In mid-2017 Germany finally decided to upgrade the first hundred or so Puma IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) they received in 2015 and 2016. Germany allocated $135 million not just for upgrading the display technology used inside the vehicle (to improve crew situational awareness) but also for development of a new turret-independent secondary weapon system (TSWA) for the Puma, and purchasing new training simulators which will lower the costs of crew training. This Puma upgrade won’t be completed until 2023 mainly because TSWA is still in development and it will take time to finish that.
The German Army began receiving its first production Puma IFVs in mid-2015 and all 350 are to be delivered by 2020. The late ones will have the display upgrades built in. The basic Puma 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 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.
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. The Puma is 7.4 meters (24 feet) long and air conditioned. Top road speed is 70 kilometers an hour.
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 Armor Piercing Incendiary Discarding Sabot - Tracer).
The new TSWA will, if it works, significantly increase protection from infantry or armed civilians. TSWA is expected to be particularly useful in urban environments. TSWA consists of a remotely controlled weapon station mounted on the rear deck of the vehicle where it can be activated without rotating the turret and having to use its main armament. The TSWA fires 40mm grenades out to 400 meters. TSWA can use either lethal (explosive) or non-lethal (like tear-gas or flash-bang) grenades.
The display upgrades will replace the current monochrome (black and white) monitors and gun sight optics with state-of-the-art, high-resolution color displays. This will provide the commander and gunner with a highly detailed view of the surrounding terrain and the current tactical situation which will increase combat effectiveness.
The new simulator will not use an entire vehicle, just the interior spaces where the commander and gunner work from. The displays are driven by software that accurately reflects combat situations. Meanwhile maintenance personnel can practice repair and assembly procedures in a highly effective and highly realistic manner on a separate model of vehicle areas where they would carry out complex procedures. The simulators will be delivered to the Bundeswehr training centers in Aachen and Munster. -- Przemysław Juraszek