Lessons Israel Can Learn from the Flak 8.8 gun

One of the most effective weapons used by the Germans during WWII was a dual purpose 88 mm gun called Flak 8.8 which was both a deadly tank hunter and an awesome anti-aircraft menace. During the early years of the war the gun was directed mainly against allied tanks, easily penetrating their armour. Its anti-aircraft role was secondary during those years – the British had only light and medium weight twin-engine bombers, they operated mainly at night and their navigation and targeting abilities were so poor they sometimes bombed the wrong country.

With the war continuing, a few factors started to change this situation. The US joined Britain and positioned heavy, four-engine bombers like the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator of its Eighth Air Force at English airfields. These bombers started hammering German industrial zones, rail junctions and petrochemical plants day after day, in full daylight. The British in the meanwhile had developed their own heavy four-engine bombers like the Lancaster and the Halifax and were bombing similar targets at night, night after night. Their navigation and target marking abilities had also improved beyond recognition. The damage inflicted upon the German war machine was enormous.

Rather than develop their own heavy bombers, the Germans concentrated now on the production of fighter aircraft that were deployed to protect German assets from Allied bombers. Forced by circumstances, they also started diverting more and more Flak 8.8 guns leaving the production line from the battlefield to the industrial rear in an effort to stop the destructive air attacks. Allied tank crews could breath a sigh of relief – the mighty weapon they were so afraid of was now being diverted in growing numbers to far away defensive roles instead of serving as a deadly weapon on the front.

With the increasing magnitude and potency of the rocket and missile threat against Israel and the pressure to develop rapidly a multi-layered defence against this threat, Israel must ensure that the balance between defensive and offensive weapon systems in which it invests its limited defence budget will still enable her to defeat her enemies quickly and decisively on the battlefield, not just reduce the damage caused to the home front.

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