The Stridsvagn 103 Main Battle Tank

By: the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.  | 
©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The Swedish turretless Stridsvagn 103 main battle tank carries a bulldozer blade under its nose. See more tank pictures.
2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Stridsvagn -- battle car in Swedish -- 103 series tank is a highly capable Main Battle Tank (MBT) in a 43-ton package, The Strv 103, or S tank as it is also known, is the first practical turretless MBT to be developed. The low profile makes the Strv 103 very difficult to see when on the move and almost impossible to find when lying hull-down in ambush.

History and Design

Design work began on the S tank in the mid-1950s, Sweden sought a tank suited to its particular landscape-a small country with rolling farmland in the south and high forests and tundra, which is frozen in the winter and soggy in the summer, in the north. A tank was needed that could operate across this kind of surface without bogging down. The tank also had to be able to meet the threat of both Warsaw Pact and NATO tanks.


The Swedish S tank design differs from earlier German and Soviet turretless armored vehicles in that its main gun is fixed in its mounting. This eliminates the need for the heavy mantlet and surrounding armor. It also makes possible the installation of a lightweight, reliable automatic loader and the elimination of one crew position. The S tank carries heavy frontal armor, the composition and thicknesses of which remain classified. During a 1984 upgrade program, add-on armor was applied to the Strv 103, particularly in this area.

Crew Positions

Since the S tank must stop to fire, the driver can serve as loader and gunner. The driver/gunner sits on the left side, the commander on the right. Both have a complete set of driving and gunnery controls, and the commander can override the driver/gunner's controls at any time. Seated backward and slightly behind the driver is the radio operator, who also has a set of controls for driving the tank backward.

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Learn more about this remarkable vehicle's equipment package on the next page.


The Stridsvagn 103 Main Battle Tank Equipment

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Swedish turretless Stridsvagn 103 with flotation screen raised.
2007 Publications International, Ltd.


A unique characteristic of the Stridsvagn 103 Main Battle Tank is its two engines, The main engine was originally a six cylinder Detroit Diesel engine, The secondary engine, used for boost power in combat or for cold-weather starting, was a gas turbine Boeing Model 553 that delivered 490 horsepower, The combined output of both engines compares favorably with MBTs with heavier engines that consume more fuel. As part of the total upgrade of all Strv Bs to Strv Cs that began in 1984, a new Rolls Royce K60 diesel replaced the Detroit Diesel engine. The engines are located up front to provide additional protection to the crew of three, who are contained entirely within the hull.


The Swedish-designed 62 caliber 105 millimeter main gun is fed from a magazine holding 50 rounds, With the automatic loader, up to 15 rounds can be fired per minute. The automatic loader ejects spent cases outside the tank. If the automatic loader fails, it can be hand cranked by the radio operator. Two crewmembers can reload the magazine through the rear hatches in ten minutes.


The main gun is aimed by lowering or raising the hull on a special hydraulic suspension system developed in Sweden. Traversing the gun is done by turning the tank. Until the advent of the laser range finder and advanced ballistic computers and fire control systems, this was not a drawback since all tanks had to stop to fire accurately, Today, state-of-the-art MBTs like the Merkava II, the M-1A1 Abrams, the British Challenger, and the Soviet T-64/T-72/T-80 series can fire while on the move, but the tracks of the S tank lock when the main gun is fired.

Two 7.62mm fixed machine guns are mounted on the left side of the hull. A third machine gun is mounted outside the commander's cupola but can be fired automatically from within the hull.

Tank, Bulldozer or Boat?

Each Strv 103C tank carries a bulldozer blade folded back under the nose that can be deployed and operated from inside the tank. Each tank is also fitted with a flotation screen that can be rigged in 20 minutes. This allows the tank to ford streams and rivers at nearly four miles per hour, using its tracks for propulsion.

Some aspects of Strv 103C MBT have been copied by other countries, but to date Sweden is the only nation employing a true turretless MBT. The United States and the Soviet Union are known to be developing turretless models for the next generation of MBTs.

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Learn about the S-Tank's Specifications on the next page.


The Stridsvagn 103 Main Battle Tank Specifications

Designed for the varying Swedish terrain, the Stridsvagn 103 Main Battle Tank was equipped to deal with almost any contingency.

Date of service: 1966


Country: Sweden

Type: Main Battle Tank

Dimensions: Length, 7.04 m (23.1 ft); width, 3.6 m (11.8 ft); height, 2.14 m (7 ft)

Combat weight: 39,700 kg (43.8 tons)

Engine: One Rolls Royce K60 diesel; one Boeing M553 gas turbine

Armament: One 105mm L71 Bofors main gun; three 7.62mm KSP 58 machine guns

Crew: 3

Speed: 50 km/h (31 mph)

Range: 390 km (242 mi)

Obstacle/grade performance: 0.9 m (3 ft)

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Frequently Answered Questions

What is Sweden's main tank?
The main tank used by Sweden is the Strv 122.