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Probably the Best Armoured Brigade in the World? PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 31 December 2004 12:57
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GHQ N52 Leopard 2The Swedish Armoured Brigade of the 21st Century

Okay, so technically it’s the wrong country for the play on words from that well known beer advert, but it is the correct region! In this article I will present the current Swedish Armoured Brigade organisation, and show that it is one of the toughest opponents around, especially in the context of its role, which is the defence of the homeland.


This article originally appeared in the SOTCW's Journal No.51 (Christmas 2006).


The Military Balance of 1999-2000 lists the Swedes as having six Mechanised Brigades, (which technically is correct, as none have armour heavy tank battalions.) However, two of the Brigades, the 9th and 19th, are in fact nominated as Armoured Brigades due to the equipment mix used.

Many wargamers are aware of the ex-East German kit purchased by the Swedes, but most of that has gone to the Mechanised and Infantry Brigades, while the Armoured Brigades are a cut above the rest. (800 East German MT-LB’s were bought to replace theTgb20 all terrain trucks in the Infantry units giving the troops some form of armoured protection even if the Pvb401 - the Swedish designation of the MT-LB - isn’t up to the standard of the CV90FCV – SOTCW Ed.)

An example of this is the Strv-122 (or Leopard 2A5) they purchased. Whisit good enough in its own right, the Swedes took one look at it and realised it is grossly under-armoured (!) so the Swedes have added about 6" (15cm) of armour to the nose, and have also added ceramic layered armour to the roof to help protect against bomblets and overhead attack missiles. The wheel hubs are armoured, effectively making all the hull side spaced armour, and they have added HALON type automatic fire suppression equipment to the fuel tank, on top of the one already fitted to the crew compartment. There is a new digital command/data system, similar to the American MS, and they have replaced the standard smoke dischargers with the French 80mm GALIX system. This is an automated defence system that fires smoke grenades, missile decoy or anti-personnel grenades as required. All these additions have brought the Strv-122 up to 63 tonnes weight, but it does make it the best Leopard 2A5 version in use anywhere in the world. The only thing it won't have is Depleted Uranium penetrators in its FSAPDS round.

The Anti-Tank Battalion is interesting, and shows again the Swedish prediliction to anti-armour defence. All the ATGW are on armoured vehicles, and the Bill is very useful as it has an overhead attack warhead, effective against most MBTs, even those with special armours. The Bill is mounted in an open hatch in the rear of the MICV, so is not quite fully under armour firing, but it can be dismounted and hidden alongside dug-in infantry. Yet again the mortar company is present, and two of the companies are in CV-90-40, which can utilise their 40mm cannon on everything other than MBTs, thereby saving missiles, or are still useful even after all the ATGW are fired.

Swedish Armoured Brigade 1997+

The current organisation commenced in 1997 and formalised the purchase of the Leopard 2A5 from Germany, alongside the introduction of the CV-90 series of home built MICVs. The force multiplier behind this are the battalion mortars, as will be shown. Traditionally it would be expected that an armoured brigade would have 2-3 tank battalions, one infantry battalion in MICVs, an artillery battalion, one AA company, one engineer company and one recce company. Since WW2 the Swedes have turned away from the “pure” tank battalion and used mixed battalions, even having an APC platoon attached to each tank company. Currently this has been refined to mixed battalions with pure companies.

The Swedish Armoured Brigade has the following units:

Brigade HQ staff
3 x Mechanised Battalions
1 x Anti-tank Battalion
1 x Artillery Battalion
2 x AA Companies
2 x Engineer Companies
1 x Recce Company

Note the differences compared to the traditional armoured brigade mix - a complete anti-tank battalion no less, and double the number of AA and engineer companies. As usual the Swedes are ahead of the game, having extra engineers at brigade level. The Americans have realised this recently and their new Force XXI Heavy Division has a complete engineer battalion per combat brigade.

In detail, the Brigade supports are:

Brigade HQ: 4 x CV90FCV, 1 x Epbvc-302 command post APCs.
1 x Artillery Battalion: BHQ in Softskins. 2 x batteries each of: battery HQ in 2 x CV90FOV - 2 x OP teams in CV90FOV, 6 x 155mm FH77B Bofors field howitzers towed by Saab-Scania-111 6x6 trucks.
1 x AA Company: CHQ. 3 x platoons each of 3 x Lvrbv-701 (with RBS-70), 1 x Giraffe radar.
1 x AA Company: CHQ. 3 x platoons each of several RBS-70 on Jeeps, 1 x Giraffe radar.
2 x Engineer Companies, each of: CHQ. 2 x platoons each of: 3 x engineer squads in trucks.
1 x Recce Company: CHQ in 2 x trucks and 1 x Jeep. 4 x platoons, each of: 3 x CV-90-40, 3 x squads each of 8x men, 2 x GPMG, 1 x 84mm S.550 Carl Gustav and 6 x AT-4 disposable LAW.

