The development and early years
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Before the decision to aquire the Strv 103 the army staff armor departement conducted a combateconomical study in 1961-1962. It showed that alternative S was the best of the three earlier mentioned, mostly due to its superior protection. The commander of the army thus recommended the S-alternative in 1962. In 1963 the technical regulations was set for Bofors offer. The final technical and tactical specifications was set in the spring of 1964 and the order for seriesproduction came the same fall. Conducted tests in Sweden and abroad showed that the technical and tactical specifications were met in the most important areas. In 1964 some specifications were considered so important or well met (such as protection) that others that were not possible to combine with more imortant within the set weight and budget were allowed to fall short. None of the alternative tanks had been able to fulfill all the specifications.
A 0-series tank with Pbv 302 and armored infantry.
The trials with the 0-serie continued until 1966. It is interesting to note that there had only been six months of trial with these preproduction vehicles when the order for seriesproduction was given in 1964. The tank commanders cupola was changed in 1965 from a cupola armed with a 20 mm autocanon (the same as on Pbv 301) to a mashinegun armed one. The reverse drivers tasks were discussed. Many felt that the platoon commander and company commander should ride in this position and that this position thus should be equipped with far more observation and radioequipment. This was not to be the case. After wintertrials it was decided that the gasturbine that has no start up problems in cold weather had to be possible to be used to start an unwilling diesel.
The biggest issue was the matter of trench and ditch crossing. This had not been much of an issue earlier since the swedish armored corps had been spoiled by the exceptional ability of the Centurion in this regard. The "S" track is 1,5 meters shorter and and on top of that the gun protrudes at the front. This obviously led to a lesser ability in spite of the fact that the "S" can cross diagonally without risking thrown tracks. Even without the gun barrel the pointed front armor would be in the way. Comparative tests with the Leopard 1 in 1976/77 showed that this tank was better than the "S" but also clearly inferior to the Centurion. Since the length of the "S" was governed by its need to be able to perform the clutch and brake maneuver to instantly swivel its gun 90 or 180 degrees on the move this matter was not solvable
Strv 103B on the move
A dozerblade was attached. It can not be readied from inside the tank however. With time available this could partly help with trenchcrossing. The tank commanders observation equpment had become stabilized which helped to spot targets on the move. It was still not possible to fire accuratly on the move however. Problems in mobility regarding transmission and engine output were tackled by changing to the newer Boeing 553 gas turbine. These were delivered starting with 1968. A small number of tanks had already been built with the older tubine and these became known as Strv 103A while the tanks with the newer turbine of course were called Strv 103B. Smoke dischgargers were added to the commanders cupola that had showed to be able to conseal the tank ten times faster than the counterparts on Leopard 1 and Chieftain.
From the start the tank was designed to weigh 30 tons. The Strv 103C weighs 42,5 tons. This is due to the following:
- Reinforced lower rear chassiarmor due to damage by high speed terrain driving.
- New tracks of Diehl-type with long life-expectancy.
- Stronger, ribbed frontplates.
- LYRAN illumination flare mortars..
- Jerrycan sets along the side of the tanks.
- Reinforcement of floatationkit.
This weight increase of 40% is not unusual. The Leopard 1 experienced the same weight increase. Both tanks had a development period of ten years. The new turbine and the in 1986 changed dieselengine (a Caterpillar) gives 665 hp. When the high effect is engaged on the turbine this is increased to 780 hp. This is equal to Chieftains and M60A1 as well as to the T-62 when divided by weight. Only the leopard 1 is superior.
Filling up the autoloader at the rear of the tank Advancing into fire position
290 Strv 103 were built in 1967-1971. Enough for three armored brigades of 72 each and two independant tank battalions "Norrland". Retraining courses were held in 1967- 1972 for instructors at the armored combat school. In 1968 the first companies starting training with the new tank at P2 and P7. In 1969 training started at P4 and P5.
During 1968-1971 over 250 test firings were conducted with the Strv 103B as a target. The results were to verify the technical specification and to provide data for intensive damage and repairstudies. No other country in the west had done anything similar at the time. The results are still secret since the tank will remain in some brigades until 2004. They do confirm different statements on the high level of protection however.