The Big Bad 128mm

Hello everyone,

before we continue with the article on French superheavy, a piece of info emerged yesterday, that is too good to pass up, especially since you know how I like German tanks. Very special thanks go to Thor_Hammerschlag and Zarax for providing this info.

Let’s imagine for a moment a fourth German TD branch (third being heavy assault guns, Sturmtiger and such). Yes, that is science fiction for now, such a thing will definitely not come before 2015, but just cope with me. How would it like, what is there left? Well, the Waffenträgers. Some vehicles are pretty clear, such as the Steyr Waffenträger for example. If you are interested in how such a line could look, I already wrote a post about it in the past.

But what about tier 10? Waffenträgers are fragile and on such light platforms, I think there would be no room for “classic” cassette autoloaders (leaving you with hydraulic assist, but that’s a story for another time). We already have the King of Burst WT E-100 for now, so it has to be a different platform. Ideally with the gun in the back, for better weight distribution, probably limited rotation, not to tip the whole damn thing over when firing. What I like most is this (yet another Rheinmetall Borsig) proposal setup:


Of course, other platforms are available and perhaps the Panther one would be more suitable for such a vehicle. But that’s not what I wanted to write about, perhaps I will at some point in the future.

Let’s look away from the platform and check the gun instead, because that’s the fun part. What we need is something very special, to compensate for the massive burst of the WT E-100. Something, that can be viable on that tier even without an autoloader (why have two autoloading WT’s at tier 10). Any WT chassis is very fragile, so the vehicle would have to stay behind and snipe. What we need therefore is the ultimate sniping gun.

Why 560 damage?

To continue this article, I’d like to give you some perspective. Think of Panzerkampfwagen II tank. It fought in Poland and France as the most numerous German tank (along with Panzer I, which was essentially just a tankette with turret) and suffered some heavy losses, in Russia it was obsolete. In World of Tanks it’s a tier 2 tank with 30/20/15 armor and it has a 20mm gun. Have you seen one up close? Or any light tank really, that we consider “weak”. It’s a goddamn death machine. Think about it – imagine, what damage would even this little tank do today against armed police force? Certainly, a SWAT team would deal with it eventually, possibly using anti-material rifles, but regular officers would be completely helpless. And that vehicle construction is 80 years old.

Why I am writing this to you? To make you realize how vehicles that get frowned upon (Jagdtiger with the stock 128mm) in game were absolutely and utterly deadly in real life. The damage the 128mm gun could inflict was monstrous. There were accounts of Shermans literally ripped to two pieces by a Jagdtiger shell and the Americans had nothing, that could survive such an impact. And that was “just” the L/55 PaK 44. The uparmored Churchill could survive the 128mm impact, but the kinetic energy of the shells is massive. During post-war tests, when hit by a 128mm Jagdtiger shell, this Churchill’s turret was ripped off:


There are two conclusions from that I want to bring to your attention, before we continue.

- First and foremost, while roughly scaling with the increasing caliber, the ingame gun damage is an arbitrary number, based on balance and not any real life performance. I know, it sounds like a clear case for Captain Obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people think “it’s a TD 128mm, so it HAS to do 490 (560) damage, right?” – it doesn’t. The number is there for balance purposes and if the vehicle requries it, the developers can make it higher or lower – and it will still be “historical” in the sense that this gun was in game terms “oneshotting” pretty much everything it met (including for example a late Sherman, that in game has over 700 hitpoints) anyway. To be absolutely correct, the same could be said for example for the ISU-152 “Zveroboy” gun.

