The Marder infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) has been receiving several upgrades over the years to maintain its operational readiness. Credit: synaxonag/Wikipedia.
The Marder 1A5 IFV was upgraded with additional anti-mine armour and remodelled interior. Credit: KrisfromGermany/Wikipedia.
Marder is equipped with a 7.62mm general-purpose machine gun and a 7.62mm rifle. Credit: Sonaz/Wikimedia Commons.
Greece took delivery of the first six Marder 1A3 vehicles in October 2022. Credit: General Staff of National Defense.

The Marder infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) is a tracked armoured vehicle developed by Rheinmetall Landsysteme, a defence company based in Germany.

The Marder IFV was introduced into the Bundeswehr, the federal armed forces of Germany, in May 1971. It received extensive upgrades over the years and remains one of the main weapons of the mechanised infantry units of the German Army with high level tactical mobility and firepower, as well as the ability to transport troops in high-risk areas of operation.

The vehicle is also in service with the armed forces of Chile, Jordan, Indonesia and Greece.

The Marder IFV has been battle-tested for more than 50 years in the German military. Although the army has procured 350 Puma IFVs to eventually replace it, it is expected to remain in service for several years to come.

Marder IFV design and features

The Marder IFV has a length of 6.79m, a width of 3.24m, a height of 2.98m and an overall combat weight of 28.5t. The 1A3 variant weighs 33.5t while the 1A5 and 1A5A1 variants weigh 37.4t and 38.1t respectively.

The Marder vehicle can accommodate up to three crew members and up to six soldiers in the troop compartment.

It includes a powerpack in the front, a turret positioned centrally, and the fighting compartment in the rear section. The vehicle also features a ramp for rapid entry and exit of crew and soldiers.

The vehicle has an SEM 80 primary radio and an SEM 90 secondary radio with a range of 30km for communications.

Protection from attack

The hull and the turret armour are made of welded steel. The armour can protect the vehicle and its occupants from up to 20mm armour-piercing discarding sabot (APDS) DM43, and 25mm APDS rounds fired from a distance of 200m.

The sides of the hull are fitted with additional rolled homogenous armour (RHA) shields to provide extra protection.

Observation range in all conditions

The vehicle is equipped with PERI-Z 11 and PERI-Z 11 A1 thermal sight systems for the commander, and PERI-Z 11 and Zeiss thermal imager systems for the gunner.

The ATTICA-GM thermal imager has been integrated into the Marder IFV to assist gunners to perform their missions effectively in challenging weather conditions. It will replace the obsolete WBG-X thermal imager.

The vehicle commander has eight periscopes, while the gunner has three periscopes.

The new Saphir 2.6 MK thermal imaging aiming device significantly improves the observation range and round-the-clock reconnaissance quality, due to increased resolution of the detector and advanced display technology.

The new Spectus II night observation device supports the driver in poor visibility by combining an image produced by a thermal imaging device with one obtained from a residual light amplifier camera. The system also features a rear-view camera.

Weapons system aboard Marder IFV

The Marder IFV is equipped with Milan anti-tank guided missiles, which have a highly explosive warhead.

The MELLS multi-role lightweight anti-tank guided missile system fired by the Marder 1A5 IFV can engage armoured targets at ranges up to 4,000m. It is expected to replace the Milan missiles onboard the Marder IFVs.

The main armament of the vehicle is the 20mm Rheinmetall MK 20 Rh 202 automatic cannon. Marder is also armed with a Rheinmetall MG 3 7.62mm general-purpose machine gun, which has an effective firing range of 200m to 1,200m with sight adjustments. The maximum firing range is up to 3,000m on the gun carriage.

The IFV is also equipped with a 7.62mm rifle  which has a 7.62 × 51mm NATO cartridge and a muzzle velocity of 820m/s.

Performance over challenging terrain

The Marder IFV is powered by an MTU MB 833 Ea-500 diesel engine. It has a maximum on-road speed of 65km/h and a range of 520km.

The vehicle has a ground clearance of 0.45m, can climb vertical steps of 1m, and can negotiate a gradient of 60% and a side slope of 30%. It can cross a trench of 2.5m and ford a depth of 2m.

