History of Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind

As Allied airstrikes against German interests increased in intensity and results during World War II, the German Army had a responsibility to develop mobile-oriented air defense platforms. The former "Mobilwagen" evolved from the hull of the medium Panzer IV, armed with a 37mm FlaK 43 L/89 automatic cannon mounted on a box-armored superstructure.

The vehicle weighs approximately 24,000 kg, has a crew of 6, and can carry ammunition in 416 x 37 mm projectiles. In every way, the Mobelwagen became an intermediate design until a better anti-aircraft vehicle could be found.

This is where the "Whirlwind" ("Whirlwind"/"Flakpanzer IV") came from, which was also built on the hull of the Panzer IV line. Instead of a single-gun, six-man crew and boxy superstructure, Wirbelwind used a four-gun arrangement (4 x 2 cm Flakvierling 38 L/112.5), five-man crew and a brand new open nine-sided turret" bucket". The origin of the Panzer IV is clearly visible, with the arrangement of eight wheels, front drive sprockets and rear track idlers.

The crew consisted of a driver, a commander (who also served as the main gunner), a radio operator and two ammunition dealers. The total ammunition stockpile for four machine guns is 3,200 x 20mm projectiles, and one defensively aimed MG34 machine gun has 1,350 x 7.92mm rounds. The vehicle retains the Panzer IV's leaf-spring suspension, capable of going up to 25 mph on ideal road surfaces and reaching a range of 124 miles. Power is maintained by a Maybach HL 120 TRM 12-cylinder petrol engine at the rear.

The armor protection of various fairings ranges from 10mm to 80mm.

Only when the need to defend against Allied attack aircraft became urgent did the Bundeswehr invest in anti-aircraft vehicles and then start racing to find suitable solutions. The design and development of the Wirbelwind began in 1944, when a German officer - Karl Krauss - pitched his Panzer IV-based idea to the authorities, who eventually got Hitler himself to approve the design. Then begin preparing your existing inventory of Panzer IV vehicles for the upcoming conversion process. In many ways, the Cyclone provided a logistically friendly solution to retain and reuse many of the auto parts already in circulation for the Panzer IV tank, and the new faceted turret was simple enough to allow for mass production.

In addition, a large number of 20mm guns are available. The manufacture of cyclones was transferred to Ostbauwerke in Sagan, Silesia.

In early service, the Wirbelwind's four-gun burst arrangement proved valuable against low-flying aircraft. Its self-propelled ability allows it to move with ease and keep up with the German fleet when needed. However, Allied air power and associated ground fire tactics continued to evolve, which in turn limited the effectiveness of the Cyclone system. The chosen 20mm shell also showed its limitations, which encouraged other anti-aircraft solutions - one in the form of the "Ostwind", another vehicle based on the Panzer IV, and in the new version based on the more powerful 3.7cm FlaK 43 Cannon Recessed, open-air, six-sided turret design.

Despite its now limited air defense capabilities, Wirbelwinds continued to support the German Army's operations as its 20mm quadruple guns could be used against enemy lightly armored ground targets and troop concentrations with rather catastrophic consequences.

About 100 Cyclones were eventually completed, although the exact number cannot be known from any source.

Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind Specification

Basic

Year:
1944
Staff:
5
Manufacturing:
Ostbauwerke - Nazi Germany
Production:
100 units

Roles

- Air Defense/Airspace Denial

Dimensions

Length:

5.9m

Width:

2.9m

Height:

2.75m

Weight:

24 tons (22,000 kg; 48,502 lb)

Performance

1 x Maybach HL 120 TRM 12 cylinder petrol engine, 296 hp.

Performance

Maximum Speed:

40 km/h

Maximum range:

124 miles (200 km)

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Armor

4 x 20 mm Flakvierling 38 guns.

1 x 7.92mm MG34 General Purpose Machine Gun.

Ammo:

3,200 x 20mm projectile.

1,350x7.92mm ammo.

Changes

Flakpanzer IV ("Whirlwind") - The name of the basic series.

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