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On 2 May 2024, just three weeks after signing a contract, Rheinmetall Landsysteme handed over the first 8×8 Boxer Heavy Weapon Carrier Infantry (Schwerer Waffenträger Infanterie – sWaTrgInf) vehicle to the Bundeswehr.

The vehicle is now in the hands of the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) and will undergo integrated verification testing over the next few months in accordance with customer product management (CPM) specifications. The performance values will be checked, further operating parameters and functional limits determined and the operational test carried out.

The BAAINBw, the future users (troops) and industry are working closely together on the verification tests. This close co-operation is intended to speed up the integrated verification process through efficient procedures. If defects or deficits are identified, suggestions for changes can be developed immediately to rectify them. Suggestions for changes/improvements are incorporated into series production.

The results of the integrated verification process form the basis of the authorisation for use (GeNu), which in turn is a prerequisite for the operation of systems by the Bundeswehr.

At the signing of the contract, Chief of the Germany Army Lieutenant General Alfons Mais called the sWaTrgInf a milestone for the army’s medium forces.

Classification of the weapon system

According to the German Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg), the sWaTrgInf is to replace the German Army’s fleet of Wiesel light weapon carriers and become the platform to provide direct tactical fire support and long-range anti-tank defence for the army’s infantry units. The vehicles represent a significant improvement in protection, mobility, effectiveness and endurance compared to what they will replace. The sWaTrgInf will become one of the core elements of the army’s Medium Forces, the development of which has already begun.

With the sWaTrgInf, the Bundeswehr’s Boxer vehicle family will be expanded by a further variant. To date, 246 group transporters, 65 command vehicles, 72 heavy armoured medical vehicles and 12 driving school vehicles are in use. In addition, 20 Boxers have been ordered for the Joint Fire Support Teams and 19 Boxer Skyranger air defence vehicles. In addition, numerous other Boxer versions are to be procured, including for equipping the future Intermediate Forces.

The sWaTrgInf is the only Boxer version for Germany that is not procured via European procurement authority OCCAR and the Boxer joint venture ARTEC. One reason given for this is the link with the Australian Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV) programme. Another reason is said to be the use of additional production capacity, with which the desired delivery timeframe could be realised.

Participants at the handover of the first Boxer heavy infantry weapon carrier to the Bundeswehr: (from right) State Secretary Siemtje Möller, Björn Bernhard (Rheinmetall), Jessica Ward (Australian Embassy), Bundeswehr Vice Admiral Carsten Stawitzki, Frank Aldekamp (BAAINBw). (Photo: Gerhard Heiming)

Technical description

The sWaTrgInf is based on the Boxer CRV, which Rheinmetall developed together with the Australian Defence Force as part of the Australian Land 400 Phase 2 armaments project. The vehicles have been in production since 2020, initially 25 in Germany and since 2022 in Australia. Production will run until 2027.

The sWaTrgInf is characterised by its mission module featuring the manned Rheinmetall Lance 2 Block II infantry turret, the armament of which consists of the 30 mm x 173 calibre MK30-2 automatic cannon used by the army’s Puma infantry fighting vehicle and a 7.62 mm x 51 calibre turret machine gun. In addition, the system will have an integrated launcher for MELLS (Multi-Role Light Guided Missile System) anti-tank missiles.

The drive module for the heavy weapon carrier differs from the other Boxers introduced into the army. Due to the high weight of the mission module with the Lance turret, the load capacity of the driving module was increased to 38.5 tonnes. To achieve this the axles were reinforced and wheels with a higher load capacity were used. The engine remains unchanged, delivering 530 kW.

The procurement contract

Procurement of the sWaTrgInf is being realised with a very special contract. The parties to the procurement contract concluded on 21 March 2024 are the Federal Republic of Germany and the Commonwealth of Australia. The main contractor is the Australian Ministry of Defence, which in turn is commissioning Rheinmetall Defence Australia (RDA) as a subcontractor. Its subcontractor will be Rheinmetall Landsysteme. The Budget Committee of the German Bundestag has released EUR 1.9 billion for this, which will initially be funded from the Bundeswehr Special Fund and from 2028 from the core budget of Section 14.

The contract with RDA for the production of the 123 heavy weapon carriers was concluded on 10 April. It stipulates the delivery of the proof of concept for 2024. Following successful performance verification and acceptance of the sWaTrgInf, the first batch of 19 vehicles is to be delivered by the end of 2025. These vehicles will be manufactured at Rheinmetall Landsysteme in Unterlüß.   During this time production will be prepared at RDA, which is currently producing the Boxer CRV for the Australian Army. From 2026 the SWaTrInf will also be produced there at a rate of 25 vehicles per year. Delivery of the last vehicle is scheduled for January 2030.

The first Boxer heavy infantry weapon carrier (sWaTrgInf) handed over to the Bundeswehr. (Photo: Gerhard Heiming)