Sweden’s Stridsvagn 122 Tank is no household name like the M1 Abrams or even Russia‘s new T-14 Armata. And yet, this main battle tank could do some serious damage – Sweden is not the first country you think of when it comes to armored maneuver warfare. But they do have a main battle tank, based on a German Leopard import, that serves the Swedish army well. The Stridsvagn 122 has some enviable characteristics for the Scandinavian country that is now taking the possibility of joining NATO seriously since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. New Swedish conscripted troops are being trained on the Stridsvagn 122, which shows the Swedes are executing home defense in a more earnest fashion.
Ukraine Jumpstarts Swedish Stridsvagn 122 Readiness
The Swedes began planning their own combat training activities late last year as the Russians increased their military build-up on the Ukrainian border. They started removing some of the rust from their armored maneuver battalions that hadn’t trained on the Stridsvagn 122 in years.
Get Those New Soldiers Trained on the Tank
For example, the Swedish Gotland Regiment had not trained in a live-fire exercise with the Stridsvagn 122 since 2000. That’s an astonishing lack of training and shows that the Swedes have been neglecting realistic military maneuvers for new troops. So, it took the War in Ukraine to wake up the Swedish army.
Spend More on New Ammunition
The Swedish Army also began supplementing the Stridsvagn 122 with new ammunition recently. In a $27 million deal, the Swedes just ordered new Israeli M339 tank projectiles that are manufactured by Elbit Systems. It’s a step up for the Stridsvagn 122 that needed to happen.
According to Yehuda Vered, the general manager of Elbit Systems, “The M339 not only meets the requirements of the Swedish army but will significantly improve the accuracy and firepower of the Swedish main battle tank Stridsvagn 122 when operating on the battlefield and hit different types enemy targets,” he told Boyko Nikolov of BulgarianMilitary.com on March 21 of this year.
Good Thing It’s Based on German Technology
The Stridsvagn 122 entered the Swedish military in 1996 and by 1998 there were 180 tanks. It’s based on the Leopard 2A5 Main Battle Tank. That was a good move by the Swedes to pick such a tried-and-true platform. The significant benefit of the Leopard 2A5 is that it provided the Stridsvagn 122 with modern armor on the hull and turret. It also borrowed from the French a top-notch survivability system that can sense an infrared anti-tank missile and fire infrared decoys to spoof the incoming missile.
Internal Controls Have Been Modernized
The 68-ton Stridsvagn 122 is known for digital fire controls and an encrypted radio and internal comms system. The tank commander has his own computer terminal. The driver has a video monitor and there is a state-of-the-art navigation system.
Top of the Turret Armor Is Improved
The Swedish main battle tank has improved armor along the top of the turret which is a weakness for many tanks when anti-tank guided missiles use a deadly downward trajectory attack angle. The fire control system has been modernized as well over the original Leopard platform.
Stridsvagn 122 – Nothing Wrong With Its Engine or Firepower
It retains the twin-turbo diesel engine from the Leopard with a hefty 1,500 horsepower. There is a 120mm smoothbore main gun. A 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and a 7.62mm anti-aircraft machine gun is included.
The tank is made for the frontlines and to excel in tank-on-tank warfare, plus it is able to survive against improvised explosive devices and anti-tank mines.
There is much to admire about the Stridsvagn 122. Leopard tanks are known for reliability and survivability. There is ample firepower. The fire controls, navigation, and internal and external comms are up to date. The new Israeli projectiles will help even more.
But the Swedes need to beef up the numbers of troops who are qualified to operate their main battle tank. They must increase the operational tempo and practice realistic training in all weather and in night and day conditions. They will need to show they can complete live fire and maneuverability exercises, ideally against “red team” opposing forces that can be comparable to the rehearsals that tank forces in NATO countries execute.
If they can conduct this type of training, the Stridsvagn 122 will be the main battle tank that can better accomplish home defense missions for the Swedes.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.