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BK 5 - Bordkanone 5
BK 5 - Bordkanone 5
BK 5 - Bordkanone 5

Manufacturer: Rheinmetall
Designed: 1943
Produced: 1943-1945
Number Built: ~300
Caliber: 50mm
Weight: 540 kg (1,200 lbs)
Muzzle Velocity: N/A
Rate Of Fire: 45 rnds/minute
Magazine: 22 Rounds
Round Types: N/A

The Bordkanone 5, or BK 5 for short, was a 50 mm autocannon intended primarily for use against Allied heavy bombers, especially the USAAF's combat box heavy bomber flight formations, so that defending Luftwaffe fighter aircraft could fire from a great enough distance to make the USAAF bomber's heavy defensive firepower ineffective against defending German fighter aircraft. Rheinmetall was given a contract in 1943 to adapt the 50 mm KwK 39 tank gun, from the Panzer III tank, for aerial use in the twin-engined Me 410 Hornisse bomber destroyer. They were installed as Umrüst-Bausätze (Factory Modification) 4 in the Me 410A-1/U4, and experimentally, in two Me 262A-1a/U4 jet fighter prototypes (though these were not used operationally), as the MK 214 cannon of similar caliber was not yet available. The semi-circular magazine held 22 rounds. Approximately 300 were produced and it saw only limited action, most notably in the Me 410A-1/U4 Hornissen aircraft that served with the II. Gruppe of Zerstörergeschwader 26. It was also mounted on the Junkers Ju 88P-4 night attack aircraft. Intended for long-range shots, the cannon was given a telescopic sight in addition to the Me 410's standard Revi C12C gunsight. This proved to be more of a hindrance than a help in the turning fights in which the Me 410s often found themselves, as the maneuvering targets easily escaped from the telescopic sight's small field of view.

Me 262A-1a/U4 - V083/Wilma Jeane, with a 50mm cannon, Germany 1945
Me 262A-1a/U4 - V083/Wilma Jeane, with a 50mm cannon, Germany 1945

As installed in the Me 262, the cannon was found to be prone to jamming, and if fired at night tended to temporarily blind the pilot's night vision.

Me 262A-1a/U4 - V083/Wilma Jeane, with a 50mm cannon, Germany 1945
Me 262A-1a/U4 - V083/Wilma Jeane, with a 50mm cannon, Germany 1945

According to the account of the engagements against the USAAF by II/ZG 26 from late February through mid-April 1944 mentioned at a German language website, the 53 Hornissen of that Zerstörergruppe equipped with the BK 5 were said to have to shot down a staggering total of 129 B-17 Flying Fortress and four B-24 Liberator heavy bomber aircraft, distributed over a series of five or six interceptions, all while losing only nine of their own Me 410s.

Gunston, Bill & Wood, Tony - Hitler's Luftwaffe, 1977, Salamander Books Ltd., London
Wikipedia - BK-5

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