Though the German Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) is half a century old, they’re to remain in service with the Bundeswehr for the foreseeable future.
Although Germany’s Marder infantry fighting vehicle first rolled off West Germany assembly lines fully fifty years ago this year, the fifty-year-old IFV will remain in Bundeswehr inventories for a long time to come thanks to an upgrade program.
The Marder’s development began in the early 1960s as a solution to the politically controversial, badly designed, and unreliable West German Schützenpanzer Lang HS.30. Though the Schützenpanzer was very well armed for an infantry fighting vehicle of the era, troop egress was problematic — disembarking troops would be exposed to enemy fire, as well as to the IFV’s tracks.
The Marder sought to rectify this problem — and was a significantly better infantry fighting vehicle when introduced into Bundeswehr service in 1971. With a crew of three, the IFV follows a fairly conventional design: a driver sits in the hull next to the engine, and the commander and gunner share space in the Marder’s small turret, which also mounts a 20mm autocannon and a MILAN anti-tank guided missile launcher. Secondarily, the Marder sports a 7.62mm MG3 general-purpose machine gun.
Despite the Marder’s early 1971 production date, the platform had was not tested in combat until 2009, when several Marders successfully defended a remote German-manned outpost in Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province. The Marder’s large-caliber 20mm autocannon was a particularly valuable asset, as it combined precision and long-range fire, able to accurately engage targets much too distant for general purpose or heavy machine guns.
Although the Marder enjoys an overall positive reputation among troops, like many vehicles it suffered against improvised explosive devices. Additionally, the European vehicle was not tailored to the blisteringly hot conditions in Afghanistan: it was not equipped with an air conditioning unit, which adversely affected the vehicle’s three crew members and the additional six soldiers it carries.
But, despite the vehicle’s shortcomings and old age, it will continue to roll onward.
A new power pack will be installed on 71 Marder vehicles, pushing up the engine’s power output by over 150 horsepower, from 600 to 750+. A drivetrain upgrade is quite necessary for a vehicle that has steadily been up-armored to better hand a variety of conventional and unconventional (i.e. IED) threats. The Marder’s new power-to-weight ratio is expected to be over 20hp/ton once completed, making the platform significantly more nimble. A number of conversion kits will also be installed on seventy-one Marders emphasizing modularity and ease of maintenance.
Though it is one of the longest-serving vehicles in the German Bundeswehr, the Marder will continue to push onward, despite a half-century of service.
Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.