Categories
Cold War Swiss prototypes

Laupen 14t and Laupen 16t

Switzerland (1950)
Light Tank – Paper Projects

The Laupen tanks are two light tank projects which have been found at the Swiss National Archives, dating from 1950. These designs were meant to be able to defeat the Soviet IS-3 heavy tank which had shocked the western world in 1945, while still being light enough to be able to traverse the hilly landscape of Switzerland. At that time, the best tank the Swiss had was the Panzer 39, a version of the pre-war Panzer 38(t). This tank was clearly obsolete, and the Laupens were meant to replace it. Attempts to upgun the Panzer 39s were being made, fitting one tank with a new turret and a 4.7 cm gun, and later a tank destroyer variant was devised, fitted with a 7.5 cm L/42 gun. This vehicle is known as the Nahkampfkanone I.

Both attempts to upgun these tanks were cancelled and Switzerland ended up buying 158 G-13 tank destroyers. The G-13 was a modified Jagdpanzer 38(t), fitted with a new gun and several other small modifications. A reconstructed Jagdpanzer 38(t) had already been received from France and used for evaluation. However, the delivery of these vehicles from Czechoslovakia took time due to political issues.

On the original drawing from 1950 located in the Swiss national archives, these tanks were simply called ‘Panzer 14t’ and ‘Panzer 16t’ with a second document revealing the name of these projects, the ‘Laupen’ tanks. Why that name was chosen is unknown, however, there is a local community near Bern called ‘Laupen’, so there may have been a personal connection to that place from one member of the design team.

Laupen 16t

The Laupen 16t was based on the chassis of the G-13 tank destroyer. The suspension, tracks, transmission and many of the dimensions of the two vehicles are the same, including the chassis length, width and the ground clearance. The armor of the two vehicles is also highly similar, not only in shape, but also in thickness. Both vehicles have a 65 mm thick upper frontal plate, angled at 30 degrees, same thickness lower frontal plate at 49 degrees and 20 mm lower upper armor at 50 degrees. However, the middle part of the hull was widened in order to accommodate the new turret. The engine compartment was changed in order to fit a larger 220 hp diesel engine instead of the original 160 hp petrol engine normally mounted in the G-13.

Blueprint of the Laupen 16t Light Tank

In addition to the above-mentioned documents, there was also a chart listing the Laupen 14t, Laupen 16t and the G-13 tank destroyer along with various technical data and a document that describes why there were 2 versions and why they were different.

Both the Laupens used the same middle-mounted turret. According to the drawings, it appears to be cast, with a curved shape. The gun was also shared between the two Laupens, with options for a 9 cm L/40 gun firing shaped charge ammunition (HEAT) or high explosive (HE). Sub-Caliber ammo (APCR) and fin-stabilized fragmentation grenades were also considered.

There were also plans to add a drum loaded autoloading mechanism with 6 shots per magazine. It was estimated that, with this system, the vehicle could achieve a rate of fire of 30 rounds per minute instead of the 20 rounds per minute which would be achieved if it was a hand loaded, single shot gun. At these rates however, the ammunition would soon be exhausted. Secondary armament consisted of 1 coaxial MG and one MG in the rear of the turret facing backwards.

The crew layout was also the same, with both having the driver on the front left side of the hull, the loader on the right-hand side and the gunner on the front left side of the turret. The commander was located behind the gunner on the left-hand side. A cupola with 8 vision slits was also placed at the rear-left of the turret, for the commander.his design would have likely been the cheaper option since the chassis was already available. It was however, heavier than the 14t version and as a result had a worse power to weight ratio and a higher ground pressure.

Laupen 14t

This was the lighter version of the two Laupens. Most probably it was a completely indigenous design, as it resembles no tank that Switzerland used or intended to use at the time. It was actually a larger vehicle than the 16-ton variant, but had thinner, better sloped armor. It was to be equipped with the same 220 hp diesel engine as on the Laupen 16t.

Blueprint of the Laupen 14t light tank

There were multiple differences between the Laupen 16t and the 14t, the main one being a different suspension. The Swiss closely followed the Swedish Lansen development and had a look at its suspension. Until that point the Swiss had mainly used tanks based on the Czech LTH tanks, with large road wheels and spring leaf suspension. The Lansen, however, had small road wheels with torsion bar suspension. This gave the Lansen a much smoother ride on rough terrain than the G-13 or any other tank with that suspension. It was also a much lighter suspension design. However, this meant that the Swiss needed to design a completely new track, since the G-13’s type track would have been used with the new suspension. The wheels of the torsion bar system moved a lot more vertically, and they needed a more flexible track in order to make the most of the advantages of the suspension. The new track and suspension would have removed another 1 ton of weight compared to the Laupen 16t.

Based on the plans of this tank, the suspension is a rather unusual torsion bar layout with the right-side arms face towards the front, while the left-side arms face to the rear. The reason behind this arrangement is unclear, however it may have been done in order to keep the tank as short as possible.

