The procurement of an automatic cannon-armed Boxer armoured vehicle for direct tactical fire support of German infantry units has now cleared another hurdle. On 23 March 2023 the Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Thomas Hitschler, and the Australian Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy, signed a co-operation agreement on the intended procurement of more than 100 so-called Heavy Weapon Carriers, as announced by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg).
Together with the light, airmobile forces (part of the infantry) and the heavy, strike forces (armoured infantry), the medium, self-deployable forces are to form the German Army’s future capability spectrum. The core of these forces will be provided by the fighting units, which, according to the army, are to be given significantly more assertiveness in combat with the Heavy Weapon Carriers, which are to replace the approximately 30-year-old Wiesel MK and Wiesel TOW/MELLS vehicles. Each battalion is to receive 12 of these combat vehicles – four per platoon – the procurement of which represents the core building block for the establishment of the new force category.
According to the BMVg’s statement, the common goal of the co-operation agreement is that the supply of the first vehicles will begin as early as 2025. In order to keep to this tight schedule, parliamentary approval is to be obtained as soon as possible after the contract is ready. The project will be financed from the Special Fund, where EUR 2 Bn is currently deposited for the project.
According to a simultaneously published announcement by the Australian Department of Defence, the production of the combat vehicles will take place in Australia. Domestic production of the first Boxers in the Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV) Block II variant for the Australian Army began there on 20 March. The newly built Rheinmetall plant in Ipswich, Queensland, will produce a total of 186 Boxers in different variants for the Australian Army.
The German Army has a total requirement of 128 Heavy Weapon Carriers. In order for the first vehicles to be delivered in 2025, observers of the project assume that Australia could cede blocked production capacities to Germany.
New drive module
The Heavy Weapon Carrier is based on the Boxer CRV Block II, which has a drive module that has not yet been introduced into German service. In the Bundeswehr the Boxer was delivered in its original version (A0) with a gross vehicle weight of 36.5 tonnes and a 530 kW MTU diesel engine (MTU 8V 199 TE 20). Due to the changed threat and following initial findings from operations, the mine protection under the Boxer’s hull and in its wheel housings was reinforced. A new driver’s viewing system and the partial re-stowage of equipment (such as the tow rope) have improved the working environment of the driver. Changes to the air conditioning and exhaust system have contributed to a reduction in the vehicle’s thermal signature. With these changes, the version designation evolved to A2.
Today, this configuration is standard in the Bundeswehr. However, it is not sufficient for the Heavy Weapon Carrier, as the vehicle will have a higher combat weight due to its turret. For Australia, the Boxer’s permissible total weight was increased to 38.5 tonnes. The reinforced version can be recognised, among other things, by its new wheels and more load-bearing tyres.
The future Heavy Weapon Carrier will have a manned Rheinmetall Lance 2 Block II turret. The armament of this consists of an MK30-2 automatic cannon in 30 × 173 mm calibre, which is common to the Puma infantry fighting vehicle, and a turret-mounted FN MAG machine gun in 7.62 ×51 mm calibre. In addition, the turret will have an integrated launcher for the Multirole Light Anti-Tank Missile System (MELLS), which is the Bundeswehr name for the Spike LR anti-tank missile.
In addition, observers of the project assume that there will have to be certain adaptations when the Boxer CRV enters service with the Bundeswehr, as the original vehicle was developed and configured to meet the needs of the Australian armed forces. It is therefore unclear whether the current version of the vehicle will meet all standards for operation in the Bundeswehr. In addition, there will certainly have to be differences in the configuration of the mission module in terms of its communication equipment.