The Swedish Army
A first permanent standing Swedish Army (Armén) was founded in 1521. The country developed one of the longest military tradition in Europe, and built a Scandinavian Empire. It had also a long rivalry with Russia, culminating in the Gustavian Era (XVIIIth century). The war with Norway was the last conflict in 1814, before Sweden entered a long, peaceful era of neutrality.
This neutrality was maintained all long the XXth century, from ww1 to the end of the cold war. However, there was still defiance towards Russia, moreover the Soviet regime, which traduced by some involvement in the Finnish Civil War in January-May 1918. A few years after, the Army experimented its first armored unit, equipped with Swedish Tanks of German origin. It also maintained up to very recently a conscript army.
First tanks and armored cars (1922-1930)
Sweden soon had a sturdy industrial basis allowing to create armored cars, and later tanks in the 1930s. The first improvised armored cars were possibly used in 1918-19 already, mostly for security internal purposes. There is however no reported precise class of type and scarce photo evidence of this. Good roads were rare on the eastern borders and only practicable for a portion of the year, much reducing the use of armored cars. In 1921, former German LK-II light tank, at pre-production stage were bought and smuggled as “industrial tractors” in Sweden. These became the first Swedish tanks, known as the Stridsvagn m/21, later modified and upgraded as the m/29.
The Stridsvagn M21 was the first Swedish tank in service, also helping to create the first operational unit used for training until 1938.
In 1925 however, the Army took delivery of its first serie of armored cars, the Pansarbil (literally “armoured car”) 25. Three vehicles were manufactured, each almost unique, two in 1925 and one in 1926. The fm/26 had a Puteaux gun while the others had machine guns. In 1932, a single vehicle was built, the Pansarbil, FM/29 Oskarsham, by Landsverk. It had for the first time a four wheel drive and steering, allowing a rear driver. However cross-country capabilities were still insufficient, mostly due to power-to-weight limitations. In addition it was judged too costly and large for production. However this unique vehicle was kept in service for tests and instructions until 1946.
- Infanterikanonvagn 91
- Landsverk Lago
- Pansarbandvagn 301
- Pansarbil m/39
- Stridsvagn 103
- Stridsvagn L-60 m/38,39,40
- Stridsvagn m/21-29
- Stridsvagn M/41
- Stridsvagn M/42
L30 convertible tank/armoured car or wheel-cum-track in the 1930s.
Another interesting precursor was the Stridsvagn (STRV) FM/31 wheel-cum-track tank, designed in 1931 also by Landsverk. It was based on a German design of the early 1920s. It had a 150 hp engine, weighted 11.5 t and could top 75 kph on road and 35 kph cross country. In theory, the combination wheels/tracks allowed for extreme versatility on all terrain and conciliate both worlds but the manufacture and maintenance of this system was just too complex and fragile for military practice. Tests took place in 1935-36 but the tank was only kept for training until 1940.
Next serie of armoured cars, the Swedish Pansarbil m/31 looked like trucks with a large open cargo bay in which was installed an antitank gun. In all 32 vehicles were produced with Bofors on Volvo & Chevrolet truck chassis until 1940, some remaining in service until 1958. Protected only against small arms fire, they were still capable of reaching 60 km/h on road, for a 4.2 t weight.
Sweden also took delivery, for testing purposes, of two Carden-Loyd Mk V tankettes in 1929, used for training and evaluation until 1939, and the unique Stridsvagn fm/28, in fact a Renault NC 27 purchased from France in 1928 for evaluation and possible purchase. Problems with the transmission, tracks and suspensions cancelled the prospect and favoured instead the development of a domestic tank.
First mass produced tanks
After AB Landsverk, almost bankrupt, was re-capitalized by German investors (which took 60% shares), the company now directed by Otto Merker launched a successful family of armoured vehicles, both for export and domestic needs, the L180 6×6 and Lynx 4×4 armoured cars, the L120 Norwegian tank, and the first modern Swedish tank, the L-20 m/31. Only three prototypes were built of the latter, which helped secure the torsion bar concept and prepared for the first mass-produced Swedish tank, the Stridsvagn L-60 built up to 219 units and declined into the m/39, 40 and 41 series. Early German tanks like the Panzer II took a lot from the early precursor m/34, in terms of hull construction, turret design and suspensions.
The Landsverk L-180 was a successful export model, although production was limited.
ww2 Swedish Armoured Cars
In addition to the Pansarbil m/31 armoured trucks, the Swedish Army fielded two excellent armoured cars during ww2: The 4×4 Pansarbil m/39 “Lynx” armed with the same turret than the L60 light tanks, and the earlier Pansarbil L-180 serie of 6×6 armoured cars, which had quite export successes, along with their reputation of being reliable, fast and well protected. 48 were built and sold to the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and Ireland. Sweden only retained six in service.
