Probably no (Allied) activity is causing Germany more acute military discomfort
than the never-ending air attack on her factories, supply lines, and
cities. These aerial attacks have forced the Germans to erect, in Berlin and
elsewhere, sturdy concrete towers, 200 feet high, so that their heavy antiaircraft guns
may be sited above the surrounding buildings; to build decoy streets, railroad
stations, and even whole towns; to erect fake houses and streets over lakes; and,
reportedly, to move whole industries into Czechoslovakia and other areas in the
interior of Central Europe.
However, the basic air defense is "Flak." Below, from authoritative
sources, is an outline of the whole German antiaircraft organization. For further
information on this subject, see Military Intelligence Service Special Series,
No. 10, "German Antiaircraft Artillery." For an account of the air-raid warning
system, see Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 21, p. 3. We now deal with the
actual antiaircraft artillery and searchlight organization--the "counterbattery
artillery," used against the United Nations' air assault.
German antiaircraft artillery (Flakartillerie) forms part of the German
Air Force and is under the control of the Air Ministry, with the exception of:
Heeresflak (army antiaircraft) which, in addition to units
organized on similar lines to German Air Force Flak, includes
"Fla" (Fliegerabwehr, antiaircraft) units organized
as motorized antiaircraft battalions and comprising light
Marineflak (naval antiaircraft) which mans a proportion of
the defenses in certain ports and coastal areas.
(1) General Organization
The German Air Force antiaircraft artillery is organized into the
following units: Korps (corps), Division (division),
Brigade (brigade), Regiment (regiment),
Abteilung (battalion), Batterie (battery), and Zug (platoon).
The units are denoted alternately by Roman and Arabic numerals. Thus
corps have Roman numerals, divisions Arabic, brigades Roman, regiments
Arabic, and so on. Independent Abteilungen (i.e., not belonging to specific
regiments) have Arabic numerals and constitute the only exception. Units are
sometimes designated by name, usually that of the commander.
Organizations thus far identified include 2 corps (first heard of in the
Battle of France), about 20 divisions, and a similar number of brigades. The main
series of numbering, approximately 1-1,000, covers regiments and Abteilungen
under the following groups:
Numbers in the series 1-70 are regiments, consisting usually of a
regimental staff, Ersatzabteilung (replacement unit), and three combat battalions (I
and II being mixed gun battalions and III a heavy searchlight battalion).
Numbers in the series 71-99 are in most cases independent light battalions.
In some cases there are regimental staffs of the same number, without subordinate
The regiments in the series 1-70 and the light battalions in the series
71-99 formed the peacetime organization.
Numbers in the series from 100 upward are units formed on or after
mobilization. In the case of heavy, mixed, light, or searchlight units, they may be
regiments, regimental staffs, or independent battalions. Other types of
antiaircraft artillery units, numbered in parallel series, include transport, railway, and
balloon barrage units.
(2) Organization of Higher Units
Higher units have no fixed organization. They consist of staffs which
command a number of subordinate units varying according to tactical requirements.
The corps staff, which is motorized, operates entirely in the field. It
originally commanded a number of brigades, usually two or three. It now normally
commands two to four divisions, with subordinate regiments.
The divisional staff has been established since the outbreak of the war. There
are two types, static and motorized. The former commands one or more
brigades in static defense, the latter a number of regiments, usually two to four,
in field operations.
The brigade staff commands a number of regiments, usually two to four. It
is now confined mainly to fixed defense.
The regimental staff normally commands four to six battalions in fixed
defense positions, or, in the field, an average of four battalions. Parent regimental
staffs seldom actually command any of their own battalions. The battalions are
usually allotted to combat units or to defense areas.
Note: Searchlight divisions, brigades, and regiments are also known, but
little information is available as to their composition or method of allotment.
(3) Organization of Lower Units
(a) Abteilung (battalion)
Heavy--four heavy batteries
Mixed--three heavy and two light batteries
Light--three or four light batteries**
Searchlight--three or four (heavy) searchlight batteries.**
Heavy--equipped with four or six heavy guns (usually 88-mm (3.46-in))
and two light guns (20-mm (.79-in)) for close protection.
