Stridsvagn 103 Was Not A Tank Destroyer

In internet arguments and popular culture, it is frequently claimed that the stridsvagn 103 (strv 103, “S-tank”) was a defensive tank, or basically a modern tank destroyer. It was, claims the common wisdom (perpetrated and repeated in media such as History Channel), meant to dig down in a forest, take a few shots at attacking Soviet tanks and then retreat, using its rear driver to its advantage. In the recently revealed Swedish tree for World of Tanks, it is indeed classified as a tank destroyer – mainly for game mechanics reasons, though, not because of a misunderstanding of its role. Even in the Swedish army, some officers (mainly ones who had no experience on the tank) thought it was worthless for traditional tank work – that is, offensive tasks. In this essay, I will show that this is simply not true: the Swedish army set out to figure out how to build a good tank, came up with the S-tank idea, developed and built that idea as a tank, which it then proceeded to use operationally as a tank.

The origins of the strv 103, or “alternative S”

In 1957, the Swedish army initiated a study of the future of warfare, in order to determine what weapons technology it should pursue during the 1960’s – as well as many other things. One of the sub-committees of this study was tasked with studying direct-fire infantry support weapon systems, such as tanks, anti-tank weapons, direct-fire crew-served weapons, etc. The central question that the sub-committee was tasked with answering was: “How should our system for direct fire (both anti-tank and anti-personnel fire) work around 1970 and in the time immediately thereafter?” 1

Additionally, the committee was asked four more specific questions, two of which had to do with tanks. First, it was asked to draw up technical requirements for a new tank to be in service around 1965, and while doing so investigate the appropriate trade-off between firepower, speed and protection – perhaps more than one type of tank would be needed? Second, it was asked to study how tanks were to be integrated into the army organization, keeping in mind the requirement to be able to quickly concentrate strong tank formations that would allow attacking strategically important locations such as a hostile beachhead, and in connection to this recommend a minimum number of tanks required in the entire army. Here, it is already becoming apparent what the army was thinking about tanks.

As a part of its work, the committee naturally kept tabs on foreign design trends. It appeared that there were two main schools of tank design thought in the West: one Anglo-American and one French-German one. The Brits and the Americans, the committee found, were intending to develop heavier tanks with more armor, perhaps around 45 tons – this trend would eventually materialize as the Chieftain and the M60. The Germans and the French on the other hand were aiming at lighter and faster tanks, around 30 tons, which would eventually materialize as the Leopard I and the AMX-30. The latter school thought that it would be impossible to combine decent mobility with enough armor to protect against the constantly improving HEAT rounds of the period, so they simply didn’t bother with much armor. For comparison purposes, these hypothetical tanks were designated the “A-tank” and the “T-tank” respectively, where A stood for America and T for Tyskland (the Swedish word for Germany). Additionally, the committee also studied a newly invented Swedish concept which had been patented in 1956 by an engineer at the Army Ordnance Administration (Kungl. Armétygförvaltningen), Sven Berge – consistently enough, it was named the “S-tank”. The S-tank concept lacked a turret and had a two-man or possibly even one-man crew, and because of this it could be designed with extremely well sloped front armor which would protect against the kinetic armor-piercing rounds of the period. The turretless design also allowed for a standoff screen in the front of the tank for protection against HEAT rounds. In short, it could potentially offer the protection of the A-tank with the same low weight and high power-to-weight ratio as the T-tank. Low weight was considered very important for strategic mobility reasons – with a lighter tank, it was easier to find railroad cars that could transport it and bridges that could support its weight.

After conducting a number of sub-studies (on things like the probability of victory in hypothetical duels between the three alternatives above, the effects of nuclear radiation on tank crews, the development of IR night vision devices, and war games involving tank assaults into beachheads) the committee delivered its report in May 1958. In regards to tanks, it recommended that development should be a started on a well armored tank much like the A-tank, and that development in the UK and the US should be monitored and the possibility of buying a design from either country be kept open. However, the committee also found that “alternative S” was interesting enough to merit further study, and recommended that some feasibility trials be conducted, at a limited scale. Furthermore the committee also found that newer, better tanks that were capable of fighting modern tanks tanks head on should be organized into armored brigades capable of attacking an opponent in open terrain, while older tanks should be assigned to direct infantry support only, in anti-tank companies in the infantry brigades.

It is already apparent where we’re heading: the army concluded that it needed a modern tank for its armored brigades, and the role of the armored brigades was an offensive one – counterattacking a beachhead being the typical example of an operation such a brigade might carry out. The S-tank was conceived as an offensive weapon, considered equal in role and performance to the foreign tanks then in development.

The development process

Early strv 103 concept sketch, dated August 1959. The sketch is almost two meters shorter than the eventual production version.

Early strv 103 concept sketch, dated August 1959. The sketch is almost two meters shorter than the eventual production version.


As the committee recommended, so were it to be, and initial work on some S-tank test rigs was contracted to Bofors in 1958. The development at this early stage was focused on a 30-ton two-man tank with a conventionally elevating gun, fed by an autoloader using two-piece ammunition (the “A-tank” proposal that was under development at the same time was to use the same gun and ammunition). By March 1959, however, the army had changed its mind, for several reasons. Experiments with two-man crews in other armored vehicles at the Armored Forces School (Pansartruppskolan) had found that just driving, spotting and firing was so taxing on the crew that it left no mental resources over to manage communication with the rest of the unit, especially not if the commander also had to handle a secondary weapon, such as a machine gun or an autocannon. Consulting German war veterans at the West German armor school in Munster about their experiences pointed in the same direction: two men simply weren’t enough, especially not with the complex radio equipment in use in the late 50’s. Autoloaders were not entirely trusted either; it seemed like it would be a good idea to have someone who could monitor it and fix potential jams. A third crew member was necessary, and finding space for him would increase the weight of the tank. However, it seemed that this could be solved by returning to Sven Berge’s original gun elevation idea, more or less as envisioned in his 1956 patent. By fixing the gun in the chassis in the vertical axis too and instead elevating by moving the road wheels, the autoloader mechanism could be moved to the rear of the tank, where the would also be room for the third man. Early on in the development, the idea to give the driver/gunner a fully rotating seat and a set of rear-facing controls had been floated around with the intention of improving tactical flexibility – reversing in a tank is ordinarily quite difficult and usually involves a guide on the outside of the vehicle since the driver has zero visibility to the rear – but with a third man in the tank, it was natural to give him the rear controls instead, and thus the rear driver/radioman was in place. 2

