The Germans fielded the unrelated early 2 cm Flak 28 just after World War I, but the Treaty of Versailles outlawed these weapons and they were sold to Switzerland.
The original Flak 30 design was developed from the Solothurn ST-5 as a project for the Kriegsmarine, which produced the 20 mm C/30. The gun fired the "Long Solothurn", a 20 × 138 mm belted cartridge that had been developed for the ST-5 and was one of the most powerful 20 mm rounds in existence.
The C/30 featured a barrel length of 65 calibers, firing at a rate of about 120 rounds per minute. The C/30 also proved to have feeding problems and would often jam. This was offset to some degree by its undersized magazine, which held only 20 rounds, which tended to make reloading a common requirement anyway. Nevertheless the C/30 became the primary shipborne light AA weapon, and equipped a large variety of German ships. The C/30 was also used experimentally as an aircraft weapon, notably on the Heinkel He 112, where its high power allowed it to penetrate armored cars and the light tanks of the era during the Spanish Civil War.
Rheinmetall then started an adaptation of the C/30 for Army use, producing the 2 cm Flak 30. Generally similar to the C/30, the main areas of development were the mount, which was fairly compact. Set-up could be accomplished by dropping the gun to the ground off its two-wheeled carriage and leveling with hand cranks. The result was a triangular base that allowed fire in all directions.
The main problem with the design remained the fairly low rate of fire, which at 120 RPM was not particularly fast for a weapon of this caliber. Rheinmetall responded with the 2 cm Flak 38, which was otherwise similar but increased the rate of fire to 220 RPM and slightly lowered overall weight to 420 kg. The Flak 38 was accepted as the standard Army gun in 1939, and by the Kriegsmarine as the C/38.
In order to provide airborne and mountain troops with AA capabilities, Mauser was contracted to produce a lighter version of the Flak 38, which they introduced as the 2 cm Gebirgsflak 38 (2 cm GebFlak 38). It featured a dramatically simplified mount using a tripod that raised the entire gun off the ground, which had the side-effect of allowing it to be set up on more uneven ground. These changes reduced the overall weight of the gun to a mere 276.0 kg. Production started in 1941 and entered service in 1942.
Read more about this topic: 2 Cm Flak 30/38/Flakvierling
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