The Second World War was rough for Norway. Falling to German invasion in April 1940, the country suffered 5 long years of occupation which only ended with the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945. Following this, Norway had to rebuild its military from the ground up. Luckily, after their surrender, the German Wehrmacht left behind vast stocks of equipment. This included rifles, machine guns, anti-tank guns, tools, and even some aircraft, all of which were adopted by the Norwegian Military (Forsvaret, Eng: “The Defence”).
A small number of tanks were also among the equipment left behind, a mix of various types of Panzer III and StuG IIIs. These were mostly of poor condition, however, so they went straight into storage. Fortunately for the Norwegian Military, the United States were keen to keep their European allies strong in the face of an increasing threat from the Soviet Union. As such, in 1946, Norway received 17 M24 Chaffees from the United States.
The Chaffee would give the Norwegian Army (Hæren) their first taste of operating a relatively modern armored vehicle, having not had a tank to operate since the single L-120 ‘Rikstanken’ of the late 1930s. Eventually, Norway would operate a total of 141 Chaffees and, through upgrades, would keep them in service until the early 1990s.
The M24 Chaffee
The M24 Chaffee, named after Army General Adna R. Chaffee, entered service in 1944, largely replacing the M3 and M5 Stuarts. It was a small tank, at 16 foot 4 inches (5.45 m) long, 9 foot 4 inches (2.84 m) wide, and 5 foot 3 inches (2.61 m) tall. It was also light at just 20.25 tons (18.37 tonnes). Armor on the vehicle was ¾ inch to 1 ½ inch (19 – 38 mm) thick. It was armed with the 75 mm Lightweight Tank Gun M6. It was operated by a 5 man crew, consisting of the commander, gunner, loader, driver and assistant driver/radio operator.
It was a very maneuverable vehicle, powered by twin Cadillac 44T24 8 cylinder petrol engines producing 220 hp combined. The transmission and drive wheels were located at the front of the vehicle. The Chaffee rolled on 5 paired roadwheels attached to a torsion bar suspension. The fifth road wheel was attached to the idler wheel at the rear of the running gear. This is because the idler was of the compensating type, meaning it was attached to the closest roadwheel by an actuating arm. When the roadwheel reacted to terrain, the idler was pushed out or pulled in, keeping constant track tension.
Armament consisted of the 75 mm Lightweight Tank Gun M6 which had a concentric recoil system (this was a hollow tube around the barrel, a space-saving alternative to traditional recoil cylinders). Variants of this gun were also used on the B-25H Mitchell Bomber, and the T33 Flame Thrower Tank prototype. The gun had a muzzle velocity of 619 m/s (2,031 ft/s) and had a maximum penetration of 109 mm. The elevation range of the gun was around -10 to +13 degrees. Secondary armament included the coaxial .30 Cal (7.62 mm) Browning M1919 Machine Gun, and the .50 Caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning Heavy Machine gun which was mounted on the rear of the turret roof.
Norway received its first Chaffees after the Second World War, when US troops stationed in the country left the Norwegians 17 M24s when they withdrew. Further military aid came from the US under the ‘MAP’, starting in 1946. The ‘Military Aid Program’ benefited the war-ravaged countries of the Second World War by providing them the means to rebuild their military and defenses. Other countries that benefited from the MAP included France, Portugal, and Belgium, but also former enemy nations such as West Germany and Japan. The initial 1946 delivery was sent directly to Trandum leir, a Norwegian Army Camp (now closed) near Ullensaker.
In 1949, Norway and the West became an even more united front. In April, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed, and NATO was born with Norway a founding member. As it shared a border with the Soviet Union, it was seen as a crucial partner. With this close proximity to the potential enemy, invasion was expected. The focus of the Norwegian military at this time was defending its strategically important airfields. For this, three Dragoon Regiments were created; ‘DR 1’, ‘DR 2’ and ‘DR 3’. These were split between various airfields. These included Gardermoen, Eggemoen, Sola, Fornebu, Værnes, and Bardufoss. To give an idea of the strategic importance of some of these airports, Gardermoen was located near Oslo, the capital of Norway, and was the main base of the Luftforsvaret (Royal Norwegian Airforce). Sola, located on Norway’s south-eastern coast, was an important link with the western Allies. Værnes, located roughly in central Norway, allowed transit to the North and South of the country.
Initially, the garrison forces were equipped with recycled Panzer IIIs and StuG IIIs left behind by the surrendering German forces. In Norwegian service, these were called Stridsvogn KW-III and Stormkanon KW-III, respectively. Due to a lack of available M24s, the garrison forces were equipped mostly with these aging vehicles. Thanks to the birth of NATO, however, Norway began to receive more military aid, and the number of M24 Chaffees available to the Army vastly increased. By 1951, the entire KW-III force had been replaced by the plentiful Chaffees. As a result, all airport garrison dragoon regiments were re-armed with the Chaffee*. Norway received its last Chaffee in 1955; however, MAP did not just provide tanks. Through this program, the Norwegians received 300 fighter aircraft, 8,000 vehicles of various types, 800 field guns, and 100,000 tonnes (110,200 tons) of ammunition.
Norwegian Chaffees also had a royal connection. From 1955 to 1957, Prince Harald (now King Harald V) served in a Chaffee crew during his conscription years in the Norwegian Armed Forces.
The M24s gave the Hæren excellent service for many years, but come the late-1960s, the M24 was obsolete, and an upgrade program began. This resulted in the NM-116 and NM-130. Four unmodified M24s were given to the Heimevernet (the Norwegian Home Guard) which operated them well into the late 1970s. Any leftover vehicles were either sent to the ranges, or placed into storage.
The majority of tanks that remained after their retirement from the Heimevernet were either scrapped or sent to military firing ranges. A small number of vehicles – exact amount unknown – were used as static coastal defenses. For this, their turrets were removed and placed on concrete plinths. When not in use, the turrets were covered with a camouflaged metal ‘shed’ to keep them concealed. When needed, the ‘sheds’ were raised via hydraulics. In a fashion similar to the KW-III turret placements at Ft. Bjørnåsen, these turrets were part of a larger bunker system. An example of this is a bunker system was located in Harstad, in the far north of Norway. The turrets remained in place until the end of the Cold War (early-1990s), after which they started to be removed. The last use of the standard Chaffee came in 2002, when it featured in a rather risqué Norwegian mineral water commercial.
By the late-1960s, the Chaffee was getting a little bit long in the tooth. Naturally, the Forsvaret began looking for a way to increase the lethality of their tank arm. At this time, however, Norway was not the richest of countries so, instead of spending millions of Kroner on a new vehicle, they chose to upgrade the Chaffee. The Oslo based company of Thune-Eureka A/S was chosen to develop the upgrades, which incorporated a new 90 mm main gun, a new, more powerful engine, a new transmission, and various other modernizations.
The upgrade program centered around a new main armament, consisting of a French D/925 Low-Pressure 90 mm gun. Firing a Hulladingsgranat M62 High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) round, the weapon was capable of defeating up to 320 mm (12.6 in) of armor, a vast improvement over the M24s original 75mm gun. This was complimented by a new coaxial Browning .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine gun, and a laser range-finder placed over the barrel. The main automotive upgrade was the replacement of the original engine with a new Detroit Diesel 6V-53T. Other, smaller modifications included a new Leopard 1-style rubber-pad track, a new sprocket wheel, new radios, and German-made smoke dischargers.
This upgraded vehicle, now designated NM-116, entered service in 1975. With the new upgrades came a new role. The upgraded Chaffee went from being a light tank, to a tank destroyer, hence ‘Panserjager’. The NM-116 was an ‘ambush predator’, and would use its small size and good maneuverability to outflank the enemy, engage, and then withdraw along pre-arranged lanes of engagement. The NM-116 was a successful conversion, but by the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the tank was becoming obsolete. Its gun simply did not have the penetrative power to combat modern armored fighting vehicles. This led to the NM-116 receiving the nickname ‘Pansernager’, literally meaning ‘Armor Nibbler’ due to the weapon’s lack of killing power. Nevertheless, the tank served the Norwegian Army well for 18 years, finally being retired in 1993.
