MANUFACTURER(S): IDF Ordnance - Israel
Detailing the development and operational history of the Puma CEV Tracked Combat Engineering Vehicle.
Entry last updated on 12/28/2018.
Authored by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB and Dan Alex. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The Puma is a heavily-armored Combat Engineering Vehicle (CEV) that doubles as an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) for the Combat Engineering Corps of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Her primary battlefield role is that of mine clearance through operations in desert environments, clearing a safe path for tanks and other allied Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs). The Puma was designed by Israeli Military Industries (IMI) and is produced under the IDF Ordnance label, the vehicle having entered service in 1984. To date, IDF Ordnance has produced 700 Pumas at a cost of $3 million USD per unit.
Since the inception of the Israeli state in 1948, the IDF has always endeavored to get the most out of its inventory - this has included converting many existing armored vehicles to fight beyond their intended roles and within the ever-evolving doctrine of Israeli-specific warfare (initially desert-minded and since expanded to include urban environments). As such, the basic platform utilized in the Puma line was born of the excellent British "Centurion" Main Battle Tank chassis which was recognized as the "Sho't" in the Israeli inventory. The chassis proved perfect for performing a wide range of battlefield roles including that of engineering and mover vehicle for towing mine clearance equipment or trailers containing engineering equipment. The Puma can be further outfitted with a front-mounted plough to be used in covering anti-tank ditches. She fields a standard crew of eight personnel in her engineering role and seven of these personnel can disembark as infantry if need be.
Outwardly, the Centurion roots of the Puma are evident save for the lack of the original traversing turret. The chassis makes use of six double-tired road wheels to a track side with the drive sprocket at the rear and the track idler at the front. The vehicle retains the well-sloped glacis plate ahead of the driver's position while the rear of the hull is squared off. The sides of the vehicle are vertical by design with the upper track regions covered over in skirt armor panels for point defense. With the turret of the original Centurion removed, the top of the hull can be used to carry all manner of battlefield-related and personal equipment. Hatches on the hull roof allow for entry/exit of the crew.
The primary role of the Puma is to break through enemy defensive systems including obstacles, explosives and mines. Israeli-developed mine-defeating devices are utilized in the design. One such facility is two large outriggers held at the front of the vehicle that extend out some thirteen feet, each holding four heavy steel wheels that can move over the terrain ahead of the vehicle and detonate awaiting land mines before the tank tracks themselves come in contact. From the frontal profile, these appendages resemble giant "lobster claws".
A Puma vehicle can also be also be fitted with the "Carpet Minefield Clearing System" for the mine-clearing role. A rocket launcher is attached to the rear of the vehicle and can be rotated for firing as need be. The launcher takes on a rectangle shape and consists of two rows of six square launcher containers and one row of eight boxes, holding twenty rockets in all (these can be fired individually or altogether). The rockets are fired over the bow of the Puma vehicle into the direction of intended travel, detonating mines through pressure before the vehicle ever reaches them. The rockets are set to airburst over the minefield where the explosive warheads create a downward force along the ground (thusly triggering the mines). The Puma then advances with its two outriggers using direct pressure to explode any mines that the rockets failed to activate.
Puma vehicles are also modernized to content with roadside bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) commonly utilized by guerilla forces in the region. The vehicle crew has access to electronic equipment that attempts to falsely trigger these explosives before they come into lethal range of the vehicle. Equipment can also be used to interfere with any signals being sent by a trigger man to the explosives pack.
Over the years, the Puma system has received various system upgrades based on operational experience including use of lightweight tracks, improved shock absorbers and the same ADVS-1790-6A diesel-fueled engine of 900 horsepower used in the Israeli Army's earlier "Merkava" Main Battle Tank series. Maximum road speed is 43 kilometers per hour while the suspension system is a modified form of the original Centurion Horstmann design.
Should the Puma crew come under fire from enemy threats, she is granted six smoke grenade dischargers utilized in generating a smoke screen to cover an area 200 feet wide by 25 feet high depending on conditions. Furthermore, the vehicle fields 3 x 7.62 mm FN MAG machine guns to content with nearby enemy infantry threats as well as a 60mm Soltam field mortar to lay down suppressive fire. One of the FN MAG machine guns is installed in a remote-controlled turret emplacement developed by the Israeli concern of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Utilizing these systems, the vehicle can also supply its own level of protection for disembarking troops in the APC role.
The relative low procurement and operating costs coupled with high reliability has kept the Puma in IDF service for the last two decades. When Israeli armor is called to battle elements of Hezbollah, Hamas or whomever the future enemy becomes, the Puma is undoubtedly part of the Israeli armored spearhead.