MANUFACTURER(S): State Factories - Sweden
OPERATORS: Sweden (retired)
LENGTH: 19.95 feet (6.08 meters)
WIDTH: 7.97 feet (2.43 meters)
HEIGHT: 9.84 feet (3 meters)
WEIGHT: 25 Tons (22,500 kilograms; 49,604 pounds)
ENGINE: 2 x Scania-Vabis 607 gasoline engine delivering 170 horsepower each.
SPEED: 28 miles-per-hour (45 kilometers-per-hour)
RANGE: 124 miles (200 kilometers)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Stridsvagn 74 (Strv 74) Light Tank / Main Battle Tank (MBT).
Entry last updated on 4/9/2019.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The Swedes have long held a history of capable indigenous arms production and this was showcased to good effect prior to and during World War 2 (1939-1945) - the nation threatened in the West by the Germans having recently overtaken Norway and, in the East, by the Soviets waging war against Finland on two occasions (the "Winter War" and the "Continuation War"). Sweden was able to maintain its neutrality throughout the war though not before several light tank designs came to pass. One of the prewar attempts at an indigenous tank design became the L-60 (Strv L60) of 1934 which was then followed by the Strv m/38 and Strv m/39 light tanks, culminating in the Strv m/40 Light Tank of 1941. The Strv m/40 initiative then begat the Strv m/42 which became the first of the Swedish tank offerings to field a 75mm caliber main gun - on par with developments elsewhere in the world at the time. All Swedish tanks traced their roots to the 16-ton AB Landsverk "Lago".
The Strv m/42 was introduced in April of 1943 and saw production reach 282 units by January of 1945. Variants appeared into the late 1950s and fulfilled the role of fast light tank with a capable reach thanks to its well-performing 75mm main gun - on par with the German 7.5cm StuK 37 L/24 series system. The vehicle was crewed by four personnel and defended by no fewer than 4 x 8mm m/39 series machine guns along its front, sides and turret roof. Power was served through a variety of fittings which ranged in horsepower output from 325 horsepower to 380 horsepower. The chassis was suspended atop a torsion bar system and maximum road speed was 26 miles per hour - adequate for mechanized forces of the period. Compared to the m/40 before it, the m/42 was given an extra pair of road wheels under a lengthened hull with a modified rounded turret and more powerful main gun.
After the war, numerical availability of the Strv m/42 series forced a decision on the part of Swedish military authorities. Instead of investing in a very expensive all-new tank design program, it was reasoned to modify the fleet of Strv m/42 vehicles for a new post-war tank design. While the German threat had been obliterated, the Soviet Union now remained the viable enemy to be encountered across the battlefields of Europe. The Swedish Army also moved forward with the purchasing of the excellent, and very modern, British Centurion Main Battle Tank to help spearhead its mechanized forces (known in the Swedish inventory as the "Strv 101 / Strv 102"). The new Strv m/42-based design would, therefore, be used to supplement the new MBT in Swedish armored corps - the tank recognized under the designation of "Stridsvagn 74".
The Strv 74 retained some of the qualities of the original Strv m/42 models though much primarily centered around the existing chassis. The design was given an all-new, electrically-powered (manual backup) turret emplacement featuring a 75mm main gun based on an existing anti-aircraft weapon. An all-new Scania-Vabis gasoline-fueled engine was fitted in the rear compartment as standard while an equally-new transmission system was mated to the running gear for improved cross-country performance. Widened track sections allowed for better ground displacement and traction across uneven surfaces. The torsion suspension system was retained as was the crew of four (driver, commander, gunner and loader). The driver sat at the front-left of the hull with the remaining crew residing in the turret space. The main gun of choice was designated as the 7.5cm (75mm) Kanone Strv 74. Defense was through 2 x 8mm ksp m/39 Strv machine guns - one fitted coaxially in the turret. The new vehicle weighed in at 25 tons (short) while armor protection ranged from 15mm to 80mm across the various facings.
Power for the Strv 74 was served through a pairing of Scania-Vabis 607 gasoline engines outputting at 170 horsepower each (340hp combined). Operational ranges peaked at 120 miles which was consistent with other designs of the time. Top road speeds were 28 miles per hour, an improvement over that of the original m/42 design.
Externally, the Strv 74 appeared as a very conventional Cold War tank offering. The hull was well-shaped with an integrated superstructure housing the crew, turret, transmission, fuel stores, ammunition and engines. The running gear incorporated six road wheels to a track side as well as a front-mounted drive sprocket and rear-mounted track idler. Three return rollers were identified across the top of the track section and there was no side skirt armoring utilized. The tampered turret design was fitted just ahead of amidships as a very large installation with well-angled sides and a heavy gun mantlet. Rear turret overhang was considerable which allowed for increased stowage space within. The barrel protruded from the frontal panel of the turret in the usual way and hung over the glacis plate as expected, a small fume extractor added just aft of the muzzle. No muzzle brake was used.
Production of Strv 74 systems began in 1958 and spanned into 1984 which saw 659 examples completed. Being forged from existing m/42 chassis/hulls, these already relying on two different transmission systems, led to two distinct variant forms being realized - the "Strv 74H" and the "Strv 74V". The former were based on the m/42 TH model hulls (with 2 x Atlas-Diesel hydraulic gearbox, 1943) while the latter were built up from the m/42 TV model series (with Landsverk S-8082 / Volvo VL 420 hydraulic gearbox, 1948).
In service, the Strv 74 proved a reliable and capable post-war Cold War-era tank though the approach did suffer from a noticeably high side profile due to the bulged hull structure and turret design housing three. Combined, this provided a very tempting target to enemy anti-tank crews and armored combat forces at range. Fortunately, the Strv 74 never saw combat on any level and essentially proved yet another deterrent to invasion - as with many other indigenous Swedish military developments of the last 100 years.
Strv 74 tanks were initially utilized to shore up the main Swedish armored force pending arrival of the Strv 101/102 in service. Within time, its role as a frontline combat system was dramatically reduced to the point that Strv 74s fell to infantry-level support armored vehicles and then second-line service roles. Despite their 1958 introduction, Strv 74s did manage to serve until 1984 before being formally retired from all military duties. With its serviceable years firmly behind it, Strv 74s had their turrets removed and reconstituted as fixed defensive gun emplacements in preparation for invasion by the enemy - the Swedes seemingly always one to promote self-defense above all other military approaches, a doctrine that continues to this day (2013).
Beyond being replaced by the arriving Strv 101/102 series of MBTs, indigenous Swedish ingenuity managed to generate the very distinct-looking and defensive-minded turretless Strv 103 Tank Destroyer (also known as the "S-Tank"). The Strv 101/102 and Strv 103 series formed the backbone of Swedish armor forces into the late 1990s.
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