To support the new NM-116, it was also decided that a new Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV), or ‘Bergepanser’, be developed. For this, four Chaffees were separated from the NM-116 project. The conversion work to turn the vehicles into ARVs was undertaken by Kvaerner Eureka AS. The four Chaffee hulls went through the same automotive upgrades as those being upgraded to NM-116 standard. The turrets, however, were completely removed and replaced with a large crane. A small dozer blade was also installed on the vehicle’s lower glacis.
This ARV was designated the NM-130 Bergepanser. The large pivoting crane was telescopic and could be raised or lowered by a hydraulic ram. It had a 2 to 7 tonne (2.2 – 7.7 ton) capacity, with integral 19-tonne (21 ton) capacity winch. The crane had a relatively low lift capacity as it was not designed to lift an entire vehicle, rather just its components. The 2-7 tonnes lift capacity was more than enough to hoist the NM-116’s Detroit Diesel engine which weighed just 600 kgs (1323 lbs). It was necessary that the cable have quite a high tensile strength so it could tow or retrieve the NM-116. For this, the cable was threaded through fairleads (a device that guides a line, rope or cable) placed behind the winch drum. This allowed the vehicle to tow vehicles behind it. To do this though, the crane would have to be traversed 180 degrees. The NM-130’s dozer blade performed three main roles: light earthmoving operations/obstacle clearance, support during lifting operations, and anchorage when winching.
The Bergepanser entered service around the same time as the NM-116 and left service with its tank-killing brother in the early 1990s. There is a possibility that it stayed on in service a little longer to serve Norway’s fleet of M48s and Leopard 1s, but concrete evidence of this cannot be found.
The Chaffee gave the Norwegian Army one of its earliest experiences in the operation of relatively modern armor after the Second World War, and served as its primary tank for many years. In total – thanks to the NM upgrade programs – the M24 gave the Hæren approximately 47 years of service, making it one of Norway’s longest-serving armored vehicles. This is surpassed only by the now 56 years of the M113 which – again thanks to upgrade programs – has remained in Norse service since around 1964.
Not many unmodified Norwegian Chaffees remain, however, there are a few. In the late-90s, early-2000s, the Norwegians began removing the Chaffees from their ranges and storage. A few vehicles went to Museums around Norway, but Museums around the world also began buying them and restoring them for display. An example of such a vehicle can be found at The Museum of the American G.I. in College Station, Texas, USA. The vehicle has since been restored to a fully operational condition.
A Stridsvogn M24 of Stridsvogneskadron Sola. The emblem on the turret side is one still commonly used in the Kavalerieskadronen (Armoured Cavalry), and is a representation of the Norse God Odin and his Ravens. Illustration produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.
5.45 (without gun) x 2.84 x 2.61 m (16’4″ x 9’4″ x 5’3″)
Medium Tank & Assault Gun – 61 Pz. IIIs & 10 StuGs Obtained
Norway was left battered and bruised by a 5-year long German occupation (April 1940 – May 1945) that only ended with the capitulation of German forces at the end of the Second World War in Europe. Retreating German forces left a large quantity of equipment in their wake. Rifles, machine guns, anti-tank guns, tools, and even some aircraft were left behind and claimed by the now free and rebuilding Norwegian Military (Forsvaret, Eng: “The Defence”). Many armored vehicles were also left behind, mostly consisting of various types of the Panzerkampfwagen III medium tanks (both long-barrelled 50 mm and short-barreled 75 mm gun-armed models) and a few Sturmgeschütz III assault guns.
Eager to protect their newfound freedom, the Forsvaret adopted these surplus vehicles. They would sit in storage for a few years until 1948 , when the Norwegian Military – preparing for a possible Soviet invasion – devised a defensive plan for Norway’s strategic airfields. Not wanting to relegate their small M24 Chaffee force to guard duty, the Army activated the obsolete Panzers.
The ex-Wehrmacht Panzers and StuGs, which were renamed Stridsvogn KW-III and Stormkanon KW-III respectively, filled this role until the early 1950s, when they started to be replaced by an increasing number of M24 Chaffees donated by the United States.
Stridsvogn KW-III (Panzer III)
The Panzerkampfwagen III (Sd.Kfz. 141) medium tank was developed in the mid-1930s and was designed to fight enemy tanks alongside its larger brother, the Panzer IV, which was originally intended to support the Panzer III and friendly infantry.
The Panzer III had very good mobility for its time. It was powered by a 12-cylinder Maybach HL 120 TRM 300 PS, producing 296 hp. This propelled the 23-tonne vehicle to a top speed of 40 km/h (25 mph). A running gear consisting of 6-road wheels per side supported the tank’s weight. The road wheels were attached to a torsion bar suspension. The drive sprocket was at the front, while the idler was at the rear. The return of the track was supported by 3-rollers.
The tank was operated by a 5-man crew consisting of a Commander, Gunner, and Loader in the turret, with the Driver and Radio Operator/Bow Machine Gunner in the hull.
Two main types of Panzer III were left behind and reused by the Norwegians. These were both later model Panzers, being the Ausführung N and mix of Ausführung J, L, & Ms. The N was the last model of Panzer III. Armed with a short 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 gun, it was intended to act as an infantry support vehicle firing mostly High-Explosive (HE) shells. It could also fire Armor Piercing (AP), High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) and Smoke shells. The Ausf. J, L, and Ms were all armed with the 5 cm KwK 39 L/60. This was a tank-killing gun, and could penetrate up to 130 mm (5.11 in) of armor firing an Armor-Piercing Composite Rigid (APCR) shell. All of these variants were equipped with a coaxial and bow-mounted 7.92 mm MG 34 machine gun.
As later model Panzer IIIs, the majority of the tanks were equipped with an add-on armor kit known as ‘Vorpanzer’. This consisted of armor plates being added on the upper hull plate and gun mantlet. This boosted the original armor thickness of 15 mm to 50 mm. A few of the vehicles were also equipped with Schürzen add-on armor on the turret and hull sides.
Stormkanon KW-III (StuG III)
The Sturmgeschütz were a series of assault guns that found a successful role as tank destroyers. The StuG IIIs were based on the chassis of the Panzerkampfwagen III medium tank. The Panzer III’s turret and superstructure were removed from the hull and were replaced with an armored casemate. Armor on the vehicle was 16 to 80 mm (.62 to 3.15 in) thick.
The StuG was powered by the same 12-cylinder Maybach HL 120 TRM as the Panzer III, which propelled the 24-tonne (26 ton) vehicle to 25 mph (40 km/h). The StuG was manned by a crew of 4, consisting of a Commander, Gunner, Loader, and Driver.
At least 2 types of StuG III were reused by the Norwegians. These were the Ausführung F/8 and the Ausführung G. There were only minor differences between the two, with the Ausf. G being based on Panzer III Ausf. M hull with a redesigned (and widened) superstructure. Both StuGs were armed with the 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 (an anti-tank gun derived from the PaK 40). This was a powerful anti-tank gun, with a maximum penetration of 176 mm (6.9 in) firing an APCR shell.
The first Panzer IIIs to see deployment in Norway were from the Panzer-Abteilung z.b.V. 40. This unit had been originally created for the invasion of Norway and was originally equipped with Panzer I, Panzer II, and Neubaufahrzeug tanks. However, during the invasion, it lost several tanks during the fighting against the Norwegian and British forces, including multiple Panzer Is and one of the Neubaufahrzeugs. To replace these losses, the last five production Panzer III Ausf. Ds were sent from Germany. Later on, the unit was further reinforced with around 15 more Panzer IIIs of Ausf. G and Ausf. H variety. These tanks arrived after the Invasion of Norway and didn’t partake in any fighting. They did, however, get their baptism of fire in June 1941 when the Pz.Abt.z.b.V. 40 was sent to secure the Finnish Lapland front as the Continuation War began with German and Finnish Forces fighting against the Soviets.
The Pz.Abt did not leave Finland until December of 1942, when they were re-deployed in Norway, leaving some of their obsolete equipment behind. Amongst other things, 16 Panzer Is and the three remaining Panzer III Ausf. Ds were left in Finland for the newly formed Panzer-kompanie 40 to use. Pz.Abt. z.b.V. 40 itself saw no further action and was disbanded on June 10th, 1943. It is then believed that its remaining equipment and personnel were passed on to the 25th Panzer Division (Wehrmacht) which was, at the time, based in Oslo.
