Switzerland (1969)
Main Battle Tank – Paper Project

Overview

The Swiss Panzer 74 was a Main Battle Tank Project started in 1969. It was meant as an upgrade to the Panzer 68 tank then in service with the Swiss army, as it had begun to be regarded as underarmored for its time. New, better protected and better armed main battle tanks were entering service, tanks like the Soviet T-64, the British Chieftain and the American M60 Patton.

Between the 1950’s and 1980’s, the Swiss military philosophy called for Main Battle Tanks with good mobility, without sacrificing too much in terms of firepower and protection. The Panzer 68 was the latest vehicle in the Swiss tank lineage, being derived from the previous Panzer 61 and the little-produced Panzer 58. However, recently introduced designs made the Panzer 68’s armor seem obsolete.

This made the Swiss military start the designing of yet another indigenous tank design. The turret armor thickness and angling appear to have been very similar to those of the Chieftain British MBT, with which the Panzer 74 shares some similarities. However, the shape of the hull of the Panzer 74 was similar to that of the preceding Panzer 68 as it was intended to use as many parts from the Panzer 68 as possible. This would have lowered the price of designing and building the vehicle and also would have maintenance and training easier. The powerplant of the tank was planned to be an MT 883 V12 engine pumping out an impressive 1200 hp. Earlier documents mention an MBX 833 RA-500 V6 engine, which was tested in a Panzer 58.

Panzer 58 Versuchsfahrzeug
Panzer 58 Versuchsfahrzeug – a Panzer 58 hull with a raised engine deck, probably accommodating a new engine. It is highly likely that this was the MBX 833 RA-500 engine, and that this vehicle was a part of the Panzer 74 development program.

Armor

While explicit armor values have not been yet found for the Panzer 74, one of the schematic drawings from the project yields some interesting information. It shows the Variante A turret. By using the scale on the drawing, the thickness of the armor can be approximated for the turret and hull sides.

The armor thickness on the frontal part of the Variante A turret seems to range between 200 and 250 mm. The lower frontal area, between the gun mantlet and the turret ring, measures around 200 mm in thickness, while the armor immediately to the side of the gun and around the trunnion is in the area of 250 mm.

The turret armor thins off to the sides, with it reaching 30-40 mm at the rear. The sides of the turret were thicker at the base of the turret, at around 100 mm, thinning out towards the top. Furthermore, the turret was well rounded, which meant that the effective thickness of the armor was larger.

Despite the fact that the there were 6 different turrets proposed for the Panzer 74, the documents only mention size and equipment differences between them. It is possible that they would have sported similar armor.

The hull armor is also unknown, however similar measurements place the upper side armor at around 40 mm, which is comparable to the Chieftain’s side armor. The tracks would have also been protected by 5-10 mm thick side skirts.

Armament

The Panzer 74 was initially proposed to mount the 105mm Royal Ordnance L7, just like the preceding Panzer 68. It was later decided to mount the 120mm RO L11 instead. This was the same gun as on the British Chieftain. Other guns which had been considered were the German 10.5 cm and 12 cm smoothbore guns, the British 11 cm rifled gun, the French 142 mm ACRA gun launcher and the American 152 mm XM150 gun launcher.

The secondary armament would have comprised either two 7.5 mm MG 51s or two 12.7 mm machine-guns, one mounted coaxially and one mounted over the commander cupola. The 7.5 mm MG 51, later MG 51/71 and MG 87, was and is still the weapon of choice for military vehicles in Switzerland. The current Panzer 87 (Leopard 2A4) also uses it, so it is highly likely that it would have been used

The gun depression and elevation would have been -12° and +21° for the 105mm L7 and -10° and +21° for the 120 mm L11.

Crew

The tank would have been manned with 4 crew members. The driver was located on the right hand side in the frontal part of the hull. The gunner was located on the front right side of the turret, with the commander right behind him. The loader stood on the other side of the gun, on the left hand side of the turret.

There were 2 hatches on the turret, one for the commander, which was also used by the gunner to enter and exit the vehicle, and one for the loader.

It’s likely that the commander would have also operated the SE-412 radio.

Variations

There were several design versions for the Panzer 74, namely 6 turret versions and 2 hull versions, differing in the suspension used.
The turrets were labelled with letters, and were as follows:

Variante A: Large turret with fire control system from AEG
Variante B: Honeywell proposal
Variante C: Large turret with Marconi fire control system
Variante D: Small turret with weapon control system from SABCA and AEG
Variante E: Small turret with weapon control system from Wild-Bofors and AEG
Variante F: Variante A turret fitted with an autoloader

The specifications mention that the large turret was 3650 mm long (including gun mantlet) and 3000 mm wide, while the small turret was 3350 mm long and 2800 mm wide

Schematic showing the Variante A turret with the internal layout and armor thickness.
Schematic showing the Variante A turret with the internal layout and armor thickness. This image was used to estimate the thickness of the turret armor.

The Hull variants differed by the suspension used, with the Variante T having torsion bar suspension, while the Variante H had a hydropneumatic suspension.

A drawing of the Panzer 74 with the Variante H hull, showing the expected capabilities of the hydropneumatic suspension.
A drawing of the Panzer 74 with the Variante H hull, showing the expected capabilities of the hydropneumatic suspension.

Conclusion

While the Panzer 74 presents itself as a capable vehicle which would have improved Switzerland’s armored capabilities, it never went past the design phase. The main reason for this was likely that it would have been too expensive and the Swiss politicians realized that building a completely new tank wasn’t worth it, as Switzerland was not in any grave danger. The Panzer 68 was viewed as sufficient and it stayed in service with various upgrades until 2003.

Early turret-less Panzer 58-based prototype with a engine raised exhaust and probably a new engine
Early turret-less Panzer 58-based prototype with an engine raised exhaust and probably a new engine – Illustrator: David Bocquelet
The Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret and the Variante H hull
The Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret and the Variante H hull, without sideskirts – Illustrator: David Bocquelet
A Panzer 74 with the Variante D turret and Variante H hull, with a fixed rear pannier, in what-if camouflaged and with a thermal sleeve
A Panzer 74 with the Variante D turret and Variante H hull, with a fixed rear pannier, in what-if camouflaged and with a thermal sleeve – Illustrator: David Bocquelet
Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret by Giganaut
Panzer 74 with the Variante D turret by Giganaut

Panzer 74 wooden mockup
Panzer 74 wooden model

Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret and the Variante H hull
Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret and the Variante H hull

Panzer 74
Panzer 74 with the Variante D turret and the variante H hull

Estimated specifications Panzer 74

Dimensions 9.71 x 3.35 x 2.32 m (31’10” x 10’11” x 7’7” ft)
Total weight, battle ready 46 tons
Crew 4 (commander/radio, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion MT 883 V12 Diesel, 1200 bhp, 26.1 hp/ton
Suspension Either Hydropneumatic or Torsion bar suspension depending on hull
Speed (road) 68 km/h (42.3 mph) forward, 30km/h (18.6 mph) in reverse
Range 350 km (217.5 mi)
Armament 105 mm L7 gun and later the 120 mm L11 gun
2x 7.5 mm MG51 or 12.7 mm MG
Armor Hull unknown, Turret 30-250 mm (1.18- 9.84 in)
Laupen 14t and Laupen 16t
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2 Responses to Panzer 74

  1. RRR says:

    Interesting…….
    I don’t get why the Swiss decided to use different turrents

    • Joris Peier says:

      It was just a proposal for which one would be the best. There are only 2 different designs ( large and small turrets) but the main difference are the fire control systems.

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