Since its official introduction in 1971, the Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 AIFV (Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle) has been the main weapon system of Germany’s Panzer Grenadiers, reports Carl Schulze.
Carl Schulze reports: The Panzergrenadiertruppe is the armoured infantry force of the Bundeswehr. Currently the vehicle is being replaced by the Schützenpanzer PUMA, but the ordered 342 vehicles, of which about 50% have been delivered, will not be enough to equip all eleven armoured infantry battalions of the German Army.This shortfall in numbers, together with technical issues with the new vehicle, will certainly see the Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 soldier on for quite a while. In this initial article JF will brief readers on the early history of the Schützenpanzer MARDER 1, which at the time it entered service was the first real armoured infantry fighting vehicle in NATO service, and in the a follow-on feature we will bring you up to date on the AIFV as deployed operationally, first in the Balkans, then in Afghanistan and currently as part of the NATO defensive Baltic shield.
In conventional high-intensity wars, Panzer Grenadiers fight the all-arms battle together with other tanks, combat engineers and artillery etc. Accordingly, Panzer Grenadiers conduct offensive, defensive and delaying operations in which they may fight, in quick succession, mounted or dismounted. These specialist infantrymen fight dismounted wherever high threats against armoured combat forces are encountered; for example in woods and forests, or in urban terrain.
When fighting dismounted, Panzer Grenadiers are supported by their Schützenpanzer. The Panzer Grenadier tactic of fighting mounted and dismounted in quick succession was developed to perfection by German forces during World War Two, and the concept proved itself in many battles. It is therefore not surprising that, when the new German Armed Forces were raised in 1955, the German Army included Panzer Grenadier battalions.
Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 Predecessors
The direct predecessor of the Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 was the Schützenpanzer (lang) HS 30 that entered service from 1959 onwards. Fitted with the 20mm HS 820 L/85 Maschinenkanone (automatic cannon) it was designed by the Swiss company Hispano-Suiza. Series production was undertaken by Leyland in the United Kingdom and by Rheinstahl-Hanomag and the Henschel-Werke GmbH in Germany.
The vehicle’s crew consisted of the driver, gunner, vehicle commander and five dismounts. This vehicle only partly fulfilled the requirements of the Panzergrenadiertruppe, with troops having to dismount over the vehicle’s sides, a technique already considered obsolete in World War Two. It was underpowered, could not follow MBTs in battle, was technically unreliable and lacked any kind of NBC protection system.
Requirements for a successor of the HS 30 were already established before the vehicle entered operational service. The so-called Schützenpanzer (Neu) was required to fight alongside the new MBT that was under development and that was later fielded under the designation Leopard 1.
Over the time the military requirements were also modified several times, due to gained experiences with the prototypes. Last modifications were implemented only during the production of ten pre-production vehicles in 1968. In October 1969, the Bundeswehr placed an order for 1,916 of the new AIFVs with the Rheinstahl AG. The vehicle by now was called Schützenpanzer MARDER (i.e. Marten) and later another 210 additional vehicles would [©ordered. The first series production vehicles were officially handed over on 7th May 1971 and the last in 1975.
In the mid-1980s, the Bundeswehr launched a first attempt to develop a successor for the Schützenpanzer MARDER. This vehicle was given the designation Schützenpanzer MARDER 2 and, as a result, the original nomenclature of the original MARDER was changed to Schützenpanzer MARDER 1. In 1992, development of the MARDER 2 was terminated.Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 A1 and 1 A1A Over the years, the Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 was modified several times to improve its combat capabilities. Between 1977 and 1979, all vehicles were fitted with a mounting kit for the MILAN anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) system, allowing the weapon to be fitted to the commander’s cupola of the turret.
To allow for stowage of the missile system and four missiles inside the vehicle, one dismount seat was removed. From then on, the AIFV’s crew consisted of only nine soldiers; driver, vehicle commander, gunner and six dismounts. Between 1979 and 1982, a total of 1,024 vehicles were modified to Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 A1 standard, 674 1 A1(+) and 350 1 A1(-), plus another 1,112 were brought to MARDER 1 A1A standard.
In both cases the vehicles were fitted with a new dual-feed system for the 20mm MK 20 Rh 202 DM 6 Maschinenkanone that allowed the crew to quickly change between high explosive (HE) fragmentation and armour-piercing (AP) ammunition.
Furthermore, Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 A1(+) were fitted with the PERI Z59/PERI Z16 Passives Nachtsicht- und Beobachtungsgerät or PNZBG (passive image-intensifying observation and sighting system) plus a heat detection sensor system. Previously mounted infrared (IR) night-fighting equipment was also retained.
Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 A1A2 and 1 A2Between 1984 and 1991 the next modifications were conducted, aimed at increasing operational readiness, reliability and serviceability. In addition, the machine gun mount situated on the rear fighting compartment roof was removed. Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 A1(+) thus modified were given the designation MARDER 1 A1A2.
In the case of MARDER 1 A1(-) and MARDER 1 A1A, the Wärmebildgerät WBG X thermal-imaging system was additionally installed to improve their night-fighting capabilities. The 1,462 vehicles fitted with the WBG X were given the designation Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 A2.
Some 36 AIFVs were converted into Fahrschulpanzer MARDER 1 A2 driver-training vehicles. As part of the modification their turrets were exchanged for special cabins for the driving instructor, and an override system and ballast ring were incorporated.New Radios
In the second half of the 1980s, the Bundeswehr introduced a new generation of tactical radios; the A/VHF SEM70/80/90 family replacing the VHF SEM25/35 family. Fielding was done division by division. Installation of the new radios in the Schützenpanzer MARDER 1 variants resulted in a series of new designations. A1s fitted with the new radios became A1A3, A1A became A1A4 and A1A2 became A1A5. A2s fitted with the new radios were designated A2A1.
Article © Carl Schulze 2018
To be continued…..