8.8 cm KwK 36

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Summary

The 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 was arguably the most infamous gun of World War II. Equipping the fearsome Tiger I heavy tank, it could penetrate nearly all form of Allied armor in its introduction. The gun was inspired by the battle performance of the 8.8 cm FlaK 36 anti-aircraft gun, whose role as an anti-tank gun prompted the development of a similar tank armament to counter the increasing armor on Allied tanks such as the T-34 and the KV-1. Though the gun was very potent, it was succeeded by the longer and more powerful 8.8 cm KwK 43 gun.

Game Usage

The 88 mm gun gives the Tiger I's a very powerful armament capable of penetrating tank armor, yet cause a devastating beyond-armor damage with its explosive filler. Able to penetrate ~150 mm of armor at standard combat distance, the Tiger I can face off against tanks around its tier with the right skill set. The PzGr 40 APCR round available for the 88 mm gun in the Tiger I Ausf. E makes the gun even more potent with a ~200 mm of penetration, making the Tiger I a very formidable opponent.

Guns of comparable performance

Users

Ammunition

Historical

Game Statistics

Ammunition Penetration in mm @ 0° Angle of Attack Type of
warhead
Velocity
in m/s
Projectile
Mass in kg
Fuse delay
in m:
Fuse sensitivity
in mm:
Explosive Mass in
TNT equivalent
in g:
Normalization At 30°
from horizontal:
Ricochet:
10m 100m 500m 1000m 1500m 2000m 0% 50% 100%
PzGr 39 165 162 151 138 126 116 APCBC 773 10 0.8 28 108.8 +4° 48° 63° 71°
Pzgr.* 146 145 128 118 104 100 APCBC 810 9.5 0.8 28 285.6 +4° 48° 63° 71°
Sprgr L/4,5 10 10 10 10 10 10 HE 820 9.0 0.1 0.5 698 +0° 79° 80° 81°
Hl.Gr 39 110 110 110 110 110 110 HEAT 600 7.6 0.0 0.3 1100 +0° 62° 69° 73°
PzGr 40** 220 219 200 179 160 143 APCR 930 7.3 N/A N/A N/A +1.5° 66° 70° 72°

* - Not available on the VK 4501 P and Pz.Bfw. VI (P).
** - Only available on the Tiger I E and Pz.Bfw. VI (P).

History of creation and combat usage

Precedent

Since the start of World War II, the German tank units have always encountered Allied tanks that proved to be far more protected than anything their guns can be used against. Such examples were the Matilda II from the British, the Char B1 from the French, and the KV-1 from the Soviets. These tanks often had to be stopped with the use of artillery piece behind friendly lines. One such gun, the 8.8 cm FlaK 36 anti-aircraft gun, was used in an anti-tank role and proved very successful, able to stop these tanks and penetrating their front armor. The success of the FlaK 36 prompted Hitler to have the heavy tank project that would become the Tiger to be equipped with a cannon of 88 mm in caliber.

Development

The cannon developed to fulfill this role was not a copy of the FlaK 36 gun, but was a parallel design despite their similarities. The gun's major difference from the FlaK variant was the ammunition primer. The two guns are compatible with the same ammunition, but the FlaK variant used a percussion primer while the KwK variant used an electric primer. Both guns were 56 caliber in length and the ballistic data for the ammunition were identical. The construction of the KwK 36 was based off the existing 7.5 cm and 5 cm guns being produced at the time, just scaled up for the 8.8 cm rounds. The breech block was a vertical falling wedge type and had a semi-automatic function for faster firing.

Service

The gun saw installation onto the Tiger I tanks and saw service on them in mid-1942. The KwK 36 proved to be very accurate and potent against Allied tanks. The high velocity of the 8.8 cm shells produced a very flat trajectory line that gave the gunner a higher margin of error in elevation estimation at long distance target, and the high velocity in turn also made the gun's penetration very high. A British firing trials with the gun had a gunner be able to fire five successive hits on a target 1,100 meters away very easily.

The gun performed superbly against Allied targets, but a more potent penetration capability was requested from the gun, which produced the 8.8 cm KwK 43 that had barrel more than 1.3 meters longer, which produced a higher muzzle velocity that allowed for a more lethal weapon.

Images

A U.S. captured Tiger I with its 8.8 cm KwK 36 extending to the right.
The famous Tiger 131 at Bovington with its 8.8 cm KwK 36.

Additional information (links)