WW2 German AT Weapons

8.8 cm FlaK 18, 8.8 cm FlaK 36, and 8.8 cm FlaK 37

German Reich (1933)
Anti-Aircraft Gun – 19,650 Built

In the history of warfare, there are many weapons that have reached such great fame that their name was easily recognizable worldwide. One such weapon is the German 8.8 cm Flak, the ‘88’. While originally designed primarily for the anti-aircraft role, it would almost from the start be shown to possess excellent anti-tank firepower. This gun would see action for the first time during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and would continue on serving with the Germans up to the end of World War II in Europe.

This article covers the use of the 8.8 cm Flak gun in the anti-tank role. To learn more about the use of this gun in the anti-aircraft role, visit the article in the Plane Encyclopedia.

The 8.8 cm Flak 18. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No. Dreaded Threat The 8.8 cm FlaK 18/36/47 in the Anti-Tank role

World War One origin

Prior to the Great War, aircraft saw service in military operations for the first time during the Italian occupation of Libya in 1911. These were used in a limited number, mostly for reconnaissance, but also quite primitive bombing raids. During World War One, aircraft development was greatly intensified in scope, introducing new technologies. These included stronger and more reliable engines, overall construction improvements, increased defensive, and offensive armament, etc. New aircraft designs were also developed that would be used for bombing enemy positions. While, initially, this was done by simply throwing small bombs by one of the crew, later designs involved more dedicated bombers with increased bomb load attached to the aircraft. Despite this, these early designs were still crude in nature and the bombing efficiency was not that great. Nevertheless, they presented such a threat to military and industrial targets that ground-based anti-aircraft protection had to be developed when sufficient fighter cover was not available. Initial work done by most nations involved building a simple contraption. This involved using ordinary artillery guns simply placed on improvised mounts that enabled them to have sufficient elevation to fire at the sky.

These early attempts were crude in nature and offered a only small chance of actually bringing down an enemy aircraft. But, occasionally, it did happen. One of the first recorded and confirmed plane shootdowns using a modified artillery piece happened in September of 1915, near the Serbian city of Vršac. Serbian artilleryman Raka Ljutovac managed to score a direct hit on a German aircraft using a captured and modified 75 mm Krupp M.1904 gun.

A captured Krupp gun that was modified to be used for anti-aircraft defense by the Serbian Army during the First World War. Other warring nations also employed similar designs during the war. Source:

On the Western Front, in order to counter the Allied air threats, the German ground forces needed more dedicated design weapons. During 1916, trucks armed with 8.8 cm anti-aircraft guns began to appear on the front. Both Krupp and Ehrhardt (later changing its name to Rheinmetall) would develop their own 8.8 cm anti-aircraft guns, which would see extensive action in the later stages of the war. While neither design would have any major impact (besides the same caliber) on the development of the later 8.8 cm Flak, these were the first stepping stones that would ultimately lead to the creation of the famous gun years later.

The Krupp 8.8 cm anti-aircraft gun. Source: Wiki

Work after the war

Following the German defeat in the First World War, they were forbidden from developing many technologies, including artillery and anti-aircraft guns. To avoid this, companies like Krupp simply began cooperating with other arms manufacturers in Europe. During the 1920s, Krupp partnered with the Swedish Bofors armament manufacturer. Krupp even owned around a third of Bofors’ shares.

In September 1928, Krupp was informed that the Army wanted a new anti-aircraft gun. It had to be able to fire a 10 kg round at a muzzle velocity of 850 m/s. The gun itself would be placed on a mount with a full 360° traverse and an elevation of -3° to 85°. The mount and the gun were then placed on a cross-shaped base with four outriggers. The trailer had side outriggers that were raised during movement. The whole gun when placed on a four-wheel bogie to be towed at a maximum speed of 30 km/h. The total weight of the gun had to be around 9 tonnes. These requirements would be slightly changed a few years later to include new requests such as a rate of fire between 15 to 20 rounds per minute, use of high-explosive rounds with a delay fuse of up to 30 seconds, and a muzzle velocity between 800 to 900 m/s. The desired caliber of this gun was also discussed. The use of a caliber in the range of 75 mm was deemed to be insufficient and a waste of resources for a heavy gun. The 8.8 cm caliber, which was used in the previous war, was more desirable. This caliber was set as a bare minimum, but usage of a larger caliber was allowed under the condition that the whole gun weight would not be more than 9 tonnes. The towing trailer had to reach a speed of 40 km/h (on a good road) when towed by a half-track or, in case of emergency, by larger trucks. The speed of redeployment for these guns was deemed highly important. German Army Officials were quite aware that the development of such guns could take years to complete. Due to the urgent need for such weapons, they were even ready to adopt temporary solutions.

Krupp’s first 8.8 cm Flak 18 prototype. Source: 8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37 Vol.1

Krupp engineers that were stationed at the Sweden Bofors company were working on a new anti-aircraft gun for some time. In 1931, Krupp engineers went back to Germany, where, under secrecy, they began constructing the gun. By the end of September 1932, Krupp delivered two guns and 10 trailers. After a series of firing and driving trials, the guns proved to be more than satisfying and, with some minor modifications, were adopted for service in 1933 under the name 8.8 cm Flugabwehrkanone 18 (English: anti-aircraft gun) or, more simply, Flak 18. The use of the number 18 was meant to mislead France and Great Britain that this was actually an old design, which it was in fact not. This was quite commonly used on other German-developed artillery pieces that were introduced to service during the 1930s. The same 8.8 cm gun was officially adopted when the Nazis came to power. In 1934, Hitler denounced the Treaty of Versailles, and openly announced the rearmament of the German Armed forces.


While Krupp designed the 8.8 cm FlaK 18, besides building some 200 trailers for it, it was not directly involved in the production of the actual gun. The 8.8 cm Flak 18 was quite an orthodox anti-aircraft design, but what made it different was that it could be mass-produced relatively easily, which the Germans did. Most of its components did not require any special tooling and companies that had basic production capabilities could produce these.

Some 2,313 were available by the end of 1938. In 1939, the number of guns produced was only 487, increasing to 1,131 new ones in 1940. From this point, due to the need for anti-aircraft guns, production constantly increased over the coming years. Some 1,861 example were built in 1941, 2,822 in 1942, 4,302 in 1943, and 5,714 in 1944. Surprisingly, despite the chaotic state of the German industry, some 1,018 guns were produced during the first three months of 1945. In total, 19.650 8.8 cm Flak guns were built.

Of course, like many other German production numbers, there are some differences between sources. The previously mentioned numbers are according to T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Dreaded Threat: The 8.8 cm FlaK 18/36/47 in the Anti-Tank role). Author A. Radić (Arsenal 51) mentions that, by the end of 1944, 16,227 such guns were built. A. Lüdeke (Waffentechnik Im Zweiten Weltkrieg) gives a number of 20,754 pieces being built.

Year Number produced
1932 2 prototypes
1938 2,313 (total produced at that point)
1939 487
1940 1,131
1941 1.861
1942 2.822
1943 4,302
1944 5,714
1945 1,018
Total 19.650


The gun

The 8.8 cm Flak 18 used a single tube barrel which was covered in a metal jacket. The barrel itself was some 4.664 meters (L/56) long. The gun recuperator was placed above the barrel, while the recoil cylinders were placed under the barrel. During firing, the longest recoil stroke was 1,050 mm, while the shortest was 700 mm.
The 8.8 cm gun had a horizontal sliding breechblock which was semi-automatic. It meant that, after each shot, the breach opened on its own, enabling the crew to immediately load another round. This was achieved by adding a spring coil, which was tensioned after firing. This provided a good rate of fire of up to 15 rounds per minute when engaging ground targets and up to 20 rounds per minute for aerial targets. If needed, the semi-automatic system could be disengaged and the whole loading and extracting of rounds done manually. While some guns were provided with a rammer to help during loading the gun, it was sometimes removed by the crew.

This particular gun is equipped with a loading rammer with a new round which is ready to be loaded into the chamber. Source: Pinterest

For the anti-tank role, the 8.8 cm Flak was provided with a Zielfernrohr 20 direct telescopic sight. It had 4x magnification and a 17.5° field of view. This meant a 308 m wide view at 1 km. With a muzzle velocity of 840 m/s, the maximum firing range against ground targets was 15.2 km. The maximum altitude range was 10.9 km, but the effective range was at around 8 km.

The dimensions of this gun during towing were a length of 7.7 m, width 2.3 m, and height 2.4 meters. When stationary, the height was 2.1 m, while the length was 5.8 meters. Weight in firing position, it weighed 5,150 kg, while the total weight of the gun with the carriage was 7,450 kg. Due to some differences in numbers between sources, the previously mentioned 8.8 cm Flak performance is based on T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts Dreaded Threat The 8.8 cm FlaK 18/36/47 in the Anti-Tank role).

When stationary, the gun had a height of 2.1 meters, which offered a relatively large target for enemy gunners. Good camouflage and well-selected positions were vital for its crew’s survival. Source:

The gun controls

The gun elevation and traverse were controlled by using two handwheels located on the right side. The traverse handwheel had an option to be rotated at low or high speed, depending on the need. The lower speed was used for more precise aiming at the targets. The speed gear was changed by a simple lever located at the handwheel. To make a full circle, the traverse operator, at a high-speed setting. needed to turn the handwheel 100 times. while on the lower gear, it was 200 times. With one full circle of the handwheel, the gun was rotated by 3.6° at high speed and 1.8° at low speed.

Next to it was the handwheel for elevation. The handwheel was connected by a series of gears to the elevation pinion. This then moved the elevation rack which, in turn, lowered and raised the gun barrel. Like the traverse handwheel, it also had options for lower and greater rotation speed, which could be selected by using a lever. During transport, in order to prevent potential damage to the gun elevating mechanism, a locking system was provided. In order to change position from 0° to 85°, at high speed, 42.5 turns of the handwheel were needed. One turn of the wheel at high speed changed the elevation by 2°. At lower speed, 85 times turns of the handwheel were needed. Each turn gave a change of 1°.

The two control handwheels. The front handwheel is for traverse while the rear one is for elevation. Source: W. Muller  The 8.8 cm FLAK In The First and Second World Wars, Schiffer Military

Sometimes, in the sources, it is mentioned that the traverse was actually 720°. This is not a mistake. When the gun was used in a static mount, it would be connected with wires to a fire control system. In order to avoid damaging these wires, the guns were allowed to only make two full rotations in either direction. The traverse operator had a small indicator that informed him when two full rotations were made.

The 8.8 cm Flak at its maximum elevation. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No. 1 Dreaded Threat The 8.8 cm FlaK 18/36/47 in the Anti-Tank role


The mount which held the gun barrel itself consisted of a cradle and trunnions. The cradle had a rectangular shape. On its sides, two trunnions were welded. In order to provide stability to the gun barrel, two spring-shaped equilibrators were connected to the cradle using a simple clevis fastener.

Given its size, the gun used a large cross-shaped platform (kreuzlafette). It consisted of the central part, where the base for the mount was located, along with four outriggers. The front and the rear outriggers were fixed to the central base. The gun barrel travel lock was placed on the front outrigger. The side outriggers could be lowered during firing. These were held in place by pins and small chains which were connected to the gun mount. To provide better stability during firing the gun, the crew could dig in the steel pegs located on each of the side outriggers. This cross-shaped platform, besides holding the mount for the main gun, also served to provide storage for various equipment, like the electrical wiring. Lastly, on the bottom of each outrigger, there were four round-shaped leveling jacks. This helped prevent the gun from digging in into the ground, distributing the weight evenly, and to help keep the gun level on uneven ground.

A close-up view of the dismantled 8.8 cm Flak cross-shaped platform. The two folding side outriggers are missing. The central octagonal base would later be replaced with a much simpler square-shaped one. Source: German 88-mm AntiAircraft Gun Materiel, US War Department Technical Manual
The side outriggers could be lowered during firing. In order to provide better stability during firing the gun, the crew could dig in the steel pegs located on each of the side outriggers. At the bottom of each outrigger were round-shaped leveling jacks. Their purpose was to prevent the gun from digging into the ground and to keep the gun level on uneven ground. Source: German 88-mm AntiAircraft Gun Materiel, US War Department Technical Manual
The side outriggers fully raised during transport. Source:
To prevent damaging the gun during transport, a large travel lock was installed on the front outrigger. Source: German 88-mm AntiAircraft Gun Materiel, US War Department Technical Manual


The whole gun was moved using two-wheeled dollies, designated as Sonderanhanger 201. The front part consisted of a dolly with single wheels, while the rear dolly consisted of a pair of wheels per side on a single axle. Another difference between these two included that the front dolly had 7 and the rear 11 transverse leaf springs. The wheel diameter was the same for the two, at 910 mm. These were also provided with air brakes. While these units were supposed to be removed during firing, the crew would often not remove them, as it was easier to move the gun quickly if needed. This was only possible when engaging targets at low gun elevations. Aerial targets could not be engaged this way, as the recoil would break the axles. The front and rear outriggers would be raised from the ground by using a winch with chains located on the dollies. When raised to a sufficient height, the outriggers would be held in placed by dollies hooks. These are connected with a round pin, located inside of each of the outriggers.

