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Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind (Whirlwind)


Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun Platform


Nazi Germany | 1944



"The Wirbelwind SPAAG system was produced with the hull of the Panzer 4 series tanks."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 02/05/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
As the Allied air campaign against German interests during World War 2 increased in both its intensity and results, it fell to the German Army to develop mobile-minded air defense platforms. The earlier "Mobelwagen" was born from the hull of the Panzer IV medium tank and fitted with a single 37mm FlaK 43 L/89 autocannon affixed to an boxy armored superstructure. The vehicle weighed some 24,000 kilograms, featured a crew of six and managed an ammunition load of 416 x 37mm projectiles. For all intents and purposes, the Mobelwagen became an interim design until better air defense vehicles could be found.

Thus came about the "Wirbelwind" ("Whirlwind"/ "Flakpanzer IV") which was also built atop the hull of the Panzer IV line. Instead of a single gun, a crew of six and a boxy superstructure, the Wirbelwind utilized a quad-gun arrangement (4 x 2cm Flakvierling 38 L/112.5) with a crew of five and an all-new, open-air, nine-sided turret "tub". The Panzer IV tank origins were clearly visible with the eight road wheel arrangement, forward-mounted drive sprocket and rear-mounted track idler. The crew consisted of a driver, commander (doubling as the primary gunner), radioman and two ammunition handlers. Total ammunition stocks were 3,200 x 20mm projectiles for the four cannon and 1,350 x 7.92mm ammunition for a single, defensive-minded, MG34 machine gun. The vehicle retained the Panzer IV's leaf spring suspension and could make headway at 25 miles per hour on ideal surfaces and reach out to a range of 124 miles. Power was through a Maybach HL 120 TRM 12-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine held at the rear. Armor protection ranged from 10mm to 80mm across the various facings.

Only when pressed with the need for protection against Allied attack aircraft did the German Army invest in air defense vehicles and then began a race to find appropriate solutions. Design and development of the Wirbelwind began in 1944 when a German officer - Karl Krause - brought his Panzer IV-based idea to authorities to which the design was ultimately approved by Hitler himself. Work then began on existing stocks of Panzer IV vehicles for the conversion process ahead. In many ways, the Wirbelwind offered a logistically-friendly solution, able to retain and reuse many of the automotive components already in circulation for the Panzer IV tank and the new faceted turret was simple enough to mass-produce. Additionally, the 20mm guns were available in number. Manufacture of Wirbelwinds was charged to Ostbauwerke of Sagan, Silesia.

In early-action use, the Wirbelwind proved valuable against low-flying aircraft through its four-gun, repeat-fire arrangement. Its self-propelled capabilities allowed it to relocate with some ease and keep up with German convoys when required. However, Allied air power and related tactics against ground fire continued to evolve which, in turn, began limiting the effectiveness of the Wirbelwind system. The 20mm shell-of-choice also showcased its limitations which furthered other air defense solutions - one coming in the form of the "Ostwind", another Panzer IV-based vehicle reverting back to the more potent 3.7cm FlaK 43 gun within a new, open-air, six-sided turret design. Despite its now-limited air defense capabilities, Wirbelwinds continued in support of German Army actions as its 20mm quad-guns could be brought to bear against enemy light-armored ground targets and troop concentrations with rather disastrous results.

Around 100 or so Wirbelwind vehicles were ultimately completed, though precise numbers are not recognized in any one source.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one land system design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind (Whirlwind) Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun Platform.
1 x Maybach HL 120 TRM 12-cylinder gasoline engine developing 296 horsepower.
Installed Power
25 mph
40 kph
Road Speed
124 miles
200 km
Range
Structure
The physical qualities of the Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind (Whirlwind) Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun Platform.
5
(MANNED)
Crew
19.4 ft
5.9 meters
O/A Length
9.5 ft
2.9 meters
O/A Width
9.0 ft
2.75 meters
O/A Height
48,502 lb
22,000 kg | 24.3 tons
Weight
Armament & Ammunition
Available supported armament, ammunition, and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind (Whirlwind) Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun Platform.
4 x 20mm Flakvierling 38 cannons.
1 x 7.92mm MG34 General Purpose Machine Gun.
AMMUNITION:
3,200 x 20mm projectiles.
1,350 x 7.92mm ammunition.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:
Nightvision - NONE.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Protection (CBRN) - NONE.
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind (Whirlwind) family line.
Flakpanzer IV ("Wirbelwind") - Base Series Designation.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind (Whirlwind). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national land systems listing.

Total Production: 100 Units

Contractor(s): Ostbauwerke - Nazi Germany
National flag of modern Germany National flag of Nazi Germany

[ Nazi Germany ]
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Image of the Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind (Whirlwind)
Image courtesy of the Public Domain.

Design Qualities
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to battlefield requirements.
ANTI-AIRCRAFT
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind (Whirlwind) Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun Platform appears in the following collections:
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