The 25th Panzer Division had originally been formed as the “Schützenverband Oslo”. Early on, it operated mainly captured French Somua S35 and Hotchkiss H35 tanks but later received Panzer III and IV tanks as well as a few StuG III assault guns. Its original intended purpose was to serve as a potential rapid response force for the invasion of Sweden. However, as the war with the Soviet Union dragged on, it was decided that most of the 25th Panzer division would depart from Norway in the fall of 1943 and be moved to the Eastern Front. Those parts of the 25th that would stay in Norway would form a new unit called the “Panzer Division Norway ”. This arrangement, however, would not last for long as, in May 1944, it was transferred to Denmark in order to reinforce the 25th Pz. division. What remained in Norway was briefly reorganized into the Panzerabteilung Norwegen. This however, would also not last long as the unit again went through several restructurings before finally ending up as the Panzerbrigade Norwegen. The unit remained in this form until the end of the war. At the moment of its surrender to the British forces in May 1945, it had 25 Panzer IIIs with the 5 cm KwK 39, 36 Panzer III Ausf. Ns, and 10 StuG III assault guns of Ausf. F/8 and Ausf.G variety. How most of these tanks ended up in Norway is, however, a bit of a mystery.
Fahrgestell Numbers – meaning chassis numbers – help us track the unique history of German vehicles. Thanks to these, we know the specific history of 4 Panzer IIIs, as they survive today in Norway. These are Fahrgestell 66158, 73651, 74352 and 76219. 66158 was an Ausf. H, built by Motorenwerke Augsburg Nuremberg (MAN) in 1941 and would have been equipped with the short 5 cm KwK 39 L/42 gun. At some point, however, its turret was replaced with an Ausf. N or M turret with the short 75 mm. 73651 is an Ausf. J, originally built by Henschel und Sohn in May, 1941 before being upgraded. 74352 had an interesting history. It served with the infamous SS Division “Das Reich” between 1942 and 1943 in France and on the Eastern Front. Lastly, 76219 was built by MAN in 1943. It was part of one of the first batches of Ausf. Ms produced and was deployed by Panzer-Grenadier Division “Grossdeutschland” on the Eastern Front in 1943. The number 76149 is also recorded in relation to one of the Pz.Kpfw III, Fgst.Nr 73651. This has led to some confusion as 76149 is actually one of the StuGs, an Ausführung G.
Thanks to the Fahrgestell numbers, this information is known to us, but quite how these things ended up in Norway by the war’s end is currently a mystery. After 1943, many of these units were re-equipped with more powerful and newer tanks, so it is possible that these tanks were sent to Norway as it was a less crucial part of Germany’s war effort, ergo, units stationed there were not in need of the latest armored vehicles. It is also possible that these vehicles were damaged during fighting, sent back to Germany for capital repair and refurbishment and then allocated to quieter sectors. This would explain the fact that some of the known vehicles are older models that had been upgraded.
The origin of the StuGs is less well documented, unfortunately. It is unknown how many of the 10 StuGs remained operable, and what their origins were. At least 4 StuG III Ausf. F/8s were operated in Norway during the War by Panzerjäger-Abteilungen 14, 14th Luftwaffen-Felddivision, so this may be where at least 4 came from. There were at least two Ausf. Gs handed over, but their origins are unknown.
Adoption by Norway
The Panzers that were adopted into the Norwegian Army were of varying quality, some of them had even been sabotaged by the Allies. Like the majority of Panzer IIIs that were still in service at war’s end, many of them were upgraded older models, having been upgunned or up-armored. Many were also equipped with Schürzen armor and/or Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste. A vast majority of them were handed over as the Germans surrendered. For example, at least 15 Panzer IIIs of various types were handed over with the surrender of Panzer-Brigade “Norwegen” at Trandum, southeast Norway, in May 1945.
With the mysterious origin of the StuG, it is unclear as to what condition the vehicles were in upon adoption. Assuming 4 Ausf. F/8s came from Pz.Jg.Abt 14, and taking into account the two known Ausf. Gs, that accounts for 6 StuGs. The stories of the 4 outstanding vehicles are unknown also, though, as with the Panzers, it is possible that these were simply kept as donors for spare parts.
With the end of the Second World War, Norway was once again facing the possibility of invasion, this time from the Soviet Union with which it shared a northern border. In 1945, Norway began to receive aid under the US-led ‘MAP’. The ‘Military Aid Program’ benefited the war-ravaged countries of the Second World War by providing them the means to rebuild their military and defenses. In the case of Norway, this meant the delivery of the M24 Chaffee light tank, starting in 1946. The Chaffee would give the military their first taste of operating a relatively modern armored vehicle, having not had a tank since the L-120 ‘Rikstanken’ of the late 1930s.
In 1948, with the perceived threat from the USSR, the Norwegian Military decided that it was crucial to keep its major air bases protected. It was decided that the most important of these were Gardermoen, Eggemoen, Sola, Fornebu, Værnes, and Bardufoss. To give an idea of the strategic importance of some of these airports, Gardermoen was located near Oslo, the capital of Norway, and was the main base of the Luftforsvaret (Royal Norwegian Airforce). Sola, located on Norway’s south-eastern coast, was an important link with the western Allies. Værnes, located roughly in central Norway, allowed transit to the North and South of the country.
It was decided that each airport would need its own unit consisting of armored vehicles and platoons of troops. At this time, however, Norway only had 17 Chaffees to its name, and the Army was not going to allocate its only ‘modern’ tank to guard duty. With the surplus Panzers in storage, it was decided that it was time for them to fill a role.
Only around 25 of the Panzers IIIs were in operable condition. The remaining 36 vehicles were mostly used as donors for spare parts. The best of these were themselves repaired and rearmed as best as possible. This work was carried out at Trandum, an Army base just north-east of Oslo. It is unknown how many of the Panzer IIIs with the short 7.5 cm KwK 37 guns were true Ausf. Ns. With the recycling of various parts from the stock of spare tanks, it is highly likely that many of them were artificial, being older models with later guns. This may also be true for some of the 5 cm KwK 39 L/60 gun-armed tanks. One detail to mention is that the Norwegian crews kept an MG42 7.62 mm machine gun mounted on the Commander’s cupola. Another unknown is if the tanks were re-painted, and if so, what color. At this time, the tanks would have remained in their original, Wehrmacht colors.
Understanding fully that the Panzers and StuGs – now renamed the Stridsvogn KW-III and Stormkanon KW-III, respectively – were all but obsolete at this point, they were not going to field them as front line tanks, but rather keep them as defensive vehicles. The 25 Strv KW-IIIs and 10 Stkn KW-IIIs were divided between the newly created Airport Defense regiments. These regiments were raised between November and December 1948. They consisted of the 1st Dragoon Regiment (raised at Akershus) stationed at Sola and Fornebu, the 2nd Dragoon Regiment (raised at Oppland) assigned to Gardermoen and Eggemoen, and the 3rd Dragoon Regiment (raised at Trøndelag) assigned to Værnes and Bardufoss. The Norwegian army found the 5 cm gun of the Strvs to be lacking in tank-killing power, so each unit was equipped with at least one StKn KW-III or a towed 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun. These guns also came from ex-Wehrmacht stocks adopted at the end of WW2. In October 1949, the Dragoon Regiments officially began to garrison the airports. The tank crews consisted of 22 men. Also at their disposal were motorcycles, Willys Jeeps, and Fordson ¾-ton (.68 tonne) trucks.
Also in 1949, Norway and the west became an even more united front. In April, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed, and NATO was born with Norway a founding member. As it shared a border with the USSR, it was seen as a crucial partner. Thanks to this, Norway began to receive more military aid, and the number of M24 Chaffees available to the Army vastly increased. By 1951, the entire KW-III force had been replaced by the 125 Chaffees Norway now had. By 1949, it would appear, the vehicles seem to have been painted in the same basic olive green used on the Chaffees. For winter, they were covered in a rough white-wash haphazardly lashed on by hand. This method of whitewashing lasted into the 1980s.
