German Air Defenses: Fliegerabwehrkanone (Flak)--Fireing

Hitler Youth German Flak rangefinding
Figure 1.--This photograph is undated, but looks lke the winter of 1944-45 to us. We see both Hitler Youth Boys and soldiers. Two boys in the niddle are trying out optical range finders. We are not sure what we see in the upper-right corner--perhaps the screen of a radar rane finder. This appears to be some kind of gathering to train HJ boys in range finding. It is possible the range finders were gong to be used because by this point in the War, the radar defenses had been bombed out. Or perhaps they were used by spotter groups. Click on the image for a fuller discussion.

Early flak batteries used optical range finders. As the war progressed, the Germans introduced radar direction and ranging. The batteries commonly worked in conjuntion with searchlights. The Germans developed both time- and altitude-fused high-explosive shells. The Germans worked on a proximity fused shell like the one developed by the Americans. They had trouble, however, developing an effective devise. German engineers did introduce an effective controlled-fragmentation shell whichwas used for both the 88s and 105s (1943). These shells had grooves cut on the inside face of the casings. This meant thatupon detonation that theccasing would desintegrate into a smaller number of larger sharapnell fragments. Only a small number of high-explosive shells sored diret hits. Most of the damage done by German Flak was the sharanell hitting the bombers. The larger fragments appears to have been more effective. The most effective shell developed by theGermans was incendiary shrapnel. This thin-walled shell was packed with containing numerous small pellets. Fortunately for allied air crews, this shell was not intrduced until the final months of te war. The 88s could hit Allied bombers at high altitudes. I have noted estimates up up to up to an altutude of 35,000-49,000 feet. The Flak 88 at first had 10-man crews, but this was eventually reduced to 8-man crews. I have seen varying estimates as to the firing rate. One report indicates that a well trained crew could fire 3 shells/min. We have seen estimates as high as 15-20 shells/minute.


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Created: 6:41 PM 2/9/2008
Last updated: 6:41 PM 2/9/2008