GHQ N81 IltisBrigade Support Units

Surprisingly the Swedes still rely on towed artillery whereas every other nation uses SP artillery wherever possible. In the Swedish case this may be explained by the terrain, vast forests, lakes and hills, where the road network is the only way to move. The 155mm FH77B can be towed at 70kmh on roads, which is faster than any conventional tracked SPG. Similarly the engineers and half of the AA is in softskins, ideal for road movement but not for cross-country in open warfare.

The Recce Company is quite strong, and well enough equipped to take on any other recce vehicle other than a main battle tank. Even then the 40mmL70 FSAPDS round and Carl Gustavs can damage MBTs if they get close enough or even knock them out from the flanks.

The Artillery Battalion is rather weak at only two batteries, but the OPs and battery command posts are fully armoured in CV-90 series APCs, which means the OPs can keep up with the mechanised forces in the front line. The gun itself can move under auxiliary power at 8kph on its own, allowing quicker into and out of action, and limited redeployment ability to avoid counter-battery fire. The gun has a range of 24km with standard HE rounds, 30km with extended range HE, and can fire Tt screening smoke, illumination rounds and dual-purpose bomblet (ICM) as standard, (it has assisted power loading to help the 6 man crew achieve 6rpm if required for short periods).

Shells under development in the 1990s were the BONUS round carrying 3x 120mm TGSM (Terminally Guided Sub-Munitions) bomblets with IIR seeker and self-forging fragment warheads, and the BOSS guided anti-armour shell with IIR seeking and HEAT warhead, operating similar to the STRIX guided anti-armour projectile. Neither of these is known to be in service although a wargames scenario might allow limited use.

Anti-aircraft defence at brigade level relies on the RBS-70, the Swedish equivalent of the Sa-14 or Redeye, but using laser-beam riding to a maximum range of 5km. Whilst virtually immune to countermeasures such as chaff, flares and ECM, it has to track the target to impact, so it is not considered the most accurate of the manportable systems. A comparison halfway between the Sa-7 and Stinger is about right. At 80kg for the whole system it is not really manportable, but the jeep mounted ones can be dismounted and set up on their tripods if supporting defending infantry in cover.

The Lvrbv-701 is a fully armoured tracked SP version on old remanufactured tkv-103 chassis, so can keep up cross-country with the combat battalions. It has an effective IFF system, and the Giraffe radar in each company HQ is truck mounted on an elevated platform, allowing it to be used to detect aircraft from within woods or from behind buildings. There is an RBS-90 about which I have no data, this presumably is an upgraded RBS-70 which can be fired from the same launchers.

The engineers are combat engineers, and are trained in laying anti-tank mines as part of the defensive layout, as well as the usual digging and demolition activities.

Brigade Combat Units

This is where the Swedish Armoured Brigade becomes a little different. Tank companies are small at ten tanks, as per German and Israeli philosophy, but each has one integral bridge layer and an ARV. At least 10x Leopard 2 Buffel ARVs were on order in 2000, so the Centurion ARVs can be replaced by these. The bridgelayer is unusual, in most armies they are held at brigade or division tevel and handed out when thought needed. Being held at company level means they are more instantly available, increasing the company's mobility cross-country.

Each tank company is paired with a mechanised company in the new CV-90-40 MICV, which has the best gun of any APC in existence, being able to penetrate 20cm of vertical armour at 1500m with FSAPDS. It's armour will be 23mm proof frontatly at least, possible 30mm APDS proof over 500m, but does not appear to be ceramic layered like the Bradley. Nor does it appear capable of being fitted with reactive armour blocks or spaced ceramic layered boxes like the Warrior. The infantry squads are well armed with two MG3 GPMG. one Cart Gustav and 6x AT-4 disposable LAW per squad.

It is possible that the Carl Gustav now have the 132mm oversize warheads available that have some chance against ceramic and reactive armours of the more recent Soviet tanks. The most remarkable feature of the Mechanised Battalion is the Mortar Company, a full 16 tubes in four batteries, enough for one battery per company. This means that each company commander has his own personal battery, or the battalion commander could on exceptional occasions order a full 16 tube barrage. The ammunition train must be quite large for this amount of mortars, perhaps wargamers should force the purchase of extra ammo trucks is using points systems. The mortars themselves are not towed but carried disassembled in the back of their trucks, so would take a couple of minutes to set up. With four batteries available the battalion can advance leap frog style with 2 batteries moving and 2 set up in fire support quite easily. The force multiplier that these add is not just the sheer number of tubes per battalion.