As mentioned above, the Laupen 14t used the same turret, gun and crew loadout as it’s bigger brother. There was a large difference for the crew compared to the Laupen 16t. Due to its suspension, the Laupen 14t’s floor would have been moved closer to the ground, giving it less ground clearance. This, combined with the fact that both tanks had the same height, would have meant that the Laupen 14t had a roomier interior compared to the Laupen 16t. The heavier version only had 1.65 meters of vertical space for the crew to stand in, which would have been uncomfortable for most soldiers.

Conclusion

One thing is known for sure. The Laupen projects never saw the light of day. While the exact reasons behind their cancellation have not yet been discovered, it may be speculated that it was due to monetary reasons.

Tanks are usually quite expensive, especially for a country with little natural resources and little experience in building such vehicles. Steel, for example, would have had to be imported.

Just as importantly, the AMX 13 was being developed in France. Simply buying this light tank from abroad would have arguably been less expensive than putting a tank industry up from scratch. In the end, the Swiss bought the AMX 13 and the G-13 remained in service as it was. The Laupens faded into history, quietly forgotten on a shelf in the archives.



Illustration of the Laupen 16 tonne tank produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Specs

Laupen 16t

Laupen 14t

Dimensions 6.35 x 2.60 x 2.30 m
(20’9” x 8’6” x 7’6” ft)
6.60 x 2.50 x 2.30 m
(21’7” x 8’2” x 7’6” ft)
Total weight 16 tons 14 tons
Crew 4 (driver, loader, gunner, commander/radio) 4 (driver, loader, gunner, commander/radio)
Propulsion SLM Diesel, 220 hp (162 kW) , 14 hp/ton SLM Diesel, 220 hp (162 kW) , 16 hp/ton
Suspension Leaf Spring Torsion Bar
Speed (estimated) 40 km/h (25 mph) 40 km/h (25 mph)
Armament 9 cm L/40
7.5 mm coaxial
7.5 mm MG in the rear of the turret
9 cm L/40
7.5 mm coaxial
7.5 mm MG in the rear of the turret
Armor 65 mm (2.5 in) front
20-22 mm ( 0.78 – 0.86 in) side
35-40 mm (1.37 – 1.57 in) front
15-20 mm ( 0.59 – 0.78 in) side

Categories
Cold War Swiss prototypes

Panzer 74

 Switzerland (1969)
Main Battle Tank – Paper Project

Overview

The Swiss Panzer 74 was a Main Battle Tank Project started in 1969. It was meant as an upgrade to the Panzer 68 tank then in service with the Swiss army, as it had begun to be regarded as underarmored for its time. New, better protected and better armed main battle tanks were entering service, tanks like the Soviet T-64, the British Chieftain and the American M60 Patton.
Between the 1950’s and 1980’s, the Swiss military philosophy called for Main Battle Tanks with good mobility, without sacrificing too much in terms of firepower and protection. The Panzer 68 was the latest vehicle in the Swiss tank lineage, being derived from the previous Panzer 61 and the little-produced Panzer 58. However, recently introduced designs made the Panzer 68’s armor seem obsolete.
This made the Swiss military start the designing of yet another indigenous tank design. The turret armor thickness and angling appear to have been very similar to those of the Chieftain British MBT, with which the Panzer 74 shares some similarities. However, the shape of the hull of the Panzer 74 was similar to that of the preceding Panzer 68 as it was intended to use as many parts from the Panzer 68 as possible. This would have lowered the price of designing and building the vehicle and also would have maintenance and training easier. The powerplant of the tank was planned to be an MT 883 V12 engine pumping out an impressive 1200 hp. Earlier documents mention an MBX 833 RA-500 V6 engine, which was tested in a Panzer 58.

Panzer 58 Versuchsfahrzeug
Panzer 58 Versuchsfahrzeug – a Panzer 58 hull with a raised engine deck, probably accommodating a new engine. It is highly likely that this was the MBX 833 RA-500 engine, and that this vehicle was a part of the Panzer 74 development program.

Armor

While explicit armor values have not been yet found for the Panzer 74, one of the schematic drawings from the project yields some interesting information. It shows the Variante A turret. By using the scale on the drawing, the thickness of the armor can be approximated for the turret and hull sides.
The armor thickness on the frontal part of the Variante A turret seems to range between 200 and 250 mm. The lower frontal area, between the gun mantlet and the turret ring, measures around 200 mm in thickness, while the armor immediately to the side of the gun and around the trunnion is in the area of 250 mm.
The turret armor thins off to the sides, with it reaching 30-40 mm at the rear. The sides of the turret were thicker at the base of the turret, at around 100 mm, thinning out towards the top. Furthermore, the turret was well rounded, which meant that the effective thickness of the armor was larger.
Despite the fact that the there were 6 different turrets proposed for the Panzer 74, the documents only mention size and equipment differences between them. It is possible that they would have sported similar armor.
The hull armor is also unknown, however similar measurements place the upper side armor at around 40 mm, which is comparable to the Chieftain’s side armor. The tracks would have also been protected by 5-10 mm thick side skirts.

