Saturday 19 March 2016

World of Tanks History Section: Panzer 58 Mutz

What is Switzerland famous for? One immediately thinks of watches, banks, mountains, and cheese. Despite fighting its last war in 1848, this small country remained among the top producers of armament for decades.

For many years, Switzerland did not have its own tanks or SPGs. Even though Europe experienced a tank building boom after the end of the Second World War, Switzerland preferred to buy British Centutions and Czech G-13s (an improved version of the Jagdpanzer 38(t), mistakenly called Hetzer). This was cheaper than developing and producing domestic designs. The situation changed in the 1950s.

Piece of the Indian Pie

It's no secret that Swiss armament companies (largely Oerlikon and Solothurn) worked closely with the Germans before WWII. After the war, this cooperation resumed. In 1953, several German and Swiss companies began developing a tank for India under the guidance of Porsche KG, named, naturally, Indien-Panzer. After a year, the project was finished, but it was too complicated for Indian factories. For instance, the Indien-Panzer used many cast parts.

As a result, the Indians preferred to buy British Centurions, and solutions of the "unnecessary" Indien-Panzer migrated into the Leopard 1 and AMX 30. Another side effect of the Indien-Panzer program was the Swiss KW.30 tank.

The majority of the tank's development was done by the central design bureau at Thun. The 30 ton tank was going to be armed with the domestic 9 cm Kanone 48 and Mercedes-Benz engine. The KW.30 prototype was finished in 1957, two years later than its planned production. Soon after, the hero of this article was built, the Panzer 58 Mutz.

American Style

The tank series was named after the second prototype, which had a different gun than the first. Instead of the 90 mm gun, the tank had a British 20-pdr (84 mm), produced in Switzerland under the index 8.4 cm Panzerkanone 58. The auxiliary armament was improved, replacing the coaxial machinegun with a 20 mm Oerlikon autocannon. The suspension grew by one road wheel. This tank can currently be seen in the Thun tank museum.

The project was, in a word, strange. It would appear that the design is based on one of the most experienced tank building schools in Europe, the German one, but a closer look reveals similarities to the American M47 Patton II. In turn, that tank was a slight improvement of the Pershing, which evolved from the T20 medium tank that the Americans started developing in late 1942.

The cast hull and turret, torsion bar suspension, rear drive wheel and front idler, engine compartment roof composed of several pieces, all of these details are indicative of an American influence. To be fair, the Swiss did not just blindly copy them, and each one was somehow improved or changed, so the Panzer 58 Mutz was an independent project, and a good one at that.

After trials, the Swiss accepted the Panzer 58 and ordered 10 pre-production vehicles. The gun changed again, now to a licensed version of the British 105 mm L7. Engineers improved these ten tanks, and this gave birth to the first mass produced Swiss tank, the Panzer 61. Only 160 were built, but for a small and neutral Switzerland, this is quite a few.

Original article available here.

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