Birth of the armoured corps
One of the earliest unit was the 1st training unit equipped with the Strv m/21 tanks, in 1921, and the 1st armoured cars units was the First Armored Car Platoon of 1926, equipped with the Pansarbil m/25 No. 602 (Pb 1- No. 1), to 603. It was also equipped with motorcycles and trucks and assigned to the Cavalry Regiment No.3 from Skövde. Tests were done with machine-guns, guns, radios, tracks and skis, plus different types of camouflages. Both units formed the backbone of future officers and instructors which helped creating the future active Swedish armoured units in the late 1930s.
However the first armoured regiments were created from 1939, when enough of the new light tanks were available, both from Czech purchases and locally-built. From 1943 on, the armoured force was bolstered by the arrival of its first medium tanks, the m/42. Before that, it received 48 Stridsvagn M/37 (Skoda AH-IV) light tanks and the Stridsvagn m/41 (similar to the Lt.Vz.38/Panzer 38(t)).
The 1936 resolution
In the 1936 the famous “Defence resolution” was passed. In Swedish, the Försvarsbeslut. Decision made about every five years, to form two tank battalions. As commented by Fale Burman, chief of “Army Procurement” in 1937, “This required the purchase of their main piece of military hardware, tanks. Already at an early stage, it was clear to us that if we simply chose the cannon-equipped tanks, we could have at most 15–20 of them.)”.
Landsverk Lago (1938)
This was a very early medium prototype, and would later become the basis of the m/42. The Lago was first drawn up in 1936 as a modern export medium tank by the Landsverk company, comparable to the early Panzer III or Škoda T22. A single prototype was built by Landsverk for military trials in Hungary. However, a Swedish ban on exporting military equipment meant that the prototype was delivered to the Swedish army instead. The tank was further developed into what would become the Strv m/42.
By 1939, 48 Czech-built tanks along with about 20 Landsverk L-120 tanks were in service, but it was just the beginning of a war program. Until 1890, the Swedish army had been organized into four divisions (along with the separate Northern Norrland and Gotland districts) but in 1942, a new military organization was adopted.
Along with the Strv m/34, the Landwerk m/31 helped to create the first series of Swedish tanks to equip armoured regiments.
Stridsvagn M42 (1943)
This medium tank, the first built in Sweden, was derived from the L60, and based on the same components, but with improved armour and a much powerful armament, for the first time a 75 mm gun. Also known Lago II-III-IV by AB Landsverk it was built to 282 units in several series until 1948 and remained in service until the 1980s, after being rebuilt as the Stridsvagn 74, armed with a new long barrel 75 mm and a brand new turret.
Neutrality in ww2
Despite this neutrality, Sweden looked more upon its eastern border than from the 3rd Reich. Indeed, it allowed the Wehrmacht to use Swedish railways to transport in June–July 1941 the whole 163rd Infantry Division, along with all its equipments and supplies, from Norway to Finland, to help the Finnish Army. In general the principle of “permittenttrafik” was maintained all along the war, and large supplies of Swedish iron were still sold and shipped to Germany until 1945.
On the other hand, Sweden passed military intelligence to the allies and helped train Danish and Norwegian refugees for clandestine operations in their own countries. From 1944, Swedish airbases were also opened to the allies. To the country\’s credit it should also be noted that nearly all Denmark\’s 8,000 Jews were successfully rescued by sea, along with others from occupied Norway and Finnish refugees. On the other hand in 1946, about 2,500 German and Baltic prisoners were transferred to the USSR where they were deported to labor camps.
The Landsverk L60, which counted as for the the third of the active Swedish tank force in ww2.
As a standing army, Sweden could muster in 1944 a full armoured division, strong with some 700 tanks: 215 L60, 220 m/41, and 282 m/42 backed with dozens of specialized vehicles and 36* modern armoured cars for reconnaissance. The m/41 and L60 were excellent light tanks by the standards of 1941, with a Bofors 37 mm rapid-fire cannon and up to 50 mm of frontal armour. With the war raging in Finland until 1945, the Soviet threat seemed real and mobilized the army, proceeding to large exercises and large contingents of conscripts maintained under arms until 1945.
*30 Lynx and 6 L-180.
The Cold War
In the new context of 1947, the soviet threat seemed even more real to Sweden which -although still neutral- tightened its relations with the West and NATO, although 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 supergiants 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 ground, air and naval assets as a whole. Even though on a political side, this position was more nuanced and these realist ties were maintained in a high secrecy level.
Its equipments were also from the western bloc -with a few exceptions- and therefore ammunitions standards, supplies and procedures were also NATO-oriented. One of the motive for such position was the alleged Soviet desire for a full military control and access to the North Atlantic, the cornerstone of the NATO defence, which necessarily passed through Scandinavia.