- Second conclusion was that in 1944, or even early 1945, the Jagdtiger gun was completely sufficient (in most cases it was an overkill anyway) and there was no real need to invent something bigger. Sure, there were various fantasies, such as the StuG E-100 or the Sturmgeschütz Maus (or even the odd L/66 Jagdtiger with the rear casemate), but those were impractical paper project, fuelled by Hitler’s megalomania, combined with the German heavy vehicle approach. In other words, there was no real need to develop more advanced 128mm AT guns, or – in economy term – shells, such as the Panzergranate 44 for 12,8cm gun (APFSDS rounds). The concept of a German APFSDS shells (called “Peenemünder Pfeil”, or simply “Pfeilgeschoss” – arrow shots) was there (and worked well for the 37mm guns), but the tungsten penetrators were expensive, these special metals were not widely available (hence the limited number of for example 75mm APCR ammunition) and it was very expensive (that’s why the Germans were actively seeking to replace them with something else, leading to the experiments with Uranium core ammunition – in game, that is represented by the 30mm “U” ammo for Mk.103 gun).

There were three cases of sabot ammunition being used (and practical). First was the 150/88mm sabot round for the 150mm guns. It was basically a 150mm shell, bottlenecked into 88mm, with the regular 88mm steel core. It was a stopgap measure to give artillery something to fire at tanks with. Second case whas the HEFSDS 150mm ammunition. Both shells (the 150/88 and 150 HEFSDS) were called TS (“Treibspiegel” – sabot). Where in first case the point was to give the 150mm howitzers some penetration (I calculated it based on Hogg data and in WoT terms the 150/88mm shell reached roughly 200mm penetration), in second case, the goal was to increase velocity and range. In both cases, the Germans were successful, it worked and these shells were used.

Third case is somewhat different. 128mm HEFSDS shells were also developed – this time not for artillery, but for Flak AA guns. Their goal was to actually increase their range to hit the Allied heavy bombers earlier, faster and with more accuracy. The price for that however was the reduction of the warhead and thus lesser bang. From pilot’s POV, the FlaK fire would start earlier, but it wouldn’t make such a mess. There were ways the Germans tried to compensate for the reduced payload, but that’s not a point of this article.

The entire paragraph above was to remind you of one thing: despite these advanced types of shells being developed, there was really no need to produce advanced AP shells, the firepower of the 128mm PaK 44 was sufficient. That however does not mean no such research was conducted, but most of the 128mm Krupp and Rheinmetall research went into the development of a bigger and better Flak cannon (plus shells) – and that’s how the ultimate German 128mm was born.

128mm L/75 (or L/78) FlaK 45

FlaK 45 was born in 1945 from the classic 128mm FlaK 40, by adding heavier breech, longer barrel and a muzzle brake. Where the FlaK 40 has a L/58 barrel, FlaK 45 has L/75 (or L/78, if you count the muzzle brake too). It was developed since 1943 by Rheinmetall and it used unitary heavier shells with more propellant, giving it longer range, something that was the point of the entire project.

Here, a FlaK 40. FlaK 45 photos exist, but I don’t have the book I am afraid. Just to illustrate the design then.


Apparently, two prototypes were made (the sources are a bit unclear on this one: either it was one gun, that was later modified into the second “stage” prototype, or it was two different guns). What is clear however is that one had various versions of rifled barrels (with different rifling lengths – 30, 21 and 18 calibers), while the other had a smoothbore barrel and utilized fin-stabilized HE-DS ammunition, capable of extreme velocities (1500 m/s). Both prototypes were tested and after the war, they probably ended up scrapped, as it happened with a lot of German tech. The guns had a 360 degrees mount, capable of -3/+90 depression/elevation and could fire up to 22-25 rounds per minute, thanks to the flak-grade automatic loader.

The following table (from the book “Enzyklopädie deutscher Waffen 1939-1945: Handwaffen, Artillerie, Beutewaffen, Sonderwaffen” by T.Gander and P.Chamberlain) gives us an idea, what kind of firepower these guns carried, especially when you compare it to the “classic” FlaK 40.


