 16 was called in use as an ad hoc anti-tank gun - more Allied tanks fell to artillery fire and mechanical breakdown than to any other weapon of the war.
With German proving the loser in World War 1, the nation was stripped of its war-making capabilities and ex-German guns were handed to Belgium as war reparations. Belgian Canon de 75 mle TR barrels were mated to FK 16 carriages to produce the 75mm "Canon de 75 mle GP11" and another type fitted a sleeve inside of the existing barrels of FK 16 systems to produce the "Canon de 75 mle GP III" in 75mm caliber. When Germany reemerged in the 1930s under Adolf Hitler's rule, any remaining German FK 16 guns were given new barrels of 7.5cm (75mm) caliber and redesignated as "7.5cm FK 16 n.A." ("n.A." signifying them as "new model artillery"). After the conquer of Belgium in 1940, the Germans recouped their lost FK 16 equipment from the beaten Belgian Army and assigned the designations of "7.5cm FK 234(b)" for the Canon de 75 mle GP11 marks and "7.5cm FK 236(b)" for the Canon de 75 mle GP III marks.
With the fall of Germany in May of 1945, the story of the FK 16 and its foreign variants ended for none were used beyond the worldwide conflict.