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Germany will enter NATO’s Spearhead Force (VJTF) 2023 with modernised equipment. Especially upgrades for the Puma armoured infantry fighting vehicle and the “IdZ-ES” soldier system will take the German capabilities to a new level. A corresponding contract was signed by the German Procurement Agency BAAINBw recently.

This modernisation called “System Panzergrenadier” links the Puma with the modular Future Soldier – Expanded System (IdZ-ES) soldier system, in an advanced, network-enabled warfare environment. Among other things, the package contains complete logistic support of the VJTF Pumas for a period of five years, i.e. spare parts, special tools and spare parts logistics. Also included is a comprehensive combat performance upgrade of forty-one Puma infantry fighting vehicles, coupled with additional measures for improving communication between the infantry fighting vehicles and dismounted infantrymen.

This modernisation effort also includes a new generation of digital radios for the infantry fighting vehicles as well as integration of the MELLS multirole light guided missile system, thus significantly expanding the capability spectrum of the Puma. New daylight and thermal imaging cameras and a colour display are part of the upgrade, too. Optimised day and night vision will increase the range of reconnaissance, while simultaneously widening the crew’s field of view. Furthermore, new training resources will enable the unit to train in a highly realistic manner.

The contract for the development of the “Vision Enhancement, Chassis”, which is already underway, is closely linked to the hardware of the new optronic systems and monitors for the infantry fighting vehicles.

Furthermore, the main contractor Rheinmetall is equipping the mechanised infantry companies of the VJTF 2023 with “TacNet”, its battle management system (BMS). In addition, an initial lot of ten platoon versions of the “Future Soldier – Expanded System” soldier system will be brought up to modern VJTF 2023 standard. Improved communication between the Puma crew and the dismounted infantry section will result in a continuously updated, uniform common operational picture. This way, the mechanized infantry will gain a command-and-control capability that extends from the company commander to the individual rifleman on the ground.

Dispensing with the “electronic backbone” is also one key innovation of the new systems. Other features include advanced new radio systems for dismounted troops and infantry fighting vehicles, which result in improved command capabilities as well as enabling secure transmission of large amounts of data.

Furthermore, digitisation of the vision technology will proceed in tandem with the implementation of NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture (NGVA) in the Puma. It forms the foundation for the future sensor-to-shooter nexus. Already underway, the networking of sensors and effectors in individual vehicles will soon be ablte to be used in entire units and formations. As a result, the Puma will be one of the world’s first digitized combat vehicles.

With these new capabilities under contract Germany will be able to enter VJTF 2023 with modern technology and systems, way ahead of the contribution the country gave to this year’s VJTF.

Dorothee Frank