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SK 105 Kurassier

The SK 105 is a light tank family of vehicles with a rifled 105 mm gun. The latest version of the vehicle (A2) incorporates a 2-axis stabilized turret with electrical drives. It further provides its users with latest generation IR sights, a ballistic computer and the ability to fire APFSDS rounds for increased lethality. Due to its low weight, the SK 105 can be transported by C-130 Hercules transport aircraft or amphibious assault boats. This vehicle is specifically designed for mountainous terrain or areas with reduced infrastructure and has an improved climbing ability and maneuverability compared to heavier main battle tanks.

The SK-105 Kürassier light tank initially was developed by the firm of Saurer-Werke, which merged with Steyr-Daimler-Puchin 1970. The 4K 4FA tracked APC created in the late 1950's served as the base. Although classified as "tank destroyer" [Jagdpanzer] by the Austrian army, SK 105 (known as Kurassier) is considered a light tank. The first prototype was ready in 1967 and first production vehicles were delivered in 1971.

Many of its automotive components are identical to the used ones in the armored troop carrier vehicles of of (APC) built by Steyr, allowing to the users to have an full family of the vehicles based on similar parts, which facilitates training and the logistic support. The SK 105 variants include the Greif armored recovery vehicle, the Pionier engineering vehicle and the driver training vehicle.

The production of armored equipment created on the basis of vehicle construction was most extensively developed in Austria. The armor industry produced the SK105 JAGDPANZER tanks (Kuerassier) and SAUER armoured personnel carriers, and also other combat and engineering equipment based on them. The firm Steyr-Diamler-Puch (in Vienna) is the main producer. It includes three assembly plants which produce tracked and wheeled armoredvehicles and also cross-country vehicles. These enterprises are located inVienna, Steyr and Graz. The firm also produces various modifications of armored personnel carriers, the KUERASSIER light tank, and the GREIF BRDM for the country's armed forces and also for export. The factories of the firms "Sauer-Zimmering" and "Greif und Stift" also produce armored equipment. Almost all the vehicle assembly plants of these firms have a reserve capacity to produce military equipment.

The first types of armored personnel carriers were developed in 1956. The experience obtained during series production provided the capability to begin the construction of a new generation of armored vehicles during the second half of the 1960s. The KUERASSIER light tank, the prototype of which was assembled in 1967, was the first of these. The series vehicles began to be delivered to Austrian troops in 1970. Casting and rolling for the KUERASSIER tank is made by an integrated iron and steel works in Linz (the concern of Fest Alpine) at the firm's assembly plant in Vienna.

The tank hull is welded. Its frontal armor (20 mm thick) provides protection against small caliber projectiles. The driving compartment is in the forward part of the hull and the engine-transmission compartment is in the rear. The tank has a crew of three.

The tank uses a modified FL-12 two-place rotating turret of the French AMX-13 light tank, manufactured under license. It consists of two parts: a lower part mounted on a ball race and an upper rotating part in which the CN 105-57 105-mm rifled gun [other sources report CN-105-27 smooth-barrelled cannon, probably for the fin-stabilized armor-piercing discarding-sabot projectile ammunition upgrade] and coaxial 7.62-mm machinegun are mounted. A semiautomatic loader with two magazines of six ready-to-use rounds each provides a rate of fire of 12 rounds per minute. The gun is not stabilized, but a rather high first round hit probability on a stationary target is achieved by using a laser rangefinder when firing from the halt. The unit of fire includes 43 rounds with shaped-charge, HE-fragmentation and smoke projectiles.

Defense materiel rapidly becomes obsolete. The Steyr Kuerassier tank, first produced in 1971, was completely outclassed by newer tanks such as the Soviet T 72 or the Leopard. Its combat effectiveness dropped alarmingly in the eyes of Austrian generals also. Steyr could see only two possibilities: to retrofit the Kuerassier with a new gun and turret (an expensive proposition) or to develop a new type of ammunition.

The French-developed OFL 105GI fin-stabilized armor-piercing discarding-sabot projectile was included in the unit of fire in late 1985. VOEST, together with Tyrol's Plansee Works in their jointly owned "Ennstaler Metallwerke" subsidiary, developed a new generation of tank ammunition: the so-called "KE" (kinetic energy) or arrow ammunition. A heavy-metal bolt-type projectile leaves the barrel at a velocity of 1,460-1,500 meters/sec, replacing the old, barely effective, shaped charge grenade. It can penetrate a standard NATO target consisting of three steel armor plates up to 350 mm thickness at distances of up to 1 km. The old shaped charge grenades were ineffective against thick steel-ceramic armor.

Triple-tube grenade launchers are mounted along the sides of the turret for laying smoke screens. The tank is equipped with a heater for manned compartments and with communication equipment. A six-cylinder diesel engine and mechanical transmission are installed in the tank. The engine-transmission compartment is equipped with an automatic fire extinguishing system. The running gear has torsion-bar sus-pension, with hydraulic shock absorbers on the first and fifth road wheels.

Austria had 122 K-type Kuerassier tanks in 1975; there were 284 Kuerassier tanks of the same type in 1988. At the end of the 1970s, the concern produced the modernized version of the tank, the KUERASSIER-2. This variant was equipped with a weapons stabilization system, automatic fire control system and night vision instruments. In all, by 1986 more than 600 tanks had been produced. The yearly output was 40-50 tanks.

Austrian specialists began modernizing the SK-105 Kürassierlight tank in the early 1980's. As a result the SK-105/A3 version was created by 1986, on which the American M68 105-mm rifled gun, stabilized in two laying planes, was used as main armament (as on the series M 60 tanks). The unit of fire consists of 32 rounds. Gun laying drives are electrical. The fire control system includes a digital ballistic computer. Passive night vision devices are installed for the gunner and commander. In addition, armor protection of the frontal part of the welded turret was reinforced.

The Greif armored recovery vehicle and an engineer vehicle were created on the basis of the SK-105 Kürassier light tank. The first is equipped with a rotary hoisting crane (maximum lifting capacity 6.5 tons), main and auxiliary winches (20 and 1.44 tons tractive force respectively), and a spade which is attached to the front of the hull and is used for excavation or in extricating stuck light armored vehicles.

Series production of the SK-105 Kürassier light tank began in the early 1970's. Some 600 tanks were produced up to 1985, of which 250 went to the Austrian Army. The high performance characteristics for this vehicle class and the comparative low cost provided the KUERASSIER with a wide market abroad, including Argentina (150), Bolivia (34), Mauritania [??], Morocco (109) Peru, [??] and Tunisia (54). The Navy of Brazil also acquired 17 SK 105 for the Body of Fuzileiros Navais (CFN). The incorporation of this tank was part of the Program of Reaparelhamento of the Navy for equiping fiflemen with more modern equipment. Since the beginning of series production, by 1986 more than 200 tanks had been exported. In 1985, an aggreement was signed for the sale of 100 tanks to Iran and negotiations on the delivery of 200-300 vehicles to Saudi Arabia was being carried out. Production of the SK 105 resumed for Botswana, with an order for 20 brand new vehicles and an option on an additional 30 vehicles.

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Page last modified: 03-08-2012 18:34:17 ZULU