To design this weapon, the German developers cheated and added 15 years to its age. It was not a miracle of engineering, and was little superior to the weapons of other countries. But it was his effectiveness, coupled with extraordinary tactics of use, that gave him immense fame. All this is about the 8, 8 cm FlaK 18 artillery system - the most famous and dangerous anti-aircraft gun of the Second World War.
The first developments of a large-caliber semi-automatic anti-aircraft gun appeared in service with Germany during the First World War. But the uncompromising conditions of the Versailles Treaty literally eliminated these installations - all of them were ordered to be destroyed. However, the German military was not going to put up with such a situation and the development of new anti-aircraft artillery began to be actively engaged in the second half of the 1920s, both in Germany and abroad. For example, in Sweden, where part of the capacities of the famous arms concern Krupp was located - in this way they bypassed the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty.
In 1928, at the Swedish factories of the Bofors enterprise, which worked just under the Krupp, they designed several types of anti-aircraft guns of different calibers. A new wave of development came in 1930 - then it became obvious to the German military and engineers that bombers would play a great role in potential hostilities. Therefore, in the following projects of artillery systems, the caliber was increased. But not all developments got a start in life - something turned out to be insufficiently armor-piercing, something, on the contrary, was too heavy.
In the end, the choice was stopped at the average caliber - 88 mm. So, in 1932, the now legendary artillery system 8, 8 cm FlaK 18 appeared, mass production of which was established at the Krupp plant in Essen.
But in order to avoid claims from other European states for a direct violation of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the German command went for a trick - the gun got its name for a reason 8, 8 cm FlaK 18, which means "88-mm anti-aircraft gun of the 1918 model of the year" … That is, the anti-aircraft gun was presented as a development of the period of the First World War, which does not fall under the restrictions of the treaty. The maneuver worked, and since 1932, the gun was freely produced in Germany and even supplied to the German army.
Interesting fact: in order to keep the real history of the creation of the 8, 8 cm FlaK 18 secret as long as possible, until 1935 the anti-aircraft units to which this weapon was supplied were called "mobile battalions".
But the military did not stop there. Literally three years after the start of production, modifications of a promising weapon began to appear one after another. At the beginning of World War II, the modernization of the system was undertaken with renewed vigor. But they were united by one caliber - 88 mm, so all modifications of the gun began to be called "Eight-eight" (German "Acht-acht"). As a result, the German army had four 8, 8 cm FlaK at once - 18/36/37/41.
In addition to good technical characteristics, the gun had another noticeable advantage. For transportation of modifications 8, 8 cm FlaK 36/37, trolleys with high carrying capacity and transportation speed were used. This "tandem" was so successful that it was possible to fire from an anti-aircraft gun at ground targets directly "on wheels."
The installation went through its baptism of fire back in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, where the German Condor Legion fought. And immediately she was struck by its effectiveness. She so easily dealt with the then lightly armored vehicles that very soon it became the main weapon of all German anti-aircraft units. And during the Second World War, "Eight-Eight" became the main enemy of the legendary Soviet T-34 tank and other vehicles of the Allied army. The German army faced them in abundance during the hostilities in North Africa and on the Eastern Front. And often, despite the numerical superiority of the enemy, it was 8, 8 cm FlaK 18 that saved the army of the Third Reich from defeat.
At the same time, it became clear that the key to the effectiveness of the gun is not only its armor-piercing - according to Novate.ru, the flight speed of its high-explosive fragmentation charge was 790 m / s, but also the very tactics of using the system. The fact is that, unlike the same British, who used anti-aircraft crews mainly against aviation, the Germans unleashed a powerful force "Eight-Eight" on both aircraft and tanks. And it worked equally well.
But the 8, 8 cm FlaK 18 also had disadvantages. So, for example, the weapon of the first modifications had to be reloaded for quite a long time, and at least a dozen people were required for such work. But if this problem could be resolved through modernization, then there was a drawback that could not be corrected - it was the size of the gun. Its tall silhouette was visible as well as the tanks. In addition, the cost of the artillery system was also not small.
Of course, the development of the military-industrial complex only accelerated with the outbreak of World War II, and the German arms concerns, one after another, replenished the army of the Third Reich with new types of weapons. The leading role of the 8, 8 cm FlaK 18/36/37 installations gradually came to naught, although they remained in service with 13 anti-tank artillery units almost until the end of hostilities. However, this did not diminish the popularity of the gun, and the "Eight-Eight" and today remains the most famous anti-aircraft gun of the Second World War.
Do you want to know what Soviet weapons terrified German soldiers? Then read: Wehrmacht nightmare: ISU-122 cannon, which worked on the principle of "one shot - one target"