The two trailer units were connected to the front and rear outriggers by using simple hooks, which would quite easily be disengaged. Source: German 88-mm AntiAircraft Gun Materiel, US War Department Technical Manual
The front view of the Sonderanhanger 201 dolly could be easily identified by the use of only two wheels. The chain’s winch would be used to raise the outriggers. Source: German 88-mm AntiAircraft Gun Materiel, US War Department Technical Manual
Firing with both trailer units still connected to the gun as possible, but it raised the height of the gun and prevented it from engaging air targets. Source:

Later, a new improved Sonderanhanger 202 model was introduced (used on the Flak 36 version). On this version, the two towing units were redesigned to be similar to each other. This was done to ease production but also so the gun could be towed in either direction when needed. While, initially, the dolly was equipped with one set of two wheels and the trailer with two pairs, the new model adopted a doubled-wheeled dolly instead.


Initially, the 8.8 cm Flak guns were not provided with an armored shield for crew protection. Given its long-range and its intended role as an anti-aircraft gun, this was not deemed necessary in its early development. Following the successful camping in the West, the Commanding General of the I. Flakkorp requested that all 8.8 cm Flak guns that would be used at the front line receive a protective shield. During 1941, most 8.8 cm Flaks that were used on the frontline were supplied with a 1.75 meter high and 1.95 meters wide frontal armored shield. Two smaller armored panels (7.5 cm wide at top and 56 cm at bottom) were placed on the sides. The frontal plate was 10 mm thick, while the two side plates were 6 mm thick. The recuperator cylinders were also protected with an armored cover. The total weight of the 8.8 cm Flak armored plates was 474 kg. On the right side of the large gun shield, there was a hatch that would be closed during the engagement of ground targets. In this case, the gunner would use telescopic sight through the visor port. During engagement of air targets, this hatch was open.

Most guns were initially not provided with a shield. Given its original purpose, this is not surprising. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts. Dreaded Threat The 8.8 cm FlaK 18/36/47 in the Anti-Tank role
Most guns that were issued for field use would be provided with a large 10 mm thick front armored shield. The wire cover on the top was used for camouflage. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts Dreaded Threat The 8.8 cm FlaK 18/36/47 in the Anti-Tank role
On the left side of the gun shield, there was a hatch that would be used for the gunner to find his aerial targets. Source:


The 88 mm FlaK could use a series of different rounds. The 8.8 cm Sprgr. Patr. was a 9.4 kg heavy high-explosive round with a 30-second time fuze. It could be used for both anti-aircraft and ground attacks. When used in the anti-aircraft role, the time fuze was added. The 8.8 Sprgr. Az. was a high-explosive round that had a contact fuze. In 1944, based on the high-explosive round, the Germans introduced a slightly improved model that tested the idea of using control fragmentation, which was unsuccessful. The 8.8 Sch. Sprgr. Patr. and br. Sch. Gr. Patr. were shrapnel rounds.

The 8.8 cm Pzgr Patr was a 9.5 kg standard anti-tank round. With a velocity of 810 m/s, it could penetrate 95 mm of 30° angled armor at 1 km. At 2 km at the same angle, it could pierce 72 mm of armor. The 8.8 cm Pzgr. Patr. 40 was a tungsten-cored anti-tank round. The 8.8 cm H1 Gr. Patr. 39 Flak was a 7.2 kg heavy hollow charge anti-tank round. At a 1 kg range, it was able to penetrate 165 mm of armor. The 8.8 cm ammunition was usually stored in wooden or metal containers.

The 8.8 cm Flak used large one-piece ammunition. It was stored in either wooden or metal containers. Source:


The 88 mm Flak had a huge crew of 11 men. These included a commander, two gun operators, two fuze setter operators, loader, four ammunition assistants, and the driver of the towing vehicle. Guns that were used on a static mount usually had a smaller crew. The two gun operators were positioned to the right of the gun. Each of them was responsible for operating a hand wheel, one for elevation and one for the traverse. The front operator was responsible for traverse and the one behind him for elevation. The front traverse operator was also responsible for using the weapon gun sight for targeting the enemy. On the left side of the gun were the two fuse operators. The loader with the ammunition assistants were placed behind the gun. A well-experienced crew needed 2 to 2 and a half minutes to prepare the gun for firing. The time to put the gun into the traveling position was 3.5 minutes. The 8.8 cm gun was usually towed by an Sd.Kfz. 7 half-track or a heavy-duty six-wheel truck.

The 8.8 cm guns that were used for supporting ground units had a fairly large crew. Source: Pinterest
Six-wheeled heavy-duty trucks would sometimes be used due to the lack of half-tracks. They did not offer the same driving performance. Source: www.worldwarphotos/
The Sd.Kfz. 7 half-tracks were the primary towing vehicles for this gun. Source:

Designed for the Anti-Tank Role?

Quite interestingly, despite having great anti-tank capabilities when it was introduced to service, the German Army officials did not consider that this gun could be used in this role. The evidence for this can be seen in a German Army document issued during October 1935, where the evaluation of all available and potential anti-tank guns that were in service was presented. While both 2 cm and 3.7 cm anti-aircraft guns were listed to be potentially used in this role, the 8.8 cm Flak was not even mentioned. In all fairness, the Germans, at that time, were quite aware that, given its size and weight, the 8.8 cm Flak did not possess characteristics of an anti-tank gun (except firepower). At the same time, the 3.7 cm PaK 36 anti-tank gun could be easily moved, possessed a low silhouette and could be easily camouflaged. The 8.8 cm Flak, on the other hand, needed a half-track to be moved, was a large target and would be quite difficult to hide from the enemy. The first combat experience with the 8.8 cm Flak would make the German Army officials change their attitude.

There is somewhat of a misconception that the 8.8 cm Flak was used offensively by the Germans. In reality, most 8.8 cm Flak guns produced were used for static defense operations. For example, during the production period of October 1943 to November 1944, around 61% of the 8.8 cm Flak guns produced were intended for static defense. Additionally, of 1,644 batteries that were equipped with this gun, only 225 were fully motorized, with an additional 31 batteries that were only partially motorized (start of September 1944).

The majority of the 8.8 cm Flak guns built would be used in static defense without the cross-shaped platform. These would mostly be destroyed by their crews to prevent their capture when the Allies made their advances into Germany. Source: Facebook group WW2 Colourised Photos

FlaK 36 and 37

While the Flak 18 was deemed a good design, there was room for improvement. The gun itself did not need much improvement. The gun platform, on the other hand, was slightly modified to provide better stability during firing, but also to make it easier to produce. The base of the gun mount was changed from an octagonal to a more simple square shape. The previously mentioned Sonderanhanger 202 was used on this model.
Due to the high rate of fire, anti-aircraft frequently had to receive new barrels, as these were quickly worn out. To facilitate quick replacement, the Germans introduced a new three-part barrel. It consists of a chamber portion, center portion, and lastly a muzzle part. While it made the replacement of worn-out parts easier, it also allowed these components to be built with different metals. Besides that, the overall performance of the Flak 18 and Flak 36 was the same. The Flak 36 was officially adopted on the 8th of February 1939.

As the German introduced the new Flak 41, due to production delays, some of the guns were merged with the mount of a Flak 36. A quite limited production run was made of the 8.8 cm Flak 36/42, which entered service in 1942.

In 1942, a new improved 88 mm Flak model was introduced. This was known as the 8.8 cm Flak 37. Visually, it was the same as the previous Flak 36 model. The difference was that this model was intended to have better anti-aircraft performance, having specially designed directional dials. When used in this manner, the Flak 37 could not be used for an anti-tank role. The last change to this series was the reintroduction of a two-piece barrel design. Besides these improvements, the overall performance was the same as with the previous models. The Flak 36/37 were a bit heavier in firing configuration, at 5,300 kg, with a total weight of 8,200 kg. After March 1943, only the Flak 37 would be produced, completely replacing the older models.

The 8.8 cm Flak 37 introduced specially designed directional dials, which helped the crew better adjust the gun. Source: Norris 8.8 cm FlaK 16/36/37/ 41 and PaK 43 1936-45

In Spain

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Francisco Franco, who was the leader of the Nationalists, sent a plea to Adolf Hitler for German military equipment aid. To make matters worse for Franco, nearly all rebel forces were stationed in Africa. As the Republicans controlled the Spanish navy, Franco could not safely move his troops back to Spain. So he was forced to seek foreign aid. Hitler was keen on helping Franco, seeing Spain as a potential ally, and agreed to provide assistance. At the end of July 1936, 6 He 51 and 20 Ju 57 aircraft were transported to Spain under secrecy. These would serve as the basis for the air force of the so-called German Condor Legion which operated in Spain during this war. The German ground forces operating in Spain were supplied with a number of 8.8 cm guns. These arrived in early November 1936 and were used to form the F/88 anti-aircraft Battalion. This unit consisted of four heavy and two light batteries. The first-ever recorded usage of the 8.8 cm guns against enemy armor occurred on 11th May 1937, when two enemy T-26s were engaged near Toledo. After that, the 8.8 cm Flak guns were used extensively against ground targets. The 8.8 cm were used defensively against ground targets in the area of Brugo de Osma, Almazan, and Zaragoza. In March 1938, the 8.8 cm guns from the 6th battery dueled with an enemy 76.2 cm anti-aircraft gun which was manned by French volunteers from the International Brigades.

The performance of the 8.8 cm gun during the war in Spain was deemed satisfying. It was excellent in ground operations, possessing good range and firepower. Some German officers, like General Ludwig Ritter von Eimannsberger, advocated for its use in the anti-tank role. Ludwig was an early German proponent of the idea of the future use of tanks in modern warfare who closely worked with Guderian and even urged him to publish his famous Ahtung Panzers books.

An 8.8 cm Flak gun in Spain. Source:

The Flak in the ground attack role

Based on the combat experience in the Spanish Civil War, in 1938, Heereswaffenamt (by direct order from Adolf Hitler) requested that the 8.8 cm Flak 18 be adopted for use against ground targets. No major changes to the gun itself were needed, besides adding gun sights for direct firing. The major issue with the 8.8 cm Flak 18, which somewhat limited it against ground targets, was its lack of mobility. Two proposals were given, either placing the gun on a half-track chassis or using an armored half-track as a towing vehicle. In the first case, this would lead to the creation of a small production series of the 8.8 cm Flak 18 Sfl. auf schwere Zugkraftwagen 12 t (Sd.Kfz.8) als Fahrgestell, of which some 10 vehicles would be built.

Some 10 8.8 cm Flak 18 Sfl. auf schwere Zugkraftwagen 12 t (Sd.Kfz.8) als Fahrgestell would be built. While having a number of issues with their overall design, these vehicles would prove to be effective anti-tank weapons during the war. Source:

The later version consisted of a modified Sd.Kfz.7 which was provided with angled armor plates for crew protection. The towed 8.8 cm Flak 18 gun was provided with a large angled shield. These were known as Gepanzerter 8t Zugkraftwagen and Sfl.Flak, is sometimes referred to as Bunkerknacker (English: bunker destroyer).

In both cases, the elevation range was changed from -4° to +15° and thus these could not be used for targeting enemy aircraft. Due to the limited elevation, the upper part of the shield was fully closed. As these guns could not be used in their original role, the left fuse setting device was replaced with a box-shaped ammunition bin that contained 6 rounds of ammunition. Other changes included using shortened folding outriggers, adding a platform for the loader, and removing the elevator operator position. Between 25 to 50 such modifications were made.

These units were to be primarily used in destroying enemy fortified positions, like bunkers for example. at ranges of around 1 km. Since the target hit rate was expected to be around 30%, shooting at greater ranges than that would be avoided. If enemy tanks came into range, these were also to be targeted. For this reason, both high-explosive and anti-tank rounds were issued to these units equipped with the modified 8.8 cm Flak guns. In the case of the towed version, these were attached to 525th, 560th, and 605th schwere Panzer Jäger Abteilung (heavy anti-tank battalions).

Heavily modified Sd.Kfz 7 half-track used to tow the specialized 8.8 cm Flak guns designated for the destruction of enemy bunkers and tanks. Source:
The modified 8.8 cm Flak guns received a new folding outrigger. Due to its increased height, it was necessary to add a loading platform visible here. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No. Dreaded Threat The 8.8 cm FlaK 18/36/47 in the Anti-Tank role
Another change to these guns was the installation of a large angled shield. In addition, on the left slide, an ammunition storage bin replaced the fuse setting device. Source:

Occupation of the Sudetenland

Initially, operating and crew training were carried out by the Reichswehr (English: German Ground Army). They were organized into so-called Fahrabteilung (English: Training Battalion) to hide their intended role. By 1935, the German Army went into a huge reorganization, one aspect of which was changing its name to the Wehrmacht. In regard to the anti-aircraft protection, it was now solely the responsibility of the Luftwaffe. For this reason, almost all available 8.8 cm guns were reallocated to Luftwaffe control. Only around 8 Battalions were left under direct Army control. In the years prior to the war, the 8.8 cm Flak guns were often used on military parades.

