||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2012)|
1/35 scale model of Kugelblitz
|Type||Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun|
|Place of origin||Nazi Germany|
|Length||5.92 m (19 ft 5 in)|
|Width||2.95 m (9 ft 8 in)|
|Height||2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)|
|Crew||5 (commander, two gunners, radio operator, driver)|
|Armor||80 mm (3.1 in) maximum|
|Zwillingsflak 30mm MK 103 twin anti-aircraft gun|
|7.92 mm MG34|
|Engine||12-cylinder Maybach HL 120 TRM gasoline
300 PS (296 hp, 221 kW)
|Fuel capacity||470 l (120 US gal)|
|200 km (120 mi)|
|Speed||38 km/h (24 mph)|
The Flakpanzer IV Kugelblitz ("Ball Lightning") was a German self-propelled anti-aircraft gun developed during World War II. By the end of the war, only a pilot production of five units had been completed. Unlike earlier self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, it had a fully enclosed, rotating turret.
The need for a specialised self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, capable of keeping up with the armoured divisions, had become increasingly urgent for the German Armed Forces, as from 1943 on the German Air Force was less and less able to protect against enemy fighter bombers.
Therefore, a multitude of improvised and specially designed self-propelled anti-aircraft guns were built, many on the Panzer IV chassis, starting with the Flakpanzer IV Möbelwagen and progressing through the Wirbelwind and Ostwind models. The Kugelblitz was the final development of the Flakpanzer IV.
The first proposal for the Kugelblitz envisioned mounting a modified anti-aircraft turret developed for U-boats on the Panzer IV chassis, which was armed with dual 30 mm MK 103 Brunn guns (a configuration known as Doppelflak, "dual flak"). This was however abandoned as impractical, as development of this gun had not yet been completed, and in any case the entire production run of this gun turret was reserved for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.
Instead, the 30 mm Zwillingsflak ("twin flak") 103/38 twin gun, a twinned-mount version of the MK 103 cannon, was used, which had also been fitted in single mounts to such planes as the Henschel Hs 129 in a ventral gun pod, and to the twin-engined Dornier Do 335. The rate of fire of the twin 30 mm guns was 450 rounds a minute per gun, just about as slow as the American Browning M2HB 12.7 mm machine gun still in use.
The Kugelblitz had the chassis and basic superstructure of the Panzer IV tank, on which a newly designed turret was mounted. This turret was fully enclosed, with overhead protection and 360° traverse.
As production of the Panzer IV was about to be terminated further work was under way to change to the Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer chassis which was in turn based on the Panzer 38(t). No prototypes based on Hetzer hulls were completed.
The Kugelblitz was not yet out of development when the war ended. Several evaluation vehicles had been built, but it is unclear how many. It is also unclear what happened to the few Kugelblitzes which were built; some sources say that they ended up being used in the Battle of Berlin.
Today, one complete Kugelblitz turret is exhibited at the Lehrsammlung der Heeresflugabwehrschule (collection of the German army anti-aircraft school), Rendsburg. An incomplete Kugelblitz cradle also exists (without the turret itself), but is in a private collection.
- Lämmerhirt, Rainer. "Vor 60 Jahren: Die Kämpfe um Hörschel, Spichra und Creuzburg - Teil 2" (in German). Mihla.de. Retrieved 2011-07-17.
- Information about the Kugelblitz at Panzerworld
- Information about the Kugelblitz at Achtung Panzer
- German Tanks of World War II: The Complete Illustrated history of German Armoured Fighting Vehicles 1926-1945, F. M. von Senger und Etterlin, translated by J. Lucas, Galahad Books, New York, 1969, ISBN 0-88365-051-7
- Chamberlain, Peter & Doyle, Hilary (1999) "Encyclopedia Of German Tanks Of World War Two"