|“||The new mobile anti-aircraft units will keep their planes away.
- Andrew Campbell, Secret Weapons
Though death sometimes came from above, in the case of the Flakpanzer IV "Wirbelwind", an AA tank, it also came from below. Firing its quad 20mm guns, the Wirbelwind covered the horizon with deadly black Flak clouds.
Moderately armored, and quite fast, the Wirbelwind can drive alongside other tanks as a mobile air defense. Shielding friendly units against any enemy air menace, the Wirbelwind can quickly clear the sky of enemy fighters and bombers, then lower its guns to shred enemy infantry or light armored vehicles.
The Wirbelwind is very versatile, engaging any air target with deadly results. A single fighter that got into it's firing range will very likely be shot down. It is also able to engage soft ground targets. Infantry, recon units, and towed guns will be easy to destroy. It's speed, which is adequate to keep up with other armor and it's ample firepower made it suitable for a pre-emptive attack if combined with other units.
However, it's light armor made it very vulnerable to tank fire. Light enemy tanks can be kept at bay with it's Quad Flak guns, but medium tanks will be impervious to it. Most medium tank guns can deal high damage to the Wirbelwind. It is also vulnerable to saturation attacks. Two or more passes by a fighter or bomber through it's deadly flak clouds will result in destruction of the aircraft. It is advisable to deploy more than two Wirbelwinds on the battlefield and escort them with tanks.
The Flakpanzer IV "Wirbelwind" (Whirlwind in German) was a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun based on the Panzer IV tank. It was developed in 1944 as a successor to the earlier self-propelled anti-aircraft gun Möbelwagen.
In the first years of the war, the Wehrmacht had less interest in developing self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, but as air superiority increasingly slipped away from the Luftwaffe, another method had to be found of protecting the Panzer force from air attack. While elite troops such as the Waffen-SS, Grossdeutschland Division and others already had self-propelled flak guns at their disposal during the early years of th war, these were part-armored or unarmored vehicles.
The Panzer IV's turret was removed and replaced with an open-top, nine-sided turret which housed a quadruple 2 cm Flakvierling 38 L/112.5. A closed-top design would have been preferable, but this was not possible due to the heavy smoke generated by the four anti-aircraft guns. Production of the tank was carried out by Ostbau Werke in Sagan, Silesia.
Despite Germany losing, the Soviets took a long good look at it, especially the plans for a RADAR-equipped Kugelblitz version. While early Cold War Soviet AA were either quad 14,5-mm MGs or open-top manually-targetted twin 57-mm ZSU-57-2, they eventually built the enclosed, radar-targetted quad 23 mm AA "tank", the ZSU-23-4 Shilka, the nightmare of NATO pilots.
Pros & Cons
Light Twin AA Gun