The first ‘combat’ use of the 8.8 cm Flak in German use was during the occupation of the Sudetenland in 1938. This operation was peaceful and the 8.8 cm gun did not have to fire in anger. The Gepanzerter 8t Zugkraftwagen and Sfl.Flak were also used for the first time.

The Gepanzerter 8t Zugkraftwagen and Sfl.Flak in the occupied Sudetenland. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No. 22-5 Gepanzerter 8t Zugkraftwagen and Sfl.Flak

Polish Campaign

The Polish campaign saw little use of the 8.8 cm guns. The main reason for this was that the Polish Air Force was mostly destroyed in the first few days of combat. The Polish armor was generally rare and poorly armored and the small 3.7 cm anti-tank guns could easily deal with these targets. Despite this, the 8.8 cm did get its chance to fire in wrath. In one example, the 8.8 cm guns from the 22nd Flak Regiment tried to prevent a Polish counter-attack at Ilza. The battery would be overrun while the crews tried to defend themselves, losing three guns in the process. The 8.8 cm Flak gun also saw service during the battles for Warsaw and Kutno.

While there is no record that the Gepanzerter 8t Zugkraftwagen and Sfl.Flak were used, its cousin, the 8.8 cm Flak 18 Sfl. auf schwere Zugkraftwagen 12 t, was used with great success due to its mobility.

In the West

When the war with the Western Allies began on the 10th May 1940, the Germans had at their disposal the towed 3.7 cm caliber anti-tank gun, while the most modern tanks (Panzer III and IV) were equipped with the 3.7 cm and a short 7.5 cm gun. The Germans were fully aware that the majority of French tanks were protected with armor thicknesses of around 40 mm. These could be pierced, with some difficulty, by both the 3.7 and 7.5 cm guns. What the German Army intelligence failed to find out was the existence of the large and well-protected Char B1 tank. With its 60 mm armor, it was almost immune to most available German anti-tank weapons. However, this tank was no match to the 8.8 cm, which had no problem in piercing its armor.

For this campaign, the German Army and Luftwaffe units had at their disposal several hundred 8.8 cm Flak guns, including towed and mobile guns modified for ground attack. Luftwaffe anti-aircraft (Flak) regiments were equipped with one battalion of 12 8.8 cm Flak divided into three heavy batteries. Despite these large numbers, the usage of the 8.8 cm Flak against enemy armor was quite rare during the whole camping. On one such occasion, on 17th May, a battery from the 38th Flak Regiment, while holding defensive positions near Montcornet, managed to destroy a few French tanks. The following day, when the enemy tanks were examined, it was reported that one 18-ton tank was frontally pierced. Two destroyed 32-ton tanks (this was the German field description for the Char B1) were also reported. The first, which received a hit in the rear hull, incurred damage to the engine which led to an internal explosion. The second B1 was hit in the rear-drive sprocket and in the turret. Due to an internal ammunition explosion, none of its crew survived. Another 18-ton tank, while engaged by the 8.8 cm Flak, was undamaged but the crew, probably seeing the destruction of the other tanks, abandoned their vehicle. Interestingly, the French tanks were engaged from a range of over 2.5 km. The Flak unit supporting Guderian’s XIX Armee Korps managed to destroy only 13 tanks together with 10 bunkers, 13 machine-gun nests, and 208 aircraft.

The 8.8 cm Flak next to a destroyed B1 Bis. This tank was mostly immune to German anti-tank weapons, except for artillery and 8.8 cm gunfire. Source: 8.8 cm Flak18/36/37 Vol.1

On 20th May, General Goring’s Flak Regiment managed to ambush the French 29th Dragoon and 39th Tank Battalions, inflicting heavy losses. Two days later, Panzer Lehr Division’s Flak Regiment managed to take out of action seven French B1 bis tanks. At the end of May, similar success was achieved by the 64th Flak Regiment, whose guns took out a few B1 Bis tanks from the 4th Armored Division.

Despite their effectiveness, the 8.8 cm Flak guns were easy targets for enemy return fire due to their huge size and lack of protection (initially, not all were issued with a defensive shield). Its towing Sd. Kfz. 7 was a soft-skin vehicle and it too was vulnerable to most small-caliber rounds. Source; 8.8 cm Flak18/36/37 Vol.1 Wydawnictwo Militaria 155

One engagement involving General Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division cemented the 8.8 cm Flak gun’s fame. This engagement occurred on 21st May near Arras. The Allies, now close to being trapped in the Low Countries, were trying to stop the German Panzer Division. The German formations, forcing a rapid advance, left their flanks exposed to a potential Allied counter-attack. Seeing an opportunity, the Allies launched their own attack, spearheaded by the British 1st Tank Brigade, which had some 86 tanks (58 Matilda Mk. Is, 16 Mk. II Matildas and 12 light tanks). The British divided their forces into two attacking columns, with 38 tanks supporting the 8th Durham Light Infantry and the remaining 48 supporting the 7th Durham Light Infantry. These two columns were slightly less than 5 km apart from each other. Further support was to be provided by the French 3eme DLM, which had some 60 tanks.

Opposite them were Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division, supported by elements from the SS Totenkopf Division and 5th Panzer Division. The Allied attack was initially successful, taking many German prisoners. The British tanks proved immune to fire from the German 3.7 cm PaK. The German forces were struck with panic, seeing their guns being ineffective against the enemy armor. The disaster was avoided as Rommel gathered all available artillery he could muster, including some 8.8 cm Flak guns. With the combined German firepower, the British attack was stopped and they were then forced to retreat. Their tanks would then be subject to extensive bombing raids, losing many tanks in the process. During the engagement, the German lost at least one 8.8 cm Flak gun, but managed to destroy four Matilda tanks.

This Matilda’s armor was penetrated by 8.8 cm rounds. At the battle of Arras, four such tanks fell victim to the 8.8 cm Flak. Source: 8.8 cm Flak18/36/37 Vol.1

At the end of the campaign, the 8.8 cm Flak guns would see action against the last defenses of the Maginot line. They were extensively used in this manner during fighting between 15th and 16th June. Given the unsuccessful performance of the 525th, 560th, and 605th heavy anti-tank battalions, after the Western campaign, they were equipped with towed 3.7 cm PaK 36 guns. The fate of modified 8.8 cm guns is not clear, but they were probably returned to their original configuration after this campaign.

At the end of the conquest of France, the 8.8 cm Flak guns were used against Maginot line bunkers. Source: W. Muller, The 8.8 cm FLAK In The First and Second World Wars

In Africa

The African theater of war is probably the best known 8.8 cm Flak hunting ground during the war. The Germans were initially not interested in the developments in Africa. After the failed Italian attempt to conquer Egypt during 1940, they had to help their southern Ally. In February, the Deutsches Afrikakorps DAK (English: Afrika Korps), under the command of General Erwin Rommel, reached Africa. The main firepower of the DAK Panzer units was the Panzer III, armed with short 5 cm guns, with a smaller number of the Panzer IVs. Along with them, a contingent of the Flak Regiment was also dispatched, armed with the 8.8 cm Flak guns. While the German units in Africa were equipped with towed anti-tank guns (3.7 and 5 cm caliber) and even self-propelled vehicles armed with 4.7 cm guns, their numbers were insufficient to provide full protection against enemy armor. To bolster their firepower, the 8.8 cm guns were often used as a mobile force intended to provide fire support for the advancing Panzer units. At that time, the Luftwaffe had temporary air supremacy and thus these guns could be allocated for other roles.

An 8.8 cm Flak is being unloaded from a transport ship in North Africa. Source: 8.8 cm Flak18/36/37

During Operation Battleaxe, which began on 15th June 1941, the German 8.8 cm guns managed to inflict huge British casualties, including 90 destroyed tanks. On another occasion, the 3rd Battery from the 33rd Flak Regiment supported the 8th Panzer Regiment, during the period from 19th November to 15th December 1941. One of the first engagements took place on 21st November while attacking the British defense line near Bir Nbeidad. The engagement was successful, with the 8.8 cm guns managing to take out 4 Mk.IV Cruiser tanks using 35 anti-tank rounds. The following day, six more Mk.IV Cruisers were destroyed. On 23rd November, two 8.8 cm Flak guns were used to support the advance of the German armor near El Adem. The enemy forces were repelled with the loss of four tanks and some 20 trucks. Later that same day, German Panzer Units and Italian armor formations were on the offensive, and the 8.8 cm Flak battery was left behind. It was constantly attacked by isolated British infantry defense groups.

As the German tank units advanced faster than their Italian counterparts, a gap between these two appeared, which the British tried to exploit. Their tank attack would be stopped by the firepower of the 8.8 cm guns, while the infantry was turned back with the support of the smaller 2 cm guns. The British lost five tanks, 20 trucks, and some artillery batteries in the process. The German battery lost only two dead soldiers and two wounded during this whole period.

The 8.8 cm Flak gun achieved the greatest success in North Africa. The crew of this gun have over a dozen or so victory markings painted on the gun barrel. Source:

On 25th November, the German units unexpectedly bumped into British tanks and infantry which were setting up a defense line near Sidi Omar. The British tanks came under heavy fire from the 8.8 cm guns, losing 16 Mk. II Matildas and one Mk. IV Cruiser tank in the process. The following day, one 8.8 cm gun was damaged and had to be returned to the rear area for repair. On the morning of the 27th of November, the Flak battery was under heavy machine-gun fire, effectively preventing it from deploying properly. Once the enemy was suppressed with 2 cm ground fire, the 88 mm Flak guns were put into position. In the following engagement, two unspecified self-propelled anti-tank guns were taken out. Later that same day, the battery was called upon to help the encircled Panzers near Gambut. Thanks to the AA guns’ firepower, the British failed to gain the advantage and were forced to retreat. They lost 8 Mk. IV Cruisers and two Mk. II Matilda tanks in the process.

On 28th November, two 8.8 cm guns were temporarily out of action due to damage suffered from British artillery. The next day, the Germans, due to heavy British resistance, failed to penetrate the line at El Duda and El Adem. One 8.8 cm gun attacked the British tanks at ranges over 3 km, but due to the extreme range, no direct hits were spotted. The start of December was also quite successful for this Flak battery, managing to take out four enemy tanks and self-propelled anti-tank guns, including an artillery unit stationed at Belhamed. In the next few days, enemy tanks were engaged at long range, but no could not be confirmed due to poor visibility. The first 8.8 cm gun was lost on the 6th of December, being directly hit by an enemy artillery round. From 13th to 15th December, at least five more British tanks were destroyed. In less than a month (from 19th November to 15th December 1941), a few 8.8 cm Flak guns (supported by 2 cm Flak guns) from this unit claimed to have destroyed 54 tanks, 6 self-propelled vehicles, 2 armored cars, at least 3 artillery batteries, 4 anti-tank guns and around 120 trucks. The German crews used around 613 armor-piercing rounds. This means that, on average, some 11 rounds were needed to destroy an enemy tank.

Another Flak unit that was active during the fighting at Gazala was the 3rd Battery of the 43rd Flak Regiment. When it arrived in Africa in early 1942, it had in its inventory six 8.8 cm guns. These participated in defensive actions near Bit el Hamrad, supporting the 15th Panzer Division on 27th May 1942. In an engagement that started late that day, some 9 enemy tanks were destroyed after firing some 109 armor-piercing rounds. The following morning, while changing positions to support the Italian Ariete division, two 8.8 cm guns were ambushed by three British armored cars. After a brief engagement, the British fell back, losing one armored car in the process. Later the same day, after holding a defensive position supported by 5 cm PaK 38s, the British attacked with a force consisting of up to 20 tanks. After an intensive skirmish, the British lost 13 tanks. After handling captured tank crews, the British explain that they mistook the 8.8 cm gun for the weaker 5 cm PaK 38. Early morning on 29th May, the unit was stationed around Bir el Hamrad. It managed to take out 5 British tanks, with one 8.8 cm gun being heavily damaged. Interestingly, during that day, the 8.8 cm guns fired 117 anti-tank rounds.

The German crews in North Africa were quite experienced and became experts in properly deploying for fighting enemy tanks. Source: J. Norris 8.8 cm FlaK 16/36/37/ 41 and PaK 43 1936-45

During 1942, the German forces came into contact with the new M3 American tank, which was armed with a hull positioned 75 mm gun and a 37 mm gun located in the turret. These tanks were wrongly named ‘Pilot’ by the Germans. A report from the 8th Panzer Regiment made after the capture of Tobruk in June 1942 clearly indicated that the Pilot (M3 tanks which were used by the British) had to be engaged at ranges of nearly 3 km. The reason for this was that the tank’s 75 mm gun had sufficient firepower (using a high-explosive shell) to take-out an 8.8 cm gun.

