Swedish Stridsvagn 103 (Strv 103) S-Tank

The Swedish Stridsvagn 103 (or “S-Tank”) was one of the most unusual tanks ever built. Designed to give good defensive firepower to enforce Sweden’s armed neutrality, it’s unique design came at a cost: it is absolutely no good on offense.

During the Cold War Sweden maintained a position of armed neutrality. Sandwiched between NATO powers and members of the Warsaw Pact, it took neither side and prepared to defend its territory from all comers. The trick with armed neutrality is to appear strong enough to deter an enemy from attacking, while appearing weak enough to not look threatening. In other words, build a force that’s weak in offensive firepower, but strong in defensive firepower.

Tanks are inherently attack-oriented weapons, designed to wrestle territory away from the enemy. The solution, as the video above describes, was the S-Tank. A tank without a turret, it was designed to lay in wait and ambush invading enemy armor. It mounted the British L-7 tank gun, the same gun that equipped into early versions of the U.S. Abrams tank.

Instead of sitting in a turret the gun was built into the hull, lowering the S-Tank’s overall profile. The gun was aimed by moving the entire tank, horizontally by pivoting the tank using its tracks, vertically by raising and lowering the tank via its hydro-pneumatic suspension system.

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