Panzer 68 ET - The upgrade that never came

Would you like to see the Panzer 68 ET in-game?
  • Yes
  • No
0 voters



History

The Panzer 68 ET (Panzer 68 Erprobungsträger) was part of Switzerland’s efforts to maintain a technologically advanced and competitive armoured force during the latter half of the 20th century. Originating from the earlier Panzer 61, the Panzer 68 was an initial upgrade that sought to improve on its predecessor’s design and capabilities.

In 1984, as part of a broader initiative under the Neue Kampfpanzer (NKPz) programme aimed at developing a third-generation MBT, Federal Construction (also known as K+W) in Switzerland undertook a significant upgrade of the existing Panzer 68/75 model, resulting in the Panzer 68 ET. This upgrade was designed to test the viability of enhancing older models as a stopgap measure while new designs were being finalised.

The Panzer 68 ET featured several notable upgrades, primarily the installation of a 120mm RUAG Compact Tank Gun, which represented a substantial increase in firepower. Additionally, the tank was outfitted with spaced armour to enhance protection. This armour was angular in shape and added about 2.5 tonnes to the tank’s weight, consisting of steel plates up to 20mm thick. Despite these enhancements, the increased weight and the more powerful gun introduced significant mechanical challenges during trials. These defects were severe enough that the upgrade project was never adopted into active service.

The discontinuation of the NKPz programme and the decision to procure the more cost-effective Leopard 2A4 tanks also contributed to making the Panzer 68 ET obsolete. Despite its challenges and limited role, the prototype of the Panzer 68 ET is preserved at the Burgdorf Museum in Switzerland, serving as a historical artefact of Swiss military engineering efforts during this era.


Weaponry
The Panzer 68 ET was equipped with the 120mm RUAG Compact Gun, a more compact variant of the 120mm L/44, which, while maintaining the same level of firepower, had several drawbacks, primarily in terms of reliability. This main armament allowed the Panzer 68 ET to engage effectively with various targets. The gun featured 2-plane stabilization and had an elevation range from -10° to +20°. It could rotate 360°, though the depression over the engine deck at the rear was slightly reduced to -7°.

In addition to its main armament, the Panzer 68 ET was outfitted with two secondary machine guns. A 7.5mm MG 51 was mounted coaxially with the main gun, and another was placed on the roof for anti-aircraft and close defence purposes.

While the tank included a coincidence rangefinder for targeting, it lacked more advanced targeting aids such as a thermal camera, night vision, or a laser rangefinder. This limitation would have reduced its effectiveness in low visibility conditions or during night operations, impacting its overall battlefield utility in diverse combat scenarios.

  • 1 x RUAG 120mm compact gun (56 rounds)
  • 2 x 7.5 mm MG 51/87 (5,200 rounds)

image


Mobility

The Panzer 68 ET retained many of the mechanical components of its predecessor, the Panzer 68, but included enhancements that affected its mobility due to increased armour and armament. It was powered by an MTU BA837 Ba-500, a supercharged V8 diesel engine with a displacement of 29,900 cc, delivering 660 horsepower at 2200 rpm. This engine was paired with a semi-automatic SLM Winterthur transmission, featuring six forward and six reverse gears, enabling the tank to reach speeds up to 52.7 km/h forward and 51.8 km/h backward.

Despite these capabilities, the Panzer 68 ET’s increased weight, at 42 tonnes, pushed the mechanical components to their limits, leading to frequent reliability issues. These issues could potentially take days to manifest, making them less noticeable during short-term operations. Nonetheless, this increase in weight only slightly reduced the tank’s mobility compared to the original Panzer 68. The tank maintained good speed capabilities, allowing it to swiftly engage and then retreat to cover, potentially before enemy forces could return fire.

  • Engine: MTU BA837 Ba-500 660HP (15.71 HP/T)
  • Transmission: SLM Winterthur, 6F/6R (Semi-automatic)

Protection
The Panzer 68 ET incorporated spaced armour, adding a layer over the existing Panzer 68 armour. This design primarily enhanced protection against HESH and HEAT rounds. However, its effectiveness against kinetic energy munitions like APFSDS or APDS rounds was limited.

The addition of spaced armour did not drastically alter the fundamental vulnerabilities of the Panzer 68’s basic armour against more modern munitions but provided a moderate improvement against specific types of threats.


Dimensions
Dimensions of the Panzer 68 ET;

  • Length: 9.49 meters
  • Width: 3.14 meters
  • Height: 2.72 meters
  • Mass: 42 tonnes (15.71 HP/T)

Pictures

image

Sources

Panzer 68 MBT (1968) (tank-afv.com)

Основной боевой танк Panzer 68ET — ВикиВоины (wikiwarriors.org)

Panzer 68 Erprobungsträger, Pz 68 ET - Kampfpanzer - Raupenfahrzeuge | militärfahrzeuge.ch (militaerfahrzeuge.ch)

Der Panzer, der von selber schoss - 20 Minuten

Main battle tank Panzer 68 Erprobungsträger (Switzerland) (topwar.ru)


2 Likes

Sort of reminds me of the German M48 Super. +1