Armament

The Panzer 74 was initially proposed to mount the 105mm Royal Ordnance L7, just like the preceding Panzer 68. It was later decided to mount the 120mm RO L11 instead. This was the same gun as on the British Chieftain. Other guns which had been considered were the German 10.5 cm and 12 cm smoothbore guns, the British 11 cm rifled gun, the French 142 mm ACRA gun launcher and the American 152 mm XM150 gun launcher.
The secondary armament would have comprised either two 7.5 mm MG 51s or two 12.7 mm machine-guns, one mounted coaxially and one mounted over the commander cupola. The 7.5 mm MG 51, later MG 51/71 and MG 87, was and is still the weapon of choice for military vehicles in Switzerland. The current Panzer 87 (Leopard 2A4) also uses it, so it is highly likely that it would have been used
The gun depression and elevation would have been -12° and +21° for the 105mm L7 and -10° and +21° for the 120 mm L11.

Crew

The tank would have been manned with 4 crew members. The driver was located on the right hand side in the frontal part of the hull. The gunner was located on the front right side of the turret, with the commander right behind him. The loader stood on the other side of the gun, on the left hand side of the turret.
There were 2 hatches on the turret, one for the commander, which was also used by the gunner to enter and exit the vehicle, and one for the loader.
It’s likely that the commander would have also operated the SE-412 radio.

Variations

There were several design versions for the Panzer 74, namely 6 turret versions and 2 hull versions, differing in the suspension used.
The turrets were labelled with letters, and were as follows:
Variante A: Large turret with fire control system from AEG
Variante B: Honeywell proposal
Variante C: Large turret with Marconi fire control system
Variante D: Small turret with weapon control system from SABCA and AEG
Variante E: Small turret with weapon control system from Wild-Bofors and AEG
Variante F: Variante A turret fitted with an autoloader
The specifications mention that the large turret was 3650 mm long (including gun mantlet) and 3000 mm wide, while the small turret was 3350 mm long and 2800 mm wide
Schematic showing the Variante A turret with the internal layout and armor thickness.
Schematic showing the Variante A turret with the internal layout and armor thickness. This image was used to estimate the thickness of the turret armor.
The Hull variants differed by the suspension used, with the Variante T having torsion bar suspension, while the Variante H had a hydropneumatic suspension.
A drawing of the Panzer 74 with the Variante H hull, showing the expected capabilities of the hydropneumatic suspension.
A drawing of the Panzer 74 with the Variante H hull, showing the expected capabilities of the hydropneumatic suspension.

Conclusion

While the Panzer 74 presents itself as a capable vehicle which would have improved Switzerland’s armored capabilities, it never went past the design phase. The main reason for this was likely that it would have been too expensive and the Swiss politicians realized that building a completely new tank wasn’t worth it, as Switzerland was not in any grave danger. The Panzer 68 was viewed as sufficient and it stayed in service with various upgrades until 2003.

Early turret-less Panzer 58-based prototype with a engine raised exhaust and probably a new engine
Early turret-less Panzer 58-based prototype with an engine raised exhaust and probably a new engine – Illustrator: David Bocquelet
The Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret and the Variante H hull
The Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret and the Variante H hull, without sideskirts – Illustrator: David Bocquelet
A Panzer 74 with the Variante D turret and Variante H hull, with a fixed rear pannier, in what-if camouflaged and with a thermal sleeve
A Panzer 74 with the Variante D turret and Variante H hull, with a fixed rear pannier, in what-if camouflaged and with a thermal sleeve – Illustrator: David Bocquelet

Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret by Giganaut
Panzer 74 with the Variante D turret by Giganaut
Panzer 74 wooden mockup
Panzer 74 wooden model
Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret and the Variante H hull
Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret and the Variante H hull
Panzer 74 with the Variante A turret and the Variante H hull
Panzer 74 with the Variante D turret and the variante H hull

Estimated specifications Panzer 74

Dimensions 9.71 x 3.35 x 2.32 m (31’10” x 10’11” x 7’7” ft)
Total weight, battle ready 46 tons
Crew 4 (commander/radio, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion MT 883 V12 Diesel, 1200 bhp, 26.1 hp/ton
Suspension Either Hydropneumatic or Torsion bar suspension depending on hull
Speed (road) 68 km/h (42.3 mph) forward, 30km/h (18.6 mph) in reverse
Range 350 km (217.5 mi)
Armament 105 mm L7 gun and later the 120 mm L11 gun
2x 7.5 mm MG51 or 12.7 mm MG
Armor Hull unknown, Turret 30-250 mm (1.18- 9.84 in)