One of the last actions of the 8.8 cm Flak guns in Africa was recorded by the 2nd Battery of Flak Regiment Herman Goering. This unit had only two 8.8 cm Flak 36 and one 2 cm Gebirgsflak (a modified Flak with reduced weight, meant to be used by mounting troops). This unit was defending its position in Tunis when it was attacked by a large Allied tank contingent on 23rd April 1943. During the first engagements, the 8.8 cm guns managed to take out two tanks, with one more being immobilized, at a range of 500 meters. One 8.8 cm was hit and completely destroyed. The second 8.8 cm gun continued to resist the enemy, managing to destroy two more tanks with two additional being immobilized before being taken out by the enemy fire.

The open plains of North Africa offered an excellent killing ground for the 8.8 cm guns. The lack of any cover and the 88 mm gun’s huge size were disadvantages. These were overcome by highly trained gun crews, who would quickly dig a 3 by 6 meters trench which was further protected with sandbags. When this was achieved, only the top part of the gun would be exposed. Of course, due to frequent redeployment, this was not always possible. Often, the gun had to be simply deployed in the open.

A well-protected 8.8 cm Flak position. Despite its large size, the British had great difficulty taking out these guns. Source:

The Balkan Campaign of 1941

When the Kingdom of Yugoslavia rejected the offer to join the Axis, Adolf  Hilter ordered a military operation with the aim of conquering it. The war began on 6th April 1941 and the Yugoslavian Army capitulated on 17th April. After that, the Germans proceeded to conquer Greece, helping their bogged-down Italian Ally. The 8.8 cm guns were also used on this front in a limited manner. What is interesting is that, by this point, even SS units were being equipped with these guns. The first unit to be formed was the 6th Batterie of the SS Artillery Regiment Leibsandarte SS Adolf Hitler in August 1940.

In the Soviet Union

When the Germans attacked the Soviet Union, the number of Panzer IIIs (now armed with the 5 cm L/42 guns) and Panzer IV was increased. The crews of these tanks would soon find out that the Soviets possessed tanks (T-34, KV-1 and KV-2) that were better protected and armed than their own vehicles. The short 5 cm and 7.5 cm guns could do little against the heavy armor of the more modern Soviet tanks. Luckily for the Germans, their speed, coordination, training and experience helped overcome these new threats. The Soviet tank crews lacked proper training and experience and they were often poorly employed. A lack of spare parts, fuel, and supply vehicles greatly affected their combat performance.

With the end of the Western Campaign, the German Army began forming Heeres Flakartillerie Abteilung Mot. (English: Army Anti-aircraft Battalions) equipped with 8.8 cm Flak guns. They were divided into three heavy batteries and two light batteries. These were under the direct control of the German Army. Some 10 such units were formed by the time of the Soviet Invasion. Four would be allocated to Army Group Center and South each, while the remaining two would be attached to Army Group North.
Given the almost destruction of the Soviet Air Force in the first months of the war, the Flak units were frequently used in engaging ground targets. The large 8.8 cm Flak, in particular, proved deadly to most targets engaged.

A 8.8 cm Flak on the Eastern front. Source: J. Norris 8.8 cm FlaK 16/36/37/ 41 and PaK 43 1936-45

On 26th June 1941, a Flak battery from the General Goering Regiment was taking defensive positions around the city of Dobno, which was previously occupied by German Panzer Forces. At the end of the day, the Soviets launched a counterattack supported by what was described as a heavy 64-tonne tank armed with a 15 cm gun (likely a KV-2 heavy tank) and three smaller tanks. As it was getting dark, the crew of the 8.8 cm Flak waited until the large heavy tank was close to their position before opening fire. The Soviets quickly lost two tanks, while the remaining two retreated. In the early morning the following day, the Soviets attacked anew. The first tank engaged was likely a KV-2, which tried to destroy the 8.8 cm Flak emplacement. The tank was first immobilized and then was hit with several more rounds on the turret. Its crew bailed out but were cut down by German infantry fire. A T-34 was hit next and was immediately destroyed with one round only. The third tank was hit and its ammunition exploded. The fourth tank was rushing toward the town, it was hit a few times but the 8.8 cm failed to penetrate its armor. It was eventually immobilized and, as the crew was abandoning it, it was hit and destroyed. During this time, the Soviets attacked from a second direction, attempting to flank the German lines. A 52-tonne tank that was advancing with this new attack was hit and its ammunition detonated, destroying the tank in the process. To further strengthen their defensive line, the Germans brought another 88 mm Flak gun. More tanks began to attack their positions. In the following engagement, two more tanks were destroyed. By 6 am, around 8 Soviet tanks were destroyed, with two additional mortar positions engaged with high-explosive rounds. The same day, the Soviets attack again, this time with mass infantry supported by aircraft. The German defensive positions were reinforced with infantry units which helped repel the Soviet attack.

During August 1941, the 8.8 cm guns managed to sink a Soviet gunboat near Kherson. At the start of September 1941, the 2nd battery from the 701st Flak regiment was instructed to move their 88 mm Flak guns in the hope of stopping a huge Soviet tank counter-attack against the positions of the 14th Motorized Infantry Division, which was defending the Chatyni-Cholm-Kockonowa-Ossipowa defensive line. Once it reached the front line, the 2nd battery was instructed to move toward Cholm and support the defending 11th Infantry Regiment. Due to heavy rain and being equipped only with Henschel trucks, movement of the heavy 8.8 cm guns was slowed down. On 2nd September, elements from the 2nd battery took up a defensive position near Cholm.

The same day, the German infantry launched an attack against the Soviets supported by the covering power from 2 cm and 8.8 cm Flak guns. The Soviets attacked the German positions supported by six tanks. The Flak guns opened fire at ranges between 1.5 and 1.8 km, scoring several hits on the enemy tanks. While one tank was immobilized, the remaining tanks retreated to their original positions. At this range, the 8.8 cm rounds failed to penetrate the enemy armor. During the morning of 3rd September, a lone 52-tonne tank attacked the German line. After being hit several times at ranges of 1.5 km, its crew decided to pull back. At 6 am, a group of 50 to 70 Soviet infantrymen attacked but were pushed back using 2 cm and 8.8 cm high-explosive rounds. By 6 pm, the 2nd battery gun had destroyed 8 Soviet tanks. Interestingly, one 35-tonne tank was set on fire while being hit by 2 cm Flak gunfire at a distance of 150 meters. The Soviets managed to tow the lost tank back during the evening of the same day. On 4th September, two more tanks were destroyed at ranges of over 2 km. One more tank was destroyed at a range of 1.7 km, when it was set on fire. By the time this unit was pulled back, it had suffered only one killed, with several more being wounded. Four vehicles, including a command vehicle, were lost. A 2 cm Flak gun had its recoil arm broken, and one 8.8 cm Flak carriage was damaged. The few 2 cm and 8.8 cm guns used managed to destroy 4 52-tonne and 8 35-tonne tanks with one more damaged, along with one artillery piece, and two machine-gun nests. This was achieved by firing nearly 120 armor-piercing rounds, which meant, on average, 10 rounds per tank.

The 8.8 cm gun was sometimes the only German weapon that could effectively take out the well-protected KV-series of tanks. Source: Pinterest

As it was one of few weapons that could defeat the heavy Soviet tanks, the 8.8 cm Flak was permanently allocated to SS Panzer Divisions and some ordinary Panzer Divisions during late 1941. They noted that the 8.8 cm should not be positioned at the main frontline, as it could be easily taken out by enemy return fire due to its large size. Their usage as anti-tank weapons was best when employed in well-selected and camouflaged positions where enemy breakthrough was expected.

The 8.8 cm gun, while an effective tank weapon, was not without flaws, as can be seen in the report of the 11th Panzer Division made in September 1942, after fighting around Voronezh and Solnechnyy. By 1943, in order to combat the ever-increasing Allied Air supremacy, most Panzer Division received an increased number of anti-aircraft guns. This also included a number of 8.8 cm guns.

During the last major German offensive operation around Kursk in 1943, nearly 1,000 Flak guns (including 72 8.8 cm Flak guns) were allocated to the XI Corps due to the lack of artillery support. An additional 100 8.8 cm Flak guns were allocated to the 9th Army. These guns saw extensive use during the Kursk operation, in their original role, as artillery or anti-tank weapons. Often, they would be employed to protect German infantry from any Soviet counterattack. They proved vital in defending an important rail line in the area of Belgorod-Kharkov in late July 1943. In the battle for Krakow, they participated in the successful defensive of German lines and contributed (together with other tanks and tank hunters) to the destruction of nearly 350 Soviet tanks in late August 1943.

In 1944, during the fighting around Kirovograd, the Grossdeutschland Division came under heavy Soviet attack. The Germans had three 8.8 cm Flak gun batteries available. On 2nd May, the Soviets attacked with a large formation of tanks. They ran into well-fortified positions of the 8.8 cm gun and, after an engagement, some 25 Soviet tanks were taken out.

On Other Fronts

The 8.8 cm Flak was not that common in other theaters, like Italy and France. Most 8.8 cm guns were instead allocated to Germany in a desperate fight against the Allied bombing raids. By this time, the Germans employed other anti-tank guns that were also quite effective in countering enemy armor. During the Allied liberation of France, the most used towed German anti-tank weapon on this front was the standard 7.5 cm PaK 40. The Allied troops would often mistakenly attribute their tank losses to the 8.8 cm when they were taken out by 7.5 cm guns.

Nevertheless, the 8.8 cm guns still saw frontline service in the last years of the war. They saw extensive action during the fighting for Hungary at the end of 1944. For example, on 20th December 1944, a German defense group near Demend had 14 heavy Flak guns. The Soviets stormed this position with 35 tanks, forcing the Germans to retreat, losing two 88 guns in the process. The Soviets lost two tanks during this skirmish. The 12th SS Panzer Division, which was resent to Hungary at the start of 1945, had 18 8.8 cm Flak anti-aircraft guns in its inventory.

In the occupied Balkans, the 8.8 cm Flak was a rare sight up to late 1943 and early 1944. The ever-increasing Allied bombing raids forced the Germans to reinforce their positions with a number of anti-aircraft guns, including the 8.8 cm Flak. These were also used in the ground attack role. A German crew of a lone 8.8 cm Flak gun achieved great success when they managed to ambush a column of Bulgarian tanks near the Serbian city of Pirot in mid-September 1944. At that time, the Bulgarians had switched sides and joined the Soviet Union. Their initial operation was aimed at attacking the German forces in Serbia. The Bulgarian Armored Brigade, which was equipped with Panzer IV, Panzer 35(t) and 38(t) tanks (ironically, these were German vehicles given to the Bulgarians as military aid), was moving out of Pirot to engage German positions near Bela Palanka on the 17th of September. While on the road, they came under fire from a lone 8.8 cm Flak gun. First, it destroyed the leading tank, followed shortly by the last one. The remaining tanks were, at this point, sitting ducks, unable to do anything (mostly due to panic and inexperience of the Bulgarian crews) before all being destroyed. By the end of the short engagement, all 10 tanks (the majority being Panzer IVs) and 41 crewmen were lost. This action alone caused the Bulgarians to pull back their remaining tanks from Serbia.

Some 40 8.8 cm Flak guns were used to protect the German-held Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia. Most would be lost after a successful liberation operation conducted by the Red Army supported by Yugoslav Partisans. The 8.8 cm Flak guns were also used in static emplacements defending the Adriatic coast at several key locations from 1943 on. One of the last such batteries to surrender to the Yugoslav Partisans was the one stationed in Pula, which had 12 8.8 cm guns. It continued to resist the Partisans up to 8th May 1945.

Some of the 8.8 cm guns were destroyed or abandoned. Source: A. Radić Arsenal 51

The last action of the 8.8 cm Flak guns was during the defense of the German capital of Berlin. Due to most being placed in fixed positions, they could not be evacuated and most would be destroyed by their own crews to prevent capture. Despite the losses suffered during the war, in February 1945, there were still some 8769 8.8 cm Flak guns available for service.

Usage after the war

With the defeat of Germany during the Second World War, the 8.8 cm Flak guns found usage in a number of other armies. Some of these were Spain, Portugal, Albania, and Yugoslavia. By the end of the 1950s, the Yugoslavian People’s Army had slightly less than 170 8.8 cm guns in its inventory. These were, besides their original anti-aircraft role, used to arm navy ships and were later placed around the Adriatic coast. A number of these guns would be captured and used by various warring parties during the Yugoslav civil wars of the 1990s. Interestingly, the Serbian forces removed the 8.8 cm barrel on two guns and replaced them with two pairs of 262 mm Orkan rocket launcher tubes. The last four operational examples were finally removed from service from the Serbian and Montenegrin Army in 2004.

