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PUMA

Minefield breaching vehicle

PUMA

The PUMA clears routes through minefields in heavily defended areas

 
 
Country of origin Israel
Entered service 1991
Crew 3 + 5 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight 50 t
Length 7.48 m
Width 3.38 m
Height 2.65 m
Performance
Earth working capacity ?
Armament
Machine guns 4 x 7.62-mm
Mortar 1 x 60-mm
Mobility
Engine ADVS-1790-6A diesel
Engine power 900 hp
Maximum road speed 45 km/h
Range 450 km
Maneuverability
Gradient 60%
Side slope 40%
Vertical step 0.9 m
Trench 3.35 m
Fording 1.45 m

 

   IDF Combat Engineer Force had a requirement for a heavily protected vehicle to support their frontline tasks. The new vehicle was named PUMA (Poretz Mokshim Handasati or minefield break through vehicle). It entered service with Israeli Defense Forces in 1991 and replaced the makeshift Nagmashot heavy armored personnel carrier in service with combat engineers. Several hundred of these minefield breaching vehicles might have been produced for IDF.

   The main role of this combat engineering vehicle is to clear routes through minefields in heavily defended areas. It opens routes for armored formations and gives them freedom of maneuver.

   The PUMA is a derivative of the Nagmashot, which itself is an upgraded British Centurion main battle tank, converted into a heavy armored personnel carrier. It is worth noting that in the 1970s United Kingdom sold Israel several hundred Centrurion MBTs. These were later converted into heavy armored personnel carriers. The PUMA lacks turret and the hull has been rebuilt. During conversion vehicle has also been uparmored with passive armor arrays applied to the glacis, side skirts and other vulnerable points. At that time it was the latest generation Chobham-style armor, similar to that used on the Merkava Mk.3 and Magach 7 main battle tanks. Damaged modules of this armor can be easily replaced. Furthermore these modules can be replaced if more advanced armor is available. Later production vehicles are fitted with cage armor against RPG rounds.

   The PUMA accommodates driver, commander and gunner. Vehicle also carries five combat engineers or sappers. Due to its troop carrying capacity sometimes it is referred as heavy armored personnel carrier.

   This minefield breaching vehicle is fitted with various mine clearing devices, depending on mission requirements. It can be fitted with mine clearing rollers, mine rake or bulldozer attachment. Its mine rollers are based upon the Russian KMT-5 design, but offer better performance. The PUMA can also tow trailer with specialized engineering equipment. Vehicle can be also fitted with electromagnetic mine neutralization system that detonates roadside bombs or jams detonation signals. A crane can be fitted at the rear.

   Vehicle can be equipped with RAFAEL Carpet minefield breaching line charge system. It is mounted at the rear of the vehicle or in a trailer. It has 20 fuel-air explosive rockets that are fired singly or all together. By exploding these rockets destroy most of the mines. After that PUMA advances forward and destroys unexploded mines with rollers or clears the way with mine rake.

   The PUMA minefield breaching vehicle has high level of protection against direct hits and mine blasts. Vehicle is also fitted with NBC protection system.

   Armament of the PUMA is optimized for anti-guerilla warfare. Vehicle is armed with four 7.62-mm machine guns. Three of them are mounted on simple mounts, while the forth on a Rafael OWS and can be fired both manually and remotely. Alternatively this weapon station can be armed with a 12.7-mm heavy machine gun. The PUMA is also fitted with a 60-mm Soltam mortar. It is used against enemy infantry.

   A major drawback of this vehicle is that there is no rear entry or exit for the crew or dismounts. Combat engineers have to egress via a large roof hatch, exposing themselves to enemy fire. The risk of exposing the troops was found to be a very important drawback so much that the vehicle was judged unsuited for the heavy armored personnel carrier role.

   Earlier variants of the PUMA were completed with the General Dynamics Land Systems AVDS-1790-2A diesel engines, developing 750 hp. However later production vehicles were fitted with a more powerful AVDS-1790-6A of the Merkava Mk.1 main battle tank, developing 908 hp and upgraded transmission. Also later production vehicles were fitted with heavy-duty Merkava tracks and suspension similar to that of Merkava Mk.1 and Mk.2.

   Currently Israel is forming a forth Combat Engineer Battalion. It will specialize in dealing with roadside bombs, mines and booby traps. The Israel Defense Forces are adding new equipment to deal with growing number of explosive devices and roadside bombs. As part of this effort PUMA minefield breaching vehicles will be upgraded.

 

Variants

 

   PUMA RAM armored recovery vehicle. Its crane is similar to that as fitted to regular PUMAs. It can carry a spare engine. This vehicle recovers, supports and maintains other PUMAs;

   Unidentified variant with a superstructure over the crew and personnel compartment. This superstructure is fitted with vision blocks and firing slots. This vehicle also has improved armored protection and is better suited for urban warfare operations;

   Unidentified variant, fitted with a mast-mounted sensors. Possibly it is reconnaissance or surveillance vehicle.

 

Video of the PUMA minefield breaching vehicle

 
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