To explain what the table means:

“Drallänge in Kalibers” – rifling lengths in calibers
“Geschosskaliber” – shell caliber (when there are two numbers, it’s a subcaliber bottlenecked shell, the first number applies for the casing, the second for the shell)
“Geschoss-sorte” – type of the shell: Sprg. means classic HE, TS means discharging sabot, KV means subcaliber bottlenecked shell and Bd (Brand) means tracer round, “flossenstab.” means fin-stabilized, these can be combined – Sprg. KV for example means HE subcaliber shell (this was done so the gun could fire further with the lighter projectile, but full-grade propellant)
“Gewicht” – shell weight
“V0″ – shell velocity
“Glattrohr” – smoothbore barrel

The table contains contains various versions of shells, as we can see.

As you can see from the table, the FlaK 45 surpasses the older FlaK 40 in almost every respect. The smoothbore version is technically very interesting (it could fire HEFSDS 6,3kg shells at 1500 m/s!), but we will ignore it, because there is the “no smoothbores” rule in World of Tanks.

The rifled barrel (1 to 30) can be used for comparison with the FlaK 40 firepower. While FlaK 40 can fire a 26kg HE shell at 900m/s, the FlaK 45 can fire a 31kg shell at 930m/s. A significant increase! With the subcaliber TS rounds and other versions of rifling, the shell velocity increase was even crazier: the 128/75mm HEDS shell could be fired at 1539 m/s!

This is the point where we pass into the realm of speculation. What would happen, if you mated such a powerful gun with APCR tungsten penetrators in 128mm shells? Or simply an AP round with hardened tip (velocities too high shatter shells)? Instant 280+ mm penetration. Of course, such a round would be fictional, but based on what was written before, I can imagine the gun having following parameters in game.

12,8mm FlaK 45 (PaK 45): DAM: 560/560/700 PEN: 285/380/70 Acc: 0,28 Aim: 2,7 ROF: 4,46

Well, at least that would be using the “usual” rules. Let’s imagine something else for a while. You have a lighter vehicle (38D/Panther chassis) with an extremely powerful gun without an autoloader. What are you? A brawler? No. You are the ultimate hunter. What if the vehicle has a small crew? They can’t operate the shells that fast. That means a ROF reduction. So now you have 3 rounds per minute and a long aimtime. What do you do? You increase alpha, or penetration. Why not both? After all, as we learned, the damage is just a number. How about:

DAM: 600/600/700 PEN: 320/390/70 Acc: 0,28 Aim: 3 ROF: 3,3

You are now the ultimate sniper. You don’t shoot much often, but when you do, it HURTS and it penetrates. Combined with an excellent camo factor, such a vehicle could be… devastating. But of course, that’s just pure speculation. Not sure anything like that would be viable. Still, can dream, can’t I? :)

30 thoughts on “The Big Bad 128mm

  1. Awesome. You have any more info regarding Panzergranate 44, german sabots, or Uranium cored ammo? Was it used for anything else than MK 103? Was it poryphoric aswell?

      • Uranium depletion does not change its chemical porperties. So if depleted uranium has pyrophoric properties, so does “normal” uranium too.

        • Oh ok, wish there was more data on it :), yeah remember reading some about the 30 or 37mm rounds, in the german text document they had “explosive” properties, but the round designation was without primer? So the material of the round had to have incendiary effect / explosive

          • I dug into the matter and tried to get more info then what Zarax already had and even I came up dry. There’s just not much of a paper trail any more on the ammunition.

          • Uranium, any uranium, fired fast enough becomes pyrophoric when it comes into contact and it burns, basically, right through.
            Despite capturing about 1500-1800 tons of ore from the Belgium’s the Germans never completely put it to use although they did refine some of the ore into uranium bricks for their experimental reactor and ofc the experimental shells and what we think is a limited run of the 37mm shells.
            The irony is that the Germans were sitting on several hundred thousand tons of uranium ore… (hard to get at it, and hard to refine it, but that’s life)

      • DU has pyrophoric properties from the get go. DU is highly toxic and reactive from a chemical(not radioactive) standpoint.

