8.8 cm KwK 43 and 8.8 cm Pak 43

A row of seven large tanks lined up with their long guns pointing up at an angle, as if saluting.

The 8.8 cm KwK 43 (Kampfwagenkanone —”fighting vehicle cannon”) was an 88 mm 71 calibre length tank gun designed by Krupp and used by the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War. It was mounted as the primary armament on the Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. B Tiger II. The 8.8 cm Pak 43, an anti-tank gun, was very similar in design but mounted on tank destroyers or deployed stand-alone on the field.

The Pak 43 (Panzerabwehrkanone 43 and Panzerjägerkanone 43) was a German 88 mm anti-tank gun developed by Krupp in competition with the Rheinmetall 8.8 cm Flak 41 anti-aircraft gun and used during World War II. The Pak 43 was the most powerful anti-tank gun of the Wehrmacht to see service in significant numbers, also serving in modified form as the 8.8 cm KwK 43 main gun on the Tiger II tank, the open-top Nashorn and fully enclosed, casemate-hulled Elefant and Jagdpanther tank destroyers.

The improved 8.8 cm gun was fitted with a semi-automatic vertical breech mechanism that greatly reduced recoil. It could also be fired electrically while on its wheels. It had a very flat trajectory out to 914 m (1,000 yd), making it easier for the gunner to hit targets at longer ranges as fewer corrections in elevation were needed. The gun had exceptional penetration and could defeat the frontal armour of any Allied tank to see service during the war at long range, even the Soviet IS-2 tanks and IS chassis-based tank destroyers. The gun’s maximum firing range exceeded 15 km (9.3 mi).

Nashorn tank destroyers on the Eastern Front in 1944

A disabled Elefant in Italy, 1944.

Jagdpanther in Northern France.

8.8 cm KwK 43

Designer Krupp
Unit cost 21000 Reichmark
Mass 2,265 kg (4,993 lb)
Barrel length 6,248 mm (246.0 in) bore (71 calibres)

Shell Fixed QF 88 × 822mm R
Shell weight 7.3 kg (16 lb) Armor-piercing composite rigid (APCR) Pzgr 40/43
Calibre 88 mm (3.46 in)
Elevation -8° to +15°
Rate of fire 6–10 round per minute
Muzzle velocity 1,130 m/s (3,700 ft/s)
Maximum firing range 9,350 m (30,676 ft)

Pak 43

Designer Krupp
Manufacturer Krupp
Henschel & Son
Produced 1943–1945
No. built ~2,100
Variants Pak 43
Pak 43/41
KwK 43
Mass 3,650 kg (8,050 lb) Pak 43
Barrel length 628 cm (20 ft 7 in) bore (71 calibresPak 43

Shell 88 × 822mm R 
Shell weight 7.3 kg (16 lb) Armor-piercing composite rigid (APCR) Pzgr 40/43
Caliber 88 mm (3.46 in)
Breech Semi-automatic vertical sliding-block
Recoil Hydro-pneumatic
Carriage Cruciform mount Pak 43
Split trail Pak 43/41
Elevation -8° to +40° Pak 43
-5° to +38° Pak 43/41
Traverse 360° Pak 43
56° Pak 43/41
Rate of fire 6–10 rounds per minute
Muzzle velocity 1,030 m/s (3,400 ft/s) Pzgr 40/43
Maximum firing range 15,150 m (49,705 ft) Pak 43

Ammunition and penetration 

Pak 43 from the rear

The Pzgr. 39/43 and HE shells were generally available. Pzgr. 40/43 were in severely short supply.

Pzgr. 39/43 APCBC-HE 

  • Type: Armour Piercing Capped with Ballistic Cap – High Explosive
  • Projectile weight: 10.4 kg (22.92 lbs)
  • Muzzle velocity: 1,000 m/s (3,300 ft/s)
Penetration Hit probability versus 2.5 m x 2 m target  
Range RHA plate at
30° from vertical
in training in combat
100 m 202 mm 100% 100%
500 m 185 mm 100% 100%
1,000 m 165 mm 100% 85%
1,500 m 148 mm 95% 61%
2,000 m 132 mm 85% 43%
2,500 m n/a 74% 30%
3,000 m n/a 61% 23%
3,500 m n/a 51% 17%
4,000 m n/a 42% 13%

Pzgr. 40/43 APCR 

Penetration figures established as average against a rolled homogeneous armour plate laid back 30 degrees from the vertical
Hit probability versus 2.5 m x 2 m target  
Range Penetration in training in combat
100 m 238 mm 100% 100%
500 m 217 mm 100% 100%
1000 m 193 mm 100% 89%
1500 m 171 mm 97% 66%
2000 m 153 mm 89% 47%
2500 m n/a 78% 34%
3000 m n/a 66% 25%

Gr. 39/3 HL (HEAT) 

  • Projectile weight: 7.65 kg (17 lbs)
  • Muzzle velocity: 600 m/s (1,968 ft/s)
  • Penetration: 90 mm

[American troops] knew that the greatest single weapon of the war, the atomic bomb excepted, was the German 88 mm flat-trajectory gun, which brought down thousands of bombers and tens of thousands of soldiers. The Allies had nothing as good, despite one of them designating itself the world’s greatest industrial power.

— Paul Fussell, 1989 
Manhandling an 88 on the Russian front
88 with crew, France, 1944
Flak 36 gun in position at Bir Hakeim, North Africa, June 1942
Flak 36 battery in firing position, Germany, 1943
FuMG 39 “Würzburg” radar at an anti-aircraft position on the Atlantic Wall, France, 1942

The 8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41 is a German 88 mm anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery, developed in the 1930s. It was widely used by Germany throughout World War II, and was one of the most recognized German weapons of that conflict. Development of the original model led to a wide variety of guns.

The name applies to a series of related guns, the first one officially called the 8.8 cm Flak 18, the improved 8.8 cm Flak 36, and later the 8.8 cm Flak 37.

Flak is a contraction of German Flugzeugabwehrkanone meaning “aircraft-defense cannon”, the original purpose of the weapon. In English, “flak” became a generic term for ground anti-aircraft fire. In informal use, the guns were universally known as the Acht-acht (“eight-eight”) by Germans and the “eighty-eight” by the Allies. 

The versatile carriage allowed the 8.8 cm FlaK to be fired in a limited anti-tank mode when still on its wheels; it could be completely emplaced in only two and a half minutes. Its successful use as an improvised anti-tank gun led to the development of a tank gun based upon it: the 8.8 cm KwK 36, with the “KwK” abbreviation standing for Kampfwagen-Kanone (literally “battle vehicle cannon”, or “fighting vehicle cannon”), meant to be placed in a gun turret as the tank’s primary armament. This gun served as the main armament of the Tiger I heavy tank.

In addition to these Krupp designs, Rheinmetall later created a more powerful anti-aircraft gun, the 8.8 cm Flak 41, which was produced in relatively small numbers. Krupp responded with another prototype of the long-barreled 8.8 cm gun, which was further developed into the anti-tank and tank destroyer 8.8 cm PaK 43 gun used for the Elefant and Jagdpanther, and turret-mounted 8.8 cm KwK 43 heavy tank gun of the Tiger II.

Source: The 8.8 cm KwK 43

Source: The Pak 43

Source: The 8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41

Tiger I

Tiger II

King Tiger (Tiger II)

Flak 88


What “killed” the most tanks in World War 2?

Read about WWII here


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