The latest issue of the InfoBrief Heer, a newsletter from the Förderkreis Deutsches Heer e.V., includes an article on the performance of the Puma infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) in the Czech trials written by Mathias Kraus, Head of Sales and Marketing of the company Projekt System & Management GmbH (PSM). The Förderkreis Deutsches Heer e.V. is a club and lobby group consisting of members of the military, politics and industry that is focused on the German land forces and its military procurements. PSM is a joint-venture between Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KWM) and Rheinmetall, the two companies that together manufacture the new IFV and various other armored fighting vehicles (AFVs).
|Puma climbing a slope during the Czech trials|
According to the article, the trials consisted of three parts: static trials, dynamic trials and firing trials. Static trials were focused on gathering data regarding size, weight, ergonomy, protection, armament and optics. The dynamic trials included driving along a test track and determining factors affecting the mobility of the vehicle, such as top speed on road and cross-country, maximum fording depth, the ability to drive along (side) slopes and the ability to climb over smaller obstacles. The firing tests included firing at targets at a distance of 1,200 and 1,800 metres. Given the armament and optics of modern infantry fighting vehicles, this is far below the maximum effective range of the 30 x 173 mm guns used on all of the tested IFVs (the German Army requirement for the Puma was an effective gun range of 3,000 metres), but it might be a valid representation of the combat range expected in the Czech Republic; during the Cold War the average distance for tank-vs-tank combat in Central Europe was estimated to be between 1,000 and 2,000 metres according to different studies from NATO and Warsaw Pact countries.
|IFV Production line in Germany|
Each IFV fired a burst of five rounds against each target; therefore each contender for the BMP-2 replacement fired overall 40 shots on eight targets that had to be hit. At the day of the firing tests, the weather was supposedly extremely windy, making it rather hard to hit the targets. The Puma IFV missed three shots and hit all of the other 37 rounds, thus every target was hit more than once, most of them were hit five tims. The other contenders - BAE Systems' CV90 in two variants, the ASCOD 2 from General Dynamics and Rheinmetall's Lynx IFV - all missed at least one of the targets. In fact Mr. Kraus claims that the second best IFV managed to score only about half as much hits as the Puma, which based on the other information should be about 18 to 19 hits on targets.
Due to the high complexity and sophistication of modern armored fighting vehicles, relability is often a problem, specifically if it is an untested AFV or new variant of an existing design. In case of the Czech trials, except for the Puma - the only IFV tested in a production variant - all IFVs had some sorts of issues with the reliability of some major components. The ASCOD 2, both CV90 variants and the Lynx all had to repeat at least one of the tests, because parts broke down or malfunctioned. That doesn't mean that the Puma IFV had no issues - it only means that there weren't any major troubles during the tests that required the components. Smaller/less important parts of the IFV still might have failed, as the statement from the article only speaks about the reliability of components relevant to the tests.
A difference between the Puma and the other contenders was the fact that the former was a production vehicle for the German Army, fitted with all equipment and tools required by the military. This included a battlefield management system and radios, which were absent on (some of) the other IFVs tested as BMP-2 replacement.
|Model of a pre-series Puma IFV with MELLS|
Already a long time before the trials, the governments of Germany and the Czech Republic decided to deepen their defence cooperation. On the 15th of February 2017 the ministers of defence of both nations signed a memorandum of understanding regarding this topic, which also includes the Czech 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade being subordinated to the German 10th Tank Division. Last but not least one should not forget that the source of this information: the head of sales from PSM should hardly be considered an impartial observer; still there are reasons to believe that he didn't blatantly lied or greatly exaggerated the performance of the Puma and the problems of the other contenders. In the end 50% of the company PSM is owned by Rheinmetall, which offered the Lynx IFV as alternative to the ASCOD 2, CV90 and Puma. Thus if Mr. Kraus lied in regards to the lower accuracy and reliability of the other options, he also would have lied about the Lynx which most likely would result in him loosing his job (negatively reporting in the press about a product from the company that writes part of your paychecks won't make your employer keep you).
Meanwhile the MELLS dual-missile launcher for the Spike-LR anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), which should be compatible with the improved Spike-LR II due to both variants of using the same interfaces, is being tested in the WTD 41 technical centre in Germany.