The various trials were mainly positive – the concept was found to be workable in practice, and the A-tank development was put on hold. A prototype series of 10 S-tanks was ordered in 1960 – the positives seemed to by far outweigh the negatives already at this point, but further studies were conducted. In 1961, the Armored Forces School investigated the possible downsides of a lack of gun stabilization and an inability to engage targets that were not directly in front of the tank. The study stated that at the time, even in tanks with stabilization, firing on the move at distances greater than 500 meters was mostly a waste of ammunition. Even at shorter ranges only big targets (i.e. tanks) were to be fired at on the move. According to the study, the main benefit of stabilization was taking 2-3 seconds off of the time between stopping and opening fire. With this in mind, as well as the fact that in the S-tank it would be possible for the commander to take over control and show the gunner/driver a spotted target, it is easy to see why the study concluded that it could not see why the S-tank would be inferior in reaction time to a turreted tank. The ability to easily and quickly retreat with the front armor towards the enemy (thanks to the rear driver) was also considered an advantage. 3

By 1961, the army HQ was calling for at least 200 new tanks, preferably with deliveries starting in 1965. The debate regarding which tank to buy would continue into 1962 – the S-tank was compared to both other Western tanks of the time and estimates of the Soviet adversary tanks in a number of simulations and paper wargames. The conclusion was that while the Chieftain was good, the S-tank was better – it was estimated to have very similar protection but was much lighter and presented a smaller target area and a lower silhouette. 4

The basic initial deployment of the Swedish field army in the early Cold War era (Wallerfelt 1999)

The basic initial deployment of the Swedish field army in the early Cold War era (Wallerfelt 1999)

As demonstrated above, the strv 103 was developed with the same kind of requirements as a turreted tank. It should hopefully not come as a surprise that when it was taken into service in the armored brigades, it filled the exact same role as a turreted tank. In the 1970’s, the Swedish army’s modern tanks (the strv 103 and the Centurion) were organized in seven armored brigades, plus a few independent mechanized battalions. Each armored brigade had 72 tanks, 72 infantry squads in APC’s and a lot of supporting assets (AA, artillery, recon, logistics etc). There were dozens of infantry brigades, but the few armored brigades were the army’s spearhead and the only Swedish army formation that could really conduct an offensive operation in depth against a mechanized enemy. If you take a look at a map, you might be wondering where the Swedish army imagined it was going to conduct a mechanized offensive – while most of the country was east of the Iron Curtain, it was entirely surrounded by water and friendly countries, and the army had no landing craft capable of crossing the Baltic sea. Of course, the answer is the one that was hinted at above: the armored brigades were for counter-attacking beachheads, airborne landings or, if it came to that, an enemy that had established a foothold in the country. The infantry brigades were well suited to defending and delaying, but since they didn’t have any form of armored transportation they were only really capable of attacking in what was termed “covered terrain” (i.e. mostly forests and urban areas). Open country was tank country, and consequently the armored brigades had their initial positions in strategically important open areas. Three of the seven armored brigades had their initial positions in the provinces of Skåne and Blekinge, at the very southern tip of the country – mostly flat and open terrain, and only a few hours from East Germany and Poland by ship. One was stationed on the island of Gotland (also flat and open terrain, and not a big island at all), two in the densely populated and strategically important Stockholm and lake Mälaren area (one in Strängnäs, south of the lake, and one in Enköping, north of the lake) and finally one in Skövde on the big plains in the southwestern part of the country where a lot of important air force bases were located – it was also intended as strategic reserve and could easily be transported to several important parts of the country. In the 1970’s, two of the brigades in Skåne and the one in Skövde were equipped with strv 103’s; the rest had Centurions. Strategically, it didn’t matter which tank the brigade had – it was expected to fill the same role and had almost exactly the same organization and equipment (other than the tanks themselves). 5

Strv 103's hull down on exercise, at Revingehed in October 1970.

Strv 103’s hull down on exercise, at Revingehed in October 1970.

Tactically, there were a few differences between strv 103’s and Centurions, but they weren’t huge. The Swedish tank gunnery doctrine was developed with the expectation of encountering an enemy with far more tanks and other AFV’s than the Swedes could expect to have, and because of this, it heavily emphasized well-aimed fire. In the 1974 field manual for tank platoons (same for both Centurions and strv 103’s – only the manual for individual tank crews differed), the important points were summarized as follows.

When firing against tanks and other armored vehicles, surprising the enemy when opening fire and achieving local superiority when it comes to firepower are both very important. Strive for quick and well-aimed fire and to present the smallest possible target to the enemy. 6

The 1979 tank gunnery field manual agreed, and stated in underlined lettering:

In a tank vs tank duel, the tank that fires *first* will destroy its opponent in four duels out of five.
The tank that gets the *first* hit in is four times more likely to win the duel.
The goal to strive for with all tank gun fire is to both hit with the first round and to destroy the target with the first hit.
A well-trained tank crew shall be able to hit with the first round and destroy their target within ten seconds of first opening fire. 7

Field manual example of a tank platoon advancing by leapfrog

Field manual example of a tank platoon advancing by leapfrog

The manuals had some rules of thumb regarding when not to take a shot. A single stationary tank with no particular fire mission should not take shots at a tank front-sized target beyond 1300 meters, a stationary tank turret-sized target beyond 1000 meters or a moving tank side-size target at beyond 800 meters – beyond these distances, the manual explained, first round hit probability fell below 50% and that made the shot not worth taking. If a rangefinder was available to reduce the risk of misjudging the elevation, these distances could be extended to 2000, 1500 and 1000 meters respectively, but at longer ranges it was better to fire by platoon. Focusing fire was generally encouraged. Naturally, the manual also discouraged firing on the move, even in a tank with gun stabilization like the Centurion. In a Centurion, firing on the move was permitted at distances up to 800 meters, and it was only to be done if there was a very good reason for doing it – for example, returning fire on a tank that had open fire on your own tank, or attempting to suppress a AT gun or ATGM crew that had just fired. In the strv 103, firing on the move was only permitted at distances up to 200 meters, which is basically knife fighting range in a tank.

