2 cm FlaK 30
The Flak 30 and improved Flak 38 were 20 mm anti-aircraft guns used by various German forces throughout the Second World War. It was not only the primary German light anti-aircraft gun, but by far the most numerously produced German artillery piece throughout the war. It was produced in a variety of models, notably the Flakvierling 38 which combined four Flaks 38 onto a single carriage.


The Germans fielded the unrelated early 2 cm Flak 28 just after World War I, but the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 outlawed these weapons and they were sold to Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....


The original Flak 30 design was developed from the Solothurn ST-5
Solothurn ST-5
The Solothurn ST-5 is a 20 mm anti-aircraft gun designed by Solothurn in Switzerland which ultimately was the design basis for the highly successful 2 cm FlaK 30 series of guns used by Germany in World War II....

 as a project for the Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

, which produced the 20 mm C/30. The gun fired the "Long Solothurn", a 20 × 138 mm belted cartridge that had been developed for the ST-5 and was one of the most powerful 20 mm rounds in existence.

The C/30 featured a barrel of 65 calibers, firing at a rate of about 120 rounds per minute. The C/30 also proved to have feeding problems and would often jam. This was offset to some degree by its undersized magazine
Magazine (firearm)
A magazine is an ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a repeating firearm. Magazines may be integral to the firearm or removable . The magazine functions by moving the cartridges stored in the magazine into a position where they may be loaded into the chamber by the action...

, which held only 20 rounds, which tended to make reloading a common requirement anyway. Nevertheless the C/30 became the primary shipborne light AA weapon, and equipped a large variety of German ships. The C/30 was also used experimentally as an aircraft weapon, notably on the Heinkel He 112
Heinkel He 112
The Heinkel He 112 was a fighter aircraft designed by Walter and Siegfried Günter. It was one of four aircraft designed to compete for the Luftwaffes 1933 fighter contract, which was eventually won by the Messerschmitt Bf 109...

, where its high power allowed it to penetrate armored cars and the light tanks of the era during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...


Rheinmetall AG is a German automotive and defence company with factories in Düsseldorf, Kassel and Unterlüß. The company has a long tradition of making guns and artillery pieces...

 then started an adaptation of the C/30 for Army use, producing the 2 cm Flak 30. Generally similar to the C/30, the main areas of development were the mount, which was fairly compact. Set-up could be accomplished by dropping the gun to the ground off its two-wheeled carriage and leveling with hand cranks. The result was a triangular base that allowed fire in all directions.

The main problem with the design remained the fairly low rate of fire, which at 120 RPM was not particularly fast for a weapon of this caliber. RheinmetallThe original source articles used to produce this single combined version state different companies for the manufacture of the various models. It suggested that Mauser
Mauser was a German arms manufacturer of a line of bolt-action rifles and pistols from the 1870s to 1995. Mauser designs were built for the German armed forces...

 produced all of the Flak 38 and later variants.
responded with the 2 cm Flak 38, which was otherwise similar but increased the rate of fire to 220 RPM and slightly lowered overall weight to 420 kg. The Flak 38 was accepted as the standard Army gun in 1939, and by the Kriegsmarine as the C/38.

In order to provide airborne and mountain troops with AA capabilities, Mauser
Mauser was a German arms manufacturer of a line of bolt-action rifles and pistols from the 1870s to 1995. Mauser designs were built for the German armed forces...

 was contracted to produce a lighter version of the Flak 38, which they introduced as the 2 cm Gebirgsflak 38
Gebirgsflak 38
The Gebirgsflak 38 was a light weight version of the 2 cm FlaK 38 designed for airborne and mountain troops as a dual purpose gun for use against air and ground targets. The main difference was that the carriage was smaller and lighter than the carriage for the FlaK 38. The gun and carriage were...

(2 cm GebFlak 38). It featured a dramatically simplified mount lacking towing capability and using a tripod that raised the entire gun off the ground, which had the side-effect of allowing it to be set up on more uneven ground. These changes reduced the overall weight of the gun to a mere 276.0 kg. Production started in 1941 and entered service in 1942.


A wide variety of 20x138B ammunition was manufactured and used in 2 cm Flak weapons; some of the more commonly used types of ammunition are listed on the following table. Other ammunition types that existed included numerous practise rounds (marked Übung or Üb. in German notation), and a number of different AP types. A high-velocity PzGr 40 round with a tungsten carbide
Tungsten carbide
Tungsten carbide is an inorganic chemical compound containing equal parts of tungsten and carbon atoms. Colloquially, tungsten carbide is often simply called carbide. In its most basic form, it is a fine gray powder, but it can be pressed and formed into shapes for use in industrial machinery,...

 core in an aluminium body existed in 20x138B caliber.
German designation US Abbreviation Projectile weight [g] Bursting charge Muzzle velocity [m/s] Description
Sprenggranatpatrone L'spur mit Zerleger HE-T 115 6.0 g HE (nitropenta) ? Nose fuzed tracer round, self-destruct at 5.5 seconds (2000m range) due to tracer burn-through.
Sprenggranatpatrone L'spur mit Zerleger HE-T 120 6.6 g HE (nitropenta) ? Boat-tailed HE tracer round with nose fuze. Self-destruct at ca.2 km range due to tracer burn-through.
Brandsprenggranatpatrone L'spur mit Zerleger HEI-T 120 2.4 g HE (RDX+wax) +
4.1 g incendiary (Zn)
? Nose fuze, tracer (5 second burn), with self-destruct
Brandsprenggranatpatrone mit Zerleger HEI 120 22 g total (HE and incendiary) ? Nose fuze, no tracer, with self-destruct. Lack of tracer and high density of incendiary allows heavy filling load.
Panzergranatpatrone L'spur mit Zerleger APHE-T 146 ? ? Base-fuzed tracer round, with self-destruct due to tracer burn-through after 2 second flight (1000m range).
Panzerbrandgranatpatrone (Phosphor) L'spur ohne Zerleger API-T 148 3.0 g incendiary (WP) ? Tracer round, with no fuze or self-destruct function.
Panzersprenggranatpatrone L'spur mit Zerleger (Kriegsmarine) APHE-T 121 3.6 g HE ? Base-fuzed round, self-destruct after 4.5 second flight (1800m range) due to tracer burn-through.

