It should be noted that the first self-propelled self-propelled guns appeared in the Wehrmacht during the French campaign. However, then it was about improvised technique, assembled from existing products. The existing semi-tracked tractor mounted an existing anti-aircraft gun, which helped protect the troops from enemy raids. However, this handicraft solution had some drawbacks. The main one is the absence of the required protection of anti-aircraft gunners. In addition, the overall survivability and other characteristics of such self-propelled guns left much to be desired. Thus, the troops needed a new combat vehicle, originally developed to solve the tasks.
A preliminary study of the issue showed that the industry has the theoretical ability to install anti-aircraft guns on existing protected chassis. In this case, however, only the outdated light tank Pz.Kpfw.I of the very first Ausf.A modification could be used as the basis for such a machine. The characteristics of such a chassis allowed to be used as weapons Only small-caliber artillery systems, such as the 20-mm cannon FlaK 38. It was on the basis of these products, it was decided to build a new anti-aircraft self-propelled gun.
At the end of 1940, the final technical task for the development of new armored vehicles was formed. Alkett and Daimler-Benz were to create a promising project. In addition, the project attracted the company Stöwer, which offered some units, and later, apparently, also completed the assembly of finished combat vehicles.
It was proposed that ready-made vehicles and existing weapons be used as the basis for the new ZSU. Thus, the project was quite simple in terms of development and production. In particular, it was proposed to refine only some of the details of the basic parts, and their alteration was determined only by the need to install a gun on tank chassis. No significant processing of the chassis or guns was required.
When rebuilding into self-propelled self-propelled guns, the base tank had to retain most of the hull. All necessary improvements concerned only the podbashennoy box. From it it was necessary to cut off the roof, and also to remove the aft wall. The front of the box was pushed forward 200 mm. At the same time, the boards were pivotally mounted: in the traveling position, they had to be positioned vertically, but if necessary, they could be folded sideways, which led to the appearance of a platform for placing the crew during combat work. The roof of the engine compartment was also modified, which made it possible to install part of the attachments of the gun mount on it. Protection characteristics of the case, of course, remained the same. The construction of armor steel sheets 5-13 mm thick could protect the crew and internal units from small arms bullets and artillery shell fragments.
The tank Pz.Kpfw.I had the layout traditional for the early German armored vehicles. In front of the case, there was a control compartment and some transmission units. In the center there was a fighting compartment, under the floor of which a cardan shaft passed. The hull feed was given under the engine compartment. Tanks of the early modification “A” were equipped with a four-cylinder carburetor boxed Krupp M305 engine with less than 60 horsepower. Directly with the engine was a gearbox, the task of which was to transfer torque to the drive shaft connected to the other transmission units.
The undercarriage of the tank had four support rollers on each side, besides, the aft steering wheel served as a support roller. The front pair of road wheels received a balancing suspension with springs and hydraulic shock absorbers. Other rollers, including the guide wheels, were interlocked and mounted on a spring suspension, which received a characteristic external beam. Driving wheels of relatively large diameter were placed in front of the case. To support the upper branch of the caterpillar there were three rollers.
In front of the case, the workplace of the driver was preserved. Other crew members were to be located on the upper platform or, during combat work, on the ground. It is noteworthy that the crew of the new self-propelled gun could consist of five or eight people. The reduced pay was required for firing at ground targets, and a crew of eight had to fully solve air defense tasks.
An anti-aircraft gun with an automatic Flak 38 gun was to be located on the upper platform of the hull, which was freed after the tower was dismantled and the tower box was completed. For greater ease of operation and possible use without a chassis, the gun has retained most of the gun carriages. The new project retained the possibility of relatively quick dismantling of the gun with installation on the ground or on a special towed trailer. In this case, the main method of using the gun was shooting directly from the tank chassis.
The FlaK 38 cannon had an 20-mm barrel with a 65 length of calibers and could be used to attack air or ground targets. The gun was supposed to use 20x138 mm B shells of several types. The relatively long barrel accelerated the shells to 900 m / s, and the used automation allowed shooting at a rate of up to 450 rounds per minute. The supply was carried out from box stores on 20 shells each.
In the draft of the new ZSU, the existing gun retained the existing gun carriage with manual guidance drives. Its design allowed firing in any direction in azimuth with an elevation from -11 ° to + 87 °. Depending on the type of projectile, effective fire was provided at a distance of up to 2,2 km. To protect the gunner, the gun had a shield of a characteristic curved shape, consisting of two main parts. In the interval between the halves of the shield there was a movable mask of the weapon. The right half of the shield had a small cutout in the upper part, intended for the use of the sight.
The gun mount was proposed to be mounted on a modified hull roof, in the place of a towed box and a tower. This arrangement of weapons allowed us to maintain an acceptable balance of the entire machine, as well as to ensure the free guidance of the gun in the entire accessible sector. The gun mounts, as already mentioned, made it possible to remove it from the chassis and mount it back by the calculation forces.
Tank Panzerkampfwagen I, which became the basis for the new self-propelled gun, did not differ in large size and large volume of the hull, which led to some interesting consequences. The main consequence of small volumes was the development of a special two-wheeled trailer Sonderanhänger 51 (Sd.Ah.51). Due to the small size of the self-propelled guns, it was possible to transport very limited ammunition, which was located in a small compartment behind the driver. It also provided a place for the transport of personal weapons calculation - Mauser 98k carbines. It was proposed to transport other projectiles, as well as personal belongings, in the trailer towed by the self-propelled gun. Due to the lack of space inside the building, the ZSU also lost the radio station, due to which the crew received a set of flags for transmitting signals to other vehicles.
