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3.7 cm Flak 18/36/37/43
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-301-1957-32, Nordfrankreich, Zwillings-Flak.jpg
A 3.7 cm Flakzwilling 43
Type Anti-aircraft cannon
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
In service 1936–45
Used by Nazi Germany, Romania, Bulgaria
Wars World War II
Production history
Designer Rheinmetall
Produced 1936–45
Number built 20,243[1]
Variants BK 37 aircraft gun,
3.7 cm Flakzwilling 43
Specifications (3.7 cm Flak 43[1][why?])
Weight 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) (transport)
Crew 6–7

Shell 37 × 263 mm. B[citation needed]
Shell weight 623–659 grams (1.373–1.453 lb)
Caliber 37 millimetres (1.5 in)
Barrels 57 calibers
Breech gas-operated bolt
Carriage three-legged platform
Elevation -7° 30' to +90° [citation needed]
Traverse 360°
Rate of fire 150 rpm (practical), 250 rpm (theoretical)
Muzzle velocity 770–820 m/s (2,500–2,700 ft/s)
Effective range 4,800 m (15,700 ft) (anti-aircraft)
Maximum range 6,500 m (7,100 yd) (ground range)
Feed system 8-round clips

The 3.7 cm Flak 18/36/37/43 was a series of anti-aircraft cannon produced by Nazi Germany that saw widespread service in the Second World War. The cannon was fully automatic and effective against aircraft flying at altitudes up to 4,200 m.[2] The cannon was produced in both towed and self-propelled versions. Having a flexible doctrine, the Germans used their anti-aircraft pieces in ground support roles as well; 37 mm caliber guns were no exception to that. With Germany's defeat, production ceased, and, overall, 37 mm caliber anti-aircraft cannon fell into gradual disuse, being replaced by the Bofors 40 mm gun, and later, 35-mm anti-aircraft pieces produced by Switzerland.


The original 37 mm gun was developed by Rheinmetall in 1935 as the 3.7 cm Flak 18. It had a barrel length of 57 calibers (hence the additional designation L/57), which allowed 4,800 m (15,700 ft) effective ceiling.[1] The armour penetration was considerable when using dedicated[3] ammunition, at 100 m distance it could penetrate 36 mm of a 60°-sloped armour, and at 800 m distance correspondingly 24 mm.[1] It used a mechanical bolt for automatic fire, featuring a practical rate of fire of about 80 rounds per minute (rpm). The gun, when emplaced for combat, weighed 1,750 kg (3,860 lb), and complete for transport, including the wheeled mount, 3,560 kg (7,850 lb).

The Flak 18 was only produced in small numbers, and production had already ended in 1936. Development continued, focusing on replacement of the existing cumbersome dual-axle mount with a lighter single-axle one, resulting in a 3.7 cm Flak 36 that cut the complete weight to 1,550 kg (3,420 lb) in combat and 2,400 kg (5,300 lb) in transport.[1] The gun's ballistic characteristics were not changed, although the practical rate of fire was raised to 120 rpm (250 rpm theoretical).[1] A new sighting system introduced the next year produced the otherwise-identical 3.7 cm Flak 37.[1] The Flak 37 was known as 37 ITK 37 in Finland.

The Flak 36/37 were the most-produced variants of the weapon.

Flak 43

German soldiers carry ammunition for the 37 mm Flakzwilling 43.

The 3.7 cm Flak 43 was a dramatic improvement over older models. A new gas-operated breech increased the practical firing rate to 150 RPM,[1] while at the same time dropping in weight to 1,250 kg (2,760 lb) in combat, and 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) in transport.[1] It was also produced in a twin-gun mount, the 3.7 cm Flakzwilling 43,[1] although this version was considered somewhat unwieldy and top-heavy.[4]

Many Flak 37s were mounted on the ubiquitous Sd.Kfz. 7 half-track vehicle, or later the schwere Wehrmachtschlepper (sWS), but the newer Flak 43 was almost always used in a mobile mounting.[citation needed] Most famous of these were the converted Panzer IVs, first the "interim" Möbelwagen, and later the Ostwind, which was considered particularly deadly.

Compared to its closest Allied counterpart, the 40 mm Bofors L/60, the Flak 43 had twice the rate of fire and was both notably lighter and more compact; [citation needed] the Bofors was slightly more powerful (with greater range, ceiling, and a shorter projectile flight time) and fired a more destructive shell. Large-scale production did not start until 1944, and about 7,216 had been produced by the end of the war (Zwillings included, each counted as two guns).[5]

3.7 cm Flak 43 M43U

The 3.7 cm Flak 43 M43U was the marine version of the 3.7 cm Flak 43 used by the Kriegsmarine on Type VII and Type IX U-boats. It was mounted on the LM42U mount.

3.7 cm Flak 43 M43U used on U-boats.



  • Gander, Terry and Chamberlain, Peter. Weapons of the Third Reich: An Encyclopedic Survey of All Small Arms, Artillery and Special Weapons of the German Land Forces 1939-1945. New York: Doubleday, 1979 ISBN 0-385-15090-3
  • Hogg, Ian V. German Artillery of World War Two. 2nd corrected edition. Mechanicsville, PA: Stackpole Books, 1997 ISBN 1-85367-480-X

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