Light-- usually equipped with twelve to sixteen 20-mm (or nine to
twelve 37-mm (1.45-in)) guns. (It may be that only twelve
20-mm or nine 37-mm guns are the usual or normal equipment).
Searchlight--usually equipped with nine or twelve 1,500-mm (59-in)
searchlights and an appropriate number of sound locators.
(It may be that only nine searchlights are the usual or normal
Note: Light searchlights (600-mm (23.6-in)) are provided for
cooperation with light guns and are normally allotted on the scale
of one per platoon.
This is the smallest operational unit; it consists of either two heavy or
three light guns.
The identifications made up to the outbreak of war show that the Germans
were organizing for an establishment of 100 regular units (70 regiments and 30
independent battalions). In addition there were two independent regimental staffs
(101 and 102) and Regiment General Göring (103) which was developed from
Göring's personal bodyguard, and eventually came to be regarded as the "crack"
antiaircraft artillery regiment. There was also a training regiment
(Lehrregiment), offshoots of which have since been employed in an operational capacity.
Since the outbreak of war the need for protecting Germany and, subsequently, the
occupied territories from the growing strength of the United Nations power,
together with the necessity of providing for active theaters of war, has resulted in
an enormous expansion in the antiaircraft artillery organization.
Although the highest numbered unit identified is 999, this does not presuppose
the existence of 999 units. Units are formed in series, possibly on a regional basis,
and many series are undoubtedly either completely or partially unused. Up to the
present some 550 Abteilungen have been identified, apart from miscellaneous
units. The total antiaircraft artillery strength, including staffs and administrative
personnel, is believed to be well over 1,000,000, and equipment employed to be in
the neighborhood of 9,000 heavy guns, 30,000 light guns, and 15,000 heavy
searchlights. A proportion of the equipment used in Germany and in some of the occupied
countries is manned by Heimatflak ("Home Guard" antiaircraft artillery), a new
branch believed to have been introduced early in 1942 (see Tactical and Technical
Trends, No. 20, p. 4).
d. Employment for Home Defense
Antiaircraft artillery employed for fixed defense in Germany and occupied
territories is administered and supplied through the Luftgau (Air Force
Administrative Area), subdivision of the Luftflottenkommando (Air Corps Area).
Originally, the Luftgau was also an operational command, exercising its
function through antiaircraft artillery regimental staffs, of the antiaircraft
artillery units in its area. Since the introduction, some time after the French
Campaign, of antiaircraft artillery divisions and brigades employed for static
defense, it is believed that the Air Corps Area has exercised its operational control
through these units instead of through the Air Force Administrative Area, though
in relatively unimportant areas the old system has probably remained in force.
An Air Force Administrative Area is divided into Flakgruppen (antiaircraft
artillery groups), commanded by regimental staffs, and Flakuntergruppen (sub-groups),
commanded by Abteilung staffs. Gun and searchlight sub-groups are allocated for
the defense of ports, towns, factories, etc. according to their importance.
e. Gun Layouts
Heavy guns are usually sited in fours (in the form of a square), or in sixes.
The command post, comprising director, heightfinder, and radar equipment, is
located to one side, and there is often an additional or alternative subsidiary
instrument pit for emergency fire-control equipment in the center of the gun layout.
Light guns are usually sited in threes, though sometimes singly.
f. Methods of Fire Control
(1) Heavy Antiaircraft Artillery
Whenever possible, heavy gun positions engage visually, either by day, or
with searchlight cooperation by night. The next most popular method of
engagement is "deterrent fire," which involves firing at the visual or imaginary
intersection of searchlight "cones" and for which broken cloud conditions are, the most
appropriate. "Unseen" fire (fire at invisible targets) with the aid of radar data
is frequently employed both by night and in cloudy weather by day; less common
methods of "unseen" fire control are instrument-directed concentrations or
salvoes. Barrage fire, which may be in almost any shape (box, cylindrical, layer,
etc.), is occasionally resorted to against particularly heavy and concentrated
attacks. Barrage fire is used mostly at night or under conditions of bad visibility;
the development of modern instruments has made its use secondary.
