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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.]

3. Antiaircraft as a Component of the Air Force

a. General

With some few exceptions, German antiaircraft units are an organic part of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). German antiaircraft artillery is called Flakartillerie, and is more commonly referred to as "Flak." This term is an abbreviation of "Flieger- or Flugabwehrkanone," which means "cannon for defense against aviation."

Flak troops wear the uniform of the Luftwaffe, which is easily distinguished from that of the Army and Navy by the gray-blue color of the material, the lounge cut of the open collar blouse, and the plain trousers. To distinguish the AA artillery from other branches of the Air Force, red piping is worn on the cap, and the blouses of both officers and enlisted men have this distinguishing red color on the shoulder strap as lining and edging, and on the collar patches.

Flak serving in the field is fully motorized, and units intended to operate with the spearhead of the attack are equipped for cross-country operation.

Luftwaffe AA organizations and units operating with the Army are subordinated operationally and for command purposes to the Army unit concerned, and administratively (for replacements, etc.) to a parent Air Force ground unit.

b. Higher Units

(1) General.—In general, Flak units consist of corps, divisions, regiments, battalions, and batteries. From a practical point of view the AA corps, divisional, and regimental organizations are primarily composed of a commander, staff, and organizational troops who coordinate and assist in the disposition and activities of the basic units, the battalions (Abteilungen).

(2) Corps.—The Flakkorps is the highest AA unit. It may be found in rear areas or with field forces, depending on the considered need for a command of this size. There is no fixed allotment of units to this highest formation; it has been noted that the corps may contain from two to four AA divisions. In general, when serving with the field forces, an AA corps would normally control the area of an army group (group of armies). It may also be found with air fleets and on some occasions with Panzer armies.

(3) Division.—The Flakdivision is frequently found in German armies. Its composition is not fixed, varying from two to five regiments. In general, when with field forces, the AA division usually operates in the area of an army.

(4) Regiment.—(a) Pre-war establishment.—At the outbreak of World War II, Flak regiments were organized on a standard basis of three battalions per regiment. The first two battalions were alike, each consisting of three batteries of heavy AA guns and two batteries of light AA guns with organic 60-cm (light) searchlights. The third battalion consisted of three batteries, each with nine 150-cm (heavy) searchlights.

(b) Present organization.—At the present time the composition of the regiment is flexible; it may contain from three to five battalions of any type.

c. The Battalion

(1) General.—The basic tactical AA unit is the battalion (Abteilung), which also has administrative functions. There are several known types of gun battalions, but in general these types will fall into one of three general categories consisting of heavy, mixed, and light battalions. In this connection, it should be noted that in action the gun battalion commander is essentially a tactical commander, the battery being the fire-control unit. Allotment of AA units to Army field forces varies according to the estimated needs, but all army corps commonly has one or more separate gun battalions permanently attached to it during all operations, and at least one mixed battalion will usually be found attached to a Panzer division.

(2) Heavy battalion.—This battalion is equipped with either 88-mm or 105-mm antiaircraft guns, or with both, and usually consists of a headquarters with three batteries (Batterien) each of four, or possibly six, guns. This type of organization is rare; the unit is usually found only in static positions in Germany.

(3) Mixed battalion.—This is the more common type of standard battalion organization incorporating heavy AA guns. There are two separate establishments for these mixed battalions, one with four 88-mm guns per battery, the other with six. The most recent indications suggest that preference is being shown for the six-gun unit as equipment becomes available. In some cases, primarily in rear areas, 105-mm AA guns may be substituted for the 88-mm guns.

The organization of this mixed battalion (fig. 1) is as follows:

3 heavy batteries, each consisting of four (possibly six) 88-mm guns, and two 20-mm guns for close protection;
2 light batteries, each consisting of twelve 20-mm guns and four 60-cm (23.58-inch) searchlights. (A medium battery of nine 37-mm guns and four 60-cm searchlights is sometimes substituted for one of the light batteries.)

[Figure 1. Organization of the German mixed AA battalion.]
Figure 1.—Organization of the German mixed AA battalion.

(4) Light battalion.—Two types of light gun battalions exist:

(a) Headquarters;
3 light batteries, each of twelve 20-mm guns;
1 searchlight battery of sixteen 60-cm searchlights.
(b) Headquarters;
2 light batteries, each of twelve 20-mm guns;
1 medium battery of nine 37-mm guns;
1 searchlight battery of sixteen 60-cm searchlights.