Battle management system integration

The Marder IFV was upgraded to the Marder 1A1 standard between 1979 and 1982. The upgrade included the installation of a first-generation night-vision device (residual light intensifier) with thermal energy receiver, and a double belt feeder for the automatic cannon, among other improvements.

A total of 1,462 vehicles were retrofitted with thermal imaging devices (WBG-X) for the gunner, as part of the upgrade to the Marder1A2 standard between 1984 and 1989. The MILAN infrared adapter MIRA was introduced for the MILAN weapon system, and the rear weapon mount was removed. Other enhancements included an upgrade to SEM 80/90 radio and introduction of spotted camouflage painting.

The Marder 1A3 IFV features additional armour for the turret and hull to provide protection against 30mm automatic cannon fire, and redesigned magazine and ammunition feed. The upgrade also included an extension of the turret machine gun from the weapon housing on the left-hand side of the turret. A total of 2,097 vehicles were upgraded to the Marder 1A3 standard between 1989 and 1998.

The upgrade programme to the Marder 1A4 version saw the utilisation of the version as a mobile command post, equipping 24 vehicles with SEM93 radio.

The Marder 1A5 upgrade included the addition of extra anti-mine armour to provide protection against blast and projectile-forming mines. The upgrades were performed on 74 Marder 1A3 vehicles between 2002 and 2005.

The interior of the vehicle was remodelled to withstand blast and avoid shock to the crew when hit by a mine. The measures included altered stowage concept, additional floor clearance in the fighting compartment, installation of global positioning system (GPS), precision lightweight GPS receiver, stronger brakes and improved ventilation pumps. New armour skirts made of steel were added and conical compression springs were replaced with hydraulic buffers.

Rheinmetall retrofitted 35 vehicles to the Marder 1 A5A1 configuration between 2010 and 2011. Enhancements included the installation of air conditioning, multi-spectral camouflage equipment (MMT) and the CG-12 electronic protection system. This version also provided reinforced protection on the fighting compartment roof around the hatches.

The decision to start a programme to extend the service life of the German Marder armoured vehicles was made in 2016.

The service life extension measures are intended to remove known obsolescent features of the vehicle. The development and pilot integration of the MELLS missile system into the Marder 1A5 IFV began in 2016 while the deliveries of the retrofit kits for the missile system started in 2017.

The development and pilot retrofitting of a new fire detection and suppression system and a new driver vision system for the Marder 1A3 family also started in 2017. The pilot programme for the integration of a battle management system into the different Marder variants began in 2019.

Deliveries of kits for retrofitting a fire detection and extinguisher system into the vehicles commenced in 2019.

International orders and deliveries

Rheinmetall received a contract to study ways of integrating the MELLS missile into the Bundeswehr’s Marder IFV in 2016. The company completed the integration of the missile system into 35 Marder 1A5 vehicles in March 2018.

Bundeswehr provided a €110m ($121.9m) contract to Rheinmetall to extend the service life of Marder IFV in December 2019. The contract will maintain and expand the capabilities of the vehicle and the company will supply 78 conversion kits, including seven spare kits. The kits are being used to replace the drivetrain of 71 Marder 1A5 vehicles by installing a new powerpack, which will significantly enhance the vehicle’s responsiveness and boost the engine output from 600hp to more than 750hp.

Rheinmetall was contracted to supply the Bundeswehr with more than 170 Spectus II driver night observation devices for the Marder fleet in October 2020. Deliveries of the Spectus II kits started in 2021. The Bundeswehr also placed an order with the company in November 2020 to supply 260 Saphir 2.6 MK thermal-imaging aiming devices and associated accessories to replace the obsolete devices used for reconnaissance and target engagement. The company started deliveries of the Saphir 2.6 MK devices in 2021.

Greece received six Marder 1A3 vehicles for the Hellenic Armed Forces in October 2022. The procurement was made as part of Greece’s swap deal with Germany to transfer 40 BMP-1 armoured vehicles to Ukraine in return for receiving 40 German Marder 1A3 IFVs.

Germany also announced in January 2023 that it will deliver 40 Marder IFVs to Ukraine by the end of March 2023.