The 8.8 cm Flak in the Yugoslavian People’s Army service, during military training near the capital in 1955. Source: A. Radić Arsenal 51
The 8.8 cm Flak would end their career as coastal defense guns in the JNA. Source Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija Facebook group
Two 8.8 cm Flak guns were reused by replacing the gun with two 262mm rocket launchers. While not a success, these two remained in use up to 1998. Source:

Tank armament

Derivatives of the 8.8 cm Flak would be used as the main armaments of the Tiger tanks. With a combination of strong armor and excellent firepower, these tank became feared by those that had to oppose them.

The Tiger tanks were armed with a modified version of the 8.8 cm Flak gun. Source:


The 8.8 cm Flak was an extraordinary weapon that provided the German Army with much-needed firepower during the early stages of the war. The design as a whole was nothing special, but it had the great benefit that it could be built relatively cheaply and in great numbers. That was probably its greatest success, being available in huge numbers compared to similar weapons of other nations. Its anti-tank performance means it is often regarded as a superweapon in modern culture. Its 8.8 cm AP shell could penetrate some 100 mm of armor at ranges of 1 km. For most early enemy tanks, this was more than enough to completely destroy them. But, as shown on several occasions, on average, around 10 rounds were often needed to destroy an enemy tank. This did not mean that it was ineffective, but simply presented a real combat reality, where many factors had to be taken into account (quality of the ammunition, range, wind, distance, and sometimes even simple luck). While its firepower was excellent for its time, the 8.8 cm was simply a huge target for the enemy. The front armored shield added on many guns provided only limited protection against small arms fire. Its frontline use was limited to well-selected combat positions, where any potential enemy attack could be contested. Lastly, it must not be forgotten that it was designed as an anti-aircraft gun and thus not completely suited for the anti-tank role.

8.8 cm Flak in towed position Illustration made by David B.
8.8 cm Flak in deployed position without the shield. Iilustration made by David B.

Technical specification

Name 8.8 cm Flak 18
Crew: 11 (Commander, two gun operators, two fuze setter operators, loader, four ammunition assistants, and the driver)
Weight in firing position 5,150 kg
Total weight 7,450 kg
Dimensions in towing position Length 7.7 m, Width 2.2 m, Height 2.4 m
Dimensions in deployed position Length 5.8 m, Height 2.14 m
Primary Armament 8.8 cm L/56 gun
Elevation -3° to +85°


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Sticky and Magnetic Anti-Tank Weapons

Infantry taking on tanks is a real challenge. Infantrymen are, after all, mainly equipped with weapons primarily intended for killing enemy infantry. Anti-tank guns are large, cumbersome, and heavy and so, right from the first days of the tank in WWI, the goal has been to produce a man-portable anti-tank weapon. One of the first, the Mauser Panzergewehr M1918 was little more than a scaled-up rifle designed to defeat relatively modest armor. More anti-tank rifles followed in the decades afterward up to the first years of WW2, but they all suffered from the same drawbacks. The rifles were so large and heavy they would take at least one (often two) men to carry without being able to carry the usual accouterments of infantry work. On top of this, the performance was relatively modest. Only thinly armored vehicles were vulnerable and anything with armor about 30 mm thick was relatively impervious to them.

Smaller devices, the sort of device which could be issued to a standard soldier making him capable of knocking out a standard enemy tank were, and still are, the gold standard for infantry anti-tank weapons. Grenades, small explosive devices, were useful but were primarily to spray fragments over an area to target infantry. Their effect was relatively limited against armored vehicles unless you could get the explosives in direct contact with the tank and one way to do this was to make the explosive ‘stick’ to the vehicle. Tanks, being made of steel, lent themselves to an obvious thought, why not make the explosive charge magnetic?

Here, there are two distinguishing elements: throwing and placing. Grenades, as throwing weapons, are advantageous for the soldier as they permit the user to maintain a distance from the target. The smaller and lighter (to a point) the grenade, the further it can be thrown. This also means that the features of an effective grenade against armor are also challenged. The size of the charge used is inherently going to be small with larger charges being harder to throw and therefore of shorter range. The next is accuracy, the further an item being thrown, the lesser the chance of hitting the target. Of course, a smaller grenade is also easier to carry and deploy.

A charge, on the other hand, such as an attachable mine, has to be placed on the target. This allows for the significant advantage of a large charge, shaped if possible to optimize anti-armor performance, but which would not lend itself to being thrown. A further advantage of the placed charge is also the obvious one, it guarantees a ‘hit’ because it does not have to be thrown and risk hitting and bouncing off the target. The disadvantages are equally obvious; the man has to expose himself to enemy fire to place the charge, has to be uncomfortably close to the enemy tank, and they are also larger and heavier than a grenade to contain enough explosives to do effective damage, meaning fewer of them can be carried.

All of the various attempts to develop either a hand-placed charge or thrown charge suffered from these problems and none adequately managed to overcome them.


Such a relatively simple idea, though, was far easier to imagine than it was to turn into a functional weapon. Some experience in the area could be drawn from naval warfare. There, a magnetically attached charge had been developed by the British as a means of sabotaging enemy ships: the Limpet mine. A relatively small explosive device, adhering to the steel of a ship’s hull could burst a seam or plate and cause enough damage to put it out of action until it was patched. The power of the charge was magnified if it was placed below the waterline, as the pressure of the water helped to magnify the explosive power of the charge and, obviously, a hole above the waterline was less useful at crippling a ship.


For the British, the work on the underwater anti-ship charges found its way both in style and name to a land weapon. The ‘Clam’, as it was called, originally came with a light steel body (Mk.I), later replaced with a Bakelite (plastic) body (Mk.II) with four small iron magnets, one in each corner. Resembling a large bar of chocolate, this charge contained a modest charge of just 227 grams of explosive. This charge was a 50:50 mix of Cyclonite and T.N.T. or 55% T.N.T. with 45% Tetryl. Although the device was magnetic, the charge was not shaped nor specifically designed for breaching armor plate. The utility of the mine was for sabotage. Enemy infrastructure, vehicles, railway lines, and storage tanks made excellent targets for this mine. The ‘Clam’ was able to breach just 25 mm of armor, offering little compared to far simpler anti-tank weapons such as the No.82 ‘Gammon’ bomb or No.73 Grenade, aka the ‘Thermos Bomb’. Both of these were weapons that could be thrown from a safe distance, exploded on impact, and were far simpler to make.

The British No. 82 and No. 73 Anti-Tank Grenades. British Explosive Ordnance, 1946

The ‘Clam’, therefore, found a role in sabotage, where it was very effective. Large quantities were produced in Britain and shipped to the Soviet Union for exactly that purpose.

The British ‘Clam’ and Limpet Magnetic charges. The circular Limpet (Mk.III) used a ring of magnets in a flexible fitting allowing for fitting to a contoured surface and capable of breaching 60 mm of steel plate. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The most famous, or infamous, Anti-Tank Grenade is probably the British ‘sticky bomb’. Although not magnetic, the ‘sticky bomb’, officially known as the ‘No.74 S.T. Mk.1 HE’, was constructed from a glass sphere containing 567 grams of nitro-glycerine and covered with a stockinette fabric to which an adhesive was applied. Once the protective steel shells around the grenade had been removed, it could be thrown at an enemy tank. When the bulbous glass ball at the end struck the tank, it would break causing the nitro-glycerine inside to ‘cow-pat’ on the armor and remain stuck there by the glued stockinet until it was detonated. The weapon was not a success, but was also made in large numbers and saw service in North Africa and Italy against German and Italian forces.

The No.74 S.T. Mk.1 HE ‘Sticky Bomb’. Source: British Explosive Ordnance, 1946

Video of a British No.74 Grenade being demonstrated rather badly by American forces in Italy 1944. The thrower did not manage to break the glass bulb, resulting in it falling off before it exploded.

German Weapons

Probably, the most famous magnetic anti-tank device was the German Hafthohlladung (handheld hollow charge). These came in different sizes, although the most common weighed in at 3 kg. This Hafthohlladung mine used three large magnetic feet to adhere to the armor of a vehicle. Each permanent horseshoe-shaped magnetic foot, made from Alnico-type alloy (VDR.546) had an adhesion strength of 6.8 kg-equivalent, meaning over 20 kg of force-equivalent would have to be used to remove a well-adhered mine and also that only a single foot was needed to ‘stick’ the mine to a steel surface. The 3 kg Hafthohlladung contained a simple 1.5 kg shaped charge consisting of PETN/Wax.

A still from a German wartime training film showing the correct method of use of a Hafthohlladung mine against the side of a Soviet T-34 tank. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Placed by hand on the target, the position of the magnets ensured that the shaped charge, when detonated, would strike the armor perpendicularly and at an optimal stand-off distance to maximize its anti-armor potential. According to British tests in 1943, the 3 kg charge could perforate up to 110 mm of I.T. 80 D armor plate or 20 inches of concrete, meaning that it could defeat any Allied tank then in service almost regardless of where it might be placed.

A later, and slightly heavier model of this mine weighing 3.5 kg contained up to 1.7 kg of 40% FpO2 and 60% Hexogen explosive which was capable of defeating over 140 mm of armor. A post-war British report stated that versions of this type of grenade were known in 2, 3, 5, 8, and even 10 kg versions.

3.5 kg bell-shaped variant of the Hafthohlladung, and (right) alongside the conical 3 kg Hafthohlladung. This version used the projectile from the Panzerfaust 30. Source:

A German soldier in spring 1944 prepares himself for the run out of cover to place a Hafthohlladung on a target either during training or on the Eastern Front. Such a run from cover exposed the user to enemy fire. Source: Bundesarchiv.
An extremely nervous-looking German soldier making a mess of applying a Hafthohlladung against the suspension of a captured French Renault R35 during training. Considering the mine is capable of piercing the armor at any place, it is wholly unclear what he is trying to achieve. Source: Wikimedia Commons

An even larger version of the Hafthohlladung was made for the German Luftwaffe, known as the Panzerhandmine (P.H.M.), or sometimes as the Haft-H (L) ‘Hafthohlladung-Luftwaffe’. This device had the appearance of a small wine bottle with the base cut off to make room for six small magnets. Larger than the Hafthohlladung, the P.H.M.3 still had to be applied by hand.

German Panzerhandmine. Source: TM9-1985-2 German Explosive Ordnance and Intelligence Bulletin May 1945

A small, spiked steel ring was fixed to the bottom of the magnets so that the charge could be stabbed onto a wooden surface too. In order to fasten to a steel surface, all that was required was the removal of this ring. First appearing in about 1942, the P.M.H.3 (a 3 kg version) contained a shaped charge made from 1.06 kg of T.N.T. or a 50:50 Cyclonite/T.N.T. mix. Against a steel target, this charge was sufficient to pierce up to 130 mm, making it a very serious threat against a tank. A 4 kg version (P.H.M.4) was also developed with a performance of up to 150 mm, although details are very limited.

A Hafthohlladung being attached to the back of a tank after having passed over the trench. Showing a Russian soldier, this image illustrates a far safer means of attaching the mine to a tank, obviating the need to stand alongside the vehicle. Even so, the soldier needs a heart of steel to be this close and is still exposed to enemy troops following the tank. Source: Fedoseyev via survincity

German ‘sticky’ shaped charge – the Panzerhandmine S.S.. Details of this version are scarce. Source: Tech. Report No.2/46

A variant of this mine also had a sticky ‘foot’ with different mixtures of explosive compositions. The sticky versions had the advantage of being able to stick to any solid surface regardless of whether it was magnetic or not. In this way, it was emulating the British idea of an adhesive-impregnated fabric behind a thin steel cover. Containing a 205 gram filling of 50% RDX and 50 % TNT, the entire charge weighed just 418 grams, just over a pound. Able to penetrate an I.T. 80 homogenous steel plate 125 mm thick, this small mine was a very effective weapon in terms of penetration although how many were made or used is unknown. A further variation of this grenade allowed it to be thrown, relying on the stickiness to attach to the armor with an instant fuse and small streamer behind to ensure it landed sticky-side down. No other details are known.

Thrown version of the hollow charge German sticky grenade. Source: and Tech. Report No.2/46

Another variation for a hand-placed sticky charge from the Germans was more complex than just an adhesive-impregnated fabric. This version featured the same sort of thin protective cover but with the detonator as part of the sticky process. Here, once the detonator was pulled, it would create an exothermic reaction melting the plastic on the face to make it ‘sticky’. It was, at this point ‘live’, so had to be applied or discarded as it would then blow up. No known use of this particular device or live examples are known.

