Volume 2, Issue1
April 25, 2006


Welcome to the fourth issue of "Heavy Metal" -- the newsletter of the

Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles (VMMV). Our mission is our motto -- by working to restore armored fighting vehicles, artillery, small arms, uniforms, and accoutrements of the US military and other countries, we hope to share the legacy of the sacrifice and courage of our fighting men and women with future generations of Americans. Located in Northern Virginia, our collection has grown to over 90 vehicles, starting out with the first US tank, the M 1917 through such legendary US vehicles as the M4A1 and M4A3 Sherman , M3A1 and M5A1 Stuart , M24 Chaffee , M3A1 Half-track , M36 Jackson and M3 Lee along with a few vehicles you might not know existed -- such as a prototype of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) tank.


Get to know your VMMV staff & vehicles


Get to know your VMMV staff & vehicles
In this section we will introduce you to the people and armor of the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles. We will chat with the VMMV staff, so that you can get to know the people who "keep 'em running" and work so hard behind the scenes. And also provide a behind-the-scenes look into the history of individual vehicles in the VMMV collection. In this, our fourth newsletter, we describe one of the most unique armored fighting vehicles to ever be operationally fielded---the Swedish Stridsvagn 103 Main Battle Tank--more commonly known as the "S" tank.

VMMV acquired two S tanks from Sweden in mid-2001. Larry, Allan and Marc traveled to Shovda, Sweden for one week of training on the vehicles--learning how to drive, maintain and load the tanks from Swedish engineers associated with the S tank project. They also took a little time off from training to visit the S tank scrapyard and load up on few spare parts to help "keep 'em rolling" once the vehicles were added to our collection back here in the States.

Developed in the late 1950s, the Stridsvagn 103 MBT looks more like an assault gun, but in fact is a turretless tank, placing its main armament in a fixed mounting in the hull. The cannon is actually aimed by traversing the entire tank and elevated by changing the pitch of the hull. Read further to understand more about this wonderfully unique MBT.

Bofors of Sweden--better known for its antiaircraft artillery--was awarded a contract in mid-1958 to design a turretless tank with a fixed cannon, autoloader, and adjustable suspension. After prototype development and working the kinks out in ten pre-production vehicles, the first production S Tanks were completed in 1966. 300 S tanks were built before production ceased in 1971. The Stridsvagen 103A version does not have a flotation screen or dozer blade, while the later model Stridsvagen 103B has both. The S Tank was not exported.

There are pros and cons to mounting a tank's main armament low down in the hull, vice up in a turret. The first and most obvious is that the lack of a turret dramatically lowers the profile of the vehicle, making it harder to detect and hit. The hull also has excellent ballistic shaping. The main drawback is that you have to turn the whole vehicle to aim the gun, vice just traverse a turret. This would be a problem in mobile warfare, however, Sweden's doctrine was one of general neutrality, thus, the S Tank was well suited to a defensive campaign, where it would primarily fire from ambush, or execute planned withdrawals after a brief engagement.

The S tank has a crew of three--driver/gunner, radio operator and tank commander. The driver is seated low on the left side of the hull, while the commander is on the right side, slightly to the rear of the driver/gunner. Both are equipped with combined periscope/binocular sights and both can lay the gun. The commander also has the capability to drive the vehicle should he choose too or the need arise. The radio operator is seated to the rear of the driver and has controls to drive the S Tank backwards if necessary. Again, a unique solution to Sweden's concept of fighting a defensive campaign during the Cold War.

Lets get right to the best part of any tank---the CANNON!!! The main armament of the S tank is a rifled 105mm tank gun that is 62 calibers long--essentially a lengthened version of the famous British L7 series cannon. The gunner is actually the driver--who lays and fires the main armament. The cannon is fed by an autoloader that holds 50 rounds, with a typical loadout being 25 armor-piercing discarding sabot (APDS), 20 high explosive (HE) and 5 smoke rounds. With the autoloader, up to 15 rounds per minute can be fired. A hydraulic pump elevates the front or rear of the hull to lay the cannon on target, and the suspension locks when the gun is fired to provide maximum stability. To round out the armament, two 7.62mm machine guns are fixed on the left side of hull, while a third 7.62mm MG is mounted on the commander's cupola.

Another unique aspect of the S tank is their powerpack. The S tank actually has two engines--originally a Boeing gas-turbine engine and a Rolls Royce diesel engine. Both engines are geared together, with the diesel used all the time, and the gas-turbine engine was used only during combat.

In the late 1970s, a modernization and upgrade program was initiated for the S tank. The Rolls Royce diesel engine was replaced by a more powerful Detriot Diesel engine, and the transmission and fire control computer were upgraded. The upgraded S tank was designated Stridsvagen 103C.

During the upgrade, the S tank's other unique feature was added to these vehicles--lightweight bar armor to defeat shaped-charge warheads, such as those found on the RPG-7 rocket propelled grenade and AT-3 antitank guided missile. The S tank was actually the first operationally fielded MBT to be routinely fitted with bar armor. Steel bars formed a screen that was inserted into holes in the very front top part of the glacis plate. If a bar was damaged, it could quickly be removed and replaced. A modern-day equivalent of the Swedish bar armor can be found on the US Army's Stryker vehicle currently serving in Iraq.

VMMV Acronym

VMMV Acronym
The lexicon of armored vehicles is filling with a bewildering amount of acronyms. And at the VMMV we have a few of our own. Here we will have the VMMV word of the day so you may better understand the conversations you might overhear at VMMV.
"Pole Barn"--Hmm, don't most farmers store hay in a barn? And is VMMV farming telephone poles? Actually, in this case, the Pole Barn is where we store most of our vehicles. Located in a far section of the museum's property, the Pole Barn was constructed out of telephone poles (hence the Pole Barn nickname) and galvanized sheet metal to shield our growing collection from the elements. We pre-stage our vehicles from the Pole Barn in preparation for our Open House.

Calender of Events
Open House:

Mark your calendar now for the VMMV Open House
on 3 June. See below for details. All times approximate.
More details to follow in the next newsletter, so check back often!

1100 Narrated Demonstration of AFVs.
Hear the roar of their engines, the clank of their tracks, and the
earthshaking rumble as VMMV brings history to life with its parade of
historic armored fighting vehicles.

1215 The Battle of Iwo Jima.
Our keynote speaker will be Col. John Ripley, USMC (Ret), a Vietnam
combat veteran and recipient of the Navy Cross for action in 1972.
Before retiring, Col. Ripley served as the Director of Marine Corps
History and Museums. He is a student of the battle of Iwo Jima. We
expect that many veterans of that battle will be with us on June 3.

1345 Firepower Demonstration by the USMC Historical Company.
The climax of the VMMV Open House will be a simulated assault by
Marines on a bunker complex using WWII small arms, mortars, flame
thrower and armored vehicles that were used in the filming of Flags of
Our Fathers. This Clint Eastwood film that will be released later this

Have a great spring from all the staff and volunteers of VMMV.

Mike Panchyshyn-Editor