In both the strv 103 and the Centurion, the field manuals encouraged advancing by leapfrog – one platoon (or individual tank) provided stationary fire support while another advances to a good position, then the rear platoon advances past that to the next good position and so on. Both on the offense and on the defense, choosing good positions (i.e. hull down if possible) to stop and fire from was strongly encouraged.

In light of the above, it should not be hard to see that the strv 103’s inability to fire on the move was not considered a significant disadvantage – it fit well into the Swedish doctrine.

Conclusion

The stridsvagn 103 was conceived as a tank, developed in response to a demand for a tank, and used as a tank. It was not a tank destroyer or a “defensive” vehicle. Repeated trials both in Sweden and abroad showed that in most cases it was insignificantly slower to react to a target appearing on its side than a turreted tank was. In fact, due to its duplicated controls (the commander could override the gunner/driver’s controls and, for example, point the tank at a target that he could see through his rotating cupola but the gunner/driver hadn’t spotted) it could even be faster to react than a turreted tank without similar functionality – the turreted tank’s commander would have to talk the gunner into finding the target. The inability to fire on the move was not considered a significant disadvantage considering the Swedish gunnery doctrine at the time.

The strv 103 proved to be an evolutionary dead end, however. Stabilization technology improved rapidly during the 1970’s, especially with the introduction of gun-follows-sight technology, and the next generation of Western MBT’s that appeared around 1980 were only slightly less accurate on the move than they were at a standstill. The strv 103’s heavily sloped but not all that thick front armor which offered good protection against 1960’s armor-piercing rounds was also completely insufficient against newer 1970’s “long rod” penetrators. It was a very innovative and very Swedish think-outside-the-box solution in 1960, but it should have been replaced or at least relegated to a less demanding role around 1980-1985 – indeed, the original requirements had called for a technical lifetime of 15 years.

Footnotes

  1. Rapport (maj 1958) från studiegrupp 2 för fortsatt tygmaterielplanering. (Krigsarkivet: Kungl. Armétygförvaltningen (KATF), Fordonsavdelningen, Centralsektionens hemliga arkiv, serie F III, volym 1)
  2. Hemlig promemoria “Viss ändring i fodringarna på strv typ S”, diarienr KATF/FB:AH 100:5, 20/3 1959. (Krigsarkivet: KATF, Fordonsavdelningen, Centralsektionens hemliga arkiv, serie F I, vol 32)
  3. Hemlig skrivelse, diarienr C PS H 503, 10/10 1961. (Krigsarkivet: Pansartruppskolan, Försöksavdelningens hemliga arkiv, serie F II, volym 2)
  4. Hemlig skrivelse “Anskaffning av ny huvudstridsvagn”, diarienr FAH 1010:10, 28/11 1961. (Krigsarkivet: KATF, Fordonsavdelningen, Centralsektionens hemliga arkiv, serie F I, volym 53)
  5. Bengt Wallerfelt: Si vis pacem – para bellum : svensk säkerhetspolitik och krigsplanering 1945-1975 (Stockholm: Probus, 1999)
  6. Pansarreglemente Stridsvagnspluton, 1974 års utgåva (Sundbyberg: Försvarets bok- och blankettförråd, 1974). Available under the Reference documents tab.
  7. Skjutreglemente för armén: Stridsvagn grunder, 1979 års utgåva (Sundbyberg: Försvarets bok- och blankettförråd, 1979). Available under the Reference documents tab.

62 Comments

  1. Armour August 25, 2016

    It is strange how logic is not used in the discussion. That it was conceived as a tank, developed for a tank, used as a tank does not at all mean is WAS a tank. The very cumbersome anti-infantry and anti-soft target functionality on the assault makes it unusable as a tank. The heavy and sloped or just thick frontal armour is not uncommon for tank destroyers of the same type. The vulnerability to nearby infantry AT side attacks would have made it totally useless as a tank.

  2. rhx August 25, 2016

    The very cumbersome anti-infantry and anti-soft target functionality on the assault makes it unusable as a tank.

    What?

  3. Armour August 28, 2016

    A tank destroyer of the fixed gun type is not suitable for the attack, especially not when infantry and soft targets are to be neutralised: The vehicle would every time be needed to turn towards the targets left and right of its path and be extremely at danger for nearby AT weapons heavy and light which could fire at its sides or rear.

  4. rhx August 28, 2016

    You are welcome to your opinion that it makes it unsuitable as a tank, but the Swedish army did not agree and did not find it to be a problem in practice. The field manuals say that soft targets are easiest and quickest to suppress and fight with machine guns, not the main gun. The strv 103 had a rotating commander’s cupola with a full set of gun sights and a machine gun that could be aimed and fired from inside the tank with the cupola closed. This machine gun was also stabilized both vertically and horizontally (you could set the cupola to contra-rotate when the tank turned). Furthermore, when fighting close up against soft targets the tank would doctrinally never be alone, it would always have supporting infantry around it.

    A turreted tank suffers from similar problems anyway, just to a slightly lesser extent. If there’s a threat on its side and it turns the turret to fight it, the hull side is still exposed to the threat, and the turret side (which is far less armored than the turret front) is now exposed to the tank’s front.

  5. Armour August 29, 2016

    If you enter the kill zone while attacking the enemy position, the lighter AT weapons are close by, and you have to turn the hull left and right. The enemy AT guns and heavy portable weapons will be more at your front, the enemy tanks even further away to your front, the enemy AT missile vehicles even further away. In the planning of the defense this would be setup so as to have to expose vulnerable sides to these groups. In a tank you can keep your best defense towards the heaviest AT weapon system while engaging nearby targets left and right.

    Besides that, in confined environments the strv 103 would be even more at a disadvantage, by not even being able to turn towards the targets because of buildings etc. Peeking around the corners would be hazardous.

    I understand the designer of the strv 103 was infatuated by the German tankdestroyers of WWII and succeed in making the ultimate tankdestroyer. So the AT role it performs better than any tank could do. But that happened to be the case with most tank destroyers. Outside of that role it would be a disaster i.m.h.o.