The Pansarbandvagn 301 in Strängnäs. This APC was a clever 1960s recycling of the old M/41 chassis.
In the 1960s the Swedish ground forces could count on a small, well-equipped professional core and a large conscript army. However, almost all tanks and armoured cars still dated back then from ww2; Some, like the Terrangbil m/42D SKP was maintained into service until the 1990s while many old models were recycled or modernized. Two good examples of this were the Pansarbandvagn 301 (1961) and the Strv 74. The First was the first Swedish APC (Armoured Personal Carrier), based on the m/41 chassis while the second was a complete overhaul and modernization of the Strv 42, standard Swedish medium tanks of ww2.
The Stridvagn 104 MBT – Swedish Centurions, were the staple of the Swedish MBT force until their replacement in the 1980s by the Leopard 2.
Strv 104 (late Centurion) kept at the Arsenalen, official Swedish tanks museum in Strängnäs. Notice the ERA blocks on the glacis plate.
However, these were never really up to the task and in the meantime, two new assets entered service as the Backbone of the armoured forces of Sweden : The British-built Centurion, 350 in all from several variants, locally denominated Strv 81, 101, 101R, 102, 102R and 104; and the Swedish-built, very special Strv 103.
The Stridvagn 103 or “S-Tank” one of the cornerstone of the Swedish defence in the 1970s.
The latter, better known as the “S-tank”, was a marvel of Swedish ingenuity and a concentrate of innovations, meeting the Swedish operational conditions including the best use of the landscape in defensive tactics.
It was a self-propelled gun, with an autoloader, a dozer blade, propelled by a turbine and suspended by active hydraulic units which directly participated to the elevation/depression of the gun, for a very optimized, unmatched hull-down position. As said before, both vehicles relied on the NATO standard 105 mm, L7 gun.
The Stridvagn 121, Swedish version of the Leopard 2A4, in winter exercises.
Due to its geographic particulars, Sweden long relied on a combination of strong coastal defence and a strong air force, but the land Forces received more attention in the early 1980s, with the introduction of the Leopard 2A4 (local designation Strv-121), replaced later by the Strv-122 or leopard 2A5 of which 120 are now constituting the bulk of the Armoured forces, along with the Bgbv 120 armoured recovery vehicle and the Pionierpanzer 3 Kodiak Combat Engineering Vehicle.
The 1970s Pansarsbandvagn 302 era APC were replaced recently by more modern AFVs and wheeled APCs like the Piranha III, but still, many are kept in second-line and reserve. Another interesting tank from the late 1970s and 1980s was the Infanterikanonvagn 91 which replaced previous tank hunters in service. It was a fast, sleek vehicle armed with a rapid-fire Bofors 90 mm cannon, of which 212 were delivered, retired from 1990 to 2002.
Less costly than these Military hardware, Volvo produced thousands of 4×4 and 6×6 for the Swedish Army, declined into a multitude of variants. The 4×4 Pltgb 903 infantry truck for example had good off-road characteristics and was really the motorized do-it-all APC in the 1960-1970s, declined into communications vehicle, anti-tank vehicle and ATGM carrier. These were gradually replaced by the 6×6 versions derived from the Terrängbil 11, comprising infantry tricks, APCs, communications vehicles, ambulances, artillery spotters, and MANPADS carriers. The light Tgb 1111 was an interesting “gun jeep”, a fast, cost-efficient and low-profile 4×4 armed with a 105 mm recoiless rifle.
The Stridvagn 122, Sweden\’s actual MBT (licence-built from KMW with some modifications) -120 are currently in service.
The Stridvagn 121, Swedish version of the Leopard 2A4, in winter exercises.
But the great overall speciality of the Swedish Armour was its numerous types of snow crawlers, articulated tracked vehicles, particularly suited for deep snow as specialized “winter APCs”. This comprised the 1964 Bv-202 (5000 built), the 1980 Bv-206 (4500 built) which replaced it (now around only 50 in service), as well as the Swedish/British BvS 10 or the Finnish-built Patgb XA180, both few in numbers. The formula was derived from usual snow crawler used in these latitudes or in high mountain, and usually contained the forward cabin, large enough for 5-6 and the rear payload tracked trailer, and an articulated system in between.
Like many other countries of the region, the end of the cold war signalled also large budget cuts in military spendings, and Sweden was no exception.
The swedish army took part in several joint military exercises after the end of the cold war and is an active member of the Nordic Battle Group, an UE defence Battlegroup specialized in winter exercises, of which a first edition took place in 2008 and another in 2011.
