The German Army is currently evaluating the Schutzenpanzer Puma as its newest Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), destined to replace the Cold War -era Marder IFV series originating in the 1970s. The Marder gave good service for its time, fielded in conjunction with Germany's excellent Leopard 1 and (later) Leopard 2 Main Battle Tanks to provide a powerful mechanized land force. The vehicle was modestly armed with a 20mm Rheinmetall autocannon while being able to carry seven infantrymen plus its own crew of three. However, the battlefield has changed dramatically since the Cold War days and a new IFV venture was warranted by the German Army and approved by overseeing government officials.
As such, PSM GmbH ("Projekt System Management") was formed from the union of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall Landsysteme - two German concerns with far-reaching histories, having designing and produced a myriad of vehicles (including tanks) and components for the German Army during World War 2. The result became a 35-ton, track-and-wheel armored vehicle with a front-mounted engine, rear-set turret and passenger cabin and armor protection based on recent combat experience. The vehicle was christened the "Schutzenpanzer Puma" and five pre-production models were delivered to the German Army in 2002. Serial production was cleared for 2009 which yielded limited initial deliveries in 2010 of the basic IFV form. The German Army originally intended to procure some 405 total Puma vehicles though this has since been reduced to 350 in keeping with a recent German Army restructuring. In-the-field trials are ongoing as of this writing (2012) before large-scale acceptance is to be granted.
In tune with modern IFV developments elsewhere, the Puma was designed from the outset to be modular in its basic scope, able to undertake a variety of battlefield roles through slight modifications of the armament/turret arrangement and armor configuration as necessary. As such, the type can utilize the existing powerpack, running gear and general layout to become a command vehicle, fire support vehicle, dedicated armored personnel carrier, self-propelled anti-aircraft system and the like. This breeds commonality of parts, makes for a logistically-friendly battlefield solution and generally a cost-cutting endeavor in the long-term. Many nations have since adopted this approach to their current and upcoming IFV designs - proving the Germans no different in that respect.
Outwardly, the Puma appears a highly conventional design with the driver seated in the front-left of the hull behind a broad, well-sloped glacis plate protecting the front hull facing. The hull roof is generally flat in its design with minimal sloping of the hull sides (designed to accommodate additional armor kits) while the upper track regions are protected over in skirt armor. The track sections straddle the hull design and each side sports six road wheels with a front-mounted drive sprocket and rear-mounted track idler. One of the most unique design characteristics of the Puma is its turret which is offset to the left side of center though the autocannon, offset to the right side of the turret, is still kept along the vehicle's centerline. A bevy of advanced optics, sensors and tracking equipment are situated on the turret and provide a modern edge in both battlefield functionality and survivability for the Puma crew. The Puma supports a standard operating crew of three - driver, commander and gunner - and can house a further six combat-ready infantry in a rear compartment. Access for the passengers is through a powered door at the rear of the hull, hinged to open downwards and double as a ramp. This allows the vehicle to provide covering fire for disembarking/embarking personnel. The driver and turret crew all have their own respective entry/exit hatches (slide type). Armor protection is composite in nature, which is both a weight-savings measure and extremely effective against modern munition types. Additionally, the Puma is designed to support add-on armor blocks for improved point defense (though at the cost of some speed and mobility). The entire vehicle is coated in a thermal signature-reducing paint and further protected from landmines and IEDs from all sides.
The Puma is primarily armed with the 30mm MK30-2/ABM autocannon, a rapid-fire system housed in a 360-degree traversing turret with limited elevation. The cannon is fed by a dual-feed system and can fire an armor-piercing (APFSDS-T) or kinetic energy (KETF) projectile from its stock of 400 rounds. The former is utilized against armored targets and offers strong penetration capabilities at range through its fin-stabilized approach. The kinetic energy round is offered up against light targets and troop concentrations and comes complete with a timed-fuse capability. The main gun is backed by a Heckler & Koch HK MG4 Light Machine Gun in a coaxial turret fitting. 2,000 x 5.56mm rounds of ammunition are afforded this weapon which has seen service since 2005. The machine gun is utilized when the 30mm cannon is deemed overkill.
In concert with the latest IFV developments appearing elsewhere, the Puma is sent into battle with 2 x anti-tank guided missile launchers in the "EuroSpike Spike LR" missile system. The missiles are proven against both combat tanks and hardened structures and impressively broaden the tactical scope of the Puma vehicle. Beyond its integrated technological sensors and countermeasures, the Puma will still rely on twin banks of four smoke grenade launchers (rear turret sides) to provide a self-smokescreen during offensive or defensive actions. A 6-shot 76mm grenade launcher is affixed to the rear of the vehicle as a defensive measure against enemy infantry - a design detail largely proven by the Israeli Army during its many years of urban fighting.
Power for the Puma vehicle is supplied by an MTU V10 892 series diesel-fueled engine fitted in the front hull. The engine outputs at 1,100 horsepower at 4,250rpm and provides a top road speed of 70 km/h with an operational road range of 600 kilometers. The vehicle is suspended atop a hydropneumatic suspension system which accounts for excellent inherent cross-country performance. Dimensionally, the Puma sports a running length of 7.4 meters, with a width of 3.4 meters (slightly wider with add-on armor blocks) and a height of just over 3 meters. Its size and weight will allow for it to be transported via the new Airbus Military A400M "Atlas" transport currently in development (2012).
Beyond the German Army, who is in the process of conducting proving trials of the Puma (cold weather testing is occurring in Norway as of late 2012), Canada is seriously considering purchase of 108 examples of the new vehicle to field in conjunction with their Leopard 2 Main Battle Tanks. The Puma is also a long-shot to successfully compete in the US Army's ongoing "Ground Combat Vehicle Program" - such endeavors historically awarded to local businesses. However, Boeing and SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) are spearheading the American initiative on behalf of PSM in the United States.
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