Tunisia SK-105 Kurassier

Tunisia ordered a total 54 SK-105 Kurassier light tanks/tank destroyers from Austria in 1976 (SIPRI).  As of early 2011 An unknown number of these vehicles are still in active service with the Tunisian army.

A Tunisian army SK-105 Kurassier on the streets of the Capital Tunis during a declared state of emergency following violence due labour strikes, January 1978. (Corbis)

Note that by this date SK-105s were new in service (according to SIPRI they weren’t delivered until the following year). the dark paint scheme may therefore be the original delivery scheme, presumably the dark green of Austrian armoured vehicles of the time.

The Austrian SK-105 is often mistaken for the earlier and more widespread French AMX-13.  Such misidentification can be attributed to the common oscillating turret design, whereby the gun is fixed to the turret and the entire upper turret changes elevation with the gun.  Although oscillating turrets were only employed in a few designs they had the perceived benefit of reducing the turret size and therefore weight.  For the Austrians this would allow a potent tank destroyer (105mm gun) on a comparatively smaller and lighter vehicle thus permitting greater mobility over the country’s mountainous terrain.   In this case Austria heavily modified the hull of the Saurer Armoured Personnel Carriers to provide the base for the SK-105.

Although the differences between the SK-105 and AMX-13 are numerous the most obvious external differences  for identification purposes are a) AMX-13 road wheels are solid SK-105 road wheels are open spoked.  b) the SK-105 barrel has an indented band about halfway along to fit the travel lock c)  the top hull sides of the SK-105 are relatively sloped when compared to the more angular AMX-13.

Tunisian SK-105 during the 2010/2011 Revolution

The Tunisian revolution which began in mid December 2010 and to some degree is still ongoing, led to ousting of President Ben Ali on 14/01/2011 due primarily to the Tunisian Army’s intervention and surrounding of his presidential palace.  During initial period of revolution a number of photographs were taken of Tunisian army SK-105 being deployed.

I have identified three different SK-105 examples:
1. A Sequence of three photographs, dated 17/01/2011, showing a SK-105 being unloaded and deployed outside the gates leading to the Presidential Palace (Cathage Palace), Tunis.

The unconvential tan with brown and green star like ‘splotches’ camouflage is a common scheme for Tunisian army vehicles.

A good close-up view of the 105mm gun with the transport lock attached.

Another photograph showing the anti-slip panels on the front of the hull.  Just below this is a red and white Tunisian national roundel with the vehicles five digit (xx xxx) registration/serial number in black.

2. Another SK-105 being unloaded, date and location unknown

The box mounted on top of the rear turret houses a CILAS TCV 29 laser range-finder.  The oscillating turret design means that the laser range-finder location is not limited to the gun barrel or mantle.
A YouTube video of the same vehicle being unloaded:

3. An SK-105 is deployed near the main entrance to Tunis–Carthage International Airport.  The Tunisian military allowed a plane carrying the ousted president to depart before shutting down Tunisian airspace.  It’s presence outside the airport might also be related to international concerns over the safety of foreign workers and visitors, many of which were trying to leave the country through this airport.

Note whilst the same colours are utilised the camouflage pattern is different, employing to disruptive bands/stripes.

 Any further information or images of Tunisian SK-105s would be appreciated.