  6. Armour August 31, 2016

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    I think an enemy would from the start use HEAT against the sloped front armor, and then any hit would be immediate destruction. The defense would be the pop-up and hide tactics of the strv 103 from ambush positions further away. A successful concept imho.

  7. rhx August 31, 2016

    I’m sure that if you only could present your tactical genius to the Swedish army of the 1960’s they would immediately realize that they were wrong all along.

    A few points: are you aware of the slat armor the strv 103 had in the front of the tank? In trials it was found to be highly resistant against early 70’s ATGM’s and recoilless rifles from the front. Even without the slat, 60’s and 70’s vintage HEAT fuzing was very unreliable at shallow angles of impact – in many cases the round simply didn’t detonate.

    If a Swedish army tank of the 1960’s and 70’s found itself in urban combat, something must’ve gone extremely wrong. The tanks field manuals, which had doctrine laid out for all kinds of offensive and defensive situations, didn’t have a section on urban combat at all. There’s nothing in the design and development documentation that even hints that urban combat was even a consideration at all.

    You also seem to be thinking in terms of a single tank operating alone. Unlike the Brits, which spread tank platoons over front sections as wide as 800 meters, the Swedish army doctrine gave a tank platoon (3 tanks) on the offensive a section of front not wider than 150-200 meters.

    Why are you even arguing about this when you haven’t read the field manuals at all? Armchair generaling without even a basic understanding of how the tank was intended to be used is completely pointless.

  8. Armour September 2, 2016

    Well, you get personal and insulting. Good, your choice. That is when the arguments fail the only thing left to fend of an unwelcome conclusion.

    Half of the time strategic choices end up to be the wrong ones. Some one like the choice for the strv 103 was such a thing. Since it is so long ago that it is not relevant for the present day, I think one could look objectively into the matter. The article above so obvious choose to make a propaganda item of it, that it is really ridiculous.

  9. Armour September 2, 2016

    I find this discussion illustrative for my points and the problems with the strv 103. The only reason for comparing it with other tanks is the fact is was called a tank by the Sweeds. Comparing the Chieftain with the Leo 1 or the Chieftain is out of this world.

    http://www.military-quotes.com/forum/stridsvagan-103-s-tank-think-t79962.html

  10. Armour September 2, 2016

    Comparing the strv 103 with the Leo 1 or the Chieftain

  11. Patrik BP Andersson September 3, 2016

    Sorry, but that forum is just full of crap, as the critiques lack knowledge of both the 103:s capabilities and flexibility of tactical thinking. That they furthermore try to compare it with more modern constructions make it simply ludicrous.

    “Mostly defensive work, never fire on the move(as the driver is the gunner)”
    – That is not the reason it wouldn’t fire on the move.

    “rather diffecult to deal with infantry when you cant traverse the main gun and coax without pivoting the entire vehicle”
    – Main gun is seldom useful against dispersed infantry, that’s a job for MGs… and the commander’s MG was not fixed to the hull.

    “It had no extraordinary fire control system(infact one could say it had a rather infrior one because fire on the move is impossible, and firing at moving targets is also extremely diffecult)”
    – With 70% higher first shot hit probability than the Patton at the cost of 0,5 seconds delay, I’d say it’s not inferior at all. Why moving targets should be different in a 103 than a Leopard or Chieftain is also unanswered.

    “I did some research, it had a 50 kmph road speed, thats not nimble, relatively nimble or even a little nimble, thats very slow.”
    – “Nimble” =/= “High top speed”. The question is how fast it can reach the top speed, and how easy it is to manoeuvre.

    “the lack of a turret or remote mg station and thin armor”
    “I think an enemy would from the start use HEAT against the sloped front armor, and then any hit would be immediate destruction.”
    – It had a remote mg, and while the armour was thin, it was not only as thick as the Leopard’s and the AMX 30’s, but due to the extreme angle virtually immune to frontal fire, especially from HEAT-projectiles. This was until the long rod penetrators came at which point the tank should have been retired, but the defence budget decision in 1982 prohibited that due to lack of funding.

    The 10,5 cm L/62 Bofors L74 gun was superior to the RO L7 it was derived from, having the same penetration as the L7 at 500 metres longer range or corresponding increase of penetration at the same range.

    This said, the stridsvagn 103 was indeed a defensive tank, the design dictated by the strategic doctrine for a full invasion which was to hold out long enough for Western help to arrive and strategic mobility long the Swedish roads and railways a demand that kept the weight down.
    That meant survivability was top priority, so the tanks could keep on fighting the Soviet horde as long as possible, and for that both offensive- and terrain crossing capabilities deliberately were sacrificed.
    All in all, a defensive tank, but not a tank destroyer.

  12. Armour September 4, 2016

    Thx for the info, I leave the tank/tank destroyer issue for the future to be decided. I looked for wargames that have the strv 103, but these are very few and I could not find any useful info. It seems that in World of Tanks it will come soon. Than one can see for himself how it works.

    – Firing on the move is unanswered because the movement of the hull in small move to track a moving target seems to be quite problematic. Testing this in a game will reveal how they expect it to have worked. A smooth turning turret seems much easier for that job.

    – The HEAT issue I do not understand. I games the HEAT round go a lot slower then APDS etc, and the angle of impact is much higher that that of APDS. So I would expect to be reported that that one would bounce more than the HEAT rounds. This is with WWII ammo types in simulations, so if would apply also to the complete lifetime of the strv 103?

  13. Armour September 4, 2016

    sorry for the typos

  14. rhx September 4, 2016

    There are two things that make the 103 HEAT-resistant from the front. First, there’s the slat armor “fence” in the front of the tank. A HEAT round or ATGM will hit that first. In some cases that alone messes with the fuzing and the round will fail to go off at all or go off at a weird angle. If it does go off, the HEAT jet now has up to several meters of open air to pass before it hits the actual front armor (depending on how high up on the “fence” it hits). In ballistic tests, a distance of about a meter between the standoff armor and the actual armor plate was found to be enough to render HEAT rounds from the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle basically harmless against the 103’s front armor in about 50% of the cases where the round detonated correctly. It should be noted here that the Carl Gustav’s HEAT round had the fuze mounted on a relatively long standoff probe.

