The Puma Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV) is a tracked vehicle manufactured by Projekt System & Management (PSM), a joint venture of German defence companies Rheinmetall Landsysteme and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), for the German Army under a programme authorised by the German Federal Parliament in 2002.
The AIFV is characterised by agility, firepower and ultimate crew protection in the battle field.
The Puma programme was formerly known as the Igel and the Neuer Schuetzenpanzer (NsPz).
Puma armoured infantry fighting vehicle development
The German Bundestag approved the low-rate initial production of the first five vehicles in December 2004. The first prototype vehicle and systems demonstrator was rolled out in December 2005 and delivered in May 2006. Five pre-production vehicles were delivered in 2007 and army trials began in early 2008. In March 2009, the two pre-series Puma vehicles successfully completed tests and trials at the German Army Training Centre.
In June 2009, the German parliament approved the procurement of 405 vehicles and a €3bn contract was awarded to PSM in July 2009. The first serial production Puma entered service in 2010. The Puma vehicles are to replace the Rheinmetall Landsysteme Marder 1 infantry fighting vehicles which entered service in 1971 with the German Army and will soon reach the end of operational life.
The development programme included the production and testing of several major Puma subsystem demonstrators to evaluate the armour protection, the weapon and ammunition handling and flow system, three versions of the turret and three versions of the chassis.
In March 2012, the IFV showed its working capabilities under Arctic conditions at temperatures less than -30°C at the sub polar proving ground in Norway.
The Puma AIFV successfully completed its hot climate working trials in September and October 2013.
The Puma entered service with the German Armed Forces in April 2015 after going through the rigorous tests and completing the final acceptance test.
The German army received the 100th unit of the Puma vehicle in December 2016.
PSM received four contracts worth £370m ($422.5m) from Germany’s Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) to modernise the Puma AIFV in July 2017.
The contracts covered the installation of advanced visualisation and display technology, development of a new turret independent weapon system (TSWA), logistics and training for the multi-functional self-protection system (MUSS), and the supply of 11 more turret trainers along with the upgrade of the existing one.
Rheinmetall completed the production of the 200th Puma AIFV and shipped it to the Germany Army.
In July 2019, contracts were signed between Rheinmetall-KMW consortium and the German Bundeswehr to upgrade the Puma AIFV under the ‘System Panzergrenadier VJTF 2023’ project. The System Panzergrenadier (Armoured Infantry) VJTF 2023 package will link the Puma vehicle to the German Army’s Future Soldier – Expanded System (IdZ-ES) soldier system in a networked combat environment.
PSM signed a contract worth more than €1bn ($1.19bn) with the German Bundeswehr for upgrading 154 Puma AIFVs in service in June 2021. It will also provide logistic services and additional capability upgrades. The vehicles will be upgraded in terms of core capabilities by retrofitting them with equipment that was tested with 40 Puma test vehicles. The 40 tested Puma AIFVs will be deployed to the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) rapid response force from 2023.
The contract also includes options worth €820m ($978.67m) to upgrade the remaining 143 Puma AIFVs by 2029.
Puma AIFV design and features
The hull is a new design rather than a derivative of an older system. Rheinmetall is responsible for the development and design of the chassis. The vehicle is operated by a crew of three (commander, gunner and driver) and carries up to eight equipped troops in the rear troop compartment.
The vehicle is of modular construction which allows it to be fully air transportable on an A400M aircraft.
Puma AIFV weapons
The vehicle is armed with a remotely controlled weapon station, developed by Kraus-Maffei Wegmann, which is fitted with a dual feed Mauser 30mm MK 30-2 cannon. Rheinmetall is responsible for the integration of the Mauser cannon and the ammunition handling system. The MK 30-2, which is in production for the Spanish Pizarro and Austrian Ulan IFV, has a rate of fire of 700 rounds a minute and a range of up to 3km.
The cannon fires 30mm APFSDS-T (armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot – tracer) rounds with a muzzle velocity of 1,385m/sec.
The rounds, developed by RWM Schweiz AG (formerly Oerlikon Contraves Pyrotec) and qualified in Switzerland for deployment in the Swiss and Austrian armed forces, have entered volume production. The round is not fitted with a depleted uranium penetrator and is non-toxic.
The MK 30-2 cannon also fires the FAPIDS-T (frangible armour-piercing incendiary discarding sabot – tracer) round that is deployed against hard and soft targets.
A new round, the 30mm air burst munition (ABM) by RWM Schweiz AG is undergoing qualification trials with the German Army for use on the Puma.
The ABM round (173mm long, 30mm diameter) contains an electronic timer, an ejection charge and 135 cylinder-shaped tungsten alloy bars or projectiles. The electronic timer is programmed by inductive coupling through a device installed in the muzzle of the cannon. The timer initiates the ejection charge which releases and disperses the tungsten projectiles before impact with the target.
Eurospike is offering the Spike-LR fire-and-forget anti-tank missile for the German Army requirement for a guided missile system to arm the Puma armoured vehicle. In December 2008, a contract was signed between PSM and the German Ministry of Defence for the integration of the Spike missile system on Puma vehicles.
Self-protection and survivability
In August 2006, EADS Defence Electronics was awarded a contract for the MUSS for the Puma vehicles.
The MUSS can handle four threats simultaneously and is effective in 360° azimuth and 70° elevation.
The crew compartment has a fire suppression system, while the engine compartment is equipped with a fire extinguishing system.
The Puma AIFV has a nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) combined protection system and AC sensors for sensing the impending attacks if any.
The vehicle is fitted with a new high-power density 892 series diesel engine developed by MTU. The MTU 892 series is rated at 800kW which provides the Puma with a power-to-weight ratio of 25.4kW/t.
The running gear is decoupled so the vehicle has low noise and vibration characteristics. Krauss Maffei Wegmann is responsible for the vehicle’s hydropneumatic suspension system. Diehl has been selected to supply the tracks.
Battlefield management system
In April 2008, the German Defence Procurement Office awarded a contract to PSM for the integration of battlefield management systems on Puma. The system integration brings network-enabled capability to the vehicle.
The vehicle is built with the option of three levels of protection to suit the operational requirements. The versions weigh 29.4t, 31.45t and 43t.
The basic level 1, 29.4t, version provides protection against explosively formed projectile (EFP) mines, top attack artillery projectiles and offers all round protection against 14.5mm kinetic energy rounds and RPG-7 rocket propelled grenades.
The front and flank of the vehicle are fitted with a higher level of protection against 30mm kinetic energy rounds.
Level A has been selected as the baseline armour protection for the Puma IFV for the German Army.
Level A gives all round protection against 14.5mm machine gun rounds and artillery fragments. The front and flank are protected against 30mm cannon rounds. The front armour protects the crew from hollow charge rounds. The vehicle is also protected against 10kg blast and EFP mines. The German Army Puma with level A protection has a combat weight of 31.45t and is air transportable by the A400M aircraft.
Additional armour modules can be fitted to the hull and turret to provide level C protection. With level C armour protection, the combat weight is increased to 43t. It would be necessary to deploy four A400M transporters to carry three Puma infantry fighting vehicles fitted with level C armour protection, the fourth aircraft lifting the additional modular armour fits.