The Strv 104 became the Swedish version of the storied British "Centurion" Main Battle Tank (MBT) line detailed elsewhere on this site. The Centurion was selected by Swedish authorities in the post-World War 2 years to succeed an aging collection of light and medium tanks then currently in service with Army forces. After formal review of available options worldwide, it was settled that the Centurion Mk 3 model offered the best combination of performance, capabilities, firepower and upgrade potential to meet local Army needs going forward.
However, when it became apparent that the British would not be able to deliver the needed stock of Centurion Mk 3s to Sweden in the foreseeable future, a secretive local tank program was launched during 1951 that came to be known as "EMIL". This program sought to design, develop and ultimately produce an indigenous heavy tank to meet the need. Only two chassis were ever constructed as the focus shifted back to procuring an available vehicle instead. Luckily the British need to export goods was such that the timetable for Centurion deliveries to Sweden could now be advanced during late 1952. Some eighty Centurion Mk 3 units were ordered the following year and a further 110 examples (Centurion Mk 10) followed into the next decade. In Swedish Army service, the Centurion operated under various "Strv" designations (Stridsvagen), numbers being appended to mark the product's main gun caliber (see variants listing below).
The Swedish Centurions received a modernization throughout most of the 1980s to keep them viable fighting machines for the near future. Night Vision (NV) equipment support was added as were laser rangefinders and the main guns were given better stabilization for improved firing "on-the-move". The Fire Control System (FCS) was appropriately updated for increased effectiveness and barrels now received thermal sleeves. The hulls supported Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks to improved system and crew survivability - particularly against the rise in Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) reliance seen by the Soviet Army - they being the primary enemy in the region.
This work bought the line some additional operational service but, during the 1990s, the age of these vehicles and the fall of the Soviet Empire led to the Swedish Army gradually reducing and succeeding its Centurion stock. The acquisition of the West German / German Leopard 2A5S tank - known in Swedish Army nomenclature as the Strv 122 - all but signaled the end for the Centurion in Swedish service.
Throughout its service life, the Strv 104 was fielded in a variety of forms beginning with the "Strv 81" armed with the original British 20-pounder gun (this was the equivalent of the British Centurion Mk 3 form). The Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV) was essentially the Centurion ARV and became the "Bargningsbandvagn 81" in Swedish service. The Centurion Mk 5 arrived in 1955 with Swedish equipment installed and were also part of the Strv 81 family. The "Strv 101" was the Centurion Mk 10 with its 105mm main gun and Swedish equipment fitted. "Strv 102" became the original Strv 81 models with the 105mm gun being fitted while "Strv 101R" marked Strv 101 models after the 1980s modernization was applied. Similarly the "Strv 102R" was the Strv 102 with the 1980s modernization applied as well as a frontal armor scheme mimicking that as used in the Strv 101R. The "Strv 104" became the Strv 102 with an Israeli transmission/engine coupling and numbered 80 units in all. "Strv 105" was a proposed update to the Strv 102R with a new FCS and suspension system - though only a sole prototype was made. The "Strv 106" was another proposed form, based on the Strv 101R, and also given an updated suspension. This initiative also fell to naught.