2 cm Flakvierling 38

Even as the Flak 30 was entering service, the Luftwaffe and Army had doubts about its effectiveness, given the ever-increasing speeds of low-altitude fighter-bomber
A fighter-bomber is a fixed-wing aircraft with an intended primary role of light tactical bombing and also incorporating certain performance characteristics of a fighter aircraft. This term, although still used, has less significance since the introduction of rockets and guided missiles into aerial...

s and attack aircraft. The Army in particular felt the proper solution was the introduction of the 37 mm caliber weapons they had been developing since the 1920s, which had a rate of fire about the same as the Flak 38, but fired a round with almost eight times the weight. This not only made the rounds deadlier on impact, but their higher energy allowed them to travel to much longer distances, allowing the gun to engage targets at longer ranges. This meant it could keep enemy aircraft under fire over longer time spans.

The 20 mm weapons had always had weak development perspectives, improving just enough to keep them useful. It was something of a surprise when Rheinmetall was able to "pull a fast one" again, introducing the 2 cm Flakvierling 38, which improved the weapon just enough to make it competitive once again. The name vierling means literally "quadruplet" and refers to a four-barreled combination gun
Combination gun
A combination gun is a break-action hunting firearm that comprises at least two barrels, a rifle barrel and a shotgun barrel, often but not always in an over and under configuration; side-by-side variations are known as cape guns. A ' refers to a combination gun that has three barrels...


The weapon consisted of quad-mounted 2 cm Flak 38 AA guns with collapsing seats, folding handles, and ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

 racks. The mount had a triangular base with a jack at each leg for leveling the gun. The tracker traversed and elevated the mount manually using two handwheels. The gun was fired by a set of two footpedals—each of which fired two diametrically opposite Flak 38s—and could be operated either automatically or semi-automatically. When raised, the weapon measured 307 cm (10 feet 1 inch) high.

Each of the four mounted guns had a separate magazine that held only 20 rounds. This meant that a maximum combined rate of fire of 1,400 rounds per minute was reduced practically to 800 rounds per minute for combat use – which would still require 10 magazine swaps per minute on each of the four guns. The guns could be fired in pairs (diagonally opposite) or simultaneously, in either semi-automatic or fully automatic mode. The effective vertical range was 2200 meters. It was also used just as effectively against ground targets as it was against low-flying aircraft.

The gun was normally transported on a Sd. Ah. 52 trailer, and could be towed behind a variety of half-track
A half-track is a civilian or military vehicle with regular wheels on the front for steering, and caterpillar tracks on the back to propel the vehicle and carry most of the load. The purpose of this combination is to produce a vehicle with the cross-country capabilities of a tank and the handling...

s or trucks, such as the Opel Blitz
Opel Blitz
Opel Blitz was the name given to various German light and middle-weight trucks built by Opel between 1930 and 1975.During the years preceding the Second World War Opel was Germany's largest truck producer...

, SdKfz 251
SdKfz 251
The Sd.Kfz. 251 half-track was an armored fighting vehicle designed and first built by Hanomag company during World War II. The largest and best armored of the wartime half-tracks, the Sd.Kfz. 251 was designed to transport the panzergrenadiers of the German mechanized infantry corps into battle....

 and SdKfz 11
SdKfz 11
The Sd.Kfz. 11 was a German half-track that saw very widespread use in World War II. Its main role was as a prime mover for medium towed guns ranging from the 3.7 cm FlaK 43 anti-aircraft gun up to the 10.5 cm leFH 18 field howitzer...

. It was also mounted onto half-tracks and tank bodies to produce mobile anti-aircraft vehicles, such as the SdKfz 7/1 (based on the SdKfz 7
SdKfz 7
The Sd.Kfz. 7 was a half-track military vehicle used by the German Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Waffen-SS during the Second World War....

 half-track) and the Wirbelwind
The Flakpanzer IV "Wirbelwind" was a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun based on the Panzer IV tank. It was developed in 1944 as a successor to the earlier self-propelled anti-aircraft gun Möbelwagen....

 and original Möbelwagen
The 3.7cm FlaK auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen IV , nicknamed Möbelwagen because of its boxy turret , was a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun built from the chassis of the Panzer IV tank...

 prototype (both based on the Panzer IV
Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV , commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz...

 tank). In Kriegsmarine use, it was fitted to U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

s and ships to provide short-range anti-aircraft defense, and was also employed in fixed installations around ports, harbors and other strategic naval targets. The Flakvierling was also a common fixture on trains, even on Hitler's own command train, where pairs of them were mounted on either end of a "camelback" flatbed car and then covered to make it look like a boxcar, sometimes with a pair of such twin-Flakvierling mount cars for defense, one near each end of Hitler's Führersonderzug train.

The closest equivalent fielded by any of the Allied nations to the Flakvierling gun system was the Browning M2-based M45 Quadmount open turret unit, usually fitted as the main armament of the American M3 half track as the M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage.

See also

  • List of anti-aircraft guns
  • List of artillery of Germany
  • Quadmount
    The M45 Quadmount was a weapon mounting consisting of four M2 Browning machine guns mounted in pairs on each side of an electrically powered turret. It was built by the Maxon Manufacturing Co...

External links

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