Panzer 68/88 in the Panzermuseum Thun
|Type||Main Battle Tank|
|Place of origin||Switzerland|
|In service||1971 - 2003|
|Manufacturer||Eidgenössische Konstruktionswerkstätte Thun|
|Produced||1971 - 1983|
|Number built||390 (all versions); 195 68/88|
|Variants||Panzer 68; Panzer 68/75; Panzer 68/88|
|Length||9.49 m (374 in)|
|Width||3.14 m (124 in)|
|Height||2.72 m (107 in)|
|Armour||up to 120 mm RHA|
|1 x 105 mm Tank Gun Royal Ordnance L7 with 52 rounds|
|2 x Machine Gun Pz Mg 51/71 7.5 mm Swiss with 4000 rounds|
|Engine||MTU 8 cylinders V engine|
|Ground clearance||400 mm|
|200 km (120 mi)|
The Panzer 68 was a Swiss main battle tank developed by the 'Eidgenössische Konstruktionswerkstätte Thun' in the late 1960s.
History[edit | edit source]
The Panzer 68 was based on the Panzer 61 whose 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 70's, 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 (German-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 68 can still be seen in military museums around the world.
Technical Problems[edit | edit source]
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 in this matter listed dozens of technical problems. Among others, the NBC protection was found to be insufficient, forcing the crews to wear protective masks inside their tanks, thus greatly reducing the crew's performance. The experts also found out 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. Luck would have it that this problem never led to any accidents. In a sarcastic headline the 'Blick', a Swiss tabloid, commented: 'The Panzer 68 is much more dangerous than it seems!' 
Most of the mentioned problems were resolved with the upgrade to the 68/88 model.
Vehicles Based on The Panzer 68[edit | edit source]
Derivative vehicles[edit | edit source]
- Entpannungspanzer 65
- Recovery Tank 65 - vehicle recovery variant.
- Panzerkanone 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.
[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
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