(2) Light Antiaircraft Artillery
By day or by night, light guns engage visible targets by means of their
antiaircraft artillery sights (Flakvisiere) or by observation of tracer. By night,
they often fire up the searchlight beams or at the apex of searchlight "cones" in
the hope that an aircraft is in or near the beam***. Barrage fire, which has a purely
deterrent value, is infrequently employed.
Great reliance is placed on searchlights, which are deployed in very large
numbers in gun-defended areas. Spacing of lights varies considerably, but
averages about 1,500 yards in heavily protected areas. Control is maintained in
general by means of sound locators, with which a high degree of efficiency has been
achieved. A certain measure of radar control is being introduced, but this is not
believed at present to be very widespread.
In addition to searchlights in gun-defended areas, a large number of
searchlights used to be deployed in belts to assist in night-fighter interception.
This policy has recently been modified, possibly as a result of improved methods
of radar interception; the main belts have been dissolved. Searchlight cooperation
with night fighters is, however, still in evidence in some areas.
Balloon barrages are found at many of the most important target areas in
Germany and occupied territories, as well as around relatively isolated,
vulnerable points, such as a single factory. The average heights at which they are
flown is about 6,000 to 8,000 feet, although reports of balloons operating at 11,000
to 12,000 feet are occasionally received. Operation at higher levels, however,
involves weaker cables and consequently a reduction in defensive value. A new
balloon, smaller than the normal type, is believed to have been introduced recently.
It is designed specially as a counter to low-level attack and probably cannot be
flown higher than about 4,500 feet.
i. Employment with the Field Army
In the field, antiaircraft artillery is operationally subordinate to the
commander of the army to which it is attached, while remaining subordinate to
the German Air Force for administration. Its use in cooperation with the army
is extremely flexible, the scale and method of employment being varied, frequently
at very short notice, according to the tactical situation. In general an antiaircraft
artillery corps works with an Army Group, the chain of command being exercised
through antiaircraft artillery divisional and regimental staffs down to the battalions.
Although no hard-and-fast rule can be laid down, an antiaircraft artillery division
generally works with an army, and a regiment with an army corps; individual
battalions are allotted to army divisions, preference usually being given to armored
and motorized units. All antiaircraft guns, up to and including the 88-mm, are
dual-purpose and, when attached to the field army, units carry AP and percussion
as well as time-fuze ammunition. In all campaigns of the present war, antiaircraft
artillery units have been found in the forefront of the battle, where the heavy
guns in particular have been used more and more in a ground role, successfully
engaging Allied armored units, artillery positions, and fortifications.
j. Primary Role
In spite of the increasing use of antiaircraft artillery with the field army,
its chief function remains that of defending Germany and occupied territories
from air attack, and it is lavishly employed for this purpose. However, to ease
the strain on manpower imposed by Germany's war effort, large numbers of
trained antiaircraft personnel have been transferred to ground combat units to
serve as infantrymen, field artillerymen, etc. This transfer has been made
possible without appreciably weakening the antiaircraft defenses of Germany and
occupied territories by the use of railway antiaircraft artillery, which can be
transferred rapidly from place to place for the temporary reinforcement of
threatened areas, and by the introduction of Heimatflak (home defense units)
involving the partial replacement of regular antiaircraft artillery personnel by
factory and office workers and more recently by 16- and 17-year-old boys.
*One American Army authority doubts the existence of the AA Brigade. The
British source of this article is quite definite as to its existence.
**There is evidence indicating that normally there are only three batteries in the
light and searchlight battalions.
***In view of the limited range of these light weapons it is probable that this is
done only in conjunction with light (600-mm) searchlights or against low-flying