Monday, July 2, 2012

Afghanistan Pummels Puma

Two years ago the German government, looking for ways to pay for their heavy military involvement in Afghanistan, decided to reduce procurement of their new Puma IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) from 400 to 280. But many senior officers resisted this. A compromise was reached, and procurement will now only be only reduced to 350. But that's a big drop from what was originally planned. The new Puma infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) was developed to replace 2,000 Cold War era (1970s) Marder IFVs. The original plan was to produce 1,100 Pumas. This was then reduced to 410 and now 350. Deliveries began two years ago.

Puma contains lots of innovations. The basic model has a remote (from inside the vehicle) control turret equipped with a new 30mm automatic cannon. This type of system has worked well in Iraq, where it was widely used in American vehicles. The Puma armor protection comes in three levels. The basic level results in a 29.4 ton vehicle that protects against artillery, heavy machine guns (up to 14.5mm) and RPG rounds. There's a 31.5 ton and 43 ton version. The Germans have settled on the 31.5 ton version as the standard. This one gives all round protection from 14.5mm machine-guns, and some protection from 30mm rounds.

The Puma's 30mm cannon can fire computer controlled shells that will detonate inside of buildings or above troops taking cover behind a wall or in a trench. The 30mm cannon can fire up to 200 rounds a minute, and has a range of 3,000 meters. The vehicle carries 400 rounds of 30mm ammo, and over two thousand rounds for its 7.62mm machine-gun. Optional weapons include a guided missile launcher or automatic grenade launcher. The 30mm gun also has an armor piercing round that is also effective against personnel (FAPIDS-T, or Frangible Armour Piercing Incendiary Discarding Sabot - Tracer). The Puma has a crew of three (commander, gunner and driver) and carries up to eight infantrymen (or a ton of cargo) in the rear compartment. The Puma is also "digital." Noting the success the U.S. Army has had with equipping their armored vehicles with "battlefield Internet" communications equipment, the Germans did the same with Puma. Production of Puma will continue through the end of the decade. The 14.4 meter (24 feet) by 7.2 meter (12 feet) vehicle is 3.2 meters (ten feet) high and is air conditioned. Top road speed is 70 kilometers an hour.

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