Each mortar can also fire the 120mm STR1X guided anti armour projectile, similar to the British Merlin but with a bigger warhead. This has a range of 5km, or up to 7km with extended range booster added. This converts the mortar company in each battalion into another anti-tank unit. Each round has to be programmed before launch after insertion into the mortar. So although this mean they could not be salvo fired like HE rounds at 15rpm per tube, even so, each battery could in theory fire 4x STRtX every two minutes at a known enemy armour concentration. Imagine the effect if art 16 tubes were firing, with an unlimited supply of STRtX rounds, from a defensive position with pre-registered terrain targets, covering a pass into which an observed armoured regiment has been funnelled. This is a wargamers wet dream, with the Leopard 2A5s moving in afterwards to finish off the mess.

In reality it is very unlikely that large numbers of STR1X would be available, and their use may be restricted to sniping at enemy armoured units with the mortar OP in the infantry CHQ hidden in trees or other cover observing approaching tanks This way armour could be ambushed without giving away the location of direct fire assets, which can be saved for later Alternatively, the STRtX could be catted down upon particularly well hidden hull-down armour that is being a nuisance but that cannot be engaged with direct fire without extreme nsk. With this organisation the Swedes have appeared to devolve command of these weapons to company and battalion commanders, which is interesting. Such a potentially useful weapons has images of brigade and division commanders 'taking them over' to be used en masse if a armoured battlegroup broke through, but here they are being commanded tactically at the battalion level.

In practice each battalion has an anti-aircraft platoon attached from Corps level, this being 3x CV-90-40 AA. Similar to the M1CV. it carries more ammo instead of infantry, and has better sighting equipment. The venerable 40mm Bofors using hi-tech proximity fused ammo it considered one of the best AAA pieces around, and these vehicles are probably more effective than the RBS-70 systems. It also makes another useful anti-BMP and anti-infantry weapon in emergency, although each mechanized battalion already has 20 of the M1CV version, so their should be no need for this. Wargamers are prone to using SPAA guns as extra anti-tank units, which is something they are very good at, but is slightly unrealistic in command and training purposes. We all know that the M42 Duster and the ZSU-57-2 are much better at destroying light armour than aircraft, and are very good at pinning infantry, but vehicles like the 2S6, Gepard and CV-90-40 are very expensive and uncommon, and they should be operated to the rear of the wargames table as air defence just in case, even if it means they are sat around for several moves doing nothing.

Brigade Combat Units

Three Mechanised Battalions, each of:
BHQ: 2 x CV-90FCV, 1 GPMG and 6 x AT-4 LAW for local defence.
2 x Tank Companies, each of: CHQ: 1 x Strv 122. 3 x platoons, each of; 3 x Leopard 2A5 Strv 122. 1 x platoon of: 1 x MTU-55 bridgelayer and 1 x Centurion ARV.
2 x Mechanised Companies, each: CHQ: 1 x CV-90-40, 1 x eight-man squad. 3 x platoons, each of; 3 x CV-90-40, 3 x eight-man squads, 6 x GPMG, 3 x 84mm S.550 Carl Gustav, 18 x AT-4 disposable LAW.
1x Mortar Company: 4 batteries each of 4 x 120mm M41/D mortars carried in trucks, 1 radio-HQ Jeep.
1 Attached AA Platoon: 3 x CV-90-40 AA (See brigade supports above).

One Anti-Tank Battalion:
BHQ: 2 x Stripbv-302 APCs, 1x command squad with 6x AT-4 LAW.
1x Company: CHQ. 3 x platoons, each: 3 x Pbrbv-551 (TOW).
2 x Companies, each of: CHQ: 1 x CV90-40. 3 x platoons, each of: 3 x CV90-40 + Bill ATGW.
1 x Mortar Company of: 3 x batteries each: 4 x 120mm M41/D mortars carried in trucks.

In Conclusion

This then is the Swedish Armoured Brigade currently is use, and it would be a challenge for any gamer to take on in a straight brigade on brigade encounter. The only problem would be the models, as no one makes the CV-90 series, Lvrbv-701 or Pbrbv-551 in any scale I am aware of. In emergency the Japanese Type 89 MICV or even Marders could be used as CV-90-40, and PBv-302 with a missile tube on the roof could represent the SP vet-tides. H&R West German infantry would do for Swedish infantry.

Mark has provided a proposed Swedish Armoured Brigade TO&E: 9th & 19th Swedish Armoured Brigades (1997+).

Contributor: © 2006 Mark Bevis.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 March 2010 21:01
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