1. ANTITANK GUNS
Since 1939 the German Army has been making a tremendous effort
to bring into service a satisfactory antitank gun for every type
of combat unit. Even the air-borne and parachute troops have been
provided with light, tapered-bore weapons. A most important development
is that the German Army is no longer dependent on the German Air Force
for its heavy antiaircraft-antitank gun, the 88-mm. Formerly,
the Army had to borrow from the Air Force flak units armed with
the 88-mm gun, because this was the only weapon which
could give the requisite performance. The gun crews were German Air Force
personnel, the equipment was not designed to Army specifications, and
whether or not the guns were made available was likely to depend on the
personalities of the commanders involved. Thus Rommel was able to get
large numbers for use in a purely antitank role, chiefly because of
his personal influence.
When the German Air Force releases flak units to the Army for use
in an antitank role, the antiaircraft defense, which is primarily
an Air Force responsibility, is bound to suffer. Hence it is only
natural to expect that the Army's chief antitank weapons will
increasingly be manufactured to its own specifications and will be
organized as an integral part of the Army.
In the 75-mm antitank gun, model 40, the German Army now
has a piece which weighs 1 1/2 tons as against
the 7 tons of the 88-mm. For
all practical purposes, the two guns give the same performance against
armor at distances up to 2,500 yards. Moreover, the 75-mm antitank
gun, model 40, is to be manned by Army crews which have been Army-trained. In
the 75-mm antitank gun, model 41, which also weighs about
1 1/2 tons, the Germans have a weapon capable of defeating, under European
fighting conditions (that is, up to about 1,500 yards), armor 100 millimeters
thick—and greater thicknesses at shorter ranges.
When it was first brought out, the 75-mm antitank gun, model 40, had
a muzzle velocity of only 2,400 to 2,500 feet per second, and it looked as
though a still more powerful weapon would have to be produced. Now, with
improvements, the gun has a muzzle velocity of about 2,800 feet per second, and
the performance matches that of the 88-mm.
It should be evident, therefore, that Models 40 and 41 of the
75-mm antitank gun provide a powerful combination
for all ranges up to 2,500 yards.
2. TANK GUNS
Developments in the manufacture of German tank guns have, of course, been
influenced greatly by the progress of the war itself. The 1939 German tank
guns were not ideal for fighting the French tanks. At first, the
75-mm gun in the Pz. Kw. 4 was intended as a
close-support gun, and as such it was very successful; even now it is
being used for that purpose, and
has recently been mounted in some Pz. Kw. 3's and
8-wheeled armored cars. In 1941 the Pz. Kw. 3 was
armed with a 50-mm weapon to fight British cruiser tanks, and
the Germans decided to convert both the Pz. Kw. 3 and
the Pz. Kw. 4 into fighting tanks in every sense of the
term. (German tanks have always carried a generous
allotment of high-explosive shells, just as German
antitank guns have always been provided with high
explosive shells.) As a result, in
1942 the Pz. Kw. 3 and Pz. Kw. 4 were rearmed with
high-performance guns—the 50-mm Kw. K. model
39, and the 75-mm Kw. K. model 40, respectively—and
were given greatly improved armor.
Moreover, two new tank guns capable of giving an even superior
performance were brought into service. These guns were the
75-mm Kw. K., model 41 (tapered bore), and
the 88-mm Kw. K. 36.
The appearance of the 88-mm Kw. K. 36 was probably inspired
by the demand of the Afrika Korps for a gun which could throw a heavy
projectile and which could give a good penetration performance at
ranges of from 2,000 to 2,500 yards. The 88-mm Kw. K. 36 is
a very heavy gun and one which is awkward to mount in a tank. Its
ammunition (33-lb round) is hard to stow and handle in a limited
space. Although the 75-mm Kw. K. 41 is a lighter gun, and
uses a shorter and lighter (16 1/2 lb) round, it gives a much better
armor-piercing performance than the 88-mm at any range
below 1,500 yards. The 75-mm would seem to be better
suited to Russian or European conditions than to desert terrain, and
is likely to seen more often in the future.
The performance of the 75-mm Kw. K. does not match that
of the 88-mm at any range; however, since it is fundamentally
a good weapon, the Germans may attempt to improve its performance, instead
of trying to develop a new and heavier gun.
The Germans seem to be losing interest in a combination armor-piercing,
high-explosive shell, now that substantial thicknesses of armor have to
be dealt with. During the past year they have been improving the anti-armor
performance of armor-piercing projectiles: first, by reducing the high-explosive
capacity of the heavier armor-piercing shells and, second, by continuing to
develop high-velocity, armor-piercing shot with a tungsten carbide core. What
this amounts to is that the Germans are employing shot for attacks against
thick armor, while retaining, for every weapon, high-explosive shells to be
used in attacks against "thin-skinned" targets.
|Figure 1.—Hollow-charge Principle.|
The Germans now use piercing caps on armor-piercing shells for
everything over 20-mm caliber.
Both the 75-mm antitank gun model 40 and the
Kw. K. 40 are provided with a hollow-charge round, in addition
to the high-explosive shell and the armor-piercing projectile with
a ballistic (streamlined) cap. The Germans believe that the
hollow-charge shell should not be used at ranges of more than
1,300 yards. It is interesting to note that there has been a
rapid development of hollow-charge shells for all infantry,
air-borne, and field artillery weapons. There is every reason
to believe that the Germans will use these shells
increasingly, and wherever possible.
 A very recent report indicates that the Germans have introduced a new
towed 75-mm gun, which has a muzzle velocity of 3,250 feet per second
and which uses the same ammunition as the 75-mm antitank gun model 40.
 Kampfwagen Kanone—tank gun.
 Hollow-charge projectiles have a hollow space (see fig. 1) in the
nose section, to concentrate the blast against a small area and thus
obtain better piercing effect. This principle is also followed in the
manufacture of demolition charges and hand grenades.