Panzer 68

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Panzer 68/88
Kampfpanzer 68-88.JPG
Panzer 68/88
Type Main battle tank
Place of origin   Switzerland
Service history
In service 1971 - 2003
Used by Switzerland
Production history
Designed 1960s
Manufacturer Eidgenoessische Konstruktionswerkstaette
Produced 1971 - 1983
Number built 390 (all versions); 195 68/88
Variants Panzer 68; Panzer 68/75; Panzer 68/88
Specifications
Weight 40.8 tonnes
Length 9.49 m (31 ft 2 in)
Width 3.14 m (10 ft 4 in)
Height 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in)
Crew 4

Armour up to 120 mm Rolled homogeneous armour
Main
armament
1 x 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 gun with 52 rounds
Secondary
armament
2 x 7.5 mm Swiss Pz Mg 51/71 machine gun with 4000 rounds
Engine MTU V8 engine
485.4 kW
Power/weight 12.3 kW/T
Suspension torsion bar
Ground clearance 400 mm
Operational
range
200 km (120 mi)
Speed 55 km/h (34 mph)

The Panzer 68 was a Swiss main battle tank developed by the Eidgenoessische Konstruktionswerkstaette in Thun in the late 1960s.

History[edit]

The Panzer 68 was based on the Panzer 61, which initial development dates back to 1951. The development started immediately after the successful introduction of the Panzer 61. Improvements consisted of wider tracks, stabilized gun, and the introduction of a second machine gun instead of the coaxial 20mm gun of early Panzer 61 models.

In 1968 (hence the name) the Swiss parliament decided to buy 170 vehicles. Deliveries of the Panzer 68 started in 1971. In 1977 a second batch was manufactured. In the years between 1978 and 1983, a third and fourth batch followed. The last two lots were called either AA3 and AA4 or Panzer 68/75. The most important change was the introduction of a bigger turret.

The Austrian army showed some interest in the Panzer 68 in the late 1970s, but decided not to buy the model when the deficiencies of the system became public.

In 1992 the Panzer 68 underwent one more modernization program which introduced a new fire control system which was on a par with the system used in the new Panzer 87 (license-built Leopard 2) This new, improved version was called Panzer 68/88. Despite the improvements in the Panzer 68/88, the model was relegated to secondary tasks after the arrival of the Panzer 87. All Panzer 68 models were retired in the early years of the new millennium. The responsible authorities tried to sell some 200 to the army of Thailand, but the deal never went through and therefore, the remaining vehicles were demilitarized and sold for scrap in 2005.

Some Panzer 68s can still be seen in military museums around the world.

Technical problems[edit]

During the summer of 1979, the Weltwoche, then a highly regarded Swiss weekly, published an article regarding the shortcomings of the Panzer 68 that led to a scandal and, allegedly, to the resignation of the minister of defence, Rudolf Gnägi. In this article, the then chief of armoured forces of the Swiss army came to the conclusion that the Panzer 68 was "not fit for combat". A group of experts that was commissioned to produce a report on the matter listed dozens of technical problems. Among others, the nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection was found to be insufficient, forcing the crews to wear protective masks inside their tanks, thus greatly reducing the crews' performance. The experts also found that the gearbox did not allow for shifting into reverse while the vehicle was moving, forcing the crew to stop the tank before reversing. To make things even worse, the radios used in the tank tended to interfere with the turret control system, resulting in uncontrolled turret movements whenever the radios were used at full power.

A year before the Weltwoche article, another very dangerous fault was found. Switching on the heating system could lead to the main gun firing the round in the gun. This problem was caused by the fact that some systems shared the same electrical circuits. This problem never led to any accidents. In a sarcastic headline, Swiss tabloid Blick commented: "The Panzer 68 is much more dangerous than it seems!"[1]

Most of the problems were resolved with the upgrade to the 68/88 model.

Variants [2][edit]

  • Panzer 68 1st Series (Pz68); 170 built 1971-1974, all upgraded to Pz68 AA 2 in 1975-1977
  • Panzer 68 2nd Series (Pz68 AA 2); 50 built 1974-1977; one equipped with a new turret and updated as the Pz68/88
  • Panzer 68 3rd Series (Pz68/75); also named Pz68GT (Grosser Turm ("Big Turret")); 110 built 1978-1979, all upgraded to Pz68/88 in 1993
  • Panzer 68 4th Series (Pz68/75); 60 built 1983-1984, all upgraded to Pz68/88 in 1993
  • Panzer 68/88; one temporary prototype, upgraded Pz68 AA 2 with additional armour protection
  • Panzer 2000 (Pz2000); project, rejected in favor of the Leopard 2

Derivative vehicles[edit]

Entpannungspanzer 65
Recovery Tank 65 - vehicle recovery variant.
Panzerartilleriekanone 68
Brückenpanzer 68
Bridge Tank 68 - bridge-laying variant, with single-piece span instead of more common scissors bridge, capable of spanning 18.2 metres (59 ft 9 in) gap; 30 produced between 1974 and 1977 and used until 2011
Fliegerabwehrpanzer 68
Anti-aircraft Tank 68 - variant fitted with Flakpanzer Gepard turret, mounting two Oerlikon 35mm anti-aircraft guns, on Panzer 68 hull widened by 180 millimetres (7 in); two tanks modified and tested in 1979-1980, not placed into production
Zielfahrzeug 68
Target Vehicle 68 - mobile target for training troops in the use of the M47 Dragon American-made anti-tank missile; modifications included the removal of the turret and its replacement with a dummy turret and gun, extra easily replaceable steel skirt plates protecting the tracks, and running gear changed to the tracks and wheels of the Panzer 61.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Der Panzer, der von selber schoss
  2. ^ Book:Die Panzer der Schweizer Armee von 1920 bis 2008, Urs Heller
  • Betriebsanleitung Entpannungspanzer 65 (1972) K + W (Hrsg.): Entpannungspanzer 65 Betriebsanleitung. Nur für den dienstlichen Gebrauch. Auflage von 1972. K + W (Eidgenössische Konstruktionswerkstätten) - Thun(Entpannungspanzer 65 Operating Instructions. Only for official use. Edition of 1972. K + W (Swiss design workshops) - Thun)
  • Book Urs Heller: Die Panzer der schweizer Armee von 1920 bis 2008 [1]
  • Military Museum Full AG Switzerland

External links[edit]