    Second, well into the 1970’s HEAT rounds fired from tank guns (and sometimes from recoilless rifles) tended to have fuzing issues. They’d work fine if fired at a flat and hard surface, but could and frequently did fail to detonate if the angle of impact was shallow (like when fired at the 103’s front without the fence in the way) or the surface was less hard than an armor plate. The fuze in the top of the round needed to hit the impact point straight on, or it wouldn’t go off. Even more modern standoff fuzes could have this problem; the Carl Gustav fuzes mentioned above failed to go off in two out of three cases when hitting a plastic jerry can filled with water, like the ones that were later mounted to the strv 103’s sides in the 103C upgrade in the 1980’s.

  15. rhx September 4, 2016

    As far as tracking a moving target is concerned, in firing trials the 103 was not found to be any worse at this than a Centurion. The steering column which also doubles as gunnery controls is very sensitive and precise at low angles of deflection. The original specification for the 103A called for a minimum laying speed of as little as 1 mil/second and a laying precision of no more than 0.2 mils. Variation in laying speeds on a hard, flat surface was not permitted to be more than 1 mil/second when the overall laying speed was between 1 and 5 mils/s; for greater laying speeds the variation was permitted to be 20%. These were minimum permitted numbers; I know for a fact that a similar number for elevation speed was greatly exceeded (the specification called for a minimum of 3.5°/s, the actual speed on a real tank is significantly more than that). I don’t have any hard numbers on how accurate the power traverse on a Leopard or Chieftain is, but I really doubt it’s all that much more precise, especially not if the tank isn’t parked horizontally.

    (For the sake of clarity, a mil is a milliradian. In Swedish military usage, up until 2007 this was rounded to 6300 mils in a full circle, as opposed to the NATO standard of 6400 mils to a circle which is used in Sweden as well after 2007.)

  16. rhx September 4, 2016

    I apologize if I’ve insulted you by the way, but as someone who is arguably an expert on this topic it’s kinda frustrating to argue with someone who uses conjecture, assumptions and “it’s common sense”-type arguments while getting fundamental facts wrong. I mean, you’re welcome to your opinion, but you don’t seem to have access to very many facts.

    The discussion you linked believing it to be “illustrative” is the same – people who have never worked with the tank, nor read the development documentation, nor the field manuals, nor any of the evaluation reports, nor read even the manual for the tank itself get fundamental facts (like many of those I’ve pointed out in the essay above as being widespread myths) completely wrong, as expected, and then use wild speculation based on those facts to argue their position. That just isn’t a serious way of debating.

  17. Armour September 5, 2016

    OK, I see your point, but there are simply not much facts to find on the issue. Now selling the mouse for an elephant has been done before, and would be necessary even if your are in Swedish defense circles and you have to ‘up’ your defense capabilities in the sight of the Russian Bear. I understand that. But we are now many years later. And the wargames, as far as modeling reality, do not lie. The players find every fault in every tank. Also every strong point. If you know anything about marketing then you know the defense forces are also doing a lot of it. It just enhances their total output.

    You can do away with this, but you do know there has been professional wargaming for a long time now, even happening during battles themselves. So the models exist and the data exist. The question is in what measure do commercial available wargames reflect reality.

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we will see in the near future. I keep the opinion the strv 103 is a modern STUG. And a good one at that.

  18. rhx September 5, 2016

    There are plenty of facts if you have access to the Swedish national military archives and can read Swedish – which I have and I do. That’s why I feel like I have a position to argue from.

    A wargame is only a model of reality and the realism is only as good as the modelling. I don’t know which ones you’ve played or what results you’ve gotten but for myself I would prefer to get my opinion from the real world trials.

  19. Armour September 7, 2016

    The ones I think are applicable in this case are World of Tanks, War Thunder for their detailed damage models
    and Wargame:Airland Battle & Red Dragon for their tactical combat simulation.

    War Thunder is in my opinion the best reality simulation.

    Games and reality blend together whereas the US army is building its systems around the world of gamers to produce better results in armoured warfare.

  20. Armour September 7, 2016

    I forgot Armored Warfare

  21. Armour September 7, 2016

    My point about the HEAT seems to be proven by the extra screen against HEAT rounds

    http://ftr.wot-news.com/2014/08/21/swedish-tanks-part-xvii-strv-103/

    Also:

    Now that there are also credible sources displaying the same opinions, does not surprise me…

  22. Armour September 7, 2016

    Not displayed tekst in above post:
    “On the Strv 103 model B, storage boxes were added to the rear of the tank. In addition to all this, there was an option to mount standoff armor of the “fence” type, that would prematurely detonate HEAT rounds.

    The “fence” armor being applied to the front of the tank. This armor was actually a secret up to 1992”

    and

    “Also in 1962, the tank was for the first time shown to the world in the form of the S2 prototype. It drew major attention with its low turretless design and everyone from France to the US lined up to get a better look at the tank and test it. The interest went as far as the US president John F. Kennedy asking about it and receiving a report on the US Army’s thoughts on the vehicle. The US report on the S-tank was for the most part accurate, the tank had been designed from the ground up for a type of defensive ambush warfare, that was more typical for tank destroyers and therefore it was considered as a tank destroyer in the USA.”

  23. rhx September 8, 2016

    Uh. I feel like I should point out that I’ve done research for both Wargame:ALB/Eugen Systems (volunteer basis) and World of Tanks/Wargaming (consultant/contractor).

    What exactly do you mean about the HEAT stuff? I’ve been talking about the “fence” or screen or whatever you want to call it several times already. sp15 – whose article you linked – is a friend and I believe that if you asked him today he’d say he was wrong back then about the TD part you quoted (but president Kennedy’s advisors really did seem to believe it was a TD – they were wrong, though). The article is partially based on my research as well.

  24. Armour September 9, 2016

    The adding of the fence against HEAT ammo shows me that the HEAT was effective against the front armor. Just as I thought. I see that as confirmation of my idea that where APDS etc would bounce off from the extremely reclining front armor, HEAT would be preferred because of the higher trajectory and thus having more chance of impact. I would say the low fence would indicate HEAT to be dangerous even when fired from a flat trajectory.

