Status Report: Swedish tanks part 28: Landsverk L-60 revisited
The 2nd Swedish tank to hit supertest was just revealed, and it turns out that its the Landsverk L-60. As you might know I have covered this tank in the past, but with these news I thought this would be the perfect time to write a updated article with everything we have found since then.
In the early 1930s the company of Landsverk had just established itself as a arms manufacturer. Landsverk had been an engineering company focused on producing railway and agricultural equipment. However in the mid-1920s Landsverk was bought up by a German company and became a way for German engineers to experiment with AFV designs banned under the Versailles treaty. Landsverks early work on AFV design had involved Studying the Raeder-Raupen-Kampfwagen M28 tank and building an experimental armored car for the Swedish army.
In January of 1931 Landsverk was chosen over two competing companies to build 4 tanks under contract from the Swedish army. This would result in the Strv m/31 and Strv fm/31, two thoroughly modern tank designs which were some of the first to feature fully welded and sloped armor. The same year a number of export designs were drawn up, ranging from self-propelled anti-aircraft guns to light tanks and tankettes. One of these designs was the Landsverk 60 or L-60 for short, which was Landsverks new light tank design. The L-60 was meant as a sort of scaled down Strv m/31 and would keep many of the features of that tank like the suspension and rear mounted transmission. There were even plans for a wheel-cum-track version of the L-60 called L-80.
But as the design developed a front mounted transmission was chosen and the leaf spring suspension was exchanged for a torsion bar suspension. This marked the first use of torsion bars on a tank and can be attributed to Otto Merker who was the head engineer of Landsverk at the time. He would leave his position at Landsverk in 1936 to work on German U-boat designs.
In 1933 the Irish free state became the first country to show interest in the L-60 design and in May of 1934 two L-60 tanks were ordered by the Irish defence minister. Just over a year later in August of 1935 the tanks were ready to be demonstrated to an Irish delegation. However during the demonstration one of the tanks caught fire when the driver allowed the engine to backfire. The fire took several hours to put out and the tank was completely destroyed. In return, Landsverk offered to replace the destroyed tank free of charge. The surviving L-60 was to be delivered to Ireland November, but before that Landsverk demonstrated and filmed it in Switzerland. The Swiss military was interested in the design but in the end, they decided to go with the Czech LTH design, which became the Panzerwagen 39.
The L-60 was a very good tank for its time. Its new suspension, small size and weight gave the tank excellent mobility and a top speed of 45 kph. The armament consisted of a newly developed 20mm Madsen automatic cannon and a coaxial 8mm Madsen machine gun which was better than comparable tanks at the time. In total, the tank carried 240 rounds of main gun ammunition and 3000 rounds of ammo for the coaxial gun. The main flaw of the design was perhaps the armor, which was only designed to be able to withstand .303 machinegun fire. This translated to a maximum thickness of 13mm for most of the hull and turret. The Irish L-60’s would continue to see use until 1953 when they were finally retired due to a lack of spare parts.
While construction of the replacement L-60 was underway the Swedish army started showing interest in the design. A delegation was sent to study the vehicle in early 1936 and this led to mobility trials in June of 1936. The design was praised for its good mobility, optics and accuracy though some areas of improvement were noted. In particular, some minor changes needed to be made to the suspension and it was requested to add a commanders cupola.
An order for two Swedish L-60 prototypes was placed in July. These would be significantly reworked compared to earlier models. The hull was changed to fit a Swedish-built 142 hp Scania-Vabis engine and a new turret from one of Landsverk’s armored car designs was installed. There were also some minor changes like the expanded drivers position. The successful trials of these prototypes in August of 1937 led to an order of 15 production vehicles with a 37mm armed turret. Internally at Landsverk these were called L-60 S but they received the army designation Strv m/38. The deliveries of the Strv m/38 started in August of 1938.
Around the same time as Sweden started looking into the L-60 Austria placed an order for a prototype of their own. Unlike the Swedish version, the Austrian L-60 differed only a little from the original L-60. The earlier turret and engine was kept, though the enlarged drivers compartment was carried over from the Swedish model. Requests were also made for fitting a diesel engine but Landsverk managed to avoid this by claiming the tank had to be reworked to fit the new engine. This L-60 would later be sent to Hungary and serve as the basis for the 38M Toldi which would enter license production in Hungary in 1939. If you want to read more about the Hungarian development of the L-60 you can check out SilentStalker’s old articles on the subject: http://ftr.wot-news.com/2013/11/06/hung … t-3-toldi/
While the L-60 was quickly outdated with the rapid development of tank design during ww2 it was an excellent tank for its time. And the use of sloped, welded armor and torsion bar suspension would become the standard for future tank designs. The L-60 was also an export success with over 400 vehicles of various types built and used by countries like Sweden, Hungary, Ireland and The Dominican Republic. The last L-60’s were taken out of service with the Dominican Republic military in the early 90s. The L-60 is also the only Swedish tank to have seen combat. The Hungarian version saw extensive use on the Russian front during ww2, where it was mainly used as a reconnaissance vehicle. And during the Dominican civil war in 1965, the L-60L (former Swedish Strv m/40L) was used.
L-60L destroyed by US intervention forces
Today a number of later L-60 models still remain around the world. Most are located in Sweden but at least one of the original L-60s remain in Ireland.
Surviving Irish L-60
Next time, I will probably take a look at the later development of the L-60 and the versions used by Sweden.