The Centurions last years.

 11771 hits on target since 1998-04-12

The Centurion was still in service with the 18th mechanised brigade on Gotland until spring 2000! Some sort of record for sure. But the Centurion in service was an up dated version. Fire control was modern and the tank was up engined, up gunned and up armored. With the modern "ARROW 90" APFDSD-T ammunition it could take on almost any opponent from any aspect.  Hit probability was good with modern fire control and well trained gunners. Since the 10,5 cm ammunition was for free in Sweden during the last years of the 1900:s since that we only have 60 tanks using it opposed to 600 a few years earler, there were no limits on available ammunition. The crews in 1997-98 fired at an average 223 rounds during the year. The tank was also capable of hitting targets on the move. While speed may have to be lowered due to bumpy ground it was rare to miss while moving. Moving targets could be engaged with good hit propability. The most impressive feature was the high rate of fire. The gun was extremely fast to reload and a trained gunner fired the second round when he could barely make out the target behind smoke and heat interference. That meant that the second round would go downrange in 1-2 seconds after the first! With the heavy HE round it may have taken a second longer as well as with the 45kg smokegrenade. This meant that the tank would advance into fire position, fire two rounds and reverse into cover in less than 10 seconds. If you dont get hit you dont need the best armor in the world. In maneuvers the Cent showed to be hit much less often than the Leos, if hit it was killed however, while the Leos often required more than one hit to kill they still come out at the short end being hit so much more frequently. The Centurion crews were among the best in the world.

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To the right a gunner displaying a 10,5 cm HE round. The yellow colormarking shows it to be not only a live practice round but a really live for war use round. The gunner wears the newest telecom helmet 9, the new m/90P uniform and the new flakjacket 94K for AFV crews. This is worn over the fieldjacket of the m/90P as opposed to the flakjacket 90S that is worn by other personel under their fieldjacket m/90. The P in m/90P denotes it to be exclusivly for AFV personel, P meaning "pansar" or armor. In the middle a Strv 104 with the armor mounted. The steelplates are visible as well as the reacive armor on top of them. The wire is mounted for fast recovery if bogged down. On the right a tank commander wearing the same helmet, unform and flakjacket. The insignia on his arm tells us that he belongs to the 18th mech brigade. The mashine gun is the Ksp m/39B Strv which is a swedish version of the M1919. Note the front of the flakjacket with the possibility of attaching pens, small torches, screwdrivers etc.

Tankcrews are drawn from the best of what the conscriptsystem as to offer. Most are educated young men with ambitions to succeed in life in some way. They were intellegent, demanding and positive. A proffesional army would not be able to recruit these men  of high quality since spending 10 years as a loader is clearly not their goal in life. But we get them on loan for one year and another three-seven in reservestatus. A good system that ensures quality in personel and the educationsystem since these guys demand effective, goaloriented training. They are not interested in wasting a year getting substandard training. This means that given responsibility to have influence on their own training they are positive and constructive. The best crews you can imagine!

The Centurion was uparmoured with applique steel to the chassifront as well as with reactive armour over the chassi and turretfront. The armour was of Swedish design and gave good protection against most HEAT-warheads. The ammunitionstorage was basicly unchanged since it situated at the best possible location already. Being stored low in the chassi lead to the Cents good reputation for withstanding several hits without suffering catastrophic ammunition fires as both russian designs and the american M48 and M60 suffers from.

The Centurion has always been associated with good mobility. The early versions were slow but they did negotiate terrain few other tanks could. With the upgraded enginepack it became faster and still as mobile. With the american Continental AVDS-1790 and the Allison transmission it was still not as fast as the Leopard but could still negotiate the same terrain. It took a minute longer, thats all. There are some terrain features that are impassable to all tanks however. The photo below shows a thrown track. Actually the worst example Ive ever seen. A combination of heavy mud, almost clay, and a stone hidden under the mud caused this. It looks as it has ben hit by an anti-tank round! The tank was rolling one day later after having replaced the idler wheel that had been cracked. The tank became something of an attraction to visitors to the maneuver while stuck. The crew, professional as only well motivated conscripts can be, quickly camouflaged the tank with the nets and dismounted the AAMG for close protection.