German handheld Haftmine featured a usual self-melting element allowing it to stick to any hard surface regardless of whether it was magnetic or not. Source: Federoff & Sheffield

One further German magnetic charge was the 3 kg Gebalte Ledung (Eng: Concentrated charge) demolition charge which was little more than a large box with magnetic panels on each side. The interior was filled with cubes of explosives and had the additional advantage of being throwable. Even if the magnets failed to adhere to the steel of the tank, the 3 kg charge was sufficient to cause a lot of damage and possibly cripple the vehicle. However, as it was not a shaped charge, the anti-armor performance was relatively poor. Even so, it was more than capable of knocking out the Soviet T-34 and capable of sticking on the target even when thrown, but few other details were known.

German 3 kg demolition slab ‘Geballte Ladung’ with magnetic plates at each end, fitted with the B.Z.39. Friction Igniter. Source: Department of Tank Design

Many of these German shaped charge devices were made by the firm of Krümmel Fabrik, Dynamite AG which, after a lot of trials, found that the best mix for shaped charges was the explosive Cyclotol which was made up of 60% Cyclonite and 40 % T.N.T. with other mixtures producing less efficient results. Under ideal conditions, they found that a 3 kg shaped charge with this explosive could penetrate up to 250 mm of armor, although ideal conditions were rarely to be found on the battlefield. Either way and despite numerous attempts at both magnetic and ‘sticky’ anti-tank weapons, the Germans did not deploy them in significant numbers. One British report of late 1944 even confirmed that they had, to that point, yet to confirm that even a single Allied tank had been knocked out by a magnetic mine, the far bigger threat being the German ‘bazooka’, the Panzerfaust.


The Japanese, like the Germans and to a lesser extent, the British, had experimented with magnetic anti-tank weapons. Unlike both of them though, Japan was successful. The primary magnetic anti-tank weapon was the deceptively simple Model 99 Hakobakurai ‘Turtle’ mine. Reminiscent in shape to a turtle with four magnets sticking out like feet and the detonator looking like the head, this canvas-covered circular mine was a potent threat to Allied tanks in the Pacific theater of operations.

Japanese Type 99 Hakobakurai anti-tank mine. Source: TM9-1985-4

Appearing on the battlefield from 1943 onwards, the Hakobakurai weighed just over 1.2 kg and was filled with 0.74 kg of cast blocks of Cyclonite/T.N.T. arranged in a circle. Placed against thin points of armor or on the hatch of a tank, this mine, when detonated, could penetrate 20 mm of steel plate. With one mine on top of another, this could be increased to 30 mm, although, depending on the armor it was on, it could cause damage to a plate thicker than that.

The mine was not a shaped charge and 20 or even 30 mm of armor penetration was not much use against anything but the lightest of Allied tanks deployed against the Japanese, such as the M3 Stuart, unless they were placed in a vulnerable spot such as underneath, on the rear, or over a hatch. However, British testing and examination of these mines reported that, although the penetration was poor, just 20 mm, the shockwave from the blast could scab off the inner face of an armor plate up to 50 mm thick, although the penetration was still limited by it not being a shaped charge. The result also did not include vehicles designed with an inner ‘skin’ either, but the results were still substantial, as it meant that all of the Allied tanks used in the Pacific theatre were vulnerable to these mines depending on where they were placed.

A further development of it, known as the ‘Kyuchake Bakurai’, was rumored and capable of being thrown up to 10 yards (9.1 m), although as of October 1944, no examples were known to have been found.

The Japanese had, from about May 1942, obtained shaped charge technology from the Germans and the results were first recorded by the Americans following combat in New Guinea in August 1944. Here, they reported finding a Japanese shaped charge weapon shaped like a bottle and fitted with a magnetized base, very similar in description of the German Panzerhandmine. As of October 1944 though, the British, aware of this weapon, still had not encountered any:

“Although there are no details of Japanese hollow charge magnetic grenade it is highly probable that such weapons will be encountered soon”
D.T.D. Report M.6411A/4 No.1, October 1944

Scab blasted off from the inside of a 1 ½” (38 mm) thick armor plate by a Japanese Model 99 Hakobakurai ‘Turtle’ mine. Source: Department of Tank Design
Scarring on the outside (left) of a 2” (51 mm) thick armor plate and partially detached scab on the inside (right) caused by the detonation of at least 1 Model 99 mine. Note that the blast has dented the armor and the shape of the individual blocks can even be made out. The gaps between the blocks acted like miniature shaped charges causing these deep scars. Source: Department of Tank Design


The Kingdom of Italy, perhaps contrary to common ‘knowledge’, also made use of two devices of note. The first of these was a close copy of the British No.74 S.T. Mk.1 HE grenade reproduced from examples captured from the British in North Africa. The Italian version, known as the Model 42 grenade, was manufactured in limited numbers by the firms of Breda and OTO but, importantly, was not sticky. The Italians simply copied the large spherical explosive charge and omitted the not-so-reliable sticky stockinette and glass bulb part of the design. One important note on a heavy grenade like this is the range, just 10-15 meters at best.

The 1 kg Model 42 Grenade contained 574 grams of plastic explosive but was not sticky, it simply emulated the shape of the British No.74. Source:

Although the Model 42 was neither sticky nor magnetic, the Italians did develop probably the most advanced man-portable magnetic anti-tank weapon of all. Here though, there is very little to go off. Just a single photograph is known of the device consisting of a small battery pack and charge on a simple frame. The mine is relatively small, perhaps only 30 cm wide and appears to consist of a bell-shaped central charge, almost certainly a shaped charge with a rectangular battery and two large electromagnets on the ends of the steel frame. Certainly, this would have some advantages as it would not be magnetic all the time, unlike the German Hafthohlladung. It was simply placed on a tank and the switch was flicked to activate the battery and the powerful electro-magnets would hold the charge in place until it detonated. At least one prototype was made in 1943 but, with the collapse of Italy in September 1943, all development is believed to have ceased.

The experimental Italian electromagnetic anti-tank mine. Source: Cappellano and Pignato


Perhaps even more obscure than the Italian work on the subject of magnetic weapons is a single known Yugoslav example. Known as the Mina Prilepka Probojna (Eng: Mine Sticking Puncturing), it was developed after the war and was intended for disabling non-combat and light combat vehicles rather than main battle tanks. It could also be deployed in the manner of the ‘Clam’ for sabotage purposes on infrastructure and consisted of a cylinder with a cone on top containing a 270-gram Hexotol shaped charge and was capable of piercing up to 100 mm of armor plate. Packed 20 to a crate, the MPP was a potent small mine but there is little information available on it in general outside of a small manual of arms. How many were made and whether it was ever used or not is not known.

The Post-War Yugoslav Mina Prilepka Probojna magnetic mine. Source: Yugoslav Arms Manual (unknown)


None of the attempts to produce a smaller anti-tank explosive weapon using either sticky or magnetic principles were shown to be effective. The magnetic charges required the soldier to be often suicidally close to the enemy tank. The sticky-option permitted the chance to be further away and possibly have the grenade hopefully strike the vehicle where the charge could perforate the armor. Many other ideas for hand-thrown anti-tank weapons were fielded by various armies in WW2 and thereafter, such as an attempt at a top attack hollow charge similar to that German Panzerhandmine S.S., but none were particularly successful. A short-range, inconsistent effect and a huge question over accuracy were not the reasons these devices do not appear in today’s army’s arsenals though. The answer is that far simpler, more reliable, and more effective systems became available. The German Panzerfaust had, by the end of the war, reached a level of performance where a soldier could be up to 250 meters from a target and perforate up to 200 mm of armor. The modern rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) really embodies this change in military thought for anti-armor weapons and appears in multiple forms for decades, providing an enormous punch for the average soldier against armor.

Examples of when the attack with a magnetic mine has failed. Here wedged into the screen over an air intake (left), and attached to the Schurzen (right) on a StuG III Ausf.G of 2nd Assault Gun Detachment, Bulgarian Army, after combat in Yugoslavia, October 1944. Source: Matev


Hills, A. (2020). British Zimmerit: Anti-Magnetic and Camouflage Coatings 1944-1947. FWD Publishing, USA
British Explosive Ordnance, US Department of the Army. June 1946
Federoff, B. & Sheffield, O. (1975). Encyclopedia of Explosives and Related Items Volume 7. US Army Research and Development Command, New Jersey, USA
Fedoseyev, S. Infantry against tanks. Arms and Armour Magazine retrieved from
Technical and Tactical Trends Bulletin No.59, 7th March 1944
TM9-1985-2. (1953). German Explosive Ordnance
Matev, K. (2014). The Armoured Forces of the Bulgarian Army 1936-45. Helion and Company.
Cappellano, F., & Pignato, N. (2008). Andare Contro I Carri Armati. Gaspari Editore
Department of Tank Design. (1944). The Protection of AFVs from Magnetic Grenades
Grenades, mines and boobytraps, retrieved from
Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana. (1944). Istruzione sulle Bombe a Mano E Loro Impiego
Armaments Design Department. (1946). Technical Report No.2/46 Part N.: German Ammunition – A Survey of Wartime Development – Grenades.

WW2 Dutch AT Weapons WW2 German AT Weapons WW2 Hungarian AT Weapons WW2 Italian AT Weapons WW2 Swiss AT Weapons

Solothurn S 18-1000

Switzerland (1939)
Anti-Tank Rifle – Around 1,000 Produced

The Solothurn S 18-1000 was a Swiss-built 20 mm Anti-Tank rifle which was an upgraded version of the earlier S 18-100. It saw service in both the Axis and Allied forces and was deployed in many theatres of operations through the war. Despite its weight and size, it was appreciated by the troops that used it.

An S 18-154. Source: Sa Kuva

Design and Development

When the Treaty of Versaille was signed on 28th June 1919, the once magnificent German arms industry found itself under considerable restrictions. One of these restrictions was on the development of large caliber weapons capable of taking out tanks, similar to the TankGewehr M1918 developed by Mauser during the First World War.
To bypass these restrictions, Rheinmetall set up a subsidiary in Switzerland in 1929, Waffenfabrik Solothurn. This meant that German engineers could design, test and build weapons without the worry of the victorious Allied powers faulting on Germany for not holding to the Versailles Treaty. In 1930, they had developed the 20×138mmB cartridge or ‘Short Solothurn’, which was one of the most powerful 20 mm rounds in existence at the time and remained in use until the early 1950s. Soon after the development of the 20 mm cartridge, the Solothurn ST-5 anti-aircraft gun was produced and, from here, Solothurn started a journey that saw the development of many weapons, all using the 20 mm Solothurn round. The first foray into anti-tank weapons was the 2 cm Tankbuchse S 5-100 in 1932, which was an offshoot of the ST-5 and was impractical for its intended use, which meant it was not fully developed. In 1933, development started on a more practical anti-tank weapon, the S 18-100. This 44 kg, bull-pup, hard-hitting gun was placed on the export market in 1934 and was soon picked up by Italy, Hungary, and the Netherlands to name but a few.
It was decided in the late 1930s that the S 18-100 series needed a more substantial upgrade (previously the S18-100 saw minor improvements in the S 18-150, S 18-154 and S 18-500). Using the improved 20×138mmB cartridge, also known as the ‘Long Solothurn’, and adding a longer barrel, a ‘harmonica’ style muzzle break, improved action and some other minor modifications, a newer, more hard-hitting version of the Solothurn was created. The weapon worked on a short recoil system, meaning that the barrel moved slightly backward when fired. Because of the large recoil spring, it required a ratchet crank in order to pull the bolt back to set it up for operations. Once the bolt was pulled back, a magazine could then be loaded. When fired, the barrel recoiled, moving the attached rotary bolt and unlocking the bolt which then ejected the spent casing. The bolt is then driven forward by the large spring, loading a fresh cartridge from the magazine. Like many anti-tank rifles of the time, it came with an integrated bipod, which allowed for some recoil absorption, and a single adjustable monopod to the rear just ahead of the cushioned butt plate. These modifications increased the weight from a substantial 45 kg to a hefty 53 kg and saw Solothurn develop the SO9 carriage for it. This was a simple two-wheeled carriage which had space for two ammunition boxes and allowed for free traverse. It also had the ability to change the elevation through a screw. The split trails could be flipped forward and locked together to allow the gun team to move the gun with ease to a new position.

A brochure picture of a Swiss soldier firing an S 18-1000 on the SO 9 carriage. Source:- Axishistory
During Solothurn’s trials in 1939, it performed quite respectfully. The much improved ‘Long Solothurn’ round coupled with the 144.78mm (57 inch) long barrel gave it a muzzle velocity of 910 m/s and could penetrate 35 mm of armor plate at 300 meters.

On the Market

After trials, Solothurn approved the S 18-1000 for production. The design of the weapon, alongside its impressive performance, saw it gain a lot of attraction on the international market.