  25. Armour September 9, 2016

    If you know about these wargames then you know the strv 103 will be in the tankdestroyer ranks?

  26. rhx September 9, 2016

    Whether a given HEAT round (ATGM, recoilless rifle, tank gun, whatever) would fuze or not against a sloped surface is completely different from case to case. Tank gun-fired HEAT rounds are less reliable because the impact velocity is higher. The “fence” was cheap and worked against all types of fuzes. One does not exclude the other.

    The reason the 103 is a TD in World of Tanks is only because Wargaming thinks it plays more like a TD than a tank in that game. They are well aware that it isn’t a TD or even a TD-like vehicle in reality, but in their (very arcade-y and not very realistic) tank game it makes more sense as a TD. The T30 TD is another example of this, in reality it was a heavy tank but in game it’s a TD for gameplay reasons. In the same game you also have vehicles that were intended as TD’s in reality that are classed as medium tanks in the game (Object 416 being one example, I believe).

  27. Armour September 10, 2016

    I agree with that, but would it not be interesting to know if the WOT players had a point in it being such a bad tank, that the game could act as a predictor for future tank type. That could be based on the simulation of real tank battles and check for statistical results. It is said the T30 was not useful as a tank because of its vulnerability, whereas other heavy tanks can take some damage and function.

  28. Pbv302 September 10, 2016

    Hahahaha, “Armour” do you relies that Wargame RD and WoT don’t reflect how real combat works at al?

    They are inspired by real combat, and try to make it as realistic it can be without losing playability. BUT they are just games.. Arcadeish games.

  29. Armour September 11, 2016

    No, they are not just games. I have seen more than one veteran commenting about them, and simulation is being used exactly the same way by the military. So I am afraid you don’t know how the mechanics of combat work.

  30. Oxytal September 11, 2016

    Are you kidding me. WoT is marketed as an ARCADE TANK GAME. I would like to see the quote of that veteran, because a T-54 barreling down cross-country at max speed moving its turret at 50 d/s is the definition of unrealistic.

  31. Oxytal September 11, 2016

    And to top it off, are you telling me that an M18 Hellcat can operate with ZERO crew inside? Truly a realistic simulation game.

  32. Pbv302 September 11, 2016

    I know a lot more how real combat works than you do. Armored combat is my profession.. (P4, Swedish Army)

  33. Pbv302 September 11, 2016

    If you want to play something that kinda reflect how tanks works, you should play “Steel Beasts” instead.

  34. Armour September 12, 2016

    Ah…the level is down again to personal. I know enough. You can see on youtube how these comment games develop…

  35. Oxytal September 12, 2016

    I haven’t even insulted you, you’re projecting :^)

  36. Armor September 13, 2016

    Tell me then how do you know you do know a lot more about real combat than I do.

  37. J.R September 13, 2016

    “It is strange how logic is not used in the discussion. That it was conceived as a tank, developed for a tank, used as a tank does not at all mean is WAS a tank.”

    Actully, that’s precisely what it means. The only “logic” you’ve presented to the countrary is your own, uninformed opinions. The fact that you think Wargame and WoT are accarute simulations of real warfare demonstrates your lack of knowledge even further. No one here is insulting you, they’re simply pointing your ignorance.

  38. Armour September 14, 2016

    Well, that does not reflect what I said, actually not one piece of your statement. So far for logic….

  39. Armour September 14, 2016

    However, the enthusiasm the British Army had shown after Bovington for the S-Tank was now dropping off. The 2nd RTR crews didn’t seem to perform any better than their Cheiftain comrades when it came down to engaging the enemy. They admitted that there were times that the S-Tank was superior to the Chieftain namely when operating defensively in confined spaces however the tests also showed that the S-Tank had to expose more of its hull when firing over embankments or down from hilltops. Also the fixed gun left the tank vulnerable in an ambush since the whole vehicle had to turn and face an attacker increasing its vulnerability whereas a Chieftain could both retreat and defend itself simultaneously. In the end the British Army concluded that the advantages of the S-Tank were not enough to warrant an acquisition and interest was suspended.

    S-Tank British Army 2

    The Swedish were not happy. The Swedish observation mission published a damning report on the exercise effectively dismissing the results and heavily criticising the British tank crews and commanders. Among other things the Swedes criticised the conduct of British crews as being very unprofessional and significantly below the average Swedish crew which resulted in a very poor showing of the S-Tank. The Swedes also criticised the fact that British gunners could not engage a target without the tank commander’s order. In the Swedish Army they stated that the S-Tank had a much higher number of firings because they operated on the principle of whomever sees the target first can fire. The incredible report even goes as far as to state that British tank crew’s eyesight was rather poor and not properly tested like Swedish crews.

    In terms of tactics the Swedes were aghast at how thinly the British tanks were spread across a defensible line. They argued that to effectively hold an area of territory the number of tanks that were being used needed to be deployed under half a kilometre but British crews deployed them as far along as 800m. This criticism reflects how different British and Swedish operational needs were. Swedish tank units had a high number of vehicles to defend a relatively small proportion of land. British units had a similar number of vehicles but had to defend a much wider line on more open terrain against a numerically superior force. The wide line was needed to limit Soviet tanks’ ability to break through gaps and surround British units. It was this fact alone that actually dictated the design of the Chieftain which was bigger and more powerful than the vast majority of Soviet tanks allowing it to be able to confidently engage a numerically superior force. Just how good the Chieftain was at this role was dramatically displayed in 1991 when a Kuwaiti Chieftain held a street against a number of Iraqi T-55s and T-72s and was only destroyed when the crew abandoned the vehicle after it ran out of ammunition.

    All these criticisms proved first and foremost was that the S-Tank was designed for the Swedish Army and not the British Army. The S-Tank or (Strv 103) was a tank for the Swedish theatre where the main concern was defence in heavily wooded terrain where the tank’s low profile made it easy to hide and limited an enemy’s movements. On the plains of West Germany however those attributes became more questionable and given that the Royal Tank Regiments of the British Army suffered at the hands of the Germans in World War II because of equipment that wasn’t up to the task the British elected to stick with the Chieftain leaving the “British Army S-Tank” concept as something of a brief flirtation only.

