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The Swedish Centurion
In the early 1950s, the British Centurion was a big hit, already proven in Korea and precursor of the main battle tank new generation of “universal tanks”. However, if the Swedes approached the British Government but the latter then declined any exports, as it estimated that the needs of the British army had been satisfied first, which was deemed to take between five and fifteen years. Meantime, medium tank developments were led by the vehicle bureau of KAFT with the EMIL programme.
Bärgningsbandvagn-81 ARV at Revinge in 2012.
This was dropped later and there was instead a full modernization of the ww2-era Strv m/42 as the Strv m/74. Meanwhile, attention also turned to the lighter innovative French AMX-13, with plans for license production as the X tank, but in 1953 the British Government agreed to allow the Centurion for purchases and negotiations were back on tracks. After purchasing two Marks (Strv 81 and 101), the former modernized as the Strv.102, the last were maintained in service in the 1990s as the Strv.104. One unit trained on these as recently as 2000 but it was demobilized as the Swedish Leopard 2 (Strv 122) has been a standard replacement.
The same year, 80(100?) Mk3 of the reserve were purchased, entering service in Skåne. It was classed as a heavy tank and designated Strv 81. The latter was unmodified apart for minor details proper to Swedish use. It was delivered all in imperial measurements and Pre-NATO threading made the screws incompatible with the later strv 101. It was then armed with the 90 mm ROF 20-pdr gun of the first generation and was relatively underpowered with a 640hp engine, for a top speed of 34-35 km/h on flat. In 1956, 150(160?) more tanks Mark 3/5 were purchased, all armed with the improved 20 pdr type B, also designated Strv.81. In both cases, the only change was the mounting of Swedish radios.
Strv-102 at Revinge, 2013. The Strv-101/102 were hardly distinguishable
In 1958 the third batch of about 110 Centurions was purchased, but this time of the Mark 10 type. They were all armed with the soon-to-be-legendary Royal Ordnance Factory L7 105 mm rifled gun. In addition, they had a more powerful engine, 120 mm of frontal armor and NATO-standardized equipment, Swedish instrumentation and Radios. Just like in Great Britain, sub-types appeared when it was decided to upgrade the older Mark 3 and 5s. In the 1980s also appeared the Stridsvagn 101R, upgraded with laser rangefinder equipment.
In the early 1960s, it was decided to standardize the Strv-81s to the 101 standard, starting with the main gun, the L7 105 mm, an operation performed in 1964–1966. Eventually, in the early 1980s, they were upgraded again to the late Mark 10 type, with a newly improved armor and at the same time appeared the Stridsvagn 102R upgraded with laser rangefinder equipment.
Strv-102 at Revinge in 2014
The last wave of upgraded came with the modernization of a batch of 80 Strv.102 with a brand new, more powerful diesel engine (see later) and upgraded laser rangefinder. But the biggest improvement came from the armor, over which was fit a series of ERA (Explosive Reactive Armour) blocks.
Two prototypes were built: One Strv.102R (105) with upgraded suspension and other elements, and another of the 101R type (106).
Strv-104 showing its ERA blocks, part of the 1980s REMO (“REnovering och MOdifiering”) package.
Specifications of the Strv.104
Since this was the last and most interesting model, with more proper Swedish modifications than the others of the series, this will be the focus of our attention. Configuration remained identical to the British Centurion, with a standard crew of four: commander, gunner and loader (turret) and front-left driver in the hull. Combat weight was 54 tonnes.
In 1983-1987, Centurions underwent a midlife renovation and modification (REMO) including a night vision equipment, targeting systems, laser range finders, improved gun stabilization, barrel thermal sleeves and exhaust pipes, and more importantly reactive armor.
The Strv.104 was given a brand new powerplant, in addition to the REMO package, this stands for Renovation/modification. This powerpack was also shared by the Sho’t Kal Alef, comprising a Continental diesel engine coupled with an Allison automatic gearbox.
Of course the Strv.104 inherited the Mark X improved armor, 120 mm thick, sloped armor (almost 200 mm of equivalent thickness)
The ERA bocks covered the glacis front, part of the ring, turret front and mantlet, turret roof, and sides over the metal side skirts. These were introduced in the 1980s with the REMO programme and were developed by the Swedish FFV Ordnance.
For active concealment, there were two banks of six-barrel smoke dischargers and two erectile illumination round dischargers on the rear of the turret roof.
The Strv-81-104 in active service
The Swedish Centurion was eventually retired for good in 1992, following specifications for a new MBT, followed by official comparative tests of the T-72, Leclerc, M1A1 and Leopard 2. The competition ended with the choice of the latter, with some local modifications (Strv-122). 350 Strv-81-104 Tanks has been in service covering most of the Swedish Cold War needs, together with the modernized Strv-74s and unconventional S-tanks of the same generation.
|Dimensions||9.6oa (7.7) x3.3 x2.9 m ( ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||54 tons (xx Ibs)|
|Crew||4 (driver, cdr, gunner, loader)|
|Propulsion||Teledyne Continental AVDS 1790 2DC V12|
|Suspension||Torsion bar suspensions|
|Speed (road)||50 km/h (35 mph)|
|Range||480 km (300 mi)|
|Armament||Main: 105 mm L7, 2x 7.62 mm m/39 LMG, 2 Lyran 71 mm light grenade launchers|
|Armor||120 mm frontal armour + ERA|
|Total production||80 (350)|
Strv-102R with ATGMs
Strv-81/102R prototype, with three SS-11 ATGMs. Normally this would be the other side.