The German Bundeswehr has contracted with the Rheinmetall Group to supply expanded capabilities and additional equipment for the Puma infantry fighting vehicle. The Koblenz-based Federal Office for Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) has awarded the project management company an order for a comprehensive expansion package with a gross value of ˆ260 million (ˆ218 million without VAT). In addition to this comes optional retrofitting with further components, for which ˆ108 million (including VAT) has been allocated. A member of the defence consortium tasked with developing and producing the Puma, Rheinmetall’s share in the current order comes to ˆ115 million (ˆ97 million without VAT); commissioning of Rheinmetall within the consortium will take place in the next few weeks.
These expanded capabilities will further enhance the infantry fighting vehicle’s combat performance in a number of areas as well as providing improved possibilities for training.
Specifically, the expansion package includes among other things the development of a new turret-independent secondary weapon system (TSWA) for the Puma; the installation of advanced visualization and display technology; and the provision of new training resources.
The turret-independent secondary weapon system (TSWA) will significantly strengthen the vehicle’s battlefield performance and especially its self-defence capabilities. Remotely controlled from the vehicle’s rear fighting compartment, it is an unmanned weapon station mounted on the rear section of the vehicle rather than on the rotatable turret. This means that threats can be addressed even at very close quarters without having to use the main armament, which is especially important in urban terrain, significantly enhancing crew protection. The TSWA fires 40mm lethal and non-lethal (e.g. tear gas and flash-bang) ammunition with a maximum range of 400 metres.
The new order includes sample integration, readying the system for full-scale production and fabrication of three TSWA prototypes. The actual serial production order, in which the entire Puma fleet will be retrofitted with the weapon system, is expected to come in 2023.
In the visualization domain, the Puma’s will be upgraded to meet current standards, with the current black and white monitor and accompanying optics being replaced by a state-of-the-art, high-performance colour displays. This will provide the vehicle commander and gunner with a high-resolution, highly detailed view of the surrounding terrain and the current tactical situation. It will also open up greater possibilities for reconnaissance and target engagement. A new infrared searchlight mounted on the rear of the vehicle will enhance the driver’s night vision capability. Just awarded, the development order includes sample integration of the visualization technology into three vehicles, with exercise of a subsequent series production option envisaged for 2020.
Another order encompasses additional training resources for the operator of the Puma turret, one of the IFV’s most technically sophisticated subsystems. Separate turret training systems, consisting of the serial turret and the upper section of the Puma’s hull, will in future enable the commander and gunner to train with no need for the actual vehicle. Maintenance personnel can practise repair and assembly procedures in a highly effective, highly realistic manner. This relieves the pressure on scarce resources as well as cutting costs, as it avoids tying up the vehicle hardware and results in less wear and tear. This way training can be conducted in a much more flexible way.
Delivery of the turret trainers is to take place during the 2019-2023 timeframe. The order includes eleven new turret trainers as well as the upgrade of an existing system, which will in future give the Bundeswehr a total of twelve systems, or two per battalion. Specifically, they will be deployed at all German mechanized infantry bases as well as at the Bundeswehr training centres in Aachen and Munster.
The Puma infantry fighting vehicle is the most advanced system of its kind worldwide. When it comes to combat effectiveness, mobility, C4I capabilities and situational awareness, it sets new standards. Along with modular, high-performance protection, the Puma possesses a unique degree of battlefield lethality and is fully capable of taking part in network-enabled operations. Roomy enough to carry nine troops, this state-of-the-art IFV can be airlifted to the area of operations in an A400M military transport plane.
The Puma is currently being introduced into the German Army. Delivery of all 350 vehicles, which began in June 2015, is scheduled for completion in 2020. The first units are now undergoing training in the use and operation of the Puma system.