With more Chaffees at their disposal, the Army began to phase out the recycled KW-IIIs. Both the Stridsvogn and the Stormkanon stayed on in service at Bardufoss as training vehicles for future Norwegian tankers. We know that Fgst.Nr 74352 – known as ‘Yellow 3’, Fgst.Nr 66158 – known as ‘Yellow 2’, and Fgst.Nr 76219 – known as ‘Yellow 1’ were among them*. The tanks served here until 1953, when the Army found a rather unique role for them to fill…
*These tanks are known by these names due to the fact that they had large yellow numbers painted on the sides of their turrets. The function of these numbers is unknown, however.
In 1953, the garrison of Bardufoss Airfield began to dig their 7.5 cm gun-armed Stridsvogns into static defensive positions connected to Fort Bjørnåsen, ‘Yellow 3’, ‘2’, and ‘1’ amongst them. This fort was located in the grounds of the airfield, and was a system of former Luftwaffe bunkers built during WW2. For the defense of the airfield, the Norwegians expanded upon it. The purpose of the bunker and the static tanks was to cover the airfield from as many angles as possible, should an enemy attempt to storm it. The priority target of the 7.5 cm guns would be any aircraft that attempted to land. The tanks were dug into pits roughly 4 meters (13.1 ft) wide, 5.5 meters (18 ft) long with a 3.25 meter ramp, and 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) deep, leaving just their turrets above the ground. A simple wooden shelter was constructed over them. Inside, the tanks were completely stripped. The engine, transmission, driveshaft and other components housed in the hull were completely removed. With all power-providing components removed, the turrets would have been traversed manually. A hole was cut into the hull of the tanks, to which a concrete tunnel was connected, which allowed direct access to the fort, provided a protected entranceway for the crew, and allowed a direct means of ammunition resupply.
The KW-III turrets remained in place into the 1960s, by which time they became obsolete. The turrets were replaced with 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns. For these, new concrete emplacements were built beside the buried tanks. A new hole was cut into the side of the buried tanks to connect them to the new structures to allow the use of the old ammunition tunnels. Earth was then built up around the new emplacements, completely burying the tanks.
Rather frustratingly, despite extensive searches and inquiries by both writers, no pictures can currently be found of the Panzer turrets in situ during their time in operation.
The majority of the Stridsvogn and Stormkanon KW-III fleet was retired by 1953. Much of the fleet was scrapped with the rest ‘sentenced to death’ as targets on various ranges. The Strvs that were dug into the bunker complex at Fort Bjørnåsen were simply forgotten once they were buried.
From 1943, Finland, Norway’s eastern Scandinavian Neighbour, had operated a fleet of StuG IIIs. These were initially bought from Nazi Germany, but they remained in service post-war. By the late 1950s, however, there was a severe spare parts shortage. In 1958, the inspector of the Finnish Army’s tank section and member of the Ordnance Division, Aaro Manskinen, traveled to the Norwegian Fjords on leave. While there, he by chance happened upon a stock pile of Panzers in various states of disrepair. It soon became clear that the Norwegian Ministry of Defense was looking to sell this pile of – what was then considered – scrap. After some initial troubles due to the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty – which blocked Finland from purchasing equipment from or of German origin – a deal was agreed. 20 Panzer IIIs, 1 StuG, 10 Maybach engines, and a pile of spare parts were sold to Finland. Upon arriving in Finland, the tanks were disassembled and all useful parts were stored for later use. This kept Finland’s StuG fleet in operation well into the 1960s.
It wasn’t until November 2007 that the first Fort Bjørnåsen Panzers (Fgst.Nr 74352, 66158, 76219) began to be excavated, with a second two being uncovered in August 2007.
Today, just 7 of the Panzer IIIs (of various types) and 2 of the StuG III Ausf. Gs survive. Panzer IIIs Fgst.Nr 74352 (‘Yellow 3’), Fgst.Nr 66158 (‘Yellow 2’), and Fgst.Nr 76219 (‘Yellow 1’) are among them. ‘Yellow 3’ currently resides at Troms Forsvarsmuseum, Setermoen, awaiting restoration. ‘Yellow 2’ is currently undergoing full-scale restoration at Muzeum Broni Pancernej, Poznań in Poland, where it has been since 2013. ‘Yellow 1’ was transferred to Finland in 2013.
Fgst.Nr 73651, a Panzer III Ausf. J, was put into storage at the Oslo Defence Museum in 1964. In 1988, it was loaned to Memorial de Caen, Normandy. It was recently returned to Norway. A ‘Tankenstein’ Panzer III consisting of a Ausf. G/H hull and an Ausf. N turret can be found at the André Becker Collection in Belgium. The vehicle left Norway in the late 1940s and was located in Sweden until the 1980s. The others, an Ausf. N and an Ausf. M, can be found at Rena Military Camp, Norway, and the Wheatcroft Collection, UK, respectively.
As for the two StuG III Gs, Fgst.Nr 76149 has been cosmetically restored and currently resides in storage at the Forsvarsmuseet, Trandum. Another, which is simply the remains of a rusting hulk, can be found at Rogaland Krigshistorisk Museum.
Norway’s use of the Panzer III and StuG III is a prime example of ‘make do and mend’. Eager to defend themselves from the increasingly threatening Soviet Union, they activated equipment that was obsolete years before the Second World came to an end. What effect these vehicles could have had on Soviet Tanks is debatable. This, however, was not their intended role. Being assigned to airport garrison forces, their primary role was to engage troops and aircraft attempting to land.
The use of the Panzers and StuGs allowed the recovering Norwegian army to train their first batch of tank crews and allowed them to practise and train on a scale that would have been impossible with only the initial number of M24s. This allowed Norway to build up its fleet of more modern M24 Chaffees, and save them for active duty in a combat scenario, should the need have arisen.
An article by Mark Nash and Konsta Pylkkönen.
Illustration of Stridsvogn KW-III ‘Yellow 1’ (Fgst.Nr 76219). Originally built as an Ausf. M, it was later brought to Ausf. N standard and fitted with the short 7.5cm KwK 37. ‘Yellow 1’ was also one of the tanks buried at Bardufoss airfield.
Illustration of one of the 10 Stormkanon KW-IIIs (StuG IIIs) operated by Norway, this example being a StuG III Ausf. F/8. The vehicle is covered in the roughly painted white-wash camouflage pattern. This type of winter camouflage was used by the Norwegian Army well into the 1980s.
These illustrations were produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.
Stridsvogn KW-III (Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. N)
5.49 m x 2.95 m x 2.50 m
(18ft x 9ft 8in x 8ft 2in)
7.5 cm KwK 37
2 × 7.92 mm MG34
Up to 50mm (2 in)
5 (commander, gunner, loader, driver, radio operator/bow machine-gunner)
In the late-1960s, the Norwegian Military (Forsvaret, Eng: “The Defence”) began an upgrade program with the company of Thune-Eureka A/S, based in the country’s capital, Oslo. This program was aimed at drastically upgrading the M24 Chaffee fleet with the introduction of a new 90 mm main gun, a new, more powerful engine, a new transmission, and various other modernizations.
While this upgrade program was underway, it was also decided that the upgraded Chaffee – which would receive the designation NM-116 ‘Panserjager’ (tank hunter) – would need a support vehicle. As such, the NM-130 Bergepanser (Armored Recovery Vehicle, ARV) was conceived. Just four vehicles would be converted, but they would all go on to support the NM-116 throughout its service life.
Foundation: The M24 Chaffee
The M24 Chaffee, named after Army General Adna R. Chaffee Jr., entered service in 1944, largely replacing the M3 and M5 Stuarts. It was a small tank at 16 foot 4 inches (5.45 m) long, 9 foot 4 inches (2.84 m) wide, and 5 foot 3 inches (2.61 m) tall. It was also light at just 20.25 tons (18.37 tonnes). Armor on the vehicle was ¾ inch to 1 ½ inch (19 – 38 mm) thick. It was armed with the 75 mm Lightweight Tank Gun M6. It was operated by a 5 man crew, consisting of the commander, gunner, loader, driver and assistant driver/radio operator.
It was a very maneuverable vehicle, powered by a Twin Cadillac 44T24 8-cylinder petrol engine producing 220 hp. The transmission and drive wheels were located at the front of the vehicle. The Chaffee rolled on 5 roadwheels attached to a torsion bar suspension. The fifth road wheel was attached to the idler wheel at the rear of the running gear. This is because the idler was of the compensating type, meaning it was attached to the closest roadwheel by an actuating arm. When the roadwheel reacted to terrain, the idler was pushed out or pulled in accordingly, keeping constant track tension.
