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Krauss-Maffei Wegmann’s Puma Bucks the V-shaped Hull Trend

Flat-bottom design challenges conventional V-hull wisdom

Emerging from a combination of dedicated government and industry design efforts, government blast testing and several years of combat experience is the widely held belief that “V-shaped” hull designs play a key role in platform survivability on modern asymmetric battlefields.

Speaking during the recent 2013 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting, Brig. Gen. David Bassett, U.S. Army Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS), reinforced this belief in his praise of the Stryker “Double-V Hull” (DVH) design now fielded in Afghanistan.

Emphasizing the top priority assigned to supporting soldiers and Marines engaged in the current fight, Bassett offered, “The success that we have seen out of the Stryker Double-V Hull program, in terms of additional capability for those Stryker formations – I would just say that it’s been absolutely spectacular; dramatic reductions in casualty rates; substantially more survivability on the Stryker platform. And our team has been leaning forward, alongside our industry partners, to support those platforms as they fight the current fight with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment over in Afghanistan.”

In light of what seems to be a growing acceptance or even embrace of V-shaped hull wisdom, it was somewhat surprising to find at least one AUSA exhibit highlighting the survivability features of a flat-bottom hull design.

In light of what seems to be a growing acceptance or even embrace of V-shaped hull wisdom, it was somewhat surprising to find at least one AUSA exhibit highlighting the survivability features of a flat-bottom hull design.

Specifically, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) devoted a portion of their AUSA display to a blast-tested cut-away section from the flat-bottom “Puma” Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle (KMW and Rheinmetall Defence).

The Puma design is described by its manufacturers as combining “the contrary requirements” for high strategic and tactical mobility with maximum protection and maximum firepower in a single high performance weapon system.

Puma Hull Section

The blast-tested cut-away section from the flat-bottom “Puma” Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle developed by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall Defence on display at the 2013 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting. Scott Gourley photo

“This is a mine-blasted cross-section of the Puma vehicle,” explained Hanno Ackerhans, KMW Executive Manager. “The mine blast happened under this structure and, as you can see, the floor has bended as a result of the energy coming from below.”

“But the soldiers who would have been sitting inside were basically sitting on a ‘separate floor’ at a higher level, so they would not have been harmed by the bend of the lower structure,” he said. “The entire structure took all of the energy that came in. If you look at the welds, it’s not that Germans can’t do good welding – It’s that the energy came from below and ended up being absorbed in the structure.”

“It’s a different approach from the well-promoted ‘V-shaped’ hull,” he acknowledged. “We think, from an integration point of view, that this is much better because it gives you much more flexibility space-wise, and you don’t have to go as high with your entire [V-shaped hull] vehicle.”

“And my personal feeling is that if you are on the battlefield you don’t want to be exposed. You want to be as low as possible with your periscope being the highest point.”

“There’s a vehicle up in the front of the exhibit hall that requires ladders to crawl into. And my personal feeling is that if you are on the battlefield you don’t want to be exposed. You want to be as low as possible with your periscope being the highest point,” he noted.

The Puma design features a “de-coupled running gear” that is attached to the hull structure, with the diesel fuel stored primarily in the drivetrain area,

“This year we decided to show some technology,” Ackerhans concluded. “And I think this approach is different from other companies.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...