From suitability testing to combat

From suitability testing to combat

North Rhine-Westphalia
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Whether in desert sands, in the biting cold of the North or during foggy autumn days in Germany: Before helmets, radio sets and vehicles are used on operations abroad or during exercises, they undergo operational suitability testing. Only when it has been established that equipment and systems can do what they are supposed to will the troops be given the go-ahead. The Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre in Cologne is an important player when it comes to certifying operational readiness.

A camouflaged AIFV emerges from the thicket.

The Puma AIFV has been by the soldiers’ side since 2015 and is being continuously upgraded.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

Lieutenant Colonel Kim Feilcke, for example, is the head of the Puma AIFV tactical suitability test team. According to him, if a weapon system was to be fielded or further developed, personnel in the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre would cooperate closely with the supreme procurement agency of the Bundeswehr, that is the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBwBundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr for short) in Koblenz, and no less important, with the field units.

From the ongoing political process, the Federal Ministry of Defence develops the capability profile, i.e. what the soldiers must be able to do. Field units are the customer: Eventually, it is the soldiers who have to be able to operate the product. This is also the basis for the capability developers’ work at the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre. The Bundeswehr Capability Profile is their guideline.

Office desk versus major training area

An AIFV turret has been installed in a modern training hangar.

Simulator-based training is one field where units get the go-ahead for actual training after tactical suitability testing.

Bundeswehr/David Di Dio

Operational suitability testing shows whether new or upgraded equipment is suitable for training or military routine. It is based on tactical principles as well as on the normal training methodology, Feilcke explains. Together with the field units, tests are carried out to determine whether, for example, armoured infantry soldiers can actually use the Puma AIFV in daily service. To give an example, the turret trainer was really put to the test by the military personnel of the tactical suitability test team together with armoured infantry units at the Munster garrison in November 2019. One objective of this five-day tactical suitability test was to examine the turret simulator for its suitability for training in the field units. In every armoured infantry battalion, Puma AIFV gunner and commander training is planned to be complemented by training on the turret trainer. This is how an armaments project is pushed forward step by step.

Questions for the future

Two soldiers in combat gear standing side by side in a lightly snow-covered forest.

The aim of all tactical suitability testing is to enable combat troops to reliably handle the equipment in any situation.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

Together with field units and industry, the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre in Cologne makes weapon systems and equipment fit for use. It will even continuously develop the systems further after they have been fielded to ensure that soldiers are always provided with state-of-the-art equipment. This is not only about the equipment, though, but about the future viability of the Army as a whole. The Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre can be compared to the full beam of a car, offering a glance far into the future. The question raised time and again by its staff is: How does the Army have to be equipped, organised and trained in twenty years? Representatives from any part of the Army who can draw upon their wealth of experience in field units are working together to shape the Army’s future. By adopting a broad approach cutting across all kinds of equipment, developers coordinate all ongoing Army armament projects at the same time and in parallel.

Model updates? It's never really finished

A tank is moving out of a big vehicle hangar.

Striking: The Puma AIFV in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023 configuration is easily recognisable by the elevated turret and the MELLSMehrrollenfähiges Leichtes Lenkflugkörper-System weapon system on the left side in the direction of travel.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

Armament projects take a lot of time, that is quite obvious. The global threat situation is subject to constant change. Industrial technologies evolve at breathtaking pace, not least because financial settings are constantly changing. These and a huge number of complex factors influence the development not only of the Puma AIFV but of every piece of equipment of the Bundeswehr.

The whole range of technological updates can be compared to cars in civilian life and how they are optimised. By analogy, the Bundeswehr also makes model updates to adapt the device or item of equipment to new challenges and conditions. And together with the field units, the soldiers from Cologne find out whether these efforts have been successful. This way, the Puma is getting better and better. But even then, there is still a long way to go before the system is considered warfighting ready. Besides operational suitability testing in the field, every weapon system must prove its worth in the laboratory of the Bundeswehr technical centres of BAAINBwBundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr. However, the goal of all involved is clear: Everyone wants to provide the soldiers of the Army with the best possible equipment.

by René Hinz

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