Norway received its first Chaffee’s from the US under the ‘MAP’ in 1946. The ‘Military Aid Program’ benefited the war-ravaged countries of the Second World War by providing them the means to rebuild their military and defenses. Norway was one of these countries that was rebuilding after the lengthy Nazi Occupation of the country. Other countries that benefited from the MAP included France, Portugal, and Belgium, but also former enemy nations such as West Germany and Japan. In April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed and NATO was born, resulting in the United States prolonging its Military Aid Programs.
The initial 1946 delivery consisted of just 9 vehicles. These were sent directly to Trandum leir, a Norwegian Army Camp (now closed) near Ullensaker. From 1946 until the early 1950s, Norway received a total of 125 M24s. The M24s gave the Norwegian Army (Hæren) excellent service for many years, until the late-1960s. Some went on to serve with the Heimevernet (Home Guard).
The NM-116 was the result of a military on a small budget trying to improve the lethality of its tank arsenal. The NM-130 was the result of the same sort of dilemma; how do you provide a new tank with a new support vehicle without breaking the bank?
Of the Hæren’s 125 M24s, 72 would go on to be used in the NM-116 upgrade program. To develop the ARV, four extra M24s were set aside. As said above, most of the remaining M24s went into service with the Heimevernet. Any remaining vehicles were likely scrapped. It is not uncommon for recovery vehicles to be based on the same chassis as the vehicle they are designed to support. The American M103 heavy tank-based M51 Heavy ARV and German Leopard 1-based Bergepanzer 2 are prime examples of this.
The conversion work to turn the vehicles into ARVs was undertaken by Kvaerner Eureka AS. The four Chaffee hulls went through the same automotive upgrades as those being upgraded to the NM-116 standard. The turrets, however, were completely removed and replaced with a large crane. A small dozer blade was also installed on the vehicle’s lower glacis.
The NM-130’s crew consisted of three personnel; Commander, Crane Operator and Driver. The driver sat at the front left of the vehicle, as on the original Chaffee. The Commander sat in a position roughly halfway down the length of the hull, on the right side, under a large circular hatch with an incorporated periscope. The Commander was also responsible for the vehicle’s only weapon, a German-made 7.62 mm MG3 machine gun. This was a defensive weapon only. The crane operator sat in an external, unarmored position on the crane unit when it was in operation. When it was not in operation, it is unknown where he would have sat. It is likely that he sat in what would have been the bow gunner’s position on the standard Chaffee, at the front right of the hull. Concrete evidence of this escapes the author at the time of writing.
Dag Rune Nilsen, ex-commander of an NM-116 from Panserverneskadron, Brigade Nord (PvEsk/N, Eng: “Tank Squadron, Northern Brigade”), describes here the working relationship with the NM-130 and its crew:
“The NM-130 crew was an important part of the Panserverneskadron. It was manned by the mechanics who maintained our vehicles at base, so we had a close working relationship. I got the impression that they were very happy with the vehicle and [they were] proud to operate it. It had a strong winch, a solid crane and other tools including a welding machine. Our squadron operated M113s, NM-142s and, of course, the NM-116. The NM-130 were capable of assisting us in all the situations we encountered. No problems whatsoever.”
The Chaffee’s Twin Cadillac 220hp petrol engine was replaced by a Detroit Diesel 6V-53T two-stroke diesel engine that was liquid-cooled and equipped with a turbocharger. Diesel engines perform better in cold temperatures and are also somewhat safer as diesel is less volatile than petrol (gasoline). The engine gave the tank more power as it produced 260 hp, but slowed the tank down to a top speed of 47 km/h (29 mph). This was not too big of an issue as the increased torque gave it the power to navigate Norway’s tough terrain. Two, 208-liter (55 gallons) fuel tanks also gave it a greater range of 300 kilometers (186 miles) compared to the 160 kilometers (100 miles) of the original powerplant. Four heat exchangers were also installed to cool the engine’s oil.
The original ‘Hydramatic’ transmission was also replaced with an Allison MT 650/653 pre-selector 6-speed (5 forward, 1 reverse) gearbox. An additional gearbox was installed to control the speed transferred to the differential housed at the front of the tank.
In this crane adaption, two hydraulic pumps were installed in the engine compartment to power the hydraulically operated crane, winch, and dozer blade.
The crane (No: kran) chosen for the Bergepanser was the BK710MIL made by Moelven-Brug A/S – now known as CHSnor. For the installation of the crane, a solid metal plate was welded over the turret ring. The base of the crane was then fixed to the top of this. The crane is capable of full 360-degree rotation. When not in operation, the crane is rested at 0 degrees, with the boom fully retracted. The whole unit is then swung 180 degrees so it points over the vehicle’s engine bay.
The crane consists of a large boom with an integral, external control position. The crane’s boom is of the telescopic type, being able to extend from 3.4 meters (11.1 ft) to 5 meters (16.4 ft). The boom can travel on its vertical axis from 0 to +55 degrees. It is raised and lowered via a hydraulic ram underneath the boom, at its base.
A hydraulically driven winch was mounted at the base of the crane boom. The winch cable runs externally up the spine of the boom to a large single guide wheel at the tip of the boom. The cable ends in a simple clevis rather than a hook. A large cable-guard safety grate was also mounted at the base of the crane to protect the operator.
The crane had a maximum lift capacity of 7 tonnes (7.7 tons), as long as the boom was not raised over 25 degrees upwards. If the crane was raised to 25 degrees of elevation or over, the maximum load was reduced to 2 tonnes (2.2 tons). The crane had a relatively low lift capacity as it was not designed to lift the entire vehicle, but just its components. The 2-7 tonnes lift capacity was more than enough to hoist the NM-116’s Detroit Diesel engine which weighed just 600 kgs (1323 lbs).
While Dag Rune Nilsen never required the use of the Bergepanser personally, he was witness to it assisting his comrades as he describes in the following story about a powerpack lift:
“The NM-130 did assist my good friend Sergeant Storli when he had to change the engine on his tank, callsign 12, name of ‘Aratos’, in the field. I remember the mechanics requesting if they could tow the broken NM-116 to the nearest military garage. The request was denied and they had to change the engine in freezing cold weather in the open during the night! Good realistic practice even though the crew disagreed!”
The steel-wire cable utilized by the crane was 22 mm (0.8 in) in diameter and had a capacity of 19 tonnes (21 tons). Despite the crane having a meager capacity of 2-7 tonnes, it was necessary that the cable be stronger so it could tow or retrieve the NM-116. For this, the cable was threaded through fairleads (a device that guides a line, rope or cable) placed behind the drum. This allowed the vehicle to tow vehicles behind it. To do this though, the crane would have to be traversed 180 degrees. Judging from the few available photos of the NM-130 in service, it would appear that crane’s boom was used as a stowage point for the crew’s personal packs and effects, as well as camouflage nets and other sundries.
Crane Operator’s Position
The Crane Operator’s position was incorporated into the crane boom and was mounted on its right. The position consisted of a padded seat and a control desk. It was completely open to the elements and was without armor protection. Operation of the boom was rather simple, with basic levers that raise, lower, swing, extend/retract the boom, and let-out/reel-in the winch cable.
Much like the dozer blade (No:bulldozerblad) found on the American M88 ARV, the NM-130’s dozer blade performed three main roles: light earthmoving operations/obstacle clearance, support during lifting operations, and anchorage when winching.
The hydraulically operated blade was shallow but roughly vehicle width at 2.84 meters (9 ft 4 in) and was mounted on the bow. It moved up and down via two large hydraulic rams mounted above it. The blade was operated by the driver. To avoid breakages while earthmoving, the front-wheel stations of the vehicle were reinforced. During the lift and winching operations, the blade acted much like outriggers on a conventional crane and lifted the front end of the vehicle off the ground to stop it shifting on its tracks.
As with the NM-116, the Bersepanser received the same 73-link split rubber block tracks made by the German company Diehl. At some point, the NM-130 also received the same sprocket upgrade as the NM-116. The new sprocket wheel had smaller and fewer teeth. The original Chaffee sprocket had 13 teeth while the newer one had 12. This was likely done to improve the compatibility with new track types. Also, while the NM-116 kept just two of the original four shock absorbers, the NM-130 kept three, with two at the front, and one at the rear.