A fully kitted out S 18-1000. Source:- MurphyAuctions
The first nation to acquire the S 18-1000 for service was the Swiss Army, which placed an initial order for 60. These were designated Tankbüchse Solo 40 and were delivered in the first quarter of 1940. Another 33 were ordered as the Swiss Army was impressed by its capabilities, bringing the total in Swiss use to 93. One rifle was installed to the prototype Type 41 Patrol Boat Uri.
The Netherlands had bought six S 18-15 in 1937 for trials but rejected them upon seeing the initial results for the S18-1000. A definitive order for 662 S18-1000s was placed in late 1938, divided as 340 for the Royal Netherlands Army (Koninklijke Landmacht) and 322 for the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger; KNIL). By the time of the German invasion in May 1940, 125 Dutch Army and 72 KNIL rifles had been delivered.
The Italians also looked at the S 18-1000 after rejecting the S 18-100 in 1934. They placed initial orders in 1939 for trials and the first pieces arrived in early 1940 being designated Carabina “S”. At the conclusion of the trials, the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) wanted to equip every infantry battalion with 6 pieces. It is unknown how many were delivered to the Italians, but it is thought to be around 578 of the estimated 1,131 required. The main reason for the lack of deliveries was that Switzerland was placing restrictions on the exportation of war materials to any belligerent nation in 1940.
With Europe being engulfed by war, Sweden started to look towards protecting itself. In 1940, it made inquiries to purchase 480 S 18-1000s. These were approved as Sweden was a neutral country and thus not subjected to Switzerland’s restrictions. Using balance of trade payments with Germany for steel, the rifles arrived between 1940-1941 and were designated 20 mm pansarvärnskanon m/1939.
Hungary had purchased the S 18-100 in 1935 and were producing their own licensed variant, the 36M 20mm Nehézpuska. After the Slovak–Hungarian War, they realized that the 36M was in need of upgrading and purchased around 50 (sources vary) of the new S 18-1000 in early 1940, but as restrictions became tighter, they were unable to purchase more and so production continued on the 36M until 1943.
The US Army had concluded in the mid-1930s that the .50 M2 Heavy Barrel (HB) machine gun would be adopted as the official light anti-tank gun and general vehicle-mounted machine gun. However, observations made during the Spanish Civil War suggested that the .50 might not be sufficient in future conflicts as an anti-tank weapon, so work was put towards creating an anti-tank gun, the 37 mm Gun M3. While the infantry branch championed such a move, the cavalry branch and US Marine Corps still expressed interest in a light anti-mechanization weapon. To this end, the Ordnance Department ordered two S 18-100 rifles in 1939, along with 2,000 rounds of ammunition for trails by the Infantry and Cavalry Boards at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. The results of the trials were unsatisfactory, but as the trials were coming to a close, the S 18-1000 was ready, and so, an example was obtained for testing. Arriving in April 1940, it performed better than its predecessor and was passed on for further trials by both the Infantry and Cavalry boards. The S 18-1000 was seen as superior in performance to the M2 machine gun, so an order was placed with Solothurn for a further 50 models with 50,000 rounds of ammunition which would be standardized as the 20 mm Automatic Gun T3. During negotiations with Solothurn though, things turned difficult. This was down to Solothurn’s parent company – Rheinmetall – specifically forbidding the sale of Solothurn’s anti-tank rifles to any country without its approval, and so, the acquisition was abandoned.

A picture showing the US Army trial of the Solothurn at Aberdeen Proving Ground on 9 April 1940. Source: Reddit
Finland was attempting to modernize its military inventory in the run-up to the Winter War of November 1939. As part of this, one S 18-1000 was purchased by the Puolustusministeriö (Ministry of Defence) in August 1939 (one of the first models as it had the serial number of 4 stamped upon it) for testing. Unfortunately, though, any chance of purchasing more was rendered difficult due to the Soviet-German Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which saw Germany restrict arms shipments to Finland through its territory.

Swedish presentation of the Solothurn S18-1000 (or 20 mm pkvan m/39) with characteristics

Solothurn at War

When the German military crossed the Polish border on the morning of 1st September 1939, the nations of Europe realized that another great war was unavoidable. The armies mobilized against the threats and so the Solothurn S 18-1000 was to be put to the test.
After Poland fell to the joint German-Soviet invasion, the world expected a bloodbath in the West between the Anglo-French alliance and Germany, but outside a few skirmishes on the border nothing occurred for eight months in what became known as the ‘Phoney War’.
It is not known if the single S 18-1000 that Finland acquired before the outbreak of the Winter War was ever issued to combat troops and so it is thought that the S 18-1000s baptism of fire occurred during the German invasion of the Netherlands. The Germans launched their offensive against the Western allies on the morning of 10th May 1940. The 4th Panzer Division was given orders to secure the strategically important Dutch city of Maastricht. The city contained vital bridges over the Maas River, as well as sat to the north of the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael. The Dutch had been on alert since 7th May and troops had been deployed to areas the General Staff felt were vital to the German line of attack. Sergeant Van der Sande was in command of an anti-tank rifle section containing two S 18-1000s and was ordered to deploy his weapons near the two bridges of Wilhelminabrug and Sint Servaasbrug and delay any German advance. At 05:15 on the morning of the 10th May, the first German vehicles were spotted by der Sande’s section and the two anti-tank gunners, Rietveld and Plusjé, prepared their weapons. The order to fire was given and within minutes 2 armored cars were out of action and a third was severely crippled. The Germans reacted by bringing up a 37 mm anti-tank gun and firing at the defensive position forcing the surviving Dutchmen to retreat across the river. The action helped delay the German vanguard enough that the two bridges were blown at 06:00.
Sergeant Sande and his men were not the only group of Dutchmen with Solothurns that were doing their part to delay the advance. A kilometer north of the Wilhelminabrug Bridge was the railway bridge and another strategic objective for the Germans. A platoon of 35 Dutch soldiers, with a pair of Solothurns, held their position against a mainly infantry assault. Soon the lieutenant ordered a withdrawal across the bridge and within moments the bridge was blown. However, the action did not stop there. The German infantry force soon received reinforcements and attempted to secure the bridge in order to effect repairs. Two armored cars attempted to cross the river but were destroyed by the Solothurns. A Panzer I was also disabled as it went to the edge of the riverbank to provide suppressive fire. The fighting became intense and more armor was brought forward, including a handful of Panzerjäger I tank destroyers (two were subsequently knocked out by the anti-tank rifles) and soon the Dutch found themselves overwhelmed. The Battle of Maastricht ended in the early afternoon with a ceasefire, but despite the Dutch loosing, their bravery and the hard-hitting power of the Solothurns accounted for several German AFVs.
The German Army is known to have acquired a number of Solothurn S-18 rifles, including the 1000 model, and deployed them alongside their own anti-tank rifles. What is not know is exactly how many or their exact deployment. The table of organization and equipment for a German Infantry division in 1940 put the complement of ATRs at 108 per Infantry Division with each of the 36 Rifle Companies containing an anti-tank rifle section of 3 rifles, the most numerous being the Panzerbüchse 39. Against the main French tanks, Hotchkiss H35 and Renault R35, any anti-tank rifle would be effectively useless except at extremely close ranges.

An S 18-1000 mounted on an Sd.Kfz.250. Source: Reddit

A propaganda picture of Italian Bersaglieri manning a “36M Fucile Contracarro da 20-mm Solothurn” in the North African desert. Source: Axishistory
The next known usages of the Solothurn S 18-1000 was by the Italians in the Desert Campaign. Italy received its first batch of 100 Solothurn S 18-1000s in late 1940 and immediately shipped them to their troops serving in the African desert. It was intended to arm every Italian division with an anti-tank company that contained 3 platoons of 4 Solothurns each, but this was not possible, so the S 18-1000s were given to elite units like the Bersaglieri (an Italian light infantry unit) and Compagnie Auto-Avio-Sahariane (Auto-Saharan Companies, long range desert units). More Solothurns started to arrive at the end of 1941/early 1942 and were assigned on the basis of 9 per Bersaglieri to fit in with their intended role as light infantry. The hard-hitting power, coupled with their small silhouette, meant that the weapon could be effectively used against the Commonwealth forces and their lightly armored tanks such as the Light Tank Mk.VI and Cruiser Mk.IV. The weapon also became popular with the Compagnie Auto-Avio-Sahariane, or Auto-Saharan Companies, which were the Italian version of the British Long Range Desert Group (LRDG). When the Camionetta Desertica SPA-Viberti AS.42 arrived in September 1942, several were equipped with the S 18-1000 to help in the company’s mission of hunting down the LRDG. In this role, the S 18-1000 succeeded, as the LRDG operated in similarly open-topped and lightly armored four-wheel vehicles.

An AS.42 somewhere in the Libyan desert, 1942. Source:-
Another Italian use of the S 18-1000 that is often forgotten is the L3 cc (controcarro or anti-tank). Using the Carro Veloce L3/35 light tank as a base, the twin 8mm Bredas were replaced with the Solothurn. An exact number of how many were produced is not known, but it was not many and they arrived in Libya in late 1942. They performed adequately in the Axis retreat through Africa and some participated in the famous Battle of Kasserine Pass.

An abandoned L3 cc. Source:-
As the weapon was deployed to Italian frontline units in Africa, it was inevitable that some would fall into the hands of the Commonwealth forces they were fighting against. The Australian 2/2nd Anti-Tank Regiment had one of its reserve batteries equipped with a number of captured Solothurns during the Syria–Lebanon Campaign. How widespread it was among other Commonwealth units is not known, but it can be speculated that several Solothurns would have been repurposed.
It is also alleged that some S 18-1000s of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army fell into the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army who found them more reliable and effective than their own Type 97 anti-tank rifle and used them until they ran out of ammunition.

End of Life

With the rifle weighing 53.5 kg/118 lb empty (54.7 kg/120.6 lb with 10 round magazine attached), as well as the increasing amount of armor being put onto AFV, it meant that the Solothurn was losing its place on the battlefield. As the war raged on the Solothurn was seen less and less and it is believed that the last combat uses of the S 18-1000 were by Italian forces of the National Republican Army as they fought frantically against the Allied advance. A select fire version was produced in 1942, designated the S 18-1100 ‘Universalwaffe’ (universal weapon) and was sold with a specialized AA mount (SO 11) to be able to engage aircraft, as well as the SO 9 carriage for use against AFVs. Not many, a few hundred, of these were produced until production was stopped at the end of 1942/early 1943.

The S 18-1100 on the SO 11 carriage from a Solothurn brochure. Source:- Axishistory
After the war, hundreds of S 18-1000s were put into the lucrative US gun market where they were sold off to gun collectors and enthusiasts. Today it is a rare find but there is still a number of them in the hands of collectors and occasionally they may be found upon the firing ranges.

A post-war advert with an embellished background of the S18-1000. Source:- 2cm flak


Anti-Tank Rifles are often confused with Anti-Tank Guns, both in nomenclature and usage. ATRs are designed to allow the standard infantry unit to disable armored fighting vehicles and work in conjunction with other weapons, like dedicated anti-tank guns. When ATRs were developed during the interwar period, they were effective if albeit bulky but they offered a cheap and more mobile alternative than anti-tank artillery.
The Solothurn S 18-1000 could be called the pinnacle of anti-tank rifles. The ‘Long Solothurn’ round allowed it to keep up with armored development until 1942 but it quickly dropped off when the Allies started to deploy vehicles like the M3 Grant/Lee and M4 Sherman medium tanks in large numbers. The two biggest drawbacks to the S 18-1000 were its weight and its complicated system which meant that misuse or lack of attention could damage the weapon easily. With the heavy deployment of shaped charges and rocket-propelled grenades in 1943, the infantry now had a more effective and lightweight anti-tank weapon that was more viable than the ATRs of the previous few years. The Solothurn, along with its brothers, were forced in obsolescence and became curiosities.


Zaloga, Steven. The Anti-Tank Rifle, Osprey Publishing, 2018
Weeks, John. Men Against Tanks: History of Anti-tank Warfare, David & Charles, 1975

Illustration of the Solothurn S 18-1000 made by Yuvnashva Sharma. Funded by our Patreon campaign.

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #3

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #1 Republished

The first issue of the Tank Encyclopedia Magazine has been remastered and rereleased. It covers vehicles ranging from the French WWI Frot-Turmel-Laffly Armoured Road Roller up to the Salvadoran Cold War Marenco M114 converted vehicles. The star of this issue is a full article on the Improved Protection version of the famous M1 Abrams – the M1IP.

Our Archive section covers the history of the Mephisto A7V tank, the only one of its kind that still survives to this day in Queensland museum in Australia.

It also contains a modeling article on how to create Weathering and Mud Effects. And the last article from our colleagues and friends from Plane Encyclopedia covers the story of the Sikorsky S-70C-2 Black Hawk in Chinese service!

