Flakpanzer 38(t) auf Selbstfahrlafette 38(t) Ausf M (Sd Kfz 140)
During the autumn of 1943, Hitler approved the development of a 3.7cm Flakpanzer IV, but refused permission for the construction of the already available 2cm Vierlings FlaK auf pz Kpfw IV (2cm Quadruple AA Mounting on AFV IV). On 15 October 1943, because of the urgent need for a Flakpanzer, Hitler agreed to a makeshift solution which could be produced immediately on the basis of the Selbstfahrlafette 38(t). 150 Flakpanzer 38(t) were ordered, and were to be produced until the heavier Flakpanzer IV became available early in 1944. This vehicle was demonstrated to Hitler on 16 December 1943. Lack of firepower was a major drawback. The last ten vehicles of the order were used for the production of 15cm s1G33/2 Sf.
2cm FlaK38 with all-round traverse was mounted in the rear fighting compartment. A new superstructure was provided, the upper part of which could be folded down to allow easier access to the weapon and permit traverse at low elevation.
Flakpanzer IV/3.7cm FlaK
On 18 August 1944, an order for 100 Ostwind (east wind) was placed, after successful trials had been held in July. Replacing the Wirbelwind, Ostwind I provided the Panzer troops with the more effective 3.7cm FlaK43. Both Ostwind I and the M6belwagen were to be replaced by Kugelblitz, but because of delays, only two Kugelblitz were produced, and seven of the chassis were used to produce Ostwind I.
A six-sided open-topped turret was mounted, in place of the normal turret, on converted Pz Kpfw IV chassis. The turret could be traversed 360° to bring fast, effective fire on air or ground targets.
2cm Flakvierling 38 auf Fahrgestell Zugkraftwagen 8t (Sd Kfz 7/1)
The basic Zgkw 8t was built by Krauss-Maffei, Borgward and, from 1943, by Saurer. The FlaK vehicle was built with a special superstructure which formed an adequate platform for all-round traverse if 1he sides were folded down. Ammunition was carried in a special single-axle trailer. The 3.7cm FlaK36 was mounted on the Zgkw 8t from 1943, after production of the 5t Zgkw ceased.
From late 1943, the driver's cab and engine compartment of some vehicles were lightly armoured. Vehicles mounting the FV38 towed a Sonder Anhanger (special trailer) 56 to hold the 2cm ammunition, and for the 3.7cm FlaK, the trailer was the Sd Anh 57. The FlaK36 was given an anti-tank capability when it was equipped with a muzzle-loading 15cm, hollow charge, 3 cm Stielgranate 41.
Flakpanzer IV/ 2cm Vierling
The Wirbelwind was developed as a mount for anti-aircraft guns on Pz Kpfw IV chassis which had been returned from the front for major overhaul. They were intended to supplement production of the Möbelwagen. In the autumn of 1944, production of the Wirbelwind ceased, since the 2cm Flakvierling was not proving as effective as the 3.7cm FlaK.
The turret was removed from normal Pz Kpfw IV and replaced by an open-topped turret, in which the Flakvierling 38 was mounted. Some vehicles had only 50mm frontal armour since early Ausf F to G were converted for use as the chassis.
As the forces of the Luftwaffe declined to an increasingly inferior position, close cooperation with air-defense forces (Flugabwehr) became ever more important. The air-defense platoons (Fliegerabwehrziige) of the battalions were inadequate in numbers and could basically provide only point coverage. The supply units often had to be given priority in that regard. Depending on the situation, the battalion was occasionally assigned a light antiaircraft battery (Flak-Batterie) from the division (for example, while forming a bridgehead).
In choosing a position, the air-defense forces have priority so as to obtain optimal effectiveness. They are assisted by the battalion in providing their own security.
In the event of an enemy aerial attack, all tanks also engage the aircraft with their antiaircraft machine guns. If the formation is in an assembly area or in a position that has not been discovered by the enemy, it is advisable that it NOT open fire on enemy aircraft that are merely flying past or overhead. That form of fire control is called weapons hold (Feuerverbot). If the enemy aircraft attack, fire is immediately opened and without orders. That also holds true during the form of fire control known as weapons tight (Feuervorbehalt). In the case of weapons tight, the commander retains command over opening fire, for example, to coordinate the commitment of several weapons.
Attacks by aircraft or the sighting of aircraft flying past are reported as an alarm over the radio. The report contains data on direction of flight and number of aircraft. For that, no time-consuming radio call-up procedure is needed. All the information is given openly in clear text, including locations.