The Minister’s visit

“Armoured Infantry Forces with MARDER IFVs Stand Ready for NATO”

“Armoured Infantry Forces with MARDER IFVs Stand Ready for NATO”

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On 12 January, the Federal Minister of Defence, Christine Lambrecht, paid a visit to the servicemen and women of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force ). In Marienberg, Saxony, she spoke with armoured infantry forces who, in an emergency, will be on the front line as part of the NATO Spearhead Force.  

Two soldiers holding weapons squat next to an IFV covered with branches.

The MARDER infantry fighting vehicle: high penetration power combined with well-established procedures, thanks to MELLSMehrrollenfähiges Leichtes LenkflugkörperSystem and the armoured infantry forces.

Bundeswehr/Mario Bähr

The highly combat capable servicemen and women of 371 Armoured Infantry Battalion from the Erz Mountains are part of NATO’s Response Force. Since early 2022, 37 Armoured Infantry Brigade “Freistaat Sachsen” has been the lead unit for the land component of the NATO Response Force (NRFNATO Response Force) and will remain in this role until 2024. The Brigade has been tasked with a particularly responsible mission this year. Throughout the "VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force year", its forces will be subjected to a very short response time to ensure a rapid and efficient intervention as initial forces in case of an alert. The VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force , also known as Spearhead Force, comprises up to 11,500 troops from nine NATO states. All of them are capable of conducting operations anywhere in the world within a few days. The Bundeswehr provides some 8,000 troops, making an essential contribution to protect the Alliance.

Effective and Well-Established

The Minister wanted to get an authentic impression of the battalion’s operational readiness for VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force Land 2023. During her visit to Marienberg, personal conversations with military personnel were thus of special importance to her. The temporary failure of several Puma IFVs when parts of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force practised at the Armoured Forces Combat Training Centre has prompted Marienberg to take on their tasks at short notice. This is why the Minister of Defence made the deliberate decision to come to the Erz Mountains. During her visit, it turned out that many servicemen and women seized the opportunity for lively exchange with Lambrecht. The armoured infantry forces of 371 Armoured Infantry Battalion in Marienberg are equipped with the tried and tested and improved MARDER infantry fighting vehicle, recently received new combat clothing and equipment and provide temporary support to the task force. “It was a great pleasure for me today to talk to the servicemen and women who perform these very tasks,” the Minister thanked the troops. Oberstleutnant [Lieutenant Colonel] Thomas Spranger is the commander of the Battalion and described the current situation: “The infantry personnel from Marienberg are well-equipped and prepared for the mission.” 

The combat troops from the Erz Mountains have a long list of deployments: Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in early 2000, then disaster relief during the 2002 and 2013 floods in Germany. Personnel from Marienberg subsequently had to stand the test in Kunduz, Kabul and Faizabad as part of the Afghanistan mission. Most recently, they were part of NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) mission in Lithuania in 2020. The NATO commitment continues with the NRFNATO Response Force. An interesting aspect is that the infantrymen and women from Saxony already have VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force experience. They were part of the first rotation that fulfilled this responsible mission in 2015.

Modernised Infantry Fighting Vehicle

An IFV camouflaged with green branches moving on a road between hangars.

The MARDER IFV is the tried and tested main weapon system of the servicemen and women of 371 Armoured Infantry Battalion.

Bundeswehr/Mario Bähr

371 Armoured Infantry Battalion provides more than 400 servicemen and women for the NRFNATO Response Force mission. These troops mainly consist of two armoured infantry companies, more precisely combat companies, and other support forces. The Marienberg armoured infantry forces wanted to demonstrate the Minister of Defence how they fight on the battlefield and how efficient their equipment is – ranging from the IFV to small arms.

The agile MARDER IFV is the tried and tested main weapon system of the infantrymen and women from Marienberg and has been modernised repeatedly. Its combat effectiveness by day and night, for instance, was improved by means of a state-of-the-art thermal imaging aiming and observation device. In addition, the existing anti-armour capability was enhanced by the MELLSMehrrollenfähiges Leichtes LenkflugkörperSystem multi-role light guided-missile system. This system enables the armoured infantry forces to engage enemy main battle tanks and other armoured targets at a distance of up to 4,000 metres. The tandem shaped charge of the fibre-optic guided missile is capable of penetrating all known types of armour. The MELLSMehrrollenfähiges Leichtes LenkflugkörperSystem system can also be employed by day and night. It may be used flexibly by the crew for both mounted and dismounted combat.

Oberstabgsgefreiter [Lance Corporal] R. is a gunner on the MARDER. A part of the crew since 2017, he uses the sight to aim at the enemy. When operating this extremely heavy vehicle, one thing is of paramount importance to him: "We are a well-established team. It is always the same crew taking part in the many exercises. There is usually no need for much talking as we know the procedures very well.”

Tasks of the Armoured Infantry Forces from Marienberg

Throughout the "VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force year", the armoured infantry forces will have to prove their permanent operational readiness in various exercises. These include realistic alert exercises to test their responsiveness. In addition, the battalion is an integral part of the NRFNATO Response Force with a commitment until 2024 – recently in the stand-down phase (a sort of transitional period) together with the next rotation designated to take on this demanding task in the future. This principle of rotations based on a rotation plan will allow NATO to achieve its objective of enabling a new brigade every year to command the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force land components as the lead unit.

About 371 Armoured Infantry Battalion

  • Two soldiers have disembarked from an IFV through the open rear ramp in front of a hangar.

    Armoured infantry forces can engage in both mounted combat on their MARDER IFV and dismounted combat on foot.

    Bundeswehr/Mario Bähr
  • A soldier looks out of the hatch of an IFV aiming an antitank weapon.

    A soldier takes aim of a target through the sight of the MELLSMehrrollenfähiges Leichtes LenkflugkörperSystem multi-role light guided-missile system.

    Bundeswehr/Mario Bähr
  • A number of soldiers are standing next to an IFV in front of their equipment in between hangars.

    The equipment of the armoured infantry forces from Marienberg ranges from the main weapon system, the MARDER IFV, to improved personal equipment for military personnel.

    Bundeswehr/Mario Bähr
  • A female civilian is standing next to a green hangar gate, talking to four soldiers.

    What are the concerns of field units in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force year? This is what the Minister wanted to find out in personal conversations with service members.

    Bundeswehr/Mario Bähr
  • A female civilian and many soldiers are sitting at a table in a well-lit dining facility.

    The troops were glad about this special visit and seized the opportunity to ask the Federal Minister of Defence questions.

    Bundeswehr/Mario Bähr

Minister of Defence Pays Visit to Troops

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The armoured infantry forces from Marienberg demonstrating their skills.

by Peter Müller

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