CHAPTER XV. ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS. IMMOBILE WEAPONS
The immobile anti-aircraft gun, as distinct from that attached to a travelling carriage such as a motor-car, may be subdivided into two classes. The one is the fixed arm which cannot be moved readily, mounted upon a permanent emplacement; the other is the field-piece which, while fired from a stationary position, may be moved from point to point upon a suitable carriage. The distinction has its parallel in ordinary artillery, the first-named weapon coinciding with the heavy siege gun, which is built into and forms part and parcel of the defensive or offensive scheme, while the second is analogous to the field artillery, which may be wheeled from position to position.
In this phase of artillery the Germans led the way, for the simple reason that they recognised the military value of aerial navigation years in advance of their contemporaries. Again, in this field the Krupp Organisation has played a prominent part. It embarked upon actual construction of weapons while its rivals in other countries were content to prepare their drawings, which were filed against "The Day." But it must not be thought that because the German manufacturers of armaments were ahead of their contemporaries they dominated the situation. Far from it. Their competitors in the market of destruction were every whit as keen, as ingenious, and as enterprising. Kruppism saw a commercial opportunity to profit from advertisement and seized it: its rivals were content to work in secret upon paper, to keep pace with the trend of thought, and to perfect their organisations so as to be ready for the crisis when it developed.
The first Krupp anti-aircraft field-piece was a 6.5 centimetre (2 9/16 inch) arm. It possessed many interesting features, the most salient of which was the design of the axle of the carriage. The rigid axle for the two wheels was replaced by an axle made in two sections, and joined together in the form of a universal coupling, so that each wheel virtually possessed its own axle, or rather half-axle. This was connected with the cradle of the gun in such a manner that the wheels were laterally pivoted thereon.
The result is that each axle can be turned forward together with its wheel, and thus the wheels have their rims brought into line to form an arc of a circle, of which the rear end of the spade of the gun carriage constitutes the centre. This acts as a pivot, about which the gun can be turned, the pair of wheels forming the runners for the achievement of this movement. The setting of the weapon in the firing position or its reversion to the travelling position can be easily and speedily effected merely by the rotation of a handwheel and gearing.
With this gun a maximum elevation of 60 degrees is possible, owing to the trunnions being carried well behind the breech in combination with the system of long steady recoil. The balancing spring which encloses the elevating screw is contained in a protected box. The recoil brake, together with the spring recuperator, follows the usual Krupp practice in connection with ordinary field pieces, as does also the automatic breech-closing and firing mechanism. In fact there is no pronounced deviation from theprevailing Krupp system, and only such modifications as are necessary to adapt the arm to its special duty. When the gun is elevated to high angles the shell, after insertioin the breech, is prevented from slipping out by means of a special device, so that the proper and automatic closing of the breech is not impaired in any way.
In such an arm as this, which is designed essentially for high-angle firing, the sighting and training facilities require to be carried out upon special lines, inasmuch as the objective is necessarily at a considerable altitude above the horizon of the gun. In other words, in firing at a high inclination, distance between the gun and the target cannot be utilised directly for the back sight. On the other hand, it is essential that in proportion as the angle from the horizontal increases, the back sight should be lowered progressively in a manner corresponding to the distance.
To assist the range-finder in his task of sighting it is necessary that he should be provided with firing tables set out in a convenient form, which, in conjunction with the telemeter, serve to facilitate training for each successive round. In this way it is possible to pick up the range quickly and to keep the objective in the line of fire until it either has been put hors de combat, or has succeeded in retiring beyond the range of the gun.
The sighting arrangements of these Krupp anti-aircraft guns are carried out upon these lines. Beneath the barrel of the back-sight is an observing glass with an eye-piece for the artillerist, while above and behind the observing glass is another eye-piece, to be used in conjunction with the manipulation of the back-sight. The eye-piece of the observation glass is so made that it can be turned through a vertical plane in proportion as the angle of fire increases in relation to the horizontal. The determination of the distance from the objective and from the corresponding back-sight as well as the observation of the altitude is carried out with the aid of the telemeter. This again carries an observation glass fitted with an eye-piece which can be turned in the vertical plane in the same manner as that of the fore-sight. By means of this ingenious sighting device it is possible to ascertain the range and angle of fire very easily and speedily.
The weight of the special Krupp anti-aircraft field-piece, exclusive of the protecting shield, is approximately identical with that of the ordinary light artillery field-piece. It throws a shell weighing 8.8 pounds with an initial velocity of about 2,066 feet per second.