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Puma (IFV)

June 19, 2008

The Puma is a German infantry fighting vehicle, currently in the pre-production stage. It will replace the aging Marder IFVs, from 2010 through 2020. Governing company is PSM Projekt System Management, a joint venture of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall Landsysteme. The Puma is one of the best-protected IFVs, while still having a high power/weight ratio.

Project history

The Puma (formerly also named Igel and Panther) started as a follow-up project to the German mid-90s “NGP” project (Neue Gepanzerte Plattformen, “New Armored Platforms”). Its aim was to collect ideas for a common base vehicle that could be used for a variety of tasks including that of the APC, IFV, air defense and replacing/amending the MBT in the frontline combat role. The NGP project was ended in 2001.

The lessons learned were incorporated into the new tactical concept named neuer Schützenpanzer (“new IFV”) in 1998. In 2002, the German army (Heer) placed an order for the delivery of five pre-production vehicles and their logistics and training services at the end of 2004. On November 8th 2007 a budget of €3 billion to acquire 405 Pumas was agreed upon.

Other nations pursue similar developments emphasizing commonality, modularity and rapid deployability based on a comparable doctrine which was also a subject of discussion within NATO. Examples of these are the American FCS vehicles, the British FRES and the German-Dutch Boxer MRAV.

Armament

The primary armament is a Rheinmetall 30 mm MK 30-2/ABM (Air Burst Munitions) autocannon, which has a rate of fire of 200 rounds per minute and an effective range of 3000 m. There currently are two ammunition types, directly available because the autocannon features a dual ammunition feed. One is a sub-calibre, fin-stabilised APFSDS-T (T for tracer), designed with high penetration capabilities, mainly for use against medium armoured vehicles. The second is a full-calibre, multi-purpose, Kinetic Energy-Timed Fuse (KETF) munition, designed with the air burst capability (depending on the fuse setting) of ejecting a cone of sub-munitions. Both ammunitions can be chosen differently from shot to shot as the weapon fires from an open bolt, that means no cartridge is inserted until the trigger is used. The ammunition capacity is 400 rounds; 200 ready to fire and 200 in storage.

While some may deem the 30 x 173 mm calibre to be too weak for future conflicts, it is necessary to say that the small caliber (for example in comparison to the Bofors 40 mm gun mounted on the CV9040) offers major advantages because of a much lower ammunition size and -weight and the large number of rounds ready to fire (the CV9040 offers only 24 shots per magazine). Ultimately, the usefulness also depends on the tactical doctrine the vehicle is used according to in combat.

The secondary armament is a coaxially mounted 5.56 mm HK MG4 machine gun with an approximate rate of fire at 850 rounds per minute and an effective range of 1000 m. The ammunition capacity is 2000 rounds; 1000 ready to fire and 1000 in storage. While this again is a smaller weapon than the western-standard of using a 7.62 mm caliber MG as secondary armament and may lack power in certain situations, it again offers advantages because it has a higher practical ROF and the crew can use the ammunition in their individual firearms as well. In situations where the lower penetration of the 5.56 mm rounds is an issue, the high ammunition load of the main gun enables the vehicle crew to use one or two main gun rounds instead. Nevertheless, the gun housing can host the 7,62 mm MG3 also.

To combat main battle tanks and infrastructure targets such as bunkers, the German Puma vehicles will be equipped with a turret-mounted EuroSpike Spike LR missile launcher.

In addition to the usual smoke-grenade launchers with 8 shots, there is a 6-shot 76 mm launcher at the back of the vehicle for close-in defence. The main back door can be opened halfway and enables two of the passengers to scout and shoot from moderate protection.

Protection

From the ground up the Puma was designed in a way to easily accommodate additional armor. It was initially planned to offer three protection classes which are wholly or in parts interchangeable. The protection class A is the basic vehicle, at 31.5 tons combat-ready weight air transportable in the A400M. Protection class C consists of two large side panels that cover almost the whole flanks of the vehicle and act as skirts to the tracks, a near-complete turret cover and armor plates for most of the vehicle’s roof. The side panels are a mix of composite and spaced armor. It adds about 9 metric tons to the gross weight. Originally, there was also a protection class B designed for transport on railway. However, it became obvious that class C lies well within the weight and dimension limits for train/ship transportation, thus the whole class B was scrapped.

According to this concept, a group of 4 A400M aircraft could fly 3 class A Pumas into a theatre, with the fourth airplane transporting the class C armor kits and simple lifting equipment. Subsequently, the Pumas could be ready in armor class C within a short time.

The basic armour can resist direct hits from 14.5mm Russian rounds, the most powerful HMG cartridge in common use today (and up to twice as powerful as the western de facto standard .50 BMG cartridge) and is said to defeat simple hollow charge warheads. The front armour is at least able to withstand 30mm AP projectiles. In protection class C, the flanks of the Puma are up-armored to about the same level of protection as is the front, while the roof armor is increasingly able to withstand artillery or mortar bomblets.

The whole vehicle is protected against heavy blast mines (up to 10kg) and projectile charges from below while still retaining 450mm ground clearance. Almost all equipment within the cabin, including the seats, has no direct contact the floor, which also adds to crew and technical safety. All cabin roof hatches are of the side-slide type which make them easier to open manually, even when those hatches are obstructed by debris. The exhausts are mixed with fresh air and vented at the rear left side. Together with a special IR-suppressing paint, this aims at reducing the thermal signature of the IFV.

Another crew safety measure is that the main fuel tanks are placed outside of the vehicle hull itself, mounted heavily armored within the running gear carriers. While this may pose a higher penetration risk to the tanks, it is unlikely that both tanks will be penetrated at the same time, enabling the vehicle to retreat to a safer position in case of a breach. There is also a collector tank within the vehicle to secure steady fuel flow which may act as a reserve tank in case of a double tank breach.

Type    Infantry fighting vehicle
Place of origin     Germany
Specifications
Weight    31.5 tonne, 43 tonne maximum weight with add-on armor
Length    7.4 m
Width    3.7 m (uparmored)
Height    3.1 m
Crew    3 + 6
Ground clearance 450 mm
Fording depth 1.5 m

Armor    modular
Primary
armament    30 mm MK30-2/ABM autocannon; 200 rounds/min rapid shot, 700 rounds/min fully automatic
Secondary
armament    5.56 mm HK MG4 machine gun; Spike LR anti-tank guided missile; 76 mm grenade launcher; Smoke-grenade launchers
Engine    MTU V10 892 diesel
800 kW (1073 bhp)
Power/weight    25,4 kW/tonne
Suspension    hydropneumatic
Operational
range    600 km
Speed    70 km/h