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Orders have been placed by the Bundeswehr for vehicles and soldier equipment, in which the value attributable to Rheinmetall exceeds €470 million, the company announced on 22 July. The orders cover supply of the PUMA infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and the modular Future Soldier – Expanded System (IdZ-ES) soldier system, destined to equip German troops that will form the core of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) 2023 – the key ‘spearhead’ component of the NATO Response Force (NRF).

Rheinmetall is taking a key role in supplying the ‘System Panzergrenadier VJTF 2023,’ for which work has already begun, with a view to completion by the end of the VJTF readiness phase in 2024. A contract was placed by the Bundeswehr on 11 July with ARGE Puma – a consortium consisting of PUMA manufacturer PSM Projekt System Management GmbH (a joint venture in which Rheinmetall holds a 50% stake) and Rheinmetall Electronics GmbH. Subcontracting within ARGE will take place shortly.

‘System Panzergrenadier’ links the PUMA IFV – the mainstay of the German Army’s mechanised infantry – with IdZ-ES in an advanced, network-enabled warfare environment. Included in the ‘System Panzergrenadier VJTF 2023’ package is a comprehensive combat performance upgrade of 41 PUMAs, coupled with additional measures for improving communication between the IFVs and dismounted infantry. For Rheinmetall, the total value of this order comes to €258.3 million. The systems will be delivered at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021.

The package encompasses complete logistic support of the VJTF PUMAs for a period of five years – spare parts, special tools and spare parts logistics. Also included is a new generation of digital radios for the IFVs as well as integration of the MELLS multirole light guided missile system, significantly expanding the capabilities spectrum of the PUMA. New daylight and thermal imaging cameras and a colour display feature in 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.

Closely linked to the hardware of the new optronic systems and monitors for the IFVs is the contract for development of the ‘Vision Enhancement, Chassis,’ which is already underway and represents sales of €67.2 million to the company.

Furthermore, 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 IdZ-ES soldier system will be brought up to the VJTF 2023 standard. Improved communication between the PUMA crew and the dismounted infantry section will result in a continuously updated, uniform common operational picture. Rheinmetall thus gives mechanised infantry a command and control (C2) capability that extends from the company commander to the individual rifleman on the ground. These modernisation moves will mean incoming orders for Rheinmetall worth €146.5 million.

‘System Panzergrenadier VJTF 2023’ substantially enhances the fighting strength of the VJTF 2023. At the same time, Rheinmetall views these measures as a template for further modernisation and digitisation of the Bundeswehr.

Modernising the C2 capabilities of complete mechanised infantry companies and bringing the IdZ-ES up to VJTF 2023 standard involves modifying both hardware and software. Dispensing with the ‘electronic backbone’ is one key innovation, while others include advanced new radio systems for dismounted troops and IFVs, which result in improved command capabilities as well as enabling secure transmission of large amounts of data.

During development of the new vision systems and their integration into the PUMA, an initial batch of five sets of prototype assemblies will be fabricated and integrated into five standard vehicles. These tasks are to be complete by 2021. Verification will then take place at the Bundeswehr’s technical centres by 2023.

Furthermore, digitisation of the vision technology will proceed in tandem with 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 enable the same to take place within entire units and formations. As a result, the PUMA will be one of the world’s first digitised combat vehicles.

Soldiers from PanzerGrenadier Battalion 112 showcasing the System Panzergrenadier VJTF 2023. (Photo: Rheinmetall)

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