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After a renewed operational test, the inspector of the army, Lieutenant General Alfons Mais, approved the combat capability of the Panzergrenadier system with the Puma infantry fighting vehicle and the Infantryman of the Future soldier system on March 18, 2021 - extended system (IdZ - ES) - both in the VJTF 2023 configuration - detected. This means that the digitized Panzergrenadier system can be used, above all by NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in the period from 2022 to 2024. Germany has committed itself to participating in the emergency force in NATO.

Im Sommer 2020 hatte es lange Gesichter gegeben, als am Ende der Einsatzprüfung der mittlerweile in fünf Panzergrenadierbataillonen eingeführte Schützenpanzer Puma als nicht einsatztauglich qualifiziert wurden. Projektleitung und Industrie gerieten unter starken Zeitdruck, das System fünf Jahre nach Auslieferung der ersten Fahrzeuge endlich einsatzbereit zu machen, zumal der Einsatz bei der Speerspitze der NATO VJTF schon in zwei Jahren beginnen sollte.

The Panzergrenadiers fight mounted and dismounted in the Panzergrenadier system, which consists of the two system elements of the Puma armored personnel carrier and the Infantryman of the Future - Extended System. The system stands and falls with stable and sufficiently broadband radio connections for voice and data, which were one of the points of criticism in summer 2020.

Optimization and improvement

In a joint working group of military and civilian experts led by the Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Use of the Bundeswehr (BAAINBw), the inadequate components of the Puma were revised, optimized and stabilized. Conceptuals from the Office for Army Development, users from the troops on the one hand and engineers / technicians from various disciplines from industry contributed to the optimization and decisive improvement of the weapon system.

“The stability of the tank turret and the overall system was achieved by making corrections to the sensors. With the help of software updates, the visual aids in the chassis now work reliably. The internal on-board communication is now working properly. It was also possible to achieve the necessary radio ranges and very good voice quality in voice radio. The latter in particular is indispensable for leadership skills, ”said Mais, summarizing the progress made.

digitalization

The close-knit networking of the vehicle and the riflemen through the radiotelephone and a digital situation report via radio data transmission, especially in dismounted combat, is the real added value of the Panzergrenadier system. By operating the MELLS anti-tank system completely under the hatch, the soldiers are also better protected.

This means that for the VJTF, for the first time, a digitized vehicle platform - the Puma infantry fighting vehicle in the improved expansion stage - can be merged with an IdZ-ES soldier system that is equipped with digital radio technology.

Rheinmetall describes two main advantages of the Panzergrenadier system: “Firstly, all workers who have been dismounted and dismounted can access the same information. Second, this information can be shared with one another much more precisely, faster and more robustly. The close networking of sensors and effectors of both soldiers and armored personnel carriers minimizes the time between reconnaissance and action. This amalgamation into an overall system enables effective tactical interaction between the soldiers and their armored personnel carriers and increases the operational value of the armored infantry troops. "

The joint development of the vehicle platform and soldier system has led to a good basis for the conception and equipping of larger system networks. The Panzergrenadier system can in future be the basis for digitally networked and managed units. This path provides concrete impulses for future projects, as there has been a considerable increase in experience and skills in the area of ​​IT system integration.

Retrofitting and other needs

After the army inspector has declared that it is fit for combat, the hour of industry begins. A total of 40 Puma infantry fighting vehicles are now to be upgraded to the VJTF and handed over to the 112th Panzergrenadier Battalion (rain) planned for the spearhead in 2023 so that training on the new system is completed by the time that NATO is ready to operate. At the end of 2020, the last Puma of the first lot rolled off the assembly line. With these, the retrofitting for the new configuration begins before delivery to the troops. The contract for the entire upgrade has already been signed. It should be completed by the end of 2021.

Then another 226 Puma rifle troops have to be brought to the K-Stand VJTF. The contract negotiations are ongoing for this. The army needs 266 Puma for intermediate step 2 in the reconstruction of the army. For the 2027 division, the army wants to fulfill its alliance obligations with the Puma in five armored infantry battalions. In order to finally replace the Marder armored personnel carrier after 50 years of use, the army is planning a second batch of 210 Puma armored personnel carriers. The contract, planned for mid-2021, had to be postponed due to the poor availability of the Pumas, among other things. A decision should now be made, possibly in 2022.

Characteristic features of the Puma AFV

View: In addition to the forward and rearward view for the driver, the rifle squad has a 360-degree all-round view. All views can also be displayed as a merged image from the images from the color and thermal imaging cameras.

Automatic cannon: With its armament, such as the unmanned turret and the fully stabilized 30 mm automatic cannon, the Puma has its finger on the pulse. While driving, it hits targets at a distance of up to 3,000 meters.

Enlightenment: Weapon optics in the turret for the driver and commander as well as the all-round optics of the Panzergrenadiergruppe are night and infrared capable and provide images in color. 20x zoom facilitates the reconnaissance.

Wireless: The radio connections are digital and IP-based. Not only voice, but also all other information for a digital situation report is transmitted via satellite. In the Panzergrenadier system, the Puma and the crew are networked with one another.

Drive: From its displacement of just eleven liters, the engine generates a whopping 1,088 hp. In comparison: The Marder armored personnel carrier has a capacity of 22 liters and 600 HP and the Leopard 2 battle tank has a capacity of 47.6 liters, an impressive 1,500 HP.

MELLS: In the VJTF 2023 configuration, the MELLS anti-tank system is used fully integrated. The warhead with the tandem hollow charge has a combat distance of four kilometers and can be deflected until it hits the target.

Protection: The adaptable armor designed as reactive protection provides protection for the crew. So it can be removed to prepare the vehicle for air transport and other transport carriers.

Gerhard Heiming