Outlived Many Contemporaries – A Survivor
The tried-and-tested workhorse of the German infantry – the MARDER IFV –reached the ripe old age of 50 on 7 May.
When it entered service, MARDER’s primary mission was the defence of national territory, teaming with the LEOPARD 1 MBT and playing a pivotal role in the Bundeswehr’s manoeuvre operations. Fate had different plans in store for the vehicle, however. During the Cold War, MARDER’s role was confined to the major exercises held by West Germany and its NATO partners to demonstrate, in unequivocal terms, their readiness to defend themselves. In the meantime, LEOPARD 1 has long vanished from the Bundeswehr inventory, alongside other systems of that bygone era, including the LUCHS armoured reconnaissance vehicle, the F-104 STARFIGHTER combat aircraft and BO 105 and Bell UH-1D helicopters. MARDER, on the other hand, went on to prove its mettle in foreign deployment, including in Kosovo and Afghanistan. As part of the Quick Reaction Force, it has engaged in firefights around Kunduz and Mazar-e Sharif. The vehicle continues to serve the German military to this day, and also features in the armies of Chile, Indonesia and Jordan.
Rheinmetall has accumulated vast experience and expertise in the MARDER domain. On behalf of the Bundeswehr, in recent years the company has carried out various measures aimed at boosting the combat performance and extending the service life of part of Germany’s MARDER fleet. This includes the installation of air conditioning in the fighting compartment; new vision equipment for the driver, gunner and commander; integration of the MELLS multirole lightweight guided missile system; and a new drivetrain. Thanks to measures currently underway to extend its service life, the MARDER is likely to remain operational until the end of the decade.
Battle-tested and extremely reliable, MARDER is destined to remain an important asset for Germany’s mechanised infantry forces for some time to come, even now that the branch is on the verge of epochal change: on 18 March 2021, the Chief of Staff of the German Army confirmed the battle-worthiness of ‘System Panzergrenadier’. In essence, this consists of an upgraded version of the PUMA IFV, and the VJTF2023 version of the Future Soldier-Expanded System (IdZ-ES), a state-of-the-art soldier system developed by Rheinmetall. Its mission is to increase the firepower and combat effectiveness of the VJTF 2023, which will be led by Germany. By fielding System Panzergrenadier, the formation will be equipped for the first time with a digitised vehicle platform – the PUMA IFV upgraded to VJTF status – plus a soldier system featuring digital radio technology. Close-meshed networking of the soldiers’ sensors and effectors with those of the IFV minimises the time between target detection and engagement. This melding of capabilities into a single system enables effective tactical interaction between troops and their IFV, in turn enhancing the combat effectiveness of mechanised infantry formations.