BW – Schützenpanzer Puma VJTF
Schützenpanzer Puma VJTF
The origins of the very inconsistent development of the Puma AIFV hark back to the beginning of the 1980s. After many years of preparations and development time, the two manufacturers KMW and Rheinmetall Landsysteme, plus the Projekt System und Management GmbH (PSM), presented the first two series vehicles to the then Federal Office of Defence Technology and Procurement on 06 December 2010. However, it took until 24 June 2015 for the Bundeswehr to receive its first Operational Level 1 Puma AIFV. The distribution of vehicles is managed by a fielding organisation in Munster. The 200th vehicle was delivered on 16 May 2018 by Rheinmetall. In December 2020, the Bundeswehr received the last of the 342 Puma AIFVs ordered. According to current plans, a further 223 vehicles are to be procured in future to replace the obsolete Marder 1 AIFV. The various versions of the Puma AIFV mostly differ in their radio equipment.
The priority of the Puma on protection and air transportability in an Airbus A400M cargo aircraft had significant effects on the geometry and concept of the vehicle from the very beginning. Due to its modular protection concept, the Puma should be be air-transportable in an A400M. After transportation, the crew will be able to upgrade the vehicle mainly by applying ballistic protection. In this way, the vehicle will be protected against mines, RPG-7s and medium calibre kinetic-energy ammunition.
Currently the armament of the Puma consists of a 30mm automatic cannon and a coaxial 5.56mm x 45 MG4 EBW machine gun. The version of the AIFV known as the Puma VJTF is also equipped, with the launcher of the multi-role capable lightweight missile system (MELLS) and prepared for the later installation of the turret independent secondary weapon system (TSWA) at the right rear of the vehicle. As part of the adjustment to the Puma VJTF 2023, for example, the visual means of sighting have been improved in the gunners weapon system optronics and the commanders PERI-RTWL periscope by colour optics, in the driver’s visual system by sensor fusion of video/thermal imaging cameras and a night vision-capable rear-view camera, and in case of the infantry squad by colour displays and sensor fusion technology for the combat-enhanced optronic observation system. The turret is now equipped with a PNR-1000 UHF radio from Elbit Systems for group radio and two additional UHF/VHF SDR (Software Defined Radio) SOVERON VR5000 radios from Rohde & Schwarz and their associated antennas as well as a second slip ring. These are to provide command and control radio connectivity with simultaneous transmission of voice and IP data from the dismounts to platoon, company up to battalion level. The company and battalion command vehicles also have an AN/PRC-117G(V)1(C) satellite radio from L3Harris and an SEM 93 VHF radio from Thales. Of the two previous SEM 80/90 VHF radios, only one remains in the battle space. The Army Command and Control Information System (FüInfoSysH) used to date is to give way in the medium term to a Battlefield Management System (BMS) based on Sitaware Frontline.
To ensure the operational availability of two armoured infantry fighting vehicle companies as part of the VJTF (L) 2023, the adaptation of a total of 40 Puma AIFVs and ten platoon systems of the Infantry Soldier of the Future – Enhanced System from the inventory is planned. The first production vehicles of the Puma VJTF were handed over to the 112th Armoured Infantry Battalion in Regen in December 2020. Following the successful completion of the tactical operational test, the Chief of the German army, Lieutenant General Alfons Mais, confirmed the operational readiness of the new System Panzergrenadier for VJTF 2023 on 12 March 2021.
The contract for the 2nd batch of SPz Puma in „Stage (S) 1“ configuration level, originally scheduled for mid-2021, was postponed in mid-October 2020 to the end of 2022 at the earliest. This configuration level is comparable to the Puma VJTF 2023 and additionally includes the radios selected in the „Digitisation of Land Based Operations“ (D-LBO).
In addition, the components that are still essential for achieving the full operational capability, such as the turret-independent secondary weapon system (TSWA), will be pre-equipped or partially integrated accordingly so that they can be retrofitted later at low cost and, if necessary, separately from one another. With the S2 design standard, the vehicles will reach their final expansion stage. In the final configuration stage, a so-called „bird’s eye view“ will be available. Here, additional camera images will be combined to form a virtual view „from above“ of the AIFV, which will also make it possible to capture the situation directly on the vehicle. The current intention is to begin upgrading the Puma to the S1 design standard in 2022.
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