  40. Armour September 14, 2016

    It was just an operational disaster, seen the British diplomatic verbal softening. It’s tank destroyer role is OK, when from hiding. The point of the distance displays my opinion about kill zones where the S-tank will display vulnerable sides to the enemy AT guns and missiles.

    I cannot believe you dare to mention being informed and knowledge in your posts.

  41. Armour September 14, 2016

    The Swedish comments on the unfavorable outcome are horrible seen in the light of the Swedish being a long time ‘peace’ army and the British having fought multiple wars and countless battles.

  42. rhx September 16, 2016

    You’re quoting this post which is based on someone who read a few very brief excerpts of the Swedish report on the BAOR trials in 1973 which I translated because I thought they were funny. Stop. The person who wrote this is almost as uninformed as you are – it’s the blind leading the blind.

    The original report is over 200 pages long. Drawing the conclusions he did from the brief excerpts I translated isn’t just stupid, it shows that he has no interest at all in even discussing the actual trial results. The part about how British doctrine apparently said to spread tanks out to resist envelopment shows he hasn’t understood the context of the discussion at all and probably doesn’t understand tank doctrine either. The part about the Chieftain being able to retreat and fight at the same time is kinda funny considering that the Chieftain has a reverse speed of less than 10 km/h. The 103 is only a few km/h slower backwards than it is forwards and actually has a rear driver that sees where it’s going.

    Stop shitting up this comment field with uninformed garbage or I will ban you.

  43. Armour September 23, 2016

    OK, I accept your moderating for the sake of the discussion.

    Can you give sources, not being the Swedish or the British military, evaluating the battle methods of the S-tank in other than landscape the the Swedish landscapes?

  44. botmann September 26, 2016

    Great essay, rhx!
    Armour, with all due respect, just lost all credebility when have started talking about relevancy of video games in real life military discussion.
    I have served as a legionnaire at 1re REC, as a loader and later gunner on AMX-10 RC, also tooking part in afghan war as a part of BatFra. And amx-10 also often misrepresented in pop culture and video games. We have never refered to it as anything other, than a tank in the army, but everywhere else it is referenced as a recon vehicle or even a tank destroyer. Not only we called it a tank, but also it was positioned and used as a full fledged tank by french command.
    So it is quite easy to imagine for me, how such an unordinary machine as s-tank would be designed and used as a tank, if it did adequately fit the role of mbt at that time and that place. And everything in the military usually happens for a good reason, no need to think now, looking back, that some not so smart people at the head of the military decided to do something stupid and we can see it from a quick glance at it.

  45. Armour October 2, 2016

    Botmann, if you acknowledge the military use wargames at all levels, then you should conclude that commercial wargames are relevant for as much as part of them are reflecting reality. That is exactly what I stated somewhere above. Especially the damage models are easy to model conform the military wargames if you have the right data. I mentioned armor, penetration etc etc. The models in a wargame can show weaknesses that have been classified information before. This is a question of logic. I mentioned logic also, but it seems in these days it is not understood anymore. I cannot help that, the intelligent readers should form his own opinion.

  46. Soda October 12, 2016

    Armour, I apologize for saying this, but your argument that military use wargames at all levels has no credibility. You have not provided any factual evidence what so ever. Also, to say that WoT is “realistic” in any sense it a joke. The frontal armor of a T-32 is 203mm, in game it is 127. How is this real at all.

  47. Armour October 23, 2016

    Ah Soda…. how to react, I have followed the subject of wargames in military use for a very long time. So I am surprised by your statement. I can summon up all I know about the subject, but reactions until now show that it is not very useful here, So give only a couple of examples that decompose your statement.

    1. The US Marines use first person shooter games to train tactical combat at squad level. Units are persons.
    2. I have played a civilian version of a commercial military wargame, forgot its name, that was among other purchased by the Canadian army to train their officers on brigade level tactical combat. Units are as small as platoons.
    3. The German army in Normandy was conducting wargames at the time of the invasion in 1944.

    I would beside that state that any army exercise on brigade level and above is a wargame for the unit that is being trained.

    I have no knowledge of tankcrews being trained in gamelike simulators, but that would not surprise me. I think if you would google on it you find they do.

  48. Armour October 23, 2016

    Could not resist this quote:

    “On the morning of the Iraqi attack, Mark Herman, the designer of the commercial wargame “Gulf Strike” and employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen, was approached by the Joint Staff and asked to produce a wargame of the developing situation. He was on contract by lunch. By modifying his commercial wargame “Gulf Strike,” he was able to begin play of a now classified wargame by midafternoon!109

  49. Armour October 23, 2016

    Botmann, you are right that everybody call the AMX10 RC/P an armoured car. Wat can I say, the same applies for this AMX like the above for the S-tank.

  50. Armour October 29, 2016

    Also the French defense authorities and the French army refer to the AMX-10RC as a ‘blindé legere’ and to for instance the Leclerq as a ‘char lourd’. So they do not call it a tank at all. You deliver false info here to win an argument?
    “Le périmètre visé est très large puisqu’il s’agit de remplacer les vénérables Véhicules de l’avant blindés entrés en service dans les années 70, les blindés légers AMX 10 RC et Sagaie, de rénover les chars lourds Leclerc, de remplacer le missile anti char Milan, ainsi que toute l’informatique de ces équipements pour faire en sorte qu’ils communiquent sans coutures entre eux.”

  51. Armour November 10, 2016

    I found more very interesting connections between military simulation departments and the gaming industry. They walk in and out with each other at top level. This means the games are able to simulate reality when provided with the right (secret) data.

  52. Ixos November 21, 2016

    “This means the games are able to simulate reality when provided with the right (secret) data.”

    And it also means that drawing conclusions from the commercial version of the game where such data is almost never used is as uninformed as it is unintelligent. Why don’t the commercial version of the games have the right data and mechanics? A million reasons but here are some of them:

    – Balancing reasons ( game and combat should be fair with everyone having a chance, opposite against reality where the main goal is making sure your enemy never had a chance )
    – Tier reasons ( vehicles are supposed to fit in an artificial tier/levels )
    – Reward reasons ( rewards from performance should be fair )
    – Entertainment reasons ( game should be fun )
    – Scale reasons ( game models combat on extremely small maps involving small units and small timescales )
    – Logistical reasons ( game does not factor in logistics at all or if it does very simplistically )
    – Performance reasons ( commercial versions of the game need to run calculations fast enough to provide fluid gameplay = simplified calculations and mechanics ).
    – Cost reasons ( commercial versions of the game have a tight budget and is more concerned with making the action look cool then if vehicle performances are 100% accurately modeled because only 1 in 10000 players will notice the latter ).