The same eight smoke-grenade launchers, or Røyklegginganlegg (Smoke Laying Device), that were added to the turret of the NM-116 were also installed on the NM-130. They were mounted on the left and right fenders in single banks of four. These German-made devices were electrically fired, and were used to launch the 76 mm (3 in) Røykboks (smoke grenade) DM2 HC grenade. In total, 16 smoke grenades were carried and, if necessary, all loaded grenades could be fired at once.
Other features included the introduction of large tool/stowage boxes on the rear of the left and right fenders. On the back right corner of the engine deck, there was a stowage point for extra pulleys and clevises for winching and hoisting. There was also a point on the right rear of the hull for carrying a spare NM-116/130 roadwheel. Steel-wire tow cables were carried on the right fender, with tools such as an axe and sledgehammer carried on the hull wall above them.
It was not uncommon for crews to carry their own selection of preferred equipment, as Dag Nilsen describes:
“NM-130 mechanics improvised and added additional equipment that experience had shown they needed. The crew that assisted Sergeant Stoli, for instance, carried a welder. In my own experience of NM-116 crews, we would regularly amend the tanks for comfort and for practical purposes. I believe NM-130 crews did the same.”
Unfortunately, much like the NM-116, details of the Bergepanser’s time in service are scarce. The vehicles entered service in the mid-1970s; an exact year is unknown but it was probably around the same time as the NM-116, in 1975. How the four ARVs were split between the 72-strong NM-116 fleet is also unknown. However, it is known that he only full-time operator of the NM-116 was the Panserverneskadron, Brigade Nord (PvEsk/N, Eng: “Tank Squadron, Northern Brigade”). At least two NM-130s were part of this Brigade. The vehicle was also capable of supporting Norway’s fleet of US-made M113 Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) and derivative there of, such as the NM-142 (TOW) Rakettpanserjager.
This quote from Dag Rune Nilsen provides a small insight into the NM-130’s use:
“I never required assistance myself (pure luck!) but I did indeed witness the recovery team rescue many of my comrades. The terrain we operated in was brutal all year around and absolutely not ideal for tanks. It was quite common to lose the tracks or to sink into deep snow. Most of the time we managed to do self-recovery through various tricks but the NM-130 could always be counted on. It would cost the commander a case of beer though! The winch was the multipurpose tool for recovery and could drag an NM116 easily onto safe ground.”
Like the NM-116, the vehicle initially entered service in an olive drab livery but, in the mid-1980s, a new ‘Splinter’ camouflage pattern was introduced. The NM-130 would see out its service in this livery.
The NM-116 was retired in 1993. It is unclear when exactly the NM-130 was retired, but there is a possibility that it stayed on in service a little longer to serve Norway’s fleet of M48s and Leopard 1s, but concrete evidence of this cannot be found.
In the NM-130, the Forsvaret achieved its goal of providing an effective recovery vehicle to not only the NM-116, but the Hæren’s other light vehicles too, all while sticking to a strict budget. Just like the NM-116, the NM-130 was an ingenious use of what was – at the time of its development – an almost thirty-year-old piece of Second World War hardware.
Dag Rune Nilsen perhaps describes it best:
“I would describe the NM-130 as a fit for purpose recovery tank, and thus a very successful modification. Much more successful than the NM-116 itself since the NM-130 did exactly what it was intended for and remained effective for its entire service life.”
It is unclear how many of the four NM-130s survive. The one featured in most of the photos used in this article was located – until recently – at the Rena Army Camp, eastern Norway. Where it is now is unknown. At least one NM-130 can still be found at the Rogaland Krigshistorisk Museum, also in Norway.
An article by Mark Nash, assisted by Steffen Hjønnevåg.
An NM-130 Bergepanser in ‘Splinter’ camouflage with the Crane in its travel position. Illustration produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.
After the Second World War, as part of the United States-led Military Aid Program (MAP), Norway received around 130 M24 Chaffee light tanks to help rebuild its military. In the early years of the Cold War, the Norwegian Military (Forsvaret, Eng: “The Defence”) was happy with the M24 Chaffee, as it fitted its needs. Its small size made it perfect for operations in the harsh Scandinavian terrain.
By the 1960s, however, it was apparent that the 75 mm gun-armed Chaffee was in need of an upgrade if it was to combat the threat represented by the USSR. The 75 mm gun would be no match for the thick armor of Soviet tanks such as the T-54/55 or T-62. It was decided that the vehicle needed a new, more powerful gun, as well as many other new internal and external components.
An upgrade program began in the late-1960s, with the first prototype of what would be designated the ‘NM-116’ being unveiled in 1973. The vehicle would enter service under that designation in 1975. This new variant of the M24 would be used in an anti-tank role, leading it to be unofficially called the ‘Panserjager’ (armor hunter/armor chaser). It would serve the Norwegian Army well into the late 1990s.
Foundation: The M24 Chaffee
The M24 Chaffee, named after Lieutenant General Adna R. Chaffee., entered service in 1944, largely replacing the M3 and M5 Stuarts. It was a small tank at 16 foot 4 inches (5.45 m) long, 9 foot 4 inches (2.84 m) wide, and 5 foot 3 inches (2.61 m) tall. It was also light at just 20.25 tons (18.37 tonnes). Armor on the vehicle was ¾ inch to 1 ½ inch (19 – 38 mm) thick. It was armed with the 75 mm Lightweight Tank Gun M6. It was operated by a 5 man crew, consisting of the commander, gunner, loader, driver and assistant driver/radio operator.
It was a very maneuverable vehicle, powered by a Twin Cadillac 44T24 8 cylinder petrol engine producing 220 hp. The transmission and drive wheels were located at the front of the vehicle. The Chaffee rolled on 5 roadwheels attached to a torsion bar suspension. The fifth road wheel was attached to the idler wheel at the rear of the running gear. This is because the idler was of the compensating type, meaning it was attached to the closest roadwheel by an actuating arm. When the roadwheel reacted to terrain, the idler was pushed out or pulled in, keeping constant track tension.
Norway received its first Chaffees from the US under the ‘MAP’ in 1946. The ‘Military Aid Program’ benefited the war-ravaged countries of the Second World War by providing them the means to rebuild their military and defenses. Norway was one of these countries that was rebuilding after a lengthy Nazi Occupation of the country. Other countries that benefited from the MAP included France, Portugal, and Belgium, but also former enemy nations such as West Germany and Japan. In April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed, and NATO was born with Norway a founding member. This resulted in the United States prolonging their Military Aid Programs.
The initial 1946 delivery consisted of just 9 vehicles. These were sent directly to Trandum leir, a Norwegian Army Camp (now closed) near Ullensaker. From 1946 until the early 1950s, Norway received a total of 125 M24s.
Norwegian Chaffees also have a royal connection. From 1955 to 1957, Prince Harald (now King Harald V) served in a Chaffee crew during his conscription years. The M24s gave the Norwegian Army (Hæren) excellent service for many years, but come the late-1960s, the M24 was obsolete, and the upgrade program began. Just 72 tanks would be upgraded to NM-116 standard. Some of the remaining vehicles were turned into NM-130 Bergepanser recovery vehicles, while 4 unmodified M24s were given to the Heimevernet (Eng: Home Guard) which operated them well into the late 1970s.
The majority of tanks that remained from this were scrapped, though it is believed at least one was taken by the Navy and turned into a static turret placed on a fort. (Further information on this escapes the Author at the time of writing.) The last use of the Chaffee came in 2002, when it featured in a rather risqué Norwegian commercial for mineral water.
Due to the poor economic strength of Norway, funding was limited in the early parts of the Cold War, forcing the government to make incremental modernizations to its military equipment. As such, rather than invest millions of Kroner (the currency of Norway) in the development or purchase of a brand new tank, the Forsvaret began working with the far-cheaper idea of upgrading the Chaffee fleet. Thune-Eureka A/S, based in the country’s capital, Oslo, was chosen to develop an effective upgrade solution. At first, the company was given just one of the Hæren’s M24s to experiment with. Certain new features were prioritized in the program, including a new main armament, a new engine, and a new transmission.