As of today, there are two regiments of infantry, the Life Guards (LG) stationed in Stockholm and the Norrbotten Regiment (I 19) stationed in Boden, one regiment and two battalions of cavalry (Life Hussars in Karlsborg and the Arméns Jägarbataljon in Arvidsjaur, the Stockholm Life Guards which also serves as MPs, one company of NBC warfare defence, the Armoured Corps or Pansartrupperna which counts three regiments of armoured/mechanized troops, at Skaraborg (Skövde), Revinge and Boden, one regiment of artillery in Boden, one regiment of anti-aircraft troops at Halmstad, one regiment of engineers at Eksjö (Gotland), a Signal Corps regiment and a Command and Control Regiment at Enköping, plus the Logistic Corps and Train Regiment in Skövde.
Here is the repartition of the military regions, according to the Militärområde (Milo) in the 1990s-2000s.
- Milo B, Bergslagens militärområde (Bergslagen Military Area)
- Milo M, Mellersta militärområdet (Middle Military Area)
- Milo N, Norra militärområdet (Northern Military Area)
- Milo NN, Nedre Norrlands militärområde (Lower Norrland Military Area)
- Milo Ö, Östra militärområdet (Eastern Military Area)
- Milo ÖN, Övre Norrlands militärområde (Upper Norrland Military Area)
- Milo S, Södra militärområdet (Southern Military Area)
- Milo V, Västra militärområdet (Western Military Area)
Infantry is equipped with various antitank weapons, the Grg m/48 recoiless rifle, the Pskott m/86 bazooka, the RB 57 AGM launcher, the fixed RBS 55/57 ATGW, and the RBS 70 MANPADS. Currently there is no helicopter force dependant of the Army for AT warfare, only transport ones for the Air Force, and the multi-purpose JAS 39 Gripen can be used with a variety of AT weapons range.
Due to its neutral position, the only interventions were limited to peace-keeping operations, which sometimes involved actual heavy fighting: In Congo in particular, during the Congo crisis of 1960–65, where the Swedish F 22 Kongo played its part, using Kp-Bils and Saab Tunnans against the rebel forces of Katanga. After the end of cold war, Swedish Soldiers showed their presence in Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Korea.
Modern equipments of the Swedish army on Wikipedia
Official webpage (forsvarsmakten.se)
Pansarmusem – Strängnäs Official website.
Pansarmusem – Strängnäs (personal page)
Surviving armoured cars of neutral states (pdf)
Swedish Strv 122, actual main battle tank – 120 are currently in service.
Swedish Strv-121/Leopard 2A4
Stridsvagn 81, 101 or 101R, the early centurion in Swedish service. In total 350 were in service in the 1960-80s.
Stridsvagn 103, or “S-tank”, the most remarkable Swedish tanks ever built.
The BAE Systems Hägglunds AB Combat Vehicle 90 is a family of IFVs that forms the conerstone of the Swedish Armour Force today.
CV 90 training in California, prior to the Afghan Intervention.
Infanterikanonvagn 91, light tank destroyer, another remarkable Swedish tank of the 1980s.
RG-32 Scout MRAPS (derived from the SADF RG-32 Nyala) also used in Afghanistan.
Archer heavy self propelled artillery system in action. The Panzerhaubitze 2000 was also tested.
The Bandkanone 1 155 mm tracked SPG. 26 were in service from 1967 to 2003.
Stridvagn 74, the modernized version of the ww2 Strv m/43. 659 were in service from 1958 to 1983
Hägglunds PVB 302 APC (over 650 built 1966-71) of which 50 are still in service today – here in Bosnia, 1996. now replaced by the CV 90.
Hägglunds Viking BV S10 Command unit
Modernized CV-90, testing at Stridsfordon in 2012
Swedish Piranha 3 wheeled APC. About 200 were in service (now retired).
Patria AMV, a Finnish APC – about 183 in service.
Pansarbandvagn 301 at Hässleholm.
BV 202 NF1
Pansarbandvagn 302 APC in Revinge
Pvb 401 in winter. About 460 MT-LBs were obtained in 1993 from surplus of the Soviet Union, only 147 were retained in active service by 2011, sold to Finland. Along these, 38 Pbv 4020 are kept in service, as well as 12 Stripbv 4021 Command vehicles, 10 Sjvpbv 4024 Medevacs and ? Pvrbbv 452 ATGM carrier.
KP-Bil at the Stockholm Army Museum. This 1942 vehicle remained in service until the 1990s.
Luftvärnskanonvagn fm/43 SPAAG in Strängnäs
Pvkv-9 m/43 tank hunter
Pvkv-9 II m/43 tank hunter
Stridsvagn 301 m/42 at Revinge in 2012. This was the main ww2 swedish medium tank.
The stridsvagn m/41 was of Czech design, but built in Sweden. It formed almost the third of ww2 swedish tanks.
Stridsvagn m/40K in Hässleholm. The L60 was the first tank to use torsion bar suspensions.
The rare “Risktanken” or L-120, the unique Norwegian tank built by AB Landsverk in 1936.