  2. Thats really the ultimate sniper.
    Just add some mobility and gundepression and you dont have to worry about your armor – and your enemies armor :D

  3. SS what do you think: is the mentioned by zarax “german t10 hellcat” aka. WT Panther possible to be implemented?

    • Well, the Skorpion is definitely “possible” to be implemented. But it’s mostly just a fantasy (FlaK 45 was never intended for vehicle use), so I doubt it will be. The original Skorpion is tier 8 material.

  4. Yeah, 128mm gun is overkill. At Neustad in Germany there was a case when 3 Jagdtigers from 643. Schewere Panzerjäger Abteilung (that was earlier equip with Elefants) destroyed 25 M4s and M10s and suffered no casualties themselfs.

    However, when talking about ingame damage, it’s hard to calculate how good it is really.

  5. Quite interesting, especially now that they add a vehicle with the FLAK 88mm into the game. The first step is there.

  6. Not so ultimate sniper.

    That is Maus DPM. The Object 263 for comparison has over 50% higher DPM. You would need to increase the RoF to at least 4 or give it even more damage to make this a viable TD gun.

  7. Terrible aim time and no armour sound like a bad combo. Also 1980 DPM on a T10 TD, not even close to enough.

  8. Another great article – a credit to the community. Many thanks, and keep them coming!

  9. I actually doubt that there will ever be a fourth German TD line with another Waffenträger branch – that would be to similar to the existing one. One regular TD branch, one Waffenträger TD branch and one Sturmgeschütz TD branch is enough diversity.

    I think that they’ll only implement the Ardelt Waffenträger and Krupp-Steyr Waffenträger as single vehicles (regular or premium) in future, since these two tanks really existed as prototypes and were not only concept drawings.

  10. Great article, but with a small mistake:

    -Bd (Brand) means tracer round

    Usually not. Brandgeschoss normally means incendiary round.
    Tracer round would be “Leuchtspurgeschoss”

  11. I wonder, looking at the setup of the Flak 40, what size the platform have to be to support an even bigger breech (in the case of the Flak 45)?
    Wasn’t aware of the power of the 128mm. Ripping turrets off or cuting through Sherman sounds pretty epic.
    Very good article.

    • FlaK 40 12.8cm. The gun fired a 27.9 kg (57.2-pound) shell at 880 m/s (2,890 ft/s) to a maximum ceiling of 14,800 m (48,556 ft). Compared with the 88mm FlaK 18 & 36, the 128 used a powder charge four times as great which resulted in a shell flight time only one-third as long. This made aim against fast-moving targets much easier.
      a almost 60 lb shell doing almost 3k fps… I suspect it will have an impact.

      • Yeah sure iknow it was one of the most powerfull guns during WWII but i didn’t suspect such effects. Photographic footage helped me realise.

  12. Nice one, I totally agree. And the damage=balance reminder should acompany most of your posts ;)

    In the end that would be the TD I “expected” to be playing in any TD line… As reality is different it is the kind of TD I’d love to play ;)

  13. >12,8mm FlaK 45 (PaK 45): DAM: 560/560/700 PEN: 285/380/70 Acc: 0,28 Aim: 2,7 ROF: 4,46

    but isn’t this basically just a more accurate ISU? What the russians get at tier 8 the germans have to wait for tier 10.

  14. >What if the vehicle has a small crew
    Yeah, what if. Except no 128mm gun vehicle ever has a small crew.

  15. This idea is stupid as it sound .

    Ultimate sniper ? Pls , the Waffentragger E-100 with its autoloader 12.8 have good acc and it comes with 6 shells already .

    320 mm of penetration is not a good bargain .

  16. Silentstalker i am not sure if Brandgeschosse are really tracer rounds, since tracer rounds are normally called Leuchtspurgeschosse in German and Brandgeschosse are more likely to mean incendiary rounds.