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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
1100 Narrated Demonstration of AFVs.
Hear the roar of their engines, the clank of their tracks, and
earthshaking rumble as VMMV brings history to life with its
historic armored fighting vehicles.
1215 The Battle of Iwo Jima.
Our keynote speaker will be Col. John Ripley, USMC (Ret), a
combat veteran and recipient of the Navy Cross for action in
Before retiring, Col. Ripley served as the Director of Marine
History and Museums. He is a student of the battle of Iwo Jima.
expect that many veterans of that battle will be with us on
1345 Firepower Demonstration by the USMC Historical Company.
The climax of the VMMV Open House will be a simulated assault
Marines on a bunker complex using WWII small arms, mortars,
thrower and armored vehicles that were used in the filming of
Our Fathers. This Clint Eastwood film that will be released
Have a great spring
from all the staff and volunteers of VMMV.