8.8 cm KwK 36
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.
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
- Pz.Kpfw. VI Ausf. H1
- Pz.Kpfw. VI Tiger Ausf. E
- VK 4501 P ♦
- Heavy Tank No.6 ♦
- Panzerbefehlswagen VI (P) ♠
|Ammunition||Penetration in mm @ 0° Angle of Attack|| Type of
Mass in kg
| Fuse delay
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| Normalization At 30°
History of creation and combat usage
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.
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.
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.