Army

Optimised: The Puma AIFV in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force configuration on the battlefield

Optimised: The Puma AIFV in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force configuration on the battlefield

  • Technology
  • Army
Date:
Place:
Bergen
Reading time:
5 MIN

In mid-2020, the Puma AIFV was in the media for the last time. The reason was the result of the last operational suitability test: “not warfighting ready”. This was the judgement of the inspection team from the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre. A lot has happened since then. Now, the Puma is back in the limelight since it will undergo a second, decisive suitability test in an improved and optimised configuration.

Camouflaged with twigs, a tank is driving along a forest aisle, two soldiers standing in the hatches observing the terrain.

The tactical testing of the Puma AIFV in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force configuration decides on the employment of the weapon system for this commitment to the Alliance.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

The positive result of this tactical test is extremely important for the future of the German Army. The operationally ready Puma AIFV in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023 configuration has a profound impact on the operational readiness of armoured infantry, especially with a view to its commitment to NATO. The Puma and the Future Infantryman - Enhanced System merge to become the Armoured Infantry System in the configuration for NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force ), that is its rapid response force. This heralds a new era.

Deficiencies identified during the last operational suitability test

Two soldiers in conversation in front of a tank.

Lieutenant General Alfons Mais (on the right), Chief of the Army, is talking to Lieutenant Colonel Germar Lacher, Commander of Regen-based 112 Armoured Infantry Battalion, about the improvements implemented in the optimised PUMA in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

To make the Puma AIFV in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force configuration warfighting capable, military and civilian specialist personnel were required to cooperate closely. After the operational suitability test of last summer failed, all elements involved were required to demonstrate a maximum level of commitment and a great effort of will. The Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre, field units, the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support and industry all contributed to implementing decisive improvements. “Last year, we identified still too many deficiencies during tactical suitability testing. Deficiencies that considerably reduced the overall system’s performance. In particular, they led to frequent breakdowns of the turret in combat situations, instable data transmission, very bad voice quality and radio range as well as limited situation display on the tablets, that is the digital controls and displays of armoured infantry soldiers in dismounted combat”, says Lieutenant General Alfons Mais, Chief of the Army, in retrospect. At the time, a decision of the Army in favour of employing the Armoured Infantry System as part of VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023 would have been irresponsible.

Stable turret, reliable optical means

Two soldiers standing at the turret of a Puma AIFV at sunrise.

During the last months, all military elements involved cooperated closely with industry to make the Puma AIFV warfighting ready.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

It was the optimism and joint, concentrated work of all involved that brought about success and increased the performance of both the Puma in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force configuration and the Armoured Infantry System. This is what the Chief of the Army could see for himself on the Bergen major training area. The second tactical test of the improved AIFV in the presence of military and civilian experts revealed significant findings. Regen-based 112 Armoured Infantry Battalion, which, as future VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force unit, provided the troops for the tactical suitability test of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force system, was impressed by the progress the Puma AIFV had made. “Adjustments of the sensors help ensure the stability of the turret and the system as a whole. Thanks to software updates, the optical means in the chassis now work reliably. Internal onboard intercom now runs flawlessly, and it was also possible to achieve the necessary radio ranges and a very good voice radio quality. The latter, in particular, is indispensable for command and control”, the Chief of the Army makes clear.

The actual added value of the Armoured Infantry System, especially in dismounted combat, comes from the close connection between the vehicle and the soldiers via voice radio and a digital situation picture that is shared via radio data transmission. In addition, the soldiers enjoy better protection because the MELLS antitank system is operated from under armour in the head-in position. “The Armoured Infantry System with the Puma in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force configuration clearly outmatches its predecessors. This is also confirmed by the crews and technical staff, that is to say those who operate the system on a daily basis”, says Mais and adds: “The positive feedback has boosted my confidence in the Armoured Infantry System. This leaves a strong impression, and with the results of the tactical test, it’s now all systems go for tactical employment.”

The future: Armoured Infantry System

Two armed soldiers crouching in front of a small screen in the forest.

The Armoured Infantry System is the combination of the Puma AIFV and the Future Infantryman System, both in the configuration for employment as part of NATO’s spearhead, i.e. the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force ).

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

Looking into the future, however, we are beginning to see how extensive and intensive the effort will be to introduce the Puma in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force configuration in armoured infantry and keep it operationally ready. Highly complex systems such as the Puma and the Future Infantryman - Enhanced System in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force configuration confront the Army with new challenges. To meet these challenges, technical and logistic suitability testing has started in February. Ongoing tests at the Land Systems Technology Training Centre in Aachen are meant to find out whether the tank can be repaired on the battlefield. The focus is on testing systems, repair procedures and the technical documentation for error detection. But what use is state‑of‑the‑art technology if no one masters it? The employment of the Armoured Infantry System will rely on comprehensive and detailed training and on gaining a large wealth of experience. For this, the troops need patience and willpower.

In the Army, five armoured infantry battalions have already been equipped with Puma AIFVs. However, the latter still have to be brought at least to the standard of the tested Puma AIFV in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force configuration. This is necessary to live up to Germany’s commitment to the Alliance and establish the structures of Division 2027. To that end, armoured infantry will need a total of 266 operational Puma AIFVs in the configuration above. Falling short of this operational minimum would inevitably result in capability gaps for Division 2027. “With its decision to employ the Puma for VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023, the Army has created essential preconditions. Germany needs an armoured infantry that is operationally ready. This is the only way for us to meet our commitments to the Alliance”, the Chief of the Army points out.

The Puma AIFV is one of the most sophisticated and powerful weapon systems of its kind worldwide. In combination with the Future Infantryman - Enhanced System, the Armoured Infantry System of the Bundeswehr sets new standards at the international level.

by Elisabeth Rabe / Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre