Thunder tank destroyer (Estonian: Aikest; Latvian: Pērkons; Lithuanian: Perkūnas) is a Baltic Union tank destroyer. Known for its unusual configuration and ability to take out technically-superior vehicles, Thunder remains the bane of Mecharussian tankers in the ongoing Baltic-Mekh conflict.
Thunder TD has its origins back in the First Cold War, in the unorthodox Swedish Strv 103. Although nominally classified as a tank, the Strv 103 was by all practical measures a tank destroyer rather than proper tank, lacking a turret and relying on a casemated main gun. Moreover, the Strv 103 used an unorthodox aiming mechanism, using the entire hull rather than a traversible gun to aim. Vertical aiming was accomplished by means of a hydraulic suspension that also enabled the TD to lower its overall profile. In principle, the design was deemed successful, but discarded from broader use after the end of the Cold War.
The concept saw renewed interest shortly before the Great War in the form of Strv 252. Swedish military was largely content with its existing fleet of German-made tanks, seeking instead to capitalize on the world's building military tensions by commissioning a potent tank destroyer at an affordable price for the export market. The first to strike a contract were the Baltic States, commissioning a joint purchase of 500 tank destroyers in late 2052. However, fewer than 100 were delivered before the outbreak of the Great War.
In the post-war decades, after the emergence of Baltic Union, the surviving examples were reverse-engineered and put into manufacture with several native-made improvements, most notably the replacement of its original main gun with a powerful German-built dual-stage railgun. The platform was also enhanced by addition of Class 4 reactive armor and an active defense system.
Thunder TD is reasonably well-armored, its low profile, integrated bulldozer blade for digging in, and hydraulically-adjustable chassis ensuring optimal placement. In a hull-down position, it is capable of standing its own ground against any existing MBT including Frenkish Edwins and Mecharussian T-25s. The addition of thermal adaptive camouflage makes it difficult to detect by IR sensors, and its active defense system can defeat most rocket-propelled AT ordnance. The system's powerful main gun can defeat the frontal armor of any modern MBT at ranges up to 2500 meters, longer ranges of sight being uncommon in Baltic Union terrain. Even older generation chem-propelled main guns can still prove quite dangerous to modern MBTs with the sheer impact and explosive force of their projectiles. The vehicle can notably move as fast in reverse as it does forward, the driver's seat being designed turnable by 180 degrees, complete with a second set of pedals and steering clutches.
Thunder's main weakness is a lack of turret, rendering it highly vulnerable if flanked. Although well-camouflaged, it is also vulnerable against air attack, so providing adequate AA protection is vital for effective deployment. Since taking out an entrenched Thunder is a difficult and dangerous ordeal without air support, invading Mekh forces in the Third Liberation War have taken to withdrawing and calling in air support whenever encountering an ambush by one of these vehicles. For this reason, Baltic Union tactics often involve setting an ambush with a small number of Thunders in wait, and a large number of MANPADS operators covering them , the main goal being inflicting heavy losses on the incoming air support.
The system is also quite costly (at least by the modest Baltic Union standards), making every existing unit a prized commodity. Although still cheaper than most common MBTs of the world, and quite capable of defeating them, the Thunder has been built in limited numbers.