The Chaffee’s Twin Cadillac 220 hp petrol engine was replaced by a Detroit Diesel 6V-53T two-stroke diesel engine that was liquid-cooled and equipped with a turbocharger. This was the same engine used in later models of the Swedish Strv 103 ‘S-Tank’. Diesel engines perform better in cold temperatures and are also somewhat safer as diesel is less volatile than petrol (gasoline). The engine gave the tank more power, as it produced 260 hp, but slowed the tank down to a top speed of 47 km/h (29 mph). This was not too big of an issue as the increased torque gave it the power to navigate Norway’s tough terrain. Two 208-liter (55 gallons) fuel tanks also gave it a greater range of 300 kilometers (186 miles) compared to the 160 kilometers (100 miles) of the original powerplant. Four heat exchangers were also installed to cool the engine’s oil.
The original ‘Hydramatic’ transmission was also replaced with an Allison MT 650/653 pre-selector 6-speed (5 forward, 1 reverse) gearbox. An additional gearbox was installed to control the speed transferred to the differential housed at the front of the tank.
The heat exchanger for the transmission and differential were installed in the engine compartment, while the exchanger for the additional gearbox was incorporated into an existing radiator. This presence of additional heat exchangers in the engine compartment resulted in the addition of larger ventilation intakes being installed on the engine deck, close to the turret ring.
One of the most crucial aims of the upgrade program was to increase the Chaffee’s lethality – the old 75 mm gun was now obsolete. The Norwegian military wanted more punch but understood that the small chassis of the M24 probably wouldn’t stand up to the punishment of the recoil force produced by a large 90 mm (3.5 in) – or larger – gun. As such, the Norwegian Military turned to the French and decided upon their D/925 Low-Pressure 90 mm Gun. This 90 mm (3.5 in) gun was similar to that installed on France’s own Panhard AML 90, which was equipped with the D/921. To accommodate this new weapon, the gyrostabilizer had to be removed. The original concentric recoil system (this was a hollow tube around the barrel, a space-saving alternative to traditional recoil cylinders) from the 75 mm gun was retained. The muzzle of the barrel was equipped with a single baffle muzzle brake to further reduce the force of recoil. The gun could be elevated from +15 to -10 degrees.
The D/925 was capable of firing three ammunition types: High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT, Nor: Hulladingsgranat M62), High-Explosive (HE, Nor: Sprenggranat MF1) and Smoke (Nor: Røykgranat MF1). All of these shells were fin-stabilized, so they would all have the ‘-FS’ suffix. The Hulladingsgranat round had a velocity of 750 m/s (2460 fps), and a maximum effective range of around 1,500 meters (1,640 yards). It could penetrate 320 mm (12.6 in) of vertical armor, or 120 mm (4.7 in) of armor sloped at 65-Degrees from vertical. In total, 41 rounds of 90 mm ammunition were carried.
Changes also came for the tank’s secondary armament. The coaxial Browning M1919 .30 Cal (7.62 mm) machine gun was replaced by a Browning AN/M3 .50 Cal (12.7 mm) machine gun. These were reportadly recycled from F-86 Saber Fighter Jets, around 180 of which were operated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force (No: Luftforsvaret) from 1957 to 1967.
Dag Rune Nilsen, a former NM-116 commander, recalled that they were…
“great fun to shoot with due to the extremely high rate of fire and [were very] precise since they were fixed in the turret.”
The roof-mounted Browning M2HB .50 Cal machine gun was retained for ‘air defense’, however, an additional position for it was installed in front of the Commander’s cupola. The bow .30 Caliber machine gun position was completely deleted, reducing the crew to four-men and making room for 90 mm ammunition stowage.
Numerous other upgrades were incorporated into the NM-116. Gunnery was further improved with the addition of an NM128 (otherwise known as Simrad LV3) laser rangefinder which was installed atop the barrel of the 90 mm, at the mantlet’s end. The NM-116 was the first tank in Norwegian service to incorporate such a device. Provision was also made for the installation of passive-night vision/infrared sights for the commander, gunner and driver positions.
Eight smoke-grenade launchers or Røykleggingsanlegg (Smoke Laying Device) were added to the left and right side of the turret in two banks of four tubes. These German-made devices were electrically fired, and were used to launch the 76 mm (3 in) Røykboks (smoke grenades) DM2 HC grenade. In total, 16 smoke grenades were carried and, if necessary, all loaded grenades could be fired at once.
Another improvement to the operation of the tank came with the introduction of new radios. NM-116’s assigned to platoon leaders were equipped with an AN/VRC44 unit, while other tanks were equipped with the AN/VRC64. A new intercom system for the crew was also installed.
The NM-116 was also given two types of new tracks, which could be switched between depending on terrain. The tanks were initially equipped with the original US T85E1 rubber chevron tracks. In the upgrade program, the tanks were equipped with new split rubber block tracks made by the German company, Diehl. With the T85E1 tracks, there were 75 links per-side, but with the Diehl tracks, there were 73 per-side.
Crew comfort was not ignored in the program, with a new internal heating system being installed to keep them warm in the cold Norwegian climate. Also, the original 4 shock absorbers per-side were replaced with 2 more effective shock absorbers per-side. These were made by the Swedish company Hagglunds.
It would appear that throughout its service, the NM-116 went through a number of ‘incremental improvements’. Exact details are currently unavailable, but there are some features that can be discussed. At some point, the single-baffle square muzzle brake of the 90mm gun, installed on the prototypes, was exchanged for a tubular ‘T’ shaped muzzle brake, similar to those used on US tanks such as the M48 Patton. As Norway operated a fleet of 90 mm gun-armed M48s, it is not too outrageous to say that they could’ve been recycled from them. The 90 mm M48s were upgraded between 1982 and 1985 to 105 mm gun-armed M48A5 standard, so there would’ve been a surplus of 90 mm parts.
Another change saw the addition of a new sprocket wheel with smaller and fewer teeth. The original had 13 teeth while the newer one had 12. This was likely done to improve the compatibility with new track types.
Another addition was an infantry or ‘Grunt’ phone, installed on the right rear fender of the NM-116. A protective frame was also built around it. This phone would allow infantry outside of the tank to communicate with the vehicle commander and give him fire directions or other important messages. It is possible that this piece of equipment was also recycled when the M48 fleet was upgraded.
Further upgrades included the installation of equipment racks on the rear of the turret. A common field addition was the installation of stowage boxes to the tanks hull and fenders.
The single upgraded M24 prototype began trials in January 1973. After a lengthy trial period, the Hæren accepted the vehicle and a contract for the conversion of an additional 71 tanks was signed with Thune-Eureka A/S. The tank finally entered service in January 1975, with the last units delivered in October 1976.
With the new upgrade came a new role for the tank, now designated the NM-116. It was decided that the vehicle would operate as a tank destroyer with the capability to act as a light reconnaissance tank. This lead the vehicle to be unofficially designated the ‘Panserjager’. The NM-116’s small size made it perfect for both roles, as it could conceal itself in hidden positions to either engage an enemy or provide overwatch and intel for friendly forces.
The only full-time operator of the NM-116 was the Panserverneskadron, Brigade Nord (PvEsk/N, Eng: “Tank Squadron, Northern Brigade”). This squadron operated both the NM-116 and the M113 APC-based NM-142 (TOW) Rakettpanserjager, and was the only squadron that was permanently operational. All other NM-116 equipped units were kept in reserve for rapid mobilization or for use by reservist troops. Each Panserjagr Company (Eskadron) had 2 NM-116 platoons, 2 NM-142 (TOW) Rakettpanserjager platoons, a CSS platoon with several M113 and a single NM-130 Bergepanser. There was also a Command element with 2 M113s, as well as a Logistics element with some M621/Scania lorries and MB240 jeeps.
In 1983, a new 4-tone ‘Splinter’ camouflage was introduced that replaced the original olive-drab paint scheme on many of the tanks. Vehicles belonging to Brigade Nord used the same pattern as Norway’s Leopards as, at the time, there was no official pattern provided for the NM-116.
Dag Rune Nilson describes that…
“during wintertime, we applied a thick white cover of chalky paint over the light green and brown areas of the camouflage. The chalk was then washed off at springtime.”
