The 8.8 cm FlaK 18 was a German anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery gun from World War II.
About this creation
The 8.8 cm FlaK 18, more commonly known as the FlaK 88, was widely used by Germany throughout World War II, and was one of the most recognized German weapons of the war.
The name "FlaK 88" applies to a series of guns, the first one officially called the 8.8 cm Flak 18, followed by the improved 8.8 cm Flak 36 and later the 8.8 cm Flak 37. Flak is a contraction of German Flugzeugabwehrkanone meaning "aircraft-defensive cannon", the original purpose of the FlaK 88. In English, "flak" became a generic term for ground anti-aircraft fire.
The versatile carriage allowed the eighty-eight to be fired in a limited anti-tank mode when still on wheels, and to be completely emplaced in only two-and-a-half minutes. Its successful use as an improvised anti-tank gun led to the development of a tank gun based upon it. These related guns served as the main armament of tanks such as the Tiger I
The Flak 18 was mounted on a cruciform gun carriage. A simple to operate "semi-automatic" loading system ejected fired shells, allowing it to be reloaded by simply inserting a new shell into a tray. The gun would then fire, recoil, and, during the return stroke, the empty casing would be thrown backward by levers, and a cam would engage and recock the gun. This resulted in firing rates of 15 to 20 rounds a minute, which was better than similar weapons of the era. High explosive ammunition was used against aircraft and personnel, and armour-piercing and high-explosive anti-tank against tanks and other armoured vehicles
The 88 performed well in its original role of an anti-aircraft gun, but it proved to be a superb anti-tank gun as well. Its success was due to its versatility: the standard anti-aircraft platform allowed gunners to depress the muzzle below horizontal, unlike most other anti-aircraft guns. During the initial stages of the war, as it was becoming increasingly clear that existing anti-tank weapons were unable to pierce the armour of heavier enemy tanks, gunners increasingly put the weapon to use against enemy tanks, a situation that was aided by the prevalence of the 88 among German forces.
Due to the problems of defending against attack by high-flying aircraft the Luftwaffe asked for newer weapons with even better performance as early as 1939. Rheinmetall responded with a new 88 mm L/71 design with a longer cartridge, the 8,8 cm Flak 41, with a prototype ready in 1941. It fired a 9.4-kilogram shell at a muzzle velocity of 1000 m/s, giving it an effective ceiling of 11,300 meters and a maximum of 15,000 meters. It featured a lower silhouette on its turntable mounting than did the 8.8-cm Flak 18/36/37 on its pedestal mounting. Two types of gun barrel were used, with three or four sections. Improvements in reloading raised the firing rate, with 20 to 25 rounds a minute being quoted
The Flak 36 guns were briefly issued in late 1944 to the American 7th Army as captured weapons. The 79th Field Artillery Battalion was formed from personnel of the 79th and 179th Field Artillery Groups to fire captured German artillery pieces at the height of an ammunition shortage. Similarly, the 244th Field Artillery Battalion was temporarily equipped with a miscellany of captured German 88mm guns and 105mm and 150mm howitzers