All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you!
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AT Weapons WW2 German AT Weapons

7.5 cm PaK 40

German Reich (1942-1945)
Anti-Tank Gun – Approximately 20,000 Built

Backbone of the German Anti-Tank Corps

The Wehrmacht was always trying to stay ahead of the arms race that had developed in the 1930s. Whilst the 3.7cm Pak 36 anti-tank gun had acquitted itself very well during the Spanish Civil War, it was thought that an upgraded version was needed in order to stay ahead of the gun-armor spiral. Rheinmetall-Borsig AG was asked to improve upon their original design. What they came up with was the 5cm Pak 38 with a L/60 barrel (a barrel 60 calibers in length), which met approval for production in 1939. However, soon after the factories geared up for production, the German military became aware of newer tank designs by the Soviets (thanks in part to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) and therefore ordered an upgunning of the Pak 38.

The Design

Originally, Rheinmetall wanted to just change the barrel of the previous Pak 38 but, because the Luftwaffe was given priority for lightweight alloys, the design also needed to be changed. As a result, a new carriage was developed using all steel construction.The gun’s traditional split trail was supported by torsion springs and, like the Pak 38, a third wheel could be attached to the trail spades for easier manhandling. For ease of production and economic use of resources, the curved gun shield of the Pak 38 was dropped and replaced with a more angular twin plate shield.
The gun was equipped with a L/46 barrel with a larger double-baffled muzzle brake. The gun mechanism was of the ‘horizontal sliding breech block semi-automatic variety’” which allowed for a more rapid rate of fire, as the previous shell was expanded and the breach was left open for the next shot. Because of the weight and size, the gun was seen as a motorized piece and was equipped with solid rubber tires which allowed it to take the harsh punishment of the frontlines. If the need arose, it could be used in an indirect fire role.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons
The above pictures are of a horizontal sliding semi-automatic breech block. The operating handle is pulled to the opening position, this pushed the block to the side (to the right in the case of the PaK 40) and then a shell is pushed into the breach. The operating handle is then pushed to close the breach and make the gun ready to fire. The layer of the gun would then press the trigger on his elevating handwheel triggering the gun. The recoil would then reopen and eject the spent shell casing and recock the mechanism. This then allows for a new shell to be pushed into the breach, which would then close automatically without the need to touch the operating handle.
The sights were the standard ZF 3 x 8 (3 x magnification, 8-degree field of view) that equipped Anti-Tank (AT) guns of the German military, but it was an improvement over the earlier ZF 3 x 8’s (as used on Pak 38’s) in that it had an upgraded reticule which allowed for better leading of targets, and better degrees of accuracy.
Overall, the cost was 12,000 Reichmarks (RM) per unit (approximately $48,940 in 2017), which was a significant leap over the 8,000 RM (approximately $32,625 in 2017) of the Pak 38. It also required 2200 man hours and 6 months production time per unit.

On the Frontlines

Originally, the Pak 36 and 38 were performing adequately enough that the Pak 40 project was not seen as a necessity. However, once Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union) began and the German military encountered the heavily armored KV-1 and steeply angular T-34, the Pak 38 struggled to penetrate except at point blank ranges. The Pak 40 was speedily pushed into high gear and the first pre-production models were ready in November 1941. These initial models proved their worth on the Eastern Front and approval was given for production. By the end of 1942, over 1,300 Pak 40s were on the frontlines. It was decided in 1943 to make it the standard AT gun in German service. It was so successful that by the end of the war about 23,000 had been produced and supplied to over 9 countries.
PaK 40 and crew in training in France, 1943. Photo: Bundesarchiv

The vast majority of PaK 40’s (about 20,000) served within the German military. It saw action first on the Eastern Front, where its high-velocity armor-piercing shells easily penetrated most Soviet armor encountered. By the beginning of 1943, the PaK 40 had become the core of the Wehrmacht anti-tank arm. It saw service on all fronts that Germany was fighting, from North Africa and Italy, from France to the Eastern Front.
Finland received 210 PaK 40’s in 1943-1944. They were used to replace the existing obsolete AT guns in their inventory (like the 37mm Bofors) and were assigned at a divisional level. It was put to effective use on the Karelian Isthmus during the Soviet Summer Offensive of 1944, where it could be dug in and ranged to previously designated killing zones. The Finnish military kept the gun in service until 1986.

Finnish PaK 40 on the Summa front, 1944. Photo: SA Kuva
Other German allies such as Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary also received small numbers of the Pak 40 guns but these were of limited use as the tides of war had turned against them and they soon found themselves surrendering before they could press any numbers of the gun into service.
The Soviet Red Army was also impressed by the performance of the PaK 40 and would often put captured versions directly into service.
In 1955 the USSR sent a small number of captured PaK 40s to North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese Army used them in a coastal defense role at the Red River Corridor until they were retired in 1972.


– Caliber: 75 mm
– Barrel length: L/46 or 3.45 m
– Rifling: 32 grooves, right-hand increasing twist, 1/24 to 1/18.
– Weight in firing position: 1,425 kilograms (the US M5 was 2,210kg, the British 17 pounder was 3,034kg and the Soviet ZiS-3 was 1,116kg)
– Height: 1.25 metres (the US M5 was 1.62m, the British 17 pounder was 1.6m and the Soviet ZiS-3 was 1.37m)
– Length with the carriage: 6.2 metres
– Length: 3.70 metres
– Width: 2.0 metres
– Traverse: 65°
– Elevation: -5° to + 22°
– Max, ROF: 14 r.p.m.
– Effective firing range: 1.8 km
– Maximum indirect firing range: 7.678 km (HE shell)

Penetration Figures

Heereswaffenamt documents give the following statistics for the penetration values of the PaK 40 (all against 60-degree angle):-

Pzgr. 39

– 100 metres = 99mm
– 500 metres = 91mm
– 1000 metres = 81mm

Pzgr. 40

– 100 metres = 126mm
– 500 metres = 108mm
– 1000 metres = 87mm

The standard 7.5 cm PaK 40 on its towed mount.

7.5cm PaK 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO)

The Sdkfz. 234/4 “PaK-wagon” mounting the 7.5 cm PaK.

The Sd.Kfz.251/22 7.5cm PaK 40 L/46 auf Mittlerer Schützenpanzerwagen.
These illustrations are by Tank Encylopedia’s own David Bocquelet.


The PaK 40 remained relevant until the end of the war, being able to pierce the armor of almost any Allied tank. Its standard ammunition was the Panzergranate 39 (PzGr. 39) Armored Piercing, Capped, Ballistic Cap (APCBC) which fired at a velocity of 790 m/s, and was capable of penetrating the armor of the Soviet KV-1 tank at 500 meters. It also had the Panzergranate 40 (PzGr. 40) Armor Piercing, Composite Rigid (APCR) shell which had a tungsten core with a muzzle velocity of 990 m/s but these became more scarce as the sources of tungsten dried up.
The gun would be crewed by 5 men, but if the situation required, the entire gun could be operated by just a single soldier. The rate of fire by a trained crew was 14 rounds per minute but on average the rate of fire was a respectable 11 rpm. Each gun would form one part of a platoon (3 guns) which in turn would form one part of a battery (3 platoons). These would be motorized, towed by Sd.Kfz.7, 8 or 11’s, and supported by a signals and HQ platoons, and would be assigned at a divisional level for command and control. The normal distribution would see each platoon being attached to one of the division’s three infantry regiments.

Dug-in and camouflaged PaK 40 with a full crew in Italy 1943. Photo: Bundesarchiv
The introduction of the PaK 40 meant that the tactics of the Panzerjäger needed to be changed. Originally, the small size and mobility of the anti-tank guns allowed them to be near the front lines and their small size and lower silhouette meant they were easier to camouflage and harder to spot. The PaK 40’s 1.25 metre height made it harder to conceal and the heavyweight meant that moving it without the aid of a vehicle was laborious and slow. This forced the PaK 40 to be deployed further away from the front lines and thus be less effective in a defensive role, and it also meant it was more at risk of flanking once an enemy force broke through as it would be unsupported.
Despite all the advantages of the PaK 40, one of the biggest disadvantages was its weight, weighing in at 1,425 kilograms. This made any kind of manhandling impossible and the net result of this was many guns and crews were lost as the enemy advanced, for example, the Finns had lost 60 of their 210 guns by the end of the Soviet Summer offensive of 1944. This meant that each gun had to carefully put into position, dug in and then supported by infantry and have its tractors nearby so a quick getaway could follow if and when needed.
It remained, though, at the forefront of German defense as the Allies swept into Germany. Its lower profile in comparison to its contemporaries, coupled with the advantages of the defender, allowed it to cause many casualties amongst the armored corps of the advancing Allied forces.

The Spin-Offs

The PaK 40 was seen as such a success that it saw itself turned into a tank gun, both in an unmodified and modified form. The modified form was given the designation 7.5 cm KwK 40 (7.5cm Kampfwagenkanone 40) or 7.5cm StuK 40 (7.5cm Sturmkanone 40) depending on if it was mounted into a tank or an assault gun respectively. The modification also saw its barrel length either cut down to 43 calibers or lengthened to 48 calibers.The L43 version was put into the first 120 Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.F as well as the Panzer IV from the Ausf.F2 to the first 1,200 models of the Ausf. G. The L48 version was then used on all the remaining StuG III’s, as well as all the StuG IVs. It also equipped all remaining later variants of the Panzer IV.

A Panzer IV Ausf. J of 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend” in Belgium 1943. Photo: Bundesarchiv
It was also used in a slightly modified form on the Marder series of tank hunters. These were a solution to the issues of mobility and anti-tank performance currently lacking in the Wehrmacht. The Marder I used the captured French Lorraine 37L tractor, the Marder II used the obsolete Panzer II chassis and the Marder III was based upon the Czech Panzer 38(t). All these designs were very simple conversions to make, essentially placing the Pak 40 onto the chassis and building the fighting compartment around it. Some modification occurred, as in the PaK 40 armed Marder II’s that had a modified shield. The increased mobility allowed the Marders to keep up with Panzer units or be rushed from reserve to where they were needed. Despite having flaws, like a cramped fighting compartment, high silhouette, and limited gun traverse, these interim tank destroyers performed very well against their opponents.
During the later stages of the war, many experimental or ad-hoc anti-tank designs were produced. One of the more ‘standard’ designs was the 7.5cm PaK 40 L/46 auf Mittlerer Schützenpanzerwagen. This took the Sd.Kfz.251 half-track and bolted the PaK 40 to the top of it. In this configuration, it could take 22 rounds and gave some much needed anti-tank capability to divisional reconnaissance units. Despite being favored by those at the top (Hitler gave his approval and priority for the design in late 1944), it did suffer from being now too heavy and that the recoil of the gun was too powerful for the chassis. This meant that whilst it could sit in prearranged positions, take a shot and scoot, it was also susceptible to mechanical failure caused by the firing.
Probably the strangest use of the PaK 40 was the 7.5cm Pak 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO). This strange little vehicle highlighted the desperate need by the German High Command for mobile anti-tank guns. The RSO was occasionally used as a prime mover for the PaK 40 and experiments were conducted to house the PaK within the vehicle itself and unload it to a position but this idea was soon scrapped due to various issues. In 1943, it was considered making a permanent fixture of the PaK 40 on a 360-degree mount and, coupled with the cross-country performance of the tractor, this made for a mobile and hard-hitting AT platform. It did see deployment on the Eastern Front in early 1944 but it did not garner a great reputation and earned the nickname of “Rollender Sarg Ost”, a play on the RSO abbreviation. It translates to “rolling coffin east”.
As mention in a previous section, Hungary was one of the countries to acquire the gun. Hungary bought the production license of the PaK 40, who would have produced the gun under the name of ‘7,5 cm 40 M. páncéltörő ágyú’. Only a handful of prototypes were manufactured before the end of the Second World War, however. Two of these were used as the main armaments of the 43M. Turán III medium tank and 44M. Zrínyi I assault gun prototypes.

Armored Vehicles Equipped With the PaK 40

7.5cm PaK 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO)
– 7.5cm PaK 40 L/46 auf Mittlerer Schützenpanzerwagen
– 7.5cm PaK 40 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen FCM (f)
_ 7.5cm PaK 40/1 (Sf) auf Geschutzwagen 39H (f)
Jagdpanzer IV
Marder I auf Geschutzwagen Lorraine Schlepper (f)
Marder II Sd.Kfz.131
– Marder III Sd.Kfz.138
Panzerkampfwagen IV (Ausf. F2 onwards)
Sturmgeschütz III (Ausf. F onwards)
Sturmgeschütz IV

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Panzerjäger vs KV-1 Eastern Front 1941-43 by Robert Forczyk: Osprey Publishing
Volume 1 Number 11 Intelligence Bulletin July 1943 Military Intelligence Service War Department Section V pg 38- 41
German Artillery at War 1939-45 Volume 1 by Frank De Sisto: Concord Publications
Panzerjäger German Anti-Tank Battalions of World War II by W. Davis: Almark Publishing Co. Ltd.
On Panzerworld.comOn wwiiafterwwii