Germany puts new AIFV through its paces, hot and cold
Serial production of the Puma armored infantry fighting vehicle (AIFV) is ramping up for delivery—albeit of a reduced number—to the German army. Several Pumas have been delivered to the Bundesamt fur Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung (BWB), Germany's federal agency for defense technology and procurement, and to the army's armor school in Munster in preparation for its introduction into army service in the next two years.
Puma will replace the 30-year-old Marder AIFV, which is being phased out. In July 2009, the BWB ordered 410 Pumas, including five pre-serial production versions, but under the restructuring of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, the final requirement has been reduced to 350, a figure which was agreed with industry at the end of 2011.
Puma is being developed and produced by Projekt System and Management (PSM) GmbH, the 50:50 joint venture formed by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall for that purpose. The first production Puma was delivered to the German army in December 2010, followed by extensive trials that are still ongoing, with the aim of delivering enough AIFVs in 2013 to fully equip the first of nine panzer grenadier—or mechanized infantry—battalions in 2014.
The trials are being conducted in both cold and hot environments. This began at the end of last year under laboratory conditions in a climate chamber at Rheinmetall's Unterluss facility, from which the Puma's main armament has also been fired. Puma is equipped with a fully stabilized, automatic MK30-2/ABM 30-mm gun housed in a remote-controlled turret, with 200 rounds of ammunition ready to use and another 200 rounds stored in the chassis. It fires 30-mm full-caliber and sub-caliber fin-stabilized ammunition, as well as Rheinmetall's programmable airburst ammunition with a time fuze, at an effective range of up to 3,000 meters (9,842 ft.). The German army's Mehrrollenfahiges leichtes Lenkflugkorpersystem (Mells) multirole, lightweight guided missile system is also being integrated into Puma.
Trials under Arctic conditions in temperatures below -30C (-22F) were conducted with two vehicles in Finnmark, Norway, during the first three months of this year. Puma's handling on snowy and icy surfaces was tested and optimized by putting spikes on the vehicle's 500-mm-wide steel tracks and both the 30-mm gun and coaxial mounted MG4 secondary armament were fired.
The two Pumas were transported to Finnmark on flatbed trucks, but the vehicle is designed to be airlifted by anat Protection Level A, which includes full protection from heavy blast and explosively formed penetrator mines, frontal protection against medium-caliber and handheld anti-tank weapons, and all-round protection from 14.5-mm rounds and artillery shrapnel. Additional protection to level C (for combat), including against bomblets, is provided by add-on armor. Puma weighs 31.45 tons at Protection Level A and 40.75 tons at Protection Level C for rail, road and sea transport.
A compact 800-kw powerpack producing a power-to-weight ratio up to 25 kw/metric ton, combined with a decoupled hydropneumatic running gear, provides Puma mobility comparable to the Leopard 2 main battle tank it will operate with.
Puma will act as the mother ship for the Infanterist der Zukunft (IdZ), the Bundeswehr's future infantry system. Standardized interfaces allow the vehicle's integration into various command and information systems. An integrated communications concept and a contiguous crew compartment are designed to ensure information and situational awareness among the nine-member crew.
Various optical and optronic devices provide the entire crew with a 360-deg. field of view and identification of targets by day and night and under all weather conditions, with optronic images displayed on various monitors in the vehicle.
Before Puma deliveries to the German army start next year, ergonomics, electromagnetic tolerance, electrical safety, survivability and protection testing will take place, as well as estimates of how easily the vehicle can be serviced. Hot-weather trials are planned at an unspecified location this summer and personnel from the Munster armor school will also conduct deployability testing.
PSM foresees room for growth for the Puma program due to the contiguous crew compartment and weight range, with the possibility of a large number of variants. An international marketing campaign is underway to sell additional Pumas to make up for the 60 cut from the original BWB order, and to sell more to NATO and associated countries.