March 12, 2009:
Germany is adding a pair of anti-tank guided missiles to its new Puma infantry fighting vehicles (IFV). The missile in question is the Israeli Spike, which is part of a family of anti-tank missiles using a lot of common technology. At the low end, there is the Spike SR, with a range of 800 meters, followed by the Spike MR with a range of 2,500 meters, then the 4,000 meter Spike LR and the 8,000 meter Spike-ER. The Spike LR missile is being installed on the Puma. The missile, along with the sealed storage/launch canister, weighs 28.6 pounds. The canister is mounted on a 28.6 pound fire control system (22 pounds without the tripod) for aiming and firing. The missile in its canister has a shelf life of twenty years. The Spike uses a fiber-optic cable so that the operator can literally drive the missile to the target, although the missile can also be used in "fire and forget" mode. The Puma crew will operate the two Spikes from inside the vehicle. It will cost about $80,000 to equip each Puma with the two missiles and fire control equipment.
The 1,100 Pumas will eventually replace 2,000 Cold War era (1970s) Marder IFVs. 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 is 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 over 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 cargo) in the rear troop 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 24 by 12 foot vehicle is ten feet high and is air conditioned. Top road speed is 70 kilometers an hour.