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German Antiaircraft Artillery, Military Intelligence Service, Special Series 10, Feb. 1943
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the wartime U.S. War Department publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]

12. General Principles

a. The German Task Force

A German general has stated that the real secret of the initial success of the German Arms was "the combined employment of all arms on the battlefield in pursuance of one common mission." Related to this statement is the German conception of a task force as a grouping of the necessary arms and services, under one commander, for the accomplishment of a definite specified mission. Use of the task force implements another basic principle of command: that for a given mission a commander is selected, given the means, and allowed to carry out the assignment unhampered.

b. Antiaircraft Task Force Allocation

Following the general principle, AA artillery is assigned to specific task forces by the German High Command in accordance with the estimated need for AA artillery in execution of the mission. The size and composition of the AA artillery units so assigned will depend on several considerations, the most important of which are as follows:

The mission (and its importance);
The amount and characteristics of enemy aviation;
The amount, types, and characteristics of friendly aviation available;
The commander's estimate of the means required;
The amount and type of AA artillery materiel available;
The terrain;
Proximity to the enemy;
The weather and the season of the year.

c. Primary Missions of AA

In general, the primary missions of the AA artillery are considered by the Germans to be as follows:

Defense against hostile aerial reconnaissance;
Defense against hostile artillery observation;
Defense against hostile air attacks on personnel and important installations;
Support of friendly air combat strength.

Light, medium, and heavy AA weapons supplement each other in their effect. While the light and medium AA weapons furnish protection against low-flying hostile aircraft, the heavy weapons bear the brunt of the AA defense in the combat zone, combining long range with rapid fire and mobility.

The main mission of the heavy AA guns is to protect the ground against air reconnaissance and high-altitude attacks while on the march, at rest, or in actual combat. Moved by tractor or truck, the average marching speed of these heavy AA guns is from 5 to 20 miles per hour. Horse-drawn AA cannon are employed only by units contending with fuel shortages or very unsuitable road nets. Antiaircraft units moved by tractor or truck can be prepared for action rapidly; they have great mobility, and can be employed within the effective range of hostile artillery.

d. Transition from AA Role to Other Roles

In the approach to battle, as contact is made with the enemy, the German task force commander will utilize all facilities under his control to gain control of the air. For this purpose, he will employ all the aircraft at his disposal. During this same phase AA artillery will be employed in its primary mission of ground defense against hostile aircraft.

As control of the air is achieved, there is a transition in the employment of the ground arms. In direct proportion to the completeness achieved in control of the air, AA artillery becomes available for other missions. Since AA artillery guns combine the advantages of high mobility, high muzzle-velocity, accurate and rapid firing methods, and a flat trajectory, they are used against tanks and armored vehicles once their need in an AA role has become secondary.

While acting in their primary role, AA weapons will be employed against tanks, armored vehicles, or other ground targets only as a means of self-defense, or under circumstances where principles of surprise fire may apply. Since AA artillery is used by the Germans quite extensively to protect field artillery installations against hostile aircraft during the early phase when air control is being established, AA units in performance of this mission often find themselves in forward areas, and their very existence frequently depends on the ability to engage hostile tanks and armored vehicles.

Experiments with the use of AA guns (especially the 88-mm in the Spanish Civil War), together with later practical experiences in the Battle of France, resulted in AA weapons being mounted so that they could be used against ground as well as air targets. The 88-mm gun is the best example of this development, and its use in Russia against heavily armored vehicles was so successful that it began to be used more and more in a separate antitank role. This role has received much publicity and attention, but it should not obscure the fact that on most occasions the primary mission of the 88-mm gun is against hostile aircraft.

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