One might think that it would be hard to motivate the soldiers that serve on such an old, if updated, tank when many of them have friends that are Leopard crews. Actually it was not hard at all. While the Leopard crews fire about 20 rounds a year the Cent crews fired over 220 last year.  The tanks rolled over 1200 km. Spareparts exist in abundance and there were almost no limits on recources. Availability was the same as the Leopard 2.

But when they met in battle with the tanks equipped with firing and targetsimulators? Didnt the Cent take all the beating? It did not! Actually it was more the other way round.

1995: The first year with Strv 121 or Leopard 2. At the largest armor maneuver the retraining course for instructors participated with a number of tanks. While it can hardly be considered to be an ideal crew with 2nd lieutenants, lieutenants, captains and majors mixed in the same tank it was shown clearly that it was not a spaceship. There was one major clash between the Cents and Leopards in which two Cents and four Leopards were killed. One of the Cent crews got so excited when they knocked out the first Leopard that the commander forgot to direct the driver who immidietly drove the tank into the ditch in front of the killed Leopard, bogging the tank down!

1996: A mixed "S" and Centurion company of 14 tanks runs into a battallion with two Leopard 2 companies of about 20 tanks. The "mobile armored museum" takes up a hasty defence and after 30 minutes there are 4 "S" and Cents remaining and 1 Leopard. One bogged down Cent killed five Leos without being killed itself. The battle was refought at the request of the enemy with the same results. A fantastic moral victory for the older tanks and the Cent in particular that did most of the killing.

1997: Two Centurions manage to kill half an enemy battalion from a good battleposition. Jockying in and out of fire position they start to knock out 2 Leopards that never detects them since they are almost behind the Leos. The enemys logistics APC arrives to take care of the wounded and is knocked out. Since the Cents are still undetected the enemy thinks that the damage is done by antitank helos far away and sends a mech inf company forward followed by the rest of the tank company. Driving behind the ridge on which the two killed Leos are they think they are in cover. Five minutes later both enemy companies are destroyed.

1998: In three encounters a Centplatoon fights a Strv 121 company, killing a total of 10 tanks and loosing 4 of their own. But it is discovered that the enemy Strv 121 has the target simulator of the Strv 122 mounted! In effect giving them the same protection as the worlds best protected tank! This proves that a well crewed Cent can take on any enemy and still succeed.  In one of the encounters the Cents defending a battleposition, killed off 5 enemy tanks while the Leo company had 7 tanks available. This ruined the maneuver for the rest of the infantrybattallion that the Cents were attached to since the enemy battallion commander decided that his offensive power was broken (he only had one tank company) and broke off the assault. The infantrycompanies behind the Cents, having spent 12 hours preparing, never saw combat. The Cents solved the entire battallions dealyingmission losing 2 tanks themselves. A good result indeed.

1999: In one week of doublesided maneuvering the tank company and the mech inf company from MekB 18 were pitted against their counterparts from the mainland on the best traininggrounds in Sweden for armored maneuvers. In all actions regardless of being offensive or defensive the Cents knocked out more enemy tanks than they lost themselves. The finest hour being when half a battallion from MekB 18 was to delay two battallions from MekB 7, 8, 9, 10 with three Strv 121 and one Strv 122 company as well as 4 mechanized infantry companies. The total and swift defeat that was expected never materialized. The Cents and their mech inf colleauges held the most forward battle positions even after three hours of battle having killed 75% of the enemys tanks! While losses were heavy the result can be described as nothing less than a total humiliation for the opposing force. The battle was refought with much the same result. The delaying force withdrew in good order to the second line after a succesful delaying action in the first line and  the enemy got stuck again.

The Centurion soldiered on into the new millenium but not much longer. Since tanktraining ceased at the 18th mechanized brigade in the summer of 2000 the last of the swedish Cents were retired. It proved itself to be the best tank ever designed being capable of dishing it out as well as taking it against the best in the world more than fifty years after it was designed. A British winner crewed by Swedens finest was a hard nut to crack.

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The four sorts of ammo for wartime use used by the Strv 104. To the left the smokeround, then the HE shell and third the APFSDS-T m/90, the "Arrow 90" with extreme capacity. Last the APFSDS-T m/80, the "Arrow 80".