When mentioning worst tanks ever made, most people usually imagine certain pre-war or wartime monstrosities, usually the products of desperate minds and desperate measures. After the war, the situation stabilized and the extremely rapid armor development slowed down somewhat (it took only five years to progress from the tiny Panzer II, BT tank series and the M1 Combat Car to the Panther, Pershing and the IS-3), but the tank evolution never stopped.
Failed vehicles of the post-war era were plagued by different issues than the wartime ones. Instead of pursuing obviously useless concepts such as the super-heavy tanks, the most common problem was the vehicle taking too long to develop (sometimes to the point of obsolescence by the time it was finally ready) while crossing the planned budget many times over. Taking too long to develop and going over the budged does of course not guarantee a failed project – the best example would be the American M2 Bradley, a fine vehicle that however took around 20 years to develop.
There were however various “offshoots” of the existing tank design schools that did not end well. Each has its own individual background but the result was the same – a problematic vehicle that can be marked as a failure. Today, we shall have a look at some of them.
The Panzer 68 was a Swiss tank, conceived as an upgrade to the relatively successful Panzer 61. Named after the year it was formally ordered by the Swiss government, at first glance this vehicle was not extraordinary - a solid tank built upon the previous design, armed with the standard NATO 105mm gun (the L7) and with sufficient armor and equipment not to lag behind its American and Soviet counterparts. Around 390 of these tanks were produced and the vehicle stayed in service between 1971 and 2003.
The problem of this tank was not its bad design but the fact that it was plagued by serious issues that (summed up) made it practically unusable in battle. In 1979, a committee was assembled to investigate the vehicle and found dozens of problems, notably:
- Insufficient NBC protection
- The fact that the vehicle has to stop before switching to reverse (limiting its ability to react on threats)
- Radio station interfering with turret controls causing the turret to sometimes randomly turn when used at full power
Possibly the most serious issue discovered was the fact that turning on the heating could cause the main gun to fire. This report caused a scandal that led to the resignation of the Swiss minister of defense. In the end however, the tank stayed in Swiss service and most of its issues were hammered out during the major overhaul these tanks underwent after the affair. The fact that in such state the vehicles were allowed to serve for almost a decade before the truth came to light does however earn them the place on our list.