Pretty soon after the start of the war, the Germans realized that their standard field artillery piece, the FK 96 n.A. had some serious drawbacks, and that it was often only because of the numerical superiority of their field guns that they could hold their own against the field artillery of their opponents, which often had both a greater range and a greater effect. Therefore, development work was soon started on a new Field Gun.
The most obious fault of the FK 96 n.A. was that, although it could fire above 5,600 meters, the tail of the gun then had to be dug down into a pit, in order to allow the tube to be raised further. A quick and dirty solution to this was devised by the firm of Rheinmetall. It consisted simply of mating the tube of the FK 96 n.A. with the carriage of the lFH 98/09. This allowed the tube to be elevated up to 40 degrees, making it possible - with much ado - to reach a range of 7,800 meters. This hybrid gun, the so called KiH (Kanone in Haubitzlafette), had some other small modifications, including some structural strengthening and a new elevating drum, but soon, in June 1915, the first KiH reached the front.
The KiH was of course an interim solution, and - encouraged by the favourable response from the front - work soon started on a new design. This eventually became the FK 16. It was based on the KiH, but a number of big modifications were introduced: first the barrel was lengthened to L/35, the breech volume increased, and the rifling in the barrel was also altered, which - together with new munitions that had recently introduced - increased the range even more. Also the new munitions made it possible to use a split charge in the cartridge, using only one of two charges of propellant when firing at shorter ranges, which was favourable, as it not only allowed the Army to save propellant, but it also meant slightly less wear on the barrel itself. Another change concerned the sighting gear.
The new gun was introduced as soon as possible: the call for a new design had even increased, for in the meantime the
FK 96 n.A. had also shown itself to be a less able platform for the new Gas Shells (C-Geschoss), and the FK 16 would
also be better in firing these types of munitions. The problem was that the German Industry had started to experience
big shortages in many fields, and the production of the FK 16 soon proved to be a crucial bottleneck. However, the
first FK 16:s were issued to the troops during 1916. It is not surprising, that a gun designed in a hurry, and then
rushed into production during the shortages of war-time, suffered a number of faults and problems. (To this should be
added, that shortages of crucial materials - like copper - also lead to the use of so called Ersatz materials in the
munitions, lessening the performance of these as well. And here I also would like to quote Peter Podlewski in Wuppertal:
"The first small picture above shows a gun that was victim to a "Rohrkrepierer"(detonation of grenade in the gun tube) of which over 4500 have occurred alone in Germany (6500 in France, 2500 reported in Great Britain). Due to that fact, the DIN (German Industrial Standards) were introduced thus eliminating too big shells for too narrow gun barrels. These explosions often killed Gunner 1,2 and 3 and often the entire crew. The cause was the use of picric acid in unlaquered gun shells thus producing very sensitive picric salts within days detonating the shell upon firing. Picric Acid had to be used as "Ersatz-Füllstoff" for TNT as the latter was in short supply. As early as May 1916, the problem was solved by laquering the shells from inside and spray them with turpentine/starch solution as a bonding agent with the picric acid concurrently neutralizing the generation of picric salts. Besides, by using only charge 1, the barrel wear is reduced by 66% (from factor 7 to factor 2)"
It was not a perfect gun, and the initial batch behaved a bit erratically ballistically. This was due to a number of reasons, that eventually were found out, and modifications introduced, so in 1917 most problems had been eradicated.
The troops liked it: now at last they could compete on equal terms both with the French "75" and the Russian Putilov m/02. Also, it could be emplaced in a much more free manner than the old FK 96 n.A.. Also: it proved to be a stable platform, with the recoil being well controlled by the carriage. Complaints concerned the lowered rate-of-fire (due to the system of split propellant charges) and that many small parts were prone to breakage - due to the bad quality of the raw materials and/or the production. A really big problem that no one was able to solve, however, was the weight of the gun: it was considerably heavier than the FK 96 n.A.. This was no problem during the static warfare up to 1918, but when the German Offensive started in March that Year, this became an obvious drawback. The FK 16 was simply not as mobile as the FK 96 n.A., a problem made even worse by the general deterioration of the Horse material of the German Army.
At the end of the war, the German Army had some 3.020 FK 16 in use - which was almost as many as the older FK 96 n.A., of which there were 3.744 in service.
The FK 16 was employed in the 20s by the much reduced German Heer, and in 1934 a modified model with was introduced (the FK 16 n.A.), that was still in service some Divisions in the early years of WW2.
These photos have been taken by Knut Erik Hagen:
And these by Michael Casale:
A selection of FK 16s in South Australia (with permission from the admins of www.tributesofhonour.info)
And these show the FK16 on display in the Brussels Army Museum, displayed in Belgian post-war colours:
|Weight limbered||2.25 t|
|Weight emplaced||1.38 t|
|Muzzle Velocity(Charge 1)||420 m/sec|
|Muzzle Velocity(Charge 2)||545 m/sec|
|Max. Range||9.1 km|
|Max. Range (Gas grenade)||10.7 km|
|Shell Weight||7.2 kg (HE Grenade)|
|Shell Tyeps||HE, Sharpnel, Gas|
Convoy makes a fine 1/76 kit of this gun. Also, HäT makes a good 1/72 version! (see Kit Review section)