The main requirements for such a vehicle were:. At the same time as the design and developing of the Wirbelwind was just beginning, a battlefield modification of a Panzer IV tank chassis was carried out involving the use of a 2 cm Flak 38 Flakvierling, with the intention of building a Flakpanzer. He gave orders to his men to mount a 2 cm Flak 38 Flakvierling on a Panzer IV tank chassis its turret may have been damaged. The tank turret was removed and, in its place, a 2 cm Flak 38 Flakvierling was installed.
The original gun shield was removed, but later built vehicles had a newly modified three-sided gun shield but much simpler construction than the Wirbelwind. Unknown numbers were built, but possibly up to three vehicles. They were used by the 12th Panzer Regiment in France fighting Allies forces. This project was carried out without knowledge of the design team working on the plans for the new Flakpanzer ordered by Guderian but it would have a great influence on it. This is the first Karl Wilhelm battlefield modification Flakpanzer based on a Panzer IV chassis and armed with 2 cm Flak 38 Flakvierling anti-aircraft gun.
Photo: Operation Dauntless. This is the second Karl Wilhelm Flakpanzer. It has a simple three sided gun shield. Unknown Source. After a short analysis of the state of the German military economy, it became immediately clear that designing a completely new Flakpanzer was out of the question. The German industry was hard pressed mostly due to the high demands for more combat vehicles and constant Allied bombing raids so the possibility of designing and a building a new vehicle would take too much time and resources both were lacking by Another solution was needed. Generalmajor Bolbrinker hoped that, by collecting a team of young tank officers, their enthusiasm and ideas would help him find a solution to this problem.
This group of young tank officers was lead by Oberleutnant J. Upon return, Leutnant Hans Christoph on the 27 April made a report to In 6 in which he praised this vehicle and suggested that it be used as a base for further work on a new Flakpanzer design. This report had a major impact in making a final decision to produce the first prototype. Guderian was very impressed by the new Wirbelwind Flakpanzer and asked for it to be put in production. It was sent together with Ostwind prototype to Bad Kuhlungsborn on the Baltic Coast for live firing tests of the guns.
These tests were held in July of , and around 3, rounds of ammunition were fired against air and ground targets without any problem to the gun or the vehicle itself. Observers from In 6 reported positive results for this vehicle and that the whole construction was feasible and without problems. The Wirbelwind name is very common in many sources. The origin or even if it was an original German designation is not clear as none of the sources give a specific explanation of the origin of this name.
Thanks to some combat reports like the one from the s. This article will use Wirbelwind name mostly due simplicity but also because large numbers of different authors use it.
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G or H, possibly even small numbers of Ausf. J tank chassis. The suspension and running gear were the same as those of the original Panzer IV, with no changes to its construction. It consisted of eight pairs of small road wheels on each side suspended by leaf-spring units. There were two front drive sprockets, two rear idlers and eight return rollers in total four on each side.
The design of the engine compartment was unchanged. Most parts of the upper tank hull were unchanged from the original Panzer IV. As the Wirbelwind was constructed by using rebuilt Panzer IV chassis of different versions, there were some minor detail differences. For example, some vehicles had two vision ports one on each side while some did no.
Panzerkampfwagen IV (Panzer IV)
Some had Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste on the hulls, the fuel hand pump and the starter for the inertia started were moved near the driver seat on some versions. The armor thickness also varies from model to model. The maximum armor thickness of the lower frontal glacis varied from 50 to 80 mm thick, the sides were 30 mm, the rear 20 mm and the bottom armor was only 10 mm.
The 2 cm Flak 38 Flakvierling anti-aircraft quad gun was placed in a nine-sided, open-topped turret. Each of these nine-sided plates were built by welding two angled armored plates. The lower plates were angled outside and the upper one was angled towards the inside. The armor of these plates was 16 mm thick. The angled armor provided some extra protection but in general, it could only protect the crew from small caliber weapons or grenade splinters.
The top was completely open and this was done for a few reasons: to speed up production, to allow the crew a better view of their surroundings and help in target acquisition and threat evaluation, and to help expel the choking gases that were released when the four guns were fired. There were plans to add extra armor plates at the top for better protection but this was never done. The upper front armor plate between the 2 cm Flak barrels had a small hatch that could be opened to allow the gunner to see and engage ground targets.
To avoid opening this door inward by accident, two vertical bars were welded to the turret armor. There were original plans to add two side hatch doors on the fighting compartment on both sides but as it would cause future delays in production this idea was never implemented. Also, the top was planned to be protected by an opening wire grid similar to Sd.
The 2 cm Flak 38 Flakvierling had to be adapted in order to fit in this turret. First, there were no seats for the crews, as there were removed from the gun. Seats were instead placed on the turret interior walls, with one on each side plus one behind the gun. The gun shield was also removed. To make a stable platform for the new gun, it was necessary to add a new gun mount which was constructed from two T shaped carriers around 2. An additional plate with 0. This plate also had a large round shaped opening for the mounting of the collector ring.
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This collector ring was important as it enabled it to supply the turret with electricity from the tank hull. There was also a locking mechanism designed to lock down the Flak gun and thus the whole turret in place during driving. Some extra room had to be made for equipment needed for the main weapons, for example, the cleaning box. A box with spare barrels was placed on each side of the engine compartment. In order to make the construction of this vehicle easier, no extra traverse mechanism was provided. The turret was instead traversed by using the main gun traverse.
The new turret was in essence just an extended gun shield. The only real connection that the Flak gun had with the turret were three metal lugs under the crew seats.
The ring-shaped turret base was welded to the hull top. To help with the rotation, ball bearings were added into this base which made turret movement much easier. The maximum rate of fire was to rpm, but to rpm was the more practical rate. The gunner fired the Flak guns by using two-foot pedals, each pedal being responsible for a diagonal of the four-barrel arrangement so upper left with lower right, for example.
It was recommended that the gunner fire only two guns at a time, but this was largely ignored, depending on the combat situation or availability of ammunition. The 2 cm Flak 38 Flakvierling usually had a deflector box but due to the limited space, its installation was not possible. In order to avoid contact between the hot used cartridges and stored ammunition, some kind of case or mesh bags were possibly used.