|Type Anti-tank gun|
In service 1943-1945
Wars World War II
|Place of origin Germany|
Used by Germany
Manufacturer Krupp, Rheinmetall
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, to the open-top Nashorn, and fully enclosed, casemate-hulled Elefant and Jagdpanther tank destroyers.
The improved 8.8 cm gun 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. In addition to this, the gun's exceptional penetration performance made it able to frontally penetrate any Allied tank to see service during the war at long ranges, even the Soviet IS-2 tanks and IS chassis-based tank destroyers. The gun's maximum firing range exceeded 13 kilometers (8 miles).
KwK 43 and Pak 43s were initially manufactured with monobloc barrels. However, the weapons' extremely high muzzle velocity and operating pressures caused accelerated barrel wear, resulting in a change to a two-piece barrel. This did not affect performance but made replacing a worn out barrel much faster and easier than before.
The higher operating pressures of the new gun in turn required a new armour-piercing shell to be designed. The result was the PzGr.39/43 APCBC-HE projectile, which, apart from the addition of much wider driving bands, was otherwise identical to the older 10.2-kilogram PzGr.39-1 APCBC-HE projectile used by the 8.8 cm KwK 36 and Pak 43 guns. The wider driving bands resulted in an increased weight to 10.4 kilograms for the PzGr.39/43. However, up until the full transition to the new PzGr.39/43 round was complete, the older PzGr.39-1 was used for the KwK & Pak 43, but only provided the gun had been used for no more than 500 rounds. Over this, the expected barrel wear combined with the narrow driving bands could lead to a loss of pressure. The new PzGr.39/43 could be fired without loss of pressure until the barrel was worn out, thus requiring no restriction.
PzGr.39-1 FES & Al all up weight: 10.2 kg (9.87 kg without fuse & bursting charge)
PzGr.39/43 FES & Al all up weight: 10.4 kg (10.06 kg without fuse & bursting charge)
The same 278-gram BdZ 5127 fuse and 59-gram Amatol bursting charge was used for both types of projectile (PzGr.39-1 & PzGr.39/43), requiring armoured targets of 30 mm or thicker to ignite after penetration for maximum behind-armour effects.
The main version of the Pak 43 was based on a highly effective cruciform mount, which offered a full 360 degree traverse and a much lower profile than the ubiquitous anti-aircraft 8.8 cm Flak 37. However the manufacture of this version was initially slow and costly.
To simplify production some were mounted on the two-wheel split-trail carriage from the 10 cm le K 41 (10 cm Leichte Kanone 41) field gun, resulting in a version known as Pak 43/41. The 43/41 proved heavy and awkward to handle in the mud and snow of the Eastern Front and gunners referred to 43/41 as the "barn door" (German: Scheunentor), a reference to the size and weight of the gun. Nevertheless, the improvised Pak 43/41 proved an effective substitute for the Pak 43 until sufficient of the more complex cruciform mounts could be manufactured to replace it in service.
The Pak 43 was also mounted in German armored vehicles, and this version was known as the 8.8 cm KwK 43. Versions of this gun were mounted in a number of German armored vehicles under different designations, including the Tiger II heavy tank (KwK 43 L/71) and several tank destroyers: the Hornisse/Nashorn (Pak 43/1), Ferdinand/Elefant (Pak 43/2, early name Stu.K. 43/1), and Jagdpanther (Pak 43/3 and Pak 43/4, early name Stu.K. 43). A few examples of the Tiger II-based Jagdtiger were also completed with the 8.8 cm weapon due to a shortage of the 12.8 cm Pak 44, but these tank destroyers are not believed to have seen operational service.
Ammunition and penetration
The Pzgr. 39/43 and HE shells were generally available. Pzgr. 40/43 were in severely short supply.