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Luftwaffe Gunner's Trainer: The German Training Camera-Gun MBK 1000

By Michael Heidler

The training of aircraft gunners is an important but difficult task. In order to avoid the risks associated with shooting on towed flying targets and reduce the consumption of expensive ammunition, the German Air Force looked for a suitable training aid. In cooperation with the aeronautical authorities, the well-known optical company Zeiss Ikon AG from Dresden developed two special “camera-guns” (Lichtbild-MG) before the Second World War: the “MBK 1000” for mobile installation in bombers and the quick-film camera “ESK 2000” designed for fixed installation in place of the machine gun in fighter planes. These two devices were used not only by Germany, but also by foreign air forces.

The Zeiss Ikon camera-guns capture the entire aiming process on film as long as the gunner is “shooting” with his machine gun from an airplane. In conjunction with a scientific evaluation of the film reel, the entire battle situation can be reconstructed after the flight. It is possible to identify which shots would have hit the target and to determine the aiming mistakes of the gunner. The predicted fire can be analyzed without any conversion.

The MBK 1000 is mounted in the airplane in the same way as the standard light machine gun model MG 15. It can be separated into two pieces for installation on mounts with a cupola. Its appearance, handling, sighting device and wind vane are just like those of the real thing. The drive of the camera is powered by a spring mechanism, which is housed in a special “spring drum” (Federtrommel). Its housing resembles the standard double-drum for the MG 15, and both drums insert into their devices in the same way. The drum contains two springs and one regulator to slow down the movement of the springs. Using a pluggable wrench, the springs can be wound up. The strength of the springs is exactly adjusted to move 75 photos (corresponding to the real drum that contains 75 rounds of 7.92x57 ammunition). The spring drum can be stored in all drum racks and holders in aircraft that were suitable...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N3 (March 2018)
and was posted online on February 9, 2018

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