The assembled self-propelled gun on the base of the tank and anti-aircraft gun was supposed to weigh about 5,5 t. Its length was 4,4 m, width 2,06 m, height - 2,08 m. Relatively weak engine allowed to reach a speed of no more 35-37 km / h and pass on one gas station to 180 km. Thus, a promising self-propelled gun with certain limitations could work in some combat formations with other armored vehicles of the German army.
All work on the new project, including the construction of combat vehicles, was completed in early summer 1941. First of all, this was facilitated by the use of ready-made machines and cannons, which were available to the troops in large quantities. In addition, the work in a sense, facilitated some features of the tanks, taken for rework. By the beginning of the forties, the Pz.Kpfw.I tanks were already considered obsolete and were hardly used in the original quality. So, a number of machines modification Ausf.A was converted into ammunition transporters. At the same time they were deprived of the original tower and received the means of storage and transportation of ammunition.
It was the ammunition conveyors that became the basis for the new ZSU. This technique was taken from the 1-th company of the 610-th transport battalion and sent for modernization. Due to the absence of the tower and other changes in the design, the reworking of the conveyors did not take much time. The result of this work was the emergence of 24 new anti-aircraft self-propelled units. Some sources also mention the construction of one or two prototypes, followed by the rest of a series of two dozen machines.
In accordance with the German nomenclature of technology, a new type of self-propelled self-propelled gun received the designation 2cm FlaK 38 auf Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.A: 2-cm cannon FlaK 38 on the chassis Pz.Kpfw.I modification "A". In addition, at the same time, the new term Flakpanzer (“Anti-aircraft tank”) appeared. An alternative designation of the new machine was the Flakpanzer I.
According to reports, the attitude of the military to the “Flakpantser-1” from the very beginning was ambiguous. On the one hand, the appearance of such equipment made it possible to ensure the protection of columns on the march due to the serious advantages in mobility over the existing towed artillery. On the other hand, the basis of the new project was an outdated chassis with not very high performance. However, the German command simply had no choice. Alternative ZSU 2cm FlaK 38 auf Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.A has not existed yet and has not anticipated.
To operate the new self-propelled guns, a new 614 anti-aircraft battalion was formed. His main weapon was a new type of car, and in supporting roles it was proposed to use a diverse fleet of cars of German, French and British production, previously captured as trophies. Thus, in terms of the material part, the 614 Battalion was a very interesting unit.
Training personnel for 2cm FlaK 38 auf Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.A continued until the middle of summer 1941. In August, the 614 anti-aircraft battalion was sent by rail from Berlin to Prague. Then he was transported to Romania. Only in the fall the battalion managed to get a full-fledged combat mission. From Romania, self-propelled guns passed the order of 600 km and plunged into the occupied Soviet territory. The task of the battalion was the protection of bridges on the Dnieper.
Approximately in the winter, the 1941-42 of the year, the anti-aircraft battalion was still able to go to the front line. Over the next few months, anti-aircraft self-propelled guns were used to protect troops from air raids and, in some cases, to attack ground targets. The use of 20-mm cannons against tanks was not possible, but in some cases such weapons were an effective means to destroy long-term firing points. In addition, there was a high potential in attacking field artillery in positions.
However, the new ZSU had a lot of flaws. The main problems were morally and physically obsolete chassis. Panzerkampfwagen I tanks were made before 1937, and the assembly of the first Ausf.A modification was curtailed in the early autumn of 36. Thus, most of the chassis for the 2cm FlaK 38 auf Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.A did not differ in novelty and large remnants of the resource. As a result, self-propelled guns were spent most of the time of their service not at the forefront, but in repair shops.
The service and its effectiveness also affected the obsolescence of the chassis. It had insufficient bookings and did not have high mobility. Because of this, self-propelled guns could be a relatively easy target for large-caliber machine guns or the Red Army anti-guns. The use of any artillery was completely fatal to German cars. Also, the inadequate protection of the calculation, part of which was covered by a shield, negatively affected the tenacity. Because of this, the risk of hitting the crew with small arms or shell fragments significantly increased.
The consequence of insufficient performance and low survivability was the loss of most of the self-propelled guns built. By the end of 1942, a significant amount of ZSU 2cm FlaK 38 auf Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.A was written off after a resource was developed or destroyed by the enemy. The last few cars of this type continued service until the beginning of the 43. At this time, the 614-th anti-aircraft battalion was located in the area of Stalingrad and along with a host of other units was surrounded.
Part of the personnel and material part of the battalion was destroyed during the fighting, and some fighters managed to stay alive and captured. The remaining equipment, in turn, became trophies of the Red Army. It is known that among other equipment in the Stalingrad boiler were found several self-propelled guns "Flakpanzer-1". Soviet experts studied this technique and criticized it. All the features of the project that was once considered promising were fully criticized. After studying trophy "anti-aircraft tanks" as unnecessary sent to the smelter.
No later than the first months of 1943, the latest 2cm FlaK 38 auf Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.A self-propelled guns ceased to exist. Thus, to this day not a single sample of this technique has been preserved. Total 24 armored vehicles, combined in one battalion, could not have a significant impact on the course of the fighting. Nevertheless, they allowed to check in practice an interesting and promising idea, assessing the real possibilities of such equipment. According to the results of the Flakpanzer I project, it was decided to continue the development and construction of self-propelled anti-aircraft installations. However, the next such project appeared only a few years later.
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