Out-of-area missions to secure peace and stability worldwide have increasingly changed the damands placed on the armed forces. The new armoured infantry fighting vehicle PUMA with its highly modern protection components and its high fire power has been conceived for this mission profile. The Projekt System und Management GmbH (PSM) in Kassel on 20 December will present the first system demonstrator of the PUMA. As prime contractor, PSM is responsible for the coordination of the project, with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) holding a 50% stake. Only just over three years have passed until initial concept ideas have now led to this weapons system. The first of five pre-production vehicles is scheduled to be delivered in one year and – as of today- the first of 405 further production vehicles in four years´ time.
New concept in line with the changed mission profile
The PUMA is based on an entirely new concept which reflects the changed mission profile of allied forces. “During the times of the cold war, an armoured infantry fighting vehicle required capabilities for combat against equal opponents fighting with similar tactics”, explains Rainer Huth, one of PSM´s two managing directors. As the political situation in Europe changes, the needs of the armed forces are also changing in that they are acting not so much as a defensive army but rather as a mobile task force. Market analyses have shown that none of the armoured infantry fighting vehicles currently in service worldwide covers this new mission spectrum.
Unique protection concept worldwide
Reason : Peacekeeping and peacemaking missions require a highly mobile system which can be internationally deployed and offers the best possible protection. “Whenever we send our soldiers abroad for other nations, crew protection must have absolute priority”, continues Rainer Huth. Even in protection class A, the PUMA affords better protection than all armoured infantry fighting vehicles available worldwide. This includes all-round protection against artillery fragments and small-calibre fragments as well as frontal protection against shaped charges and medium-calibre weapons and especially the best protection against mines. Protection class C can be obtained by quickly adding modular armour elements in order to provide the same level of protection on the sides as at the front. Equally adaptable roof protection elements protect the crew from bomblets, guided missiles or laser-guided bombs. Additionally, the spectrum of potential dangers on the battlefield is no longer confined to enemy tanks, bomblets and heavy artillery. Guerilla fighters or snipers threaten task forces with partly self-made or so-called low-cost weapons. Recoilless rifles, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or guided missiles belong to this category as do mines of all types. “The whole design of the PUMA is oriented towards mine protection”, explains Mr.Huth. Thus, for instance, the vehicle floor, in the event of a detonation, can significantly reduce the negative effects on the crew. “The vehicle floor consists of two layers so that blast waves can be absorbed”, says Rainer Huth. The suspension isolated from the vehicle – which is a further innovation in the field of tank development – significantly reduces vibrations as well as noise levels acting on equipment and crew. This is a marked improvement of the ergonomic conditions for the crew and permits sustained deployments.
High fire power to enhance forcefulness
High-performance fire power is a prerequisite allowing the system to stand its ground against equal opponents, but also permits appropriate response to other mission scenarios, each with a potential for escalation and de-escalation.” It is for this reason that the PUMA features a modern, fully stabilised 30 mm automatic cannon designed to engage targets also on the move; this is the first time for such a weapon to be fitted to the unmanned and remote-controlled turret of an armoured infantry fighting vehicle. In addition to the main armament, the PUMA is fitted with a coaxial machine gun for flexible and adequate response to threat situations. Both weapons can be controlled from the same control elements, thereby ensuring rapid availability for the gunner who can select from two different types of ammunition which are automatically fed from the 200-round ammunition magazine. Various optical and optronic sights allow 360o panoramic surveillance for the entire crew as well as the further identification and engagement of targets by commander and gunner. The concept of the weapons system also provides a hunter-killer capability which is otherwise reserved to battle tanks. Once the commander detects an enemy, the gunner receives this information within a minimum of time and the turret automatically traverses into alignment with the target. With his independent periscope, the commander can meanwhile identify the next target. “The weapon, along with control and surveillance capabilities optimised ergonomically are determining factors for superior fire power”, says the PSM managing director.
Modular construction and air portability
To ensure rapid deployment, the weight of the PUMA is limited to 31.45 tons, protection class A. The PUMA can thus be quickly transported to changing deployment areas on the future A400M aircraft. For protection class C, the add-on armour modules of the armoured infantry fighting vehicle can easily be mounted on site. Moreover, the PUMA boasts outstanding tactical mobility. Its newly developed 800 kW MTU engine, in conjunction with an equally newly developed automatic RENK transmission and the innovative isolated suspension with hydropneumatic suspension elements make it possible for the vehicle in the field to follow the LEOPARD 2 which is known for its high mobility. The crew is trained by means of a mobile, vehicle-embedded training system rather than in a simulator, as usual. This permits extensive and near-realistic training at any time and at any place –also abroad.
“The PUMA is a key element in the Bundeswehr process of transformation from a defensive army to a task force and will remain in service with the Bundeswehr as the backbone of the German Army. It is therefore important that the PUMA is designed with a future-proof concept.” Common-user development projects, such as the FAUST command, control and information system, infantryman of the future, identification friend-foe (IFF) and the new generation of radio equipment have already been taken into account for the PUMA concept. These systems which are now still under development or in the trials phase are to be integrated by the time the PUMA has reached production standard. “With the PUMA, the German Army will be receiving a vehicle which, through the sum total of innovative solutions in the areas of protection, fire power, mobility and fightability, is capable of maximum performance in all present and future mission scenarios and thus, as I hope, will continue the success story of the LEOPARD 2 on an international scale and as a platform for further vehicle variants.”