NM-116s were organized into Panserjager platoons with 4 vehicles per platoon. Only 3 vehicles were manned at all times.
The fourth vehicle of the platoon was left in reserve, and would only be mobilized (by reservist troops) in an emergency – eg, an enemy attack. These reserve vehicles were never painted in the ‘Splinter’ scheme, and were only painted in light olive green.
The NM116 was an ‘ambush predator’. And would use its small size and good maneuverability to outflank the enemy, engage, and then withdraw along pre-arranged lanes of engagement. Here, Dag Rune Nilsen describes how the vehicles were employed:
“The NM-116 wasn’t regarded as much of a tank and there were many jokes about it. However, none of us who actually used it were under any illusions and knew that we had to be smart when using it. Especially when considering fighting positions so that we could fire effectively and at not too long range, and then move quickly to the next planned fighting position. Most of the time our task was to delay an approaching enemy, fire a few rounds and then pull back to reposition. I do honestly believe that we could have caused some damage due to the tactics. The NM-116 was very easy to maneuver and we managed several times [on excercise] to trick Leopards battle tanks into short-range traps in wooded areas where their overconfident crews were unable to turn their turrets due to trees making them extremely vulnerable!”
To augment the ambush tactics used with the NM-116, the vehicles would be covered in ‘live’ camouflage. This consisted of layers of moss and peat, with shrubbery applied over the top. The moss and peat would last for at least 3 weeks, but the shrubbery would be replaced every other day. Thor Christoffersen, another ex-tanker, inherited command of Dag Rune Nilsen’s NM-116. Here he describes how effective the camouflage was:
“Our vehicles were almost invisible to the naked eye, and also to thermal sights [thanks to the peat and moss]. On one exercise, a Canadian Recon Patrol Unit stopped in front of my vehicle and made a brief sweep of the area. A couple of them took the chance to have a piss. Unknown to one of the Canadians, the whole time he was there, there was a very anxious gunner with a .50 caliber MG pointing at him. One of the Canadian Recon soldiers actually pissed on the vehicle’s tracks without noticing! What was more impressive, is that the Canadian Recon Patrol left our position without noticing the other 9 armored vehicles (6 NM-116 + 3 NM-142) sat alongside us! There was hell to pay the next day…“
The NM-116 was a successful conversion, but by the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the tank was becoming obsolete. Its gun simply did not have the penetrative power to combat modern armored fighting vehicles. This led to the NM-116 receiving the nickname ‘Pansernager’, literally meaning ‘Armor Nibbler’ due to the weapon’s lack of killing power. Nevertheless, the tank served the Norwegian Army well for 18 years, finally being retired in 1993.
The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (also known as the CFE Treaty, signed in 1990, effective as of 1992) also played a big part in the retirement of the NM-116, as it mandated comprehensive limits of conventional military equipment in European states. This included the destruction of excess weaponry. It is likely that because of this, most NM-116s were scrapped after they were retired.
The US firm of NAPCO Industries Incorporated – a producer of military vehicles – were impressed with the Norwegian upgrade program. So much so, that they bought the rights to produce the vehicle for the international arms market.
NAPCO demonstrated the NM-116 to Greece and Taiwan. However, neither country invested in the vehicle, opting instead for less complicated upgrades for their respective M24 fleets.
To support the new NM-116, it was also decided by the military that a new Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV) be developed. For this, four Chaffees were separated from the 116 projects.
The hulls of the tanks went through much of the same changes as the NM-116 (new engine, transmission, shock absorbers, etc.). The turret, however, was completely removed and replaced by a large folding crane. A small dozer blade was also installed on the lower glacis.
This ARV was designated the NM-130 ‘Bergepanser’ (Eng: Armored Recovery Vehicle). It entered service around the same time as the NM-116 and left service with its tank-killing brother. There is a possibility that it stayed on in service a little longer to serve Norway’s fleet of M48s and Leopard 1s, but concrete evidence of this cannot be found.
Two NM-116s were converted into driver training vehicles. For this, the entire turret was replaced by a large, hexagonal protective cab. This cab featured four large windows, the front two fitted with wiper blades. There was room in this cab for two trainees and one instructor.
According to former Commander Nilsen…
“The removed turrets were used for the basic training of gunners and loaders. These two turrets could be easily mounted on the trainers in case of mobilization.”
The NM-116 is a good example of an under-equipped and underfunded nation finding a solution to a critical dilemma: how do you equip a military with effective weapons while dealing with a tight budget? The Norwegians took what was – at the time – an almost 30-year-old piece of World War 2 technology and turned it into an effective tank killer for the late-20th century. This extended the service life of the M24 Chaffee to around 50 years. Having operated the Chaffee and NM-116 from 1946 to 1993, the Norwegian Army is one of the longest operators of the tank in the world, surpassed only by countries like Chile.
Unfortunately, these tanks are now something of a rarity, with not many surviving today. Some survivors can be found in Museums, however. One can be found in the Rogaland Krigshistorisk Museum, Norway. The tank in the Splinter camouflage pattern featured in this article remains on static display at the Rena Military Camp in eastern Norway. Another tank can be found in the Musée des Blindés, France.
Much of the detail in this article was provided by Dag Rune Nilsen and Thor Christofferson, former NM-116 Commanders of Panserverneskadron, Brigade Nord (PvEsk/N). Thor took over Dag’s tank when he was promoted. Below, Dag outlines some personal history with the tank…
“The NM-116 was the first tank I commanded in the cavalry. I served as a sergeant after completing the Norwegian cavalry academy at Trandum from 1986-1987. From 1987 to 1988, I served at a combat unit in the northern parts of Norway (Setermoen, Troms). From 1989 to 1990, I served as a 2nd lieutenant and instructor at the academy. Around this time, I was retrained to serve in the Leopard 1A5NO as a reservist. I also had some experience in the NM-142 (TOW) Rakettpanserjager.”
In the collection of pictures below, note that one of the tanks has the cartoon character ‘Snoopy’ painted on it. Dag explains why:
“That was actually my NM-116, callsign 11, named ‘Atilla’. The squadron commander did not like the Snoopy icon and wanted us to remove it. He changed his mind when a delegation of US Marine officers found it hilarious to see Snoopy being a mascot on a Norwegian tank!”
In this quote, Dag describes what equipment NM-116 crews would carry, and how it was stowed on their tanks:
“There were detailed plans [of] what each unit should have equipment-wise, and where the equipment was to be packed on the vehicles. However, during my years at (PVEsk/N), these plans were amended locally. The reason being that this unit could be described as a “field unit” and spent lots of time on exercise, far more than any other NM-116 unit previously. Some example of improvized equipment on the NM-116s at PvEsk/N was the turret racks added by our mechanics and the way we packed the vehicles with gear that was not included in the packing instructions made in the 70s. On the NM-116 driving off the landing ship,* one can see a large tent, rolled up and attached to the front. This type of tent was not included in the original plans and if you never served in my unit, one would not know of the use. The same goes for the additional storage boxes, tent oven, firewood, extra oils and other things that we brought with us. The point is that all tank crews will regularly amend the tanks for comfort and for practical purposes.”
*pictured above in ‘Armament Upgrades’
An article by Mark Nash, assisted by Steffen Hjønnevåg, Dag Rune Nilsen, & Thor Christofferson
The initial NM-116 ‘Panserjager’ as it appeared in 1975 during the prototype phase. At this time, the vehicles remained in the same Olive Drab scheme used on the M24 Chaffees. The .50 Cal (12.7mm) Browning machine gun is placed in the added position infront of the commander’s cupola.
The NM-116 in the later years of its service during the mid-1980s. It is adorned with the ‘Splinter’ camouflage pattern introduced at that time. Note also, the other upgrades that appeared such as the ‘T’ muzzle brake and the new sprocket wheel.
These illustrations were produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon Campaign.
5.45 (without gun) x 2.84 x 2.61 meters (16’4″(without gun)x 9’4″ x 5’3″)
Total weight, battle ready
18.3 tonnes (20 tons)
4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Detroit Diesel 6V-53T, 260hp
Max Road Speed
47 km/h (29 mph)
300 kilometers (186 miles)
D/925 low-pressure 90mm gun, 41 rounds
Browning AN/M3 .50 Cal (12.7 mm) machine gun
Browning M2HB .50 Cal machine gun
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