The check-it-all team

The check-it-all team

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Who then would form eternal bonds should weigh if heart to heart responds... And this is not only true for private life. In fact, soldiers may often have very long-lasting relationships with their equipment. Here, too, it must be ensured that everything runs smoothly, and this is the task of the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre (ACCDC) in Cologne with its staff: the “check-it-all team”.

Two soldiers in green uniform look out of the hatch of their tank under fir twigs camouflage.

An armaments project must have undergone special operational suitability testing before the new technology may be used by the troops.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

All our equipment must be extremely robust so as to function at all times, even in a combat environment - be it in dusty desert sands or in the biting cold of the Arctic north. Before helmets, radio sets and vehicles are authorised for use on operations abroad or during exercises in Germany, they have to show what they can in several operational suitability tests. This is how the Army tests its future equipment.

Everyone knows the laboratory in the Bond series where “Q”, the charismatic engineer, tests the equipment of the British double-O agent. To a certain extent, what is pure fiction in the James Bond films becomes reality in the Bundeswehr. The Army has an organisation that deals specifically with future equipment.

Reliable and robust

Before a future weapon system can actually be employed on operations, it first has to be defined and developed, put through its paces and further developed in cooperation with the field units and industry. After all, it is meant to enable soldiers to fulfil their tasks and make their job easier. It must be reliable and robust to provide soldiers an advantage in combat. Preparing a double-O agent for his mission takes but a few minutes in the film. In real life, taking things forward in the entire Army is a huge challenge. The spirit of “Q” can be felt all the same.

Operational testing outdoors: The green laboratory

A soldier is walking in front of green camouflaged tanks.

During the tactical suitability test, the prototype of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023 Puma AIFV competes with the normal Puma.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

One can hear the rumbling sound of several tanks in the distance. One last time, soldiers and civilian mechanics are working on the vehicles in order to prepare the new technology for the trial in the midst of a pine wood in Lower Saxony. We are on the Bergen major training area. Today, the main armament system of mechanised infantry, the Puma armoured infantry fighting vehicle, is meant to complete a test scenario. In its most recent configuration, the Puma is planned to be made available soon to NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023.

In the focus of the test crew on that day: the part of the optronic system that is meant to help the crew reconnoitre the enemy and engage him with both turret-mounted weapons. Testing is conducted under combat conditions with live ammunition. If the systems do not meet field units’ requirements, industry will have to rework and improve them.

This is how the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre works

Three soldiers and a civilian standing on a tank

Together with civilian mechanics, soldiers prepare the Puma AIFV for the trial.

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. When a new weapon system is to be procured, the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre specifies the requirements to be met. But even after systems have been fielded, it will continuously develop them further to ensure that soldiers are always provided with state-of-the-art equipment.

This is not only about the equipment but 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 specialists in Cologne ask themselves one question: How does the Army have to be equipped, organised and trained in twenty years? To get answers to this question, a broad range of expertise has been pooled in the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre. It is home to representatives from any part of the Army who draw upon their long-term experience in field units, interacting in a holistic approach. Thus, developers can deal with the armaments projects of the entire Army in a coordinated manner.

Further development implies cooperation

Five soldiers and a civilian mechanic form a semi-circle on the major training area.

Together with the Puma crew, LTC Christoph Wallner from the check-it-all team goes through the process once more.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

If a weapon system is to be fielded or further developed, developers in the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre 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, as well as with the actual field units. BAAINBwBundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr is the procurement agency of the Bundeswehr. It is in charge of procurement while the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre identifies future materiel requirements of the Army.

The field units as the customer will eventually receive the products in question. From the ongoing political process, the Federal Ministry of Defence develops the mission and capability profile, i.e. what the Bundeswehr must be able to do in order to implement its politically given mandate. 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.

Armaments projects are long-term by nature and that’s for a reason. The international threat situation as well as further factors, such as the technological benchmark against which the weapon system will have to be measured or even financial parameters, are subject to constant change. The further development of weapon systems is greatly influenced by a multitude of factors. Thus, it is not always about redesigning the entire tank; rather, the aim is to bring it up to date step by step.

Ready for the first employment

A Puma AIFV is driving in the field on the Bergen major training area.

In terms of appearance, the pre-series model makes a good impression in the field. What counts, though, is the assessment of the troops and the operational test team.

Bundeswehr/Michel Baldus

Product development efforts are often referred to as model updates or facelift in the automotive industry, but are also known in armaments projects where they are referred to as configurations. Together with field units and industry, the test team conducts operational suitability tests to check whether the product is fit for employment in field units and to ensure that the manufacturer has met contractually agreed requirements. Besides operational testing in the field, every weapon system must prove its worth in the laboratories of the Bundeswehr technical centres of BAAINBwBundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr.

Operational suitability testing, like laboratory testing, always follows a specific objective procedure. This is also the reason why the most recent Puma, too, is subject to the complete testing sequence. Once the test data are evaluated, a decision will be made. Basically, this is all about one crucial question: Has the project taken the step from preproduction to series production, or not?

Puma operational suitability testing

A soldier’s arm with a patch

During tactical suitability testing, developers cooperate with field units. The VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force Puma AIFV is going to be tested on site by soldiers from Regen-based 112 Mechanised Infantry Battalion.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

In July 2020, tactical suitability testing of the Armoured Infantry System (consisting of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force PUMA AIFV and VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force Future Infantryman Enhanced System as sub-components) took place at the Bergen major training area while technical and logistical testing was done at the Land Systems Technology Training Centre in Aachen. Progress in terms of quality, reliability and capability gain in comparison to the first batch of the Puma AIFV became particularly apparent during tactical suitability testing and has confirmed and strengthened confidence in this armament project, which is so important for the Army.

However, tactical suitability testing still revealed several deficiencies and malfunctions that would make unrestricted use impracticable and thus require urgent and timely remedial action. For both sub-components of the Armoured Infantry System, the following applies: Only when the deficiencies identified in the preproduction models have been eliminated will it be possible to certify the tactical acceptability of the Armoured Infantry System for service use, especially with a view to its unrestricted use for VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023.

The objective is to provide the soldiers earmarked for VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force (L) not only with the best possible training but also with the best possible equipment so as to enable them to prevail as part of the NATO spearhead. That is why employing the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force Puma AIFV already for NRFNATO Response Force(L)2022-2024 is still a realistic option.

With the Puma, the Bundeswehr will have one of the world’s most modern and efficient AIFV. It is planned to be fully mission capable by 2025.

Operational suitability testing - a joint venture

  • Several soldiers with helmets and radio headset are standing in a row.

    The soldiers’ new personal equipment, too, must prove its worth in operational suitability tests.

    Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz
  • Four soldiers are standing in the woods, discussing.

    During the operational suitability tests, the developers’ team keeps close contact with the troops.

    Bundeswehr/Katrin Hanske
  • A Puma AIFV is standing in the field on the Bergen major training area.

    In the field, a camouflaged vehicle is barely visible to the naked eye. The new optronics enable the crew to detect camouflaged targets in no time.

    Bundeswehr/Katrin Hanske

by Peter Müller

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