[I’ve known for a long time about this very strange tank that the Swedes built a few decades ago. But today I was taking a closer look at it. They claim that the Swedes were designing their homegrown tank for a war in which they would be outnumbered. They studied tank losses in other wars, especially American losses after WW2 and they realised that there was a relationship between the height of a tank and its chances of being destroyed in battle. So they then decided to remove the turret from the tank… That’s the official story line.
The idea of a turret-less tank which has a gun that points only forward may seem silly to people not familiar with WW2. Why would anyone take a chance on such a weird design?
But the fact is that during WW2, the Germans were struggling to keep up with the number of tanks the Russians were building so the Germans hit on the idea of taking old, outdated tank chassis, removing their turrets with their tiny guns, and then sticking a much bigger gun on the chassis itself. These vehicles were known as the Sturmgeschütz or Stug. They turned out to be excellent weapons. They were cheaper to build than a tank and they were much faster to build. They cost about 80% of the price of a battle tank. One of Germany’s greatest tank aces, Michael Wittmann, also commanded a Stug in Russia.
I couldn’t figure out exactly what the Swedish S-tank cost. The best I could come up with, is that it might have cost $1 million – whereas a German Leopard costs over $5 million and an American Abrams tank costs $10 million. The Swedes built 312 of these tanks. They never saw battle. But their capabilities are far superior to that of a Stug in WW2. But it does seem to me as if these tanks, could have performed well in a modern battle if they had ever been called upon to do so.
It is claimed that they would have been useless for attacking, but I think the German Stugs did support troops who were attacking. Anyhow the Swedish S-tank is an utterly fascinating vehicle and if you watch its actual capabilities its pretty damned impressive. I think this vehicle could have worked, and if it was cheaper than modern battle tanks then it may have been awesome.
NB: Notice also this tank had a grader blade on the front which it could use to create itself a sand barrier behind which it could be in a “hull down” position that makes tanks safer! That’s a pretty clever idea!
30 Years later the Swedes did later drop their S-tank for a modified German Leopard 2 which is a fantastic tank. I would not be surprised if it can outperform the American Abrams. I watch the creativity of our European brethren with great interest. I don’t believe the USA can outperform the Europeans if the Europeans set their minds to it. This is a topic I’ll return to.
I’m really keen to know the actual cost of the S-tank, if anyone can find it; compared to modern battle tanks. But I thought to myself that the rationale for it might not just have been those studies of destroyed tanks. There had to have been people who were well aware of the many benefits of the German Stug vehicles in WW2 which were involved in heavy fighting on the Eastern Front. Jan]
Here’s a short but excellent video showing the S-Tank and what it could do:-
During the Cold War Sweden maintained a position of armed neutrality. Sandwiched between NATO powers and members of the Warsaw Pact, it took neither side and prepared to defend its territory from all comers. The trick with armed neutrality is to appear strong enough to deter an enemy from attacking, while appearing weak enough to not look threatening. In other words, build a force that’s weak in offensive firepower, but strong in defensive firepower.
Tanks are inherently attack-oriented weapons, designed to wrestle territory away from the enemy. The solution, as the video above describes, was the S-Tank. A tank without a turret, it was designed to lay in wait and ambush invading enemy armor. It mounted the British L-7 tank gun, the same gun that equipped into early versions of the U.S. Abrams tank.
Instead of sitting in a turret the gun was built into the hull, lowering the S-Tank’s overall profile. The gun was aimed by moving the entire tank, horizontally by pivoting the tank using its tracks, vertically by raising and lowering the tank via its hydropneumatic suspension system.
This also made the tank remarkably small—current versions of the Abrams weigh nearly 70 tons, while the S-Tank weighed a mere 40 tons. But the S-Tank was still plenty tough. The S-Tank was even designed to survive a 5 kiloton tactical nuclear explosion.
A defensive tank, the S-Tank needed to be as mobile as possible. A raised screen could be erected around the entire tank to make it float, while its tracks would propel it through the water.
At some point in a war, Sweden might be compelled to take back territory from the enemy. Well, the S-Tank wasn’t so great in this department. Because the gun was aimed by moving the entire tank, it was impossible to fire the gun accurately while the tank was moving. During an attack, the S-Tank needed to come to a complete stop to position itself to aim—and then it was very vulnerable.
The S-Tank certainly wasn’t a good fit for most countries. Eventually, it wasn’t even for Sweden—in the 1990s, the country retired its S-Tanks and bought the excellent German-made Leopard 2 tank. Never tested in battle, the S-Tank remains one of the most innovative—and weird—tank designs of all time.