The Puma armoured infantry fighting vehicle - a technical quantum leap in combat
The Puma armoured infantry fighting vehicle - a technical quantum leap in combat
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On 24 June 2015, the Puma AIFV (armoured infantry fighting vehicle) makes its debut on the battlefield and is handed over to the German Army. With the Puma AIFV, Army soldiers receive a modern combat vehicle with a completely new design. It was already clear back then that the road from delivery to actual combat use would be lengthy. At the time, it was estimated that in total 350 vehicles would be required, including driver training vehicles as well as training vehicles for field units.
Lieutenant General Rainer Korff, then Commander, German (DEU) Elements in Multinational (MN) Corps/Basic Military Organisation received the first, though symbolic ignition key from industry at a ceremony in Unterlüß/Lower Saxony. “As we all know, the Puma AIFV in its current configuration is not yet fully operational - but even if it has not yet reached full operational readiness, we are nonetheless able to train our crews on this unique fighting vehicle even at this early stage”, General Korff said during the handover ceremony.
Early on the fast lane
The new AIFV of the Bundeswehr is produced by the Projekt System & Management company, a joint venture of Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. The Puma AIFV is going to successively replace the Marder AIFV after more than 50 years of service. The first step was made a good five years ago in a small town in the Heidekreis district in Lower Saxony when the first twenty brand new AIFVs were delivered to the Munster Training Centre. This is where the Army-wide Puma AIFV fielding element was established. At user level, it is the first point of contact in all questions regarding the fielding of the Puma AIFV and of the Future Infantryman System as well as the required training. As future multipliers, instructors are familiarised with all details of the new system.
At first in Lower Saxony only
Finally fielded: 33 Armoured Infantry Battalion, based in Neustadt am Rübenberge, is the very first unit to be equipped with the new AIFV. During her summer trip in June 2016, then Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen paid a visit to the soldiers and asked them what their first experiences with the new “big cat” were. At the time, then battalion commander Major Thorsten Nagelschmidt and his armoured infantry soldiers had been provided with 16 of the planned 30 AIFVs and presented a convincing performance with dynamic exercises and some initial combat scenarios around the new weapon system. Von der Leyen was quoted as saying that she was deeply impressed by the motivation and technical vigour the soldiers showed towards the innovative Puma.
In the years to come, the Puma AIFV is successively going to be fielded across the Army, starting with Munster-based 92 Armoured Infantry Demonstration Battalion and followed by 112 and 122 Armoured Infantry Battalions in Regen and Oberviechtach, respectively. The delivery of the vehicles and the related training of the soldiers will be what the battalions in question will focus on. March 2020, finally, is all about “goodbye Marder, welcome Puma” also for 212 Armoured Infantry Battalion in Augustdorf. It is also fielded in the training facilities, i.e. the driver training organisation and the Land Systems Technology Training Centre in Aachen, and will also be available soon in the Army Combat Training Centre.
The Puma AIFV gives Army soldiers a whole new appreciation not only in national and collective defence. In addition, it scores with maximum crew protection, air transportability, firepower and the rapid integration and exchangeability of elementary subsystems. This is why the Puma constitutes a quantum leap in terms of technology.
In the “C” configuration (“C” for combat, i.e. operationally ready), the Puma weighs around 43 tons. In the smallest configuration “A”, it only weighs 31.4 tons. This makes the Puma airportable aboard the Airbus A400M. Among others, crew protection is ensured by reactive armour that can be adapted as required. This means that armour modules can be removed to prepare the vehicle for transport by air and other means of transport. Protective measures are completed by a bomblet protection system, i.e. a system against cluster bombs.
In terms of armaments, too, the Puma AIFV with its unmanned turret and the fully stabilised 30 mm machine cannon has its finger on the pulse of technology. When in motion, it hits targets at a distance of up to 3,000 m. With a cubic capacity of “only” 11 litres, the engine generates no less than 1,088 hp. In comparison: The Marder AIFV produces 600 hp from 22 litres, and the Leopard MBT 1,500 hp from 47.6 litres of cubic capacity.
On the way to operational viability and readiness, it is not only the main armament system that will undergo operational suitability testing as part of our procurement procedures, which are referred to as Customer Product Management. For example, operational suitability testing may also be aimed at testing whether newly developed or adapted systems are suitable for training in the field units. Thus, training on the combat vehicle can be continuously improved as well. For example, the turret trainer was successfully tested in late 2019. The turret trainer serves to train gunners and AIFV commanders in a first training step before they are trained on the real combat vehicle. In addition, the optical means of the Puma AIFV in the latest configuration (VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023) were put through their paces in the field and the newly mounted colour and thermal imaging cameras as well as the firing unit of the fully integrated MELLSMehrrollenfähiges Leichtes Lenkflugkörper-System light multi-role guided missile system were given a real endurance test.
In July 2020, the Armoured Infantry System in its VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023 configuration, and thus also the Puma AIFV in the same configuration, underwent tactical suitability testing at the Bergen major training area. 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 ). The progress made in terms of quality, reliability and capability gain in comparison to the first series vehicles that became apparent particularly during tactical suitability testing has confirmed and bolstered confidence in this armament project, which is so important for the Army.
During 2021 tactical testing, the final improvements of the delivered vehicles shall be verified so that 112 Armoured Infantry Battalion can prepare for its earmarked employment as part of VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023. Besides tactical aspects, the focus will be on the logistic capabilities required to support the Armoured Infantry System. Taking this system as a basis, technical and logistic suitability testing serves to assess logistic supportability in a comprehensive manner in order to obtain, in addition to the tactical assessment, the logistic assessment and thus also the overall assessment of operational viability. In addition, the capability package for VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023 includes a 30 days spare parts stock and the special tool kit for the system in mobile containers.
Deficiencies are eliminated
Field units and industry are working hard to adapt weapon systems and equipment so as to make them fit for use on operations. Deficiencies identified during operational testing and requirements for optimisation that stand in the way of operational deployments need to be resolved. The Armoured Infantry System as the combination of the Puma and the network of its crew, i.e. the Future Infantryman System, is the objective of VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023.
In its present configuration, the Puma AIFV will remain the benchmark in global comparison. Even now, efforts are being made to ensure that the Puma AIFV will maintain its ability to prevail in one-on-one situations also in future.