1:72 Stridsvagen Strv 50, ‘995’ of the Swedish Army’s P4 Västra Stridsvagnskompani; Skövde, 1958 (Whif/Trumpeter kit conversion)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based on historical facts. BEWARE!
Towards the end of WWII, the Swedish Army's main tank was the Stridsvagen 42. It was a medium tank, modern in design and it was also well protected and mobile. It fielded a 75 mm L/34 gun, the first of its size in a Swedish tank and entered service with the Swedish army in November 1941. As a neutral nation in World War II Sweden did not engage in combat; thus its tanks had no battlefield record. Between April 1943 to January 1945, 282 Strv 42s were delivered.
After WWII, the Strv 42 was kept in service, but it was soon clear that it would not have enough firepower to defend Sweden against heavier tanks. The benchmark was the Soviet T-34/85 and the Soviet Union regarded as a major threat in the context of the rising tensions between Eastern and Western Blocs after WWII. The smoldering Korean conflict stirred this fear even more. The Soviet threat seemed even more real to Sweden, which - although still neutral - tightened its relations with the West and NATO, even though the country never joined the Atlantic organization.
This neutrality was especially hard to maintain with such proximity to the USSR borders, especially in the Baltic. In fact it would have been nearly impossible to Sweden to not take sides in case of an open war between the two super powers due to this strategic and geographic position.
The Swedish military was therefore more cautious to elaborate on scenarios of a Soviet invasion to model its combined ground, air and naval assets, even though this position was more nuanced on the political side and these realist ties were maintained on a high secrecy level.
Anyway, the armed forces needed modernization and therefore the Swedish Army decided in 1948 to develop and introduce a modernized or even new battle tank, which primarily incorporated a heavier cannon than the Strv 42, coupled with a more effective armor and high mobility.
In 1949 the Swedish government was secretly provided with the option of purchasing the American M46 Patton, but this offer was rejected as the tank was, with more than 45 tons, considered to be too heavy and too bulky for the local terrain and the Swedish Army’s tactical requirements. The same argument also initially turned down an offer for the British Centurion tank during that time. Consequently, the decision was made in the same year to develop a whole new tank around the Swedish Army's specifications.
The original requirements were:
- In order to effectively use a small number of tanks to cover up a large area, the size and weight of the tank had to be light enough for trains or special trucks to carry and to move on soggy ground.
- Due to the above target, the weight of the armor was limited around 25 tons, yet as heavily armored as possible.
- Main cannon had to be bigger than 75mm.
The Strv 42's chassis turned out to be too narrow for a bigger turret that could accommodate the bigger gun, a crew (of three) and a decent ammunition store.
Its armor concept with many vertical surfaces was also outdated, so that the development of a totally new chassis was started.
The new vehicle was aptly designated Strv 50.
The weight was the main concern since if this first constraint was met, the tank could also be transported by a specially modified truck through most major highways. The second constraint couldn't be met due to the mock up development team finding out that the armor would be too thin to protect the vehicle, even if anything was done to slope the surfaces and increase the armor’s effectiveness. As a result, the armor weight constraint was raised to 35 tons for a while.
However, this weight penalty led to delays in the production of the planned Volvo diesel engine, because the tank did not have enough power to attain good mobility with the overall weight raised by 40%.
The Strv 50 was of conventional layout, with a central turret and the engine located at the rear of the hull. The tank had a crew of four: a commander, driver, gunner and loader. A co-driver/radio operator who'd potentially operate a bow machine gun was omitted in order to save weight and internal space.
The hull was welded steel, with a cast steel turret. The maximum armor thickness was 64 mm.
The driver sat at the front right of the hull, with a hatch immediately above him, and three vision periscopes covering the forward arc. To the drivers left was the transmission, which could easily be accessed for servicing by removing a large panel on the front of the hull.
The track was driven from the front and had six rubber road wheels on each side along with three return rollers - inspired by American designs like the M24 or M26. The suspension was a torsion bar system with the first, second and sixth road wheel fitted with hydraulic shock absorbers.
The commander and gunner sat in the turret, with the commander on the right side provided with a large domed cupola with a hatch on the rear of it. The cupola had four vision blocks and a one-meter base stereoscopic rangefinder with x7 magnification. A further 8 mm machine gun could be mounted on the cupola for manual anti-aircraft use.
The gunner did not have a separate hatch and was seated in front of the commander. The gunner had a x6 magnification periscope, as well as a x6 magnification sight. The loader was provided with a hatch.
The main gun was the British 20 pounder cannon with 84 millimeter (3.3 in) caliber, outfitted with a horizontal sliding breach block and a 4.60 m (15 ft) barrel, 55 calibers in length. This weapon's APCBC projectile had a muzzle velocity of 1,020 meters per second and could penetrate 21 cm (8.3 in) of rolled homogeneous armor (RHA), and the alternative armor-piercing discarding sabot projectile even had a muzzle velocity of 1,465 m/s (4,810 ft/s) and could penetrate 30 cm (12 in) of RHA.
The 20-pounder could also fire high-explosive and canister shot. Storage was provided for 18 rounds in the bustle at the rear of the tank, with additional rounds being distributed in various positions inside the tank for a total of 58 rounds.
In the Strv 50 the gun was fitted with a muzzle brake that diverted firing gases sideways and reduced the amount of dust kicked up by firing. The main gun was not stabilized, so firing on the move was impractical, and the vehicle was not fitted with an NBC protection system or deep wading equipment. Three smoke grenade launchers were mounted on each side of the turret.
The tank was originally to be powered by a the proven VL 420 engine from the post-war 42 versions, but the increased total weight called for a more powerful engine. The result was a 570 horsepower Volvo VL 570 turbocharged V-8 engine. The engine was mounted at the rear of the hull and exhausting through pipes on either side of the rear of the hull. It was coupled with a manual electromagnetic ZF 6-speed transmission system.
Tests in 1952 and 1953 were successful, even though the prototypes had to be powered by the old VL 420 engine, the VL 570 only became available towards the end of the trials.
Nevertheless, the tank's modern suspension and good handling were major improvements compared to the 42, as well as the much more effective armor. In December 1953 the Strv 50 was cleared for production and the delivery of the first tanks started in late 1954. In service, the Strv 50 started to replace the WWII 42 in the heavy tank companies of the armored brigades.
However, just as production was turning up, the Soviet T-54/55 appeared on the scene and rendered the Strv 50 in its intended role as a main battle tank almost obsolete. The 20 pounder cannon was still adequate, but the rather lightly armored Strv 50 would not have been a true adversary for the new generation of Soviet tanks - a more heavily armored MBT was needed for the Swedish Army.
Since the Strv 50 did not offer the potential for an effective upgrade towards what was needed, the Swedish government eventually ordered the British Centurion tank as Stridsvagn 81. In consequence, the Strv 50 was relegated to reconnaissance and infantry support roles (much like the light American M41 Walker Bulldog tank) and the planned production of 250 vehicles was drastically cut back to just 80 which were delivered until 1959.
In the 1960s the Swedish ground forces could count on a small, well-equipped professional core and a large conscript army. However, many tanks and armored cars still dated back then from WW2. Some, like the Terrängbil 42D troop transport, were maintained into service until the 1990s while other old models were recycled or modernized. Even the Strv 42 soldiered on and was finally updated in 1958 to the Stridsvagn 74 standard as a supplement to the newly bought Stridsvagn 101 (a more modern Centurion variant with a 105 mm L7 cannon).
The Strv 50 served on until 1984, when it was phased out together with the Strv 74 and superseded by the Strv 103, the famous and unique, turret-less Swedish “S” tank.
Crew Four (commander, gunner, loader, driver)
Weight 35 tonnes
Length 6.03 metres (23 ft in) (hull only)
8,36 metres (27 ft 5 in) with gun forward
Width 2,95 metres (9 ft 6 in)
Height 2.49 metres (8 ft 1 1/2 in) w/o AA machine gun
Ground clearance: 495 to 510 mm (1 ft 7.5 in to 1 ft 8.1 in)
Fuel capacity: 820 l (180 imp gal; 220 US gal)
10–64 mm (0.8 – 2.5 in)
- Maximum, road: 46 km/h (28.5 mph)
- Sustained, road: 40 km/h (25 mph)
- Cross country: 15 to 25 km/h (9.3 to 15.5 mph)
Operational range: 200 km (125 mi)
Power/weight: 17.14 hp/t
VL 570 turbocharged V-8 diesel engine with 570 PS (420 kW)
ZF electromagnetic (6 forward and 2 reverse)
1× 90 mm kanon strv 50 L55 with 58 rounds
1× co-axial 8mm ksp m/39 strv machine gun with 3.000 rounds
Optional, but rarely used, another 8mm ksp m/39 strv machine gun anti aircraft machine gun
The kit and its assembly:
Another entry for the “Cold War” Group Build at whatifmodelers.com, and, as a shocker, it’s not a fictional aircraft but a tank! I came across Sweden as an operator because the country tested some German tanks (bought from France) after WWII, including the Panzer V ‘Panther’. While I considered a Swedish Army Panther I eventually went for an indigenous design for the late 50ies – the Strv 50 was born.
The basis is a JGSDF Type 61 tank (Trumpeter kit), more or less the whole body and chassis were taken over. The turret is different/new, a mix of a late WWII M4 Sherman (‘Jumbo’) turret from Wee Friends (resin and white metal) coupled with a white metal gun barrel and some implants from the Type 61 tank like the commander’s cupola or the gun mantle.
The result is a rather generic tank with some retro appeal – like a big brother to the M24 Chaffee or M41 Walker Bulldog, or like a dramatically modernized M4 Sherman?
Painting and markings:
Benchmark were pictures of Swedish post-WWII 42 tanks, painted in a disruptive 3 color scheme of grayish green, black and a light, reddish tan. I used FS 34096, RAL 7021 and French Earth Brown (all Modelmaster enamels) as basic tones. In order to give the vehicle a post WWII look I painted the small wheel hub covers in bright red – a decorative detail inspired by British Army vehicles.
Later the surface received a dark brown wash and some dry-brushing with ochre and grey. After decals were applied (all from the scarp box: the Swedish flags come from a H0 scale Roco Minitanks UN units sheet, the numbers are actually German WWII font), the kits was sealed with matt acrylic varnish.
Finally, the tank was treated with grey and brown artist pigments, simulating dust especially around the lower chassis.