GEAR & TECH

That time Sweden built a main battle tank without a turret

During the Cold War, Sweden charted a course of neutrality in Europe. It wasn't always easy, and that neutrality wasn't always respected (see the "Whiskey on the Rocks" incident from 1981). But to preserve it, Sweden often had to design its own weapons.


In the air, that resulted in a series of outstanding fighters, starting with the Draken. But on land came a very unique tank – one that was designed for a defensive role, to fight alongside improved Centurion main battle tanks.

Stridsvagen 103C, with additional applique armor to deflect HEAT rounds. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Stridsvagn 103, or "S-Tank," was intended to help defeat a Soviet invasion. According to MilitaryFactory.com, its main armament was a Bofors 105mm gun, for which it carried 50 rounds. However, after looking at combat from World War II and Korea, the Swedes decided to put the 105mm gun into the hull. This removed the vulnerability of the tank to hits in the turret, and it also allowed it to be compact at only seven feet tall.

Russian tanks like the T-72 were almost as short as the S-Tank, but gained their compact size by packing everything in a very small space. This meant that bad things usually happened when the tanks took a hit.

The S-Tank uses its suspension to elevate its main gun. (Wikimedia Commons)

The S-Tank's suspension was also used to depress the main gun. (Wikimedia Commons)

The S-Tank had a crew of three, a top speed of 37 miles per hour, and it could go 186 miles before needing to be refueled. It weighed in at 47 tons.

Like many of Sweden's weapons, the S-Tank never saw combat before it was retired in 1997, along with the early Cold War-era Centurions.

To replace this unique tank, the Swedes decided to import German Leopard 2 main battle tanks, then proceeded to build a variant of the Leopard 2A5, the Stridsvagn 122.