Flakpanzer IV

By Christian Ankerstjerne

Kugelblitz

Background

The last, and most advanced, Flakpanzer based on the Pz Kpfw IV chassis to be build was the Kugelblitz (ball lightning). The idea first appeared in late 1943, when it was suggested to mount a dual 30 mm anti-aircraft gun on a Pz Kpfw IV chassis. The gun was to be manufactured by either Brünn or Rheinmetall-Borsig.

The turret was taken from a submarine design, in which fully-enclosed spherical turrets had been designed to replace the unprotected deck guns, but because of the inherent differences between tanks and submarines, the idea was dropped.

Development

In early 1944, Daimler-Benz presented a new design, still based on the Pz Kpfw IV, mounting a dual 3 cm MK 103, originally designed by Rheinmetall-Borsig as an aircraft gun. The guns were mounted in a semi-spherical, fully-enclosed turret.

The theoretical rate of fire of the MK 103 was 900 rounds per minute, with a practical rate of fire of 480 rounds per minute. This was significantly higher than the practical rate of fire of 150 rounds per minute of the 3,7 cm Flak 43 of the Ostwind. Being belt-fed, rather than magazine-fed, loaders became superfluous during combat, allowing for a smaller turret.

To fit the 3 cm MK 103, it was necessary to use the wider Tiger turret ring. Traverse and elevation of the turret was hydraulic, allowing a full elevation in just over four seconds, and a 360° traverse in 15.5 seconds. The Pz Kpfw IV chassis was retained, as it was the only one readily available.

Production

Kugelblitz production was to begin in September 1944, at a rate of five per month, reaching 30 per month by December 1944. In September 1944, this plan was changed to two being manufactured by Daimler-Benz in October, and three being manufactured by Stahlindustrie in November. Further delayed meant that only three Kugelblitz had been produced when Deutsche Edelstahlwerke, an important subcontractor, was captured by the Allies.

Operational History

Little is known of the combat history of the Kugelblitz. Two of the turrets were allegedly transported to Berlin to be used as static anti-aircraft guns, but it is not know whether they saw any action. The remaining turret survived the war, and is currently located in the Lehrsammlung der Heeresflugabwehrschule in Rendsburg.

Technical Information

Möbelwagen Wirbelwind Ostwind Kugelblitz
Crew
Crew
  • Commander
  • Gunner (2)
  • Loader
  • Radio operator
  • Driver
  • Commander/gunner
  • Loader (2)
  • Radio operator
  • Driver
  • Commander
  • Gunner
  • Loader
  • Radio operator
  • Driver
  • Commander
  • Gunner (2)
  • Radio operator
  • Driver
Physical Characteristics
Weight 25 t 22 t 25 t 23 t
Length 5.92 m
Width 2.95 m 2.90 m 2.95 m
Height 3.00 m 2.76 m 2.96 m 2.40 m
Ground pressure 0.81 kg/cm² 0.78 kg/cm² 0.81 kg/cm²
Armor
Hull, front 50-80 mm 80 mm
Hull, sides and rear 20-30 mm
Hull, top 10-20 mm
Hull, bottom 10 mm
Turret, front 25 mm 16 mm 18-30 mm
Turret, sides and rear 25 mm 16 mm 20-30 mm
Turret, top None 10 mm
Performance
Maximum speed 38 km/h
Road speed 25 km/h
Cross-country speed 20 km/h
Maximum grade 30°
Trench crossing 2.2 m
Vertical obstacle 60 cm
Fording depth 80 cm
Fuel capacity 470 l
Mileage (road) 2.35 l/km
Mileage (cross-country) 3.62 l/km
Cruising range 200 km
Cross-country range 130 km
Engine
Make and model Maybach HL 120 TRM
Type Water cooled
Cylinders 12
Displacement 11 900 cc
Fuel Gasoline
Max. governed speed 2600 rpm
Net h.p. 265
Armament
Main weapon 3,7 cm Flak 43/1 2 cm Flakvierling 3,7 cm Flak 43/1 3 cm MK 103 (2)
Secondary weapon MG 34 (2) MG 34
Auxillary weapon 9 mm MP
Ammunition Storage
Main weapon
  • 3,7 cm Spgr: 320
  • 3,7 cm Pzgr: 80
3200 400 1200
Secondary weapon - 1350 - 1200
Auxillary weapon 192 - 192

Additional Reading

Pz Kpfw IV
Information about the Panzerkampfwagen IV.

Sources

  1. JENTZ, Thomas L. & DOYLE, Hilary Louis. Panzer Tracts No. 12 - Flak Selbstfahrlafetten and Flakpanzer : Sd.Kfz.10/4 to 8.8 cm Flak auf VFW. Darlington, MD : Darlington Productions, 1998. 56 p. .