    Now that we know THAT commercial versions of computer games have almost nothing in common with military simulations and why this is the case. Can we stop using them for reference???

  53. Armor November 22, 2016

    Wel thanks Ixos for expanding on exactly my point. Only the last conclusion I disagree, because that it has ‘almost nothing in common’ is not logically following the before mentioned. Alas. But why explain in detail what I said in one sentence, as if you give a different point of view? You do not.

    The use of commercial games for military purposes defeats greatly your last remark.

  54. Armor November 22, 2016

    “uninformed” and “unintelligent”, the personal attacks are used as a way to overpower argumentation.

    May I point out that every point made by me is grounded in backup by US and UK military evaluation, and the widespread military use of wargames displayed by several sources.

    I would call the attacking of these facts with personal attacks show precisely the weakness of the other side.

  55. rhx November 23, 2016

    I stopped responding to you because I really didn’t see the point, but I’m going to put my foot down right here.

    Real world armies do no use World of Tanks, for Christ’s sake. Almost none of the “wargames” you’ve cited are actually wargames in the classical sense of the term and are not in any way realistic simulations of reality – tanks don’t have hitpoints, penetration mechanics are actually an enormously complex branch of materials science, not just “penetration greater than armor thickness? cool”, crew psychology isn’t modeled at all, neither is logistics or communications or sights or anything else, and it just goes on and on like this. To say nothing of the rest of the battlefield (infantry, artillery, ECM, recon, air power, etc etc)…

    Real world militaries use wargames to explore tactical or strategical scenarios on a highly abstracted level (have you even *looked* at what Gulf Strike – which you mentioned earlier – looks like?). They do not even *attempt* to model reality on any detailed level – they’re more like a *statistical* model of reality. Even then, balancing such a wargame for a historical scenario so that the historical outcome is likely – basically back-fitting the model onto the known outcome from reality – is actually quite difficult, if it is even possible. The wargame is a tool that helps you think about and experiment with tactics and strategy, not an attempt to predict the future. These games are usually not computer games, by the way.

    The closest you get in reality to your fantasies is Steel Beasts, which is actually used for crew training in reality. Have you ever played that? It’s absolutely nothing like any of the games you’ve cited, and even though it’s actually intended to be a simulator, it’s still not a very accurate representation of reality. It’s still useful for training though because the equipment inside the tank looks and functions much like in reality, and so on.

    To get back to the point here, let us remind ourselves that you are claiming that the Swedish army’s experiences with and use of the tank were all mistaken or factually incorrect because you made up a fantasy scenario in which the tank works like what you’re used to from commercial video games. This is basically like claiming Newton’s laws of motion do not actually apply in reality because hey, have you *seen* the sicknasty trickjumps you can make in this cool first-person shooter game?

    You have not once in this discussion cited any actual reliable sources that support your “logical” claims. No, random forum posts by people who have watched a few documentaries on YouTube are not reliable sources. If you post again I will simply delete your comments. I was leaving them alone because I honestly believed in open discourse but you’re clearly not receptive to such distasteful things as “facts” (I find it hilarious by the way that you started out this discussion by claiming that “logic” was not being used) and this discussion will never lead anywhere productive. Go bother someone else.

  56. old soldier December 3, 2016

    Why would you argue with that idiot armor? Jeez dont bother to waste time on morons like him man.
    Personal attack? He brings up WOT ffs.. discussion ends there and he should be personally attacked for how stupid he is.
    0 respect for stupid people.

    I had same discussion about Polish APC Anders..which had 120 mm gun and turret at the presentation.
    Everybody startted crying that its a tank. Nobody understood that its one of MANY types of armament can be fitted to that platform as a example. Quoted manufacture, mod requirements, showed examples of other armies having “base” with different types of turrets/weapons..nope people knew better.

    On other note, can you publish some nice photos of Strv103? Inside outside? And description what is what.

  57. Sarky December 12, 2016

    While there are points on either side of the argument on whether the Strv 103 was a tank, I feel as though rhx was the only one to bring some *solid* evidence to the table. From what I’ve read, you’ve certainly spent some time researching. And even though I don’t completely feel as though the Strv 103 was a tank, I respect your points and it has encouraged me to seek further information on the Strv 103.

  58. Sarky December 12, 2016

    Although it feels as though I’m beating a dead horse, I must state that using “war games” in his argument was quite an ineffective move by Armor. That’s as useful as using a LEGO toy to judge a real-life vehicle. Hope his comments haven’t drained too much of your interest on this subject, rhx. Keep up the great work on your website :)

  59. […] Так же предлагаем ознакомиться с интересной статьей про STRV 103. […]

  60. Bom December 13, 2016

    WOT used by real mlitary for training purposes, :-) , that would certainly be good for the possible enemy of the side relying on WOT for training their soldiers…. Realism, hp, speed, accuracy and so on is arcade level with easy of use as objective, not realism. The only possible accuracy is the names of the arcade vehicles. In reality there is so many factors to weigh in that no arcade game can fulfill, its for amusement with the company owning it wanting to earn money out of it.

    I think rhx has made solid research and is far better than most to have fact behind his statement, at the same time Armour has the right to object, but when not listening to facts -then its just a destructive conversation, that should be put to rest.

  61. […] Stridsvagn 103 Was Not A Tank DestroyerWiki – Stridsvagn 103 […]

  62. CaptianNemo May 12, 2017

    All US documentation I have seen from the mid 1960s and into the 1970s (US Military) called the Strv 103 an MBT, Main Battle Tank, or just Battle Tank. The closest I have seen ANYTHING calling it anything remotely an TD is one line of text from 1966 iirc that stated it had some features resembling that of an TD from WW2. And other then that one line of text buried in an 200 pg report… everything else called it a tank.

    Nemo.

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