(5) Reserve battalion.—In addition to the battalions mentioned above, there are heavy, mixed, and light reserve battalions. These have only a small amount of organic motor transport and are used in a static role in Germany and rear areas. Otherwise the reserve organization corresponds to that of standard mobile battalions. The transportation of these battalions, when necessary, is carried out by a separate transport unit.

(6) Searchlight battalion.—Most searchlight battalions are composed of a headquarters and three batteries, each battery containing nine 150-cm (60-inch) searchlights. Sound locators are used with these searchlights, and although their present number per battery varies with the employment of the searchlights in rear areas, at the beginning of the war they were allotted on the basis of one per searchlight. Although mobile, most of the heavy searchlight battalions are used only within rear and static defense areas. The smaller, 60-cm (23.58-inch) lights are used with 20-mm and 37-mm AA guns, and accordingly are an organic part of both the light and mixed battalion, as mentioned above. Heavy searchlight battalions are very often grouped to form searchlight regiments, which operate as such only in rear areas.

d. The Battery

(1) General.—The battery (Batterie) is the normal fire unit of AA artillery. Several types of batteries exist:

(2) Heavy battery.—A heavy battery in the mixed battalion is normally organized as follows:

(a) Combat echelon, consisting of—

Battery headquarters,
Gun and instrument detachments,
Communication detachments,
Light Flak section,
Ammunition detachment,
Combat train.

(b) Ration transport.

(c) Baggage transport.

(3) Light and medium battery.—A light battery in a mixed battalion comprises four gun sections and one 60-cm searchlight section of four searchlights (one searchlight is normally allotted to each gun section), and is subdivided as follows:

(a) Combat echelon, consisting of—

Battery headquarters,
Gun and searchlight detachments,
Communication detachment,
Ammunition detachment,
Combat train.

(b) Ration transport.

(c) Baggage transport.

(4) Searchlight battery.—The heavy searchlight battery is usually organized as follows:

(a) Combat echelon, consisting of—

Battery headquarters,
Searchlight detachments,
Communication detachment,
Combat train.

(b) Ration transport.

(c) Baggage transport.

The exact employment of the light 60-cm searchlight batteries is not known, but it is believed that the battery is subdivided into sections to permit employment of individual detachments with gun sections. This practice is somewhat similar to the system used with searchlights which are an organic part of the light gun batteries of mixed battalions. In the latter case, the four searchlights in the section are broken down into four detachments, thus allowing one light searchlight for each gun section.

e. The Zug

The closest U.S. military equivalent of the Zug is "platoon." It is the smallest operational unit above the single gun and ordinarily applies only to the light or medium gun platoon of three guns, although in rare cases two heavy guns may operate as a platoon. In the heavy searchlight battery, there are usually three platoons of three lights each.

f. Railway Flak Units

Antiaircraft guns are also mounted on railway cars. Railway Flak units are organized into regiments, battalions, and batteries. The precise composition of the units is not known, but it is believed that the regimental organization forms a pool from which units may be drawn as necessity arises, either for mobile defense or for train-protection purposes. Although Railway Flak units are part of the Air Force and are administered through the usual Air Force channels, it is probable that train-protection detachments are operationally subordinate to the transport authorities. There is also some evidence that AA guns provided for the defense of military trains may in certain circumstances be manned by organic Army personnel. It is interesting to note that the AA guns on railway mounts may be light or heavy, and may consist of any of the following calibers: 20-mm (single- or four-barreled), 37-mm, 75-mm (probably), 88-mm, 105-mm, and possibly even the 150-mm.

g. Barrage Balloon Units

Barrage balloon units are part of the Air Barrage Arm (Luftsperrwaffe), which is a branch of the Air Force. The personnel wear the uniform of the German Air Force Antiaircraft Artillery. The exact organization of current barrage balloon units is not known, mainly owing to the fact that at the outbreak of war German use of barrage balloons was on the whole still in the experimental stage, and that since that time, in accordance with German principles, the organization has varied at different places because of different needs. The best information available, however, indicates that the standard barrage balloon unit is the battalion, consisting of 3 batteries each manning about 16 balloons. In the early years of the war, the smallest unit consisted of a motorized squad of 12 men, each squad equipped with 2 balloons—one for manning and one in reserve.

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