The Puma is a heavy armored combat engineer vehicle (CEV) that doubles as an armored personnel carrier (APC) for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Combat Engineer Corps. Their primary mission on the battlefield is to conduct demining operations in desert environments, clearing the way for tanks and other Allied Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs).
Designed by the Israeli Military Industries (IMI) and manufactured under the IDF ordnance label, the Puma entered service in 1984. To date, IDF Ordnance has produced 700 Cougars at a cost of $3 million per unit.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Israel Defense Forces have striven to get the most out of their inventory - this includes retrofitting many existing armored vehicles beyond their intended roles and operating within the evolving Israeli doctrine - specific War (initially desert-oriented, later expanded to urban environments). Thus, the base platform used by the Puma series was born from the excellent British "Centurion" main battle tank chassis, recognized in the Israeli inventory as "Sho't". The chassis has proven to be well suited for a variety of battlefield roles, including as a forerunner and transport vehicle towed minesweeping equipment or towed engineering equipment.
The Puma can also be equipped with a front plow for covering anti-tank ditches. She is staffed with a standard 8 crew in the engineer role, 7 of whom can disembark as infantry if necessary.
From the outside, the Centurion roots of the Puma are obvious, just without the original movable turret. The chassis uses six twin wheels on one side of the track, with the drive sprocket at the rear and the track idler at the front. The vehicle maintains a well-sloping front fender in front of the driver's position, while the rear of the fuselage is square. The sides of the vehicle are designed to be vertical and the upper track area is covered with apron armor plates for point defense.
With the original Centurion turret removed, the top of the hull can be used to carry a variety of battlefield-related personal gear. A hatch on the top of the fuselage allows the crew to enter and exit.
Puma's main mission is to break through enemy defenses, including obstacles, explosives, and mines. Mine clearance equipment developed by Israel will be used for the construction.
One such facility is the two large outriggers at the front of the vehicle, extending about 13 feet, each with four heavy duty steel wheels that can move over the terrain in front of the vehicle and wait for mines before the tank tracks themselves make contact . Viewed from the front, these appendages resemble giant "lobster claws".
Puma vehicles can also be fitted with a "Carpet Minefield Clearance System" for mine clearance. The rocket launcher is mounted on the rear of the vehicle and can be rotated to launch as needed.
The launchers are rectangular in shape and consist of two rows of six square launcher containers and a row of eight boxes, holding a total of twenty missiles (these can be fired individually or together). The missile is fired from above the nose of the Puma vehicle in the intended direction of travel, detonating the mine by pressure before the vehicle reaches the mine.
The missile is designed to detonate over a minefield, where the explosive warhead creates a downward force along the ground (thus detonating the mine). The Cougar then advances on its two outriggers and uses direct pressure to detonate any mines not activated by the missile.
Puma vehicles are also being modernized to be compatible with roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) commonly used by guerrillas in the region. Vehicle crews can use electronic devices to try to falsely trigger these explosives before they reach the vehicle's lethal range.
The device can also be used to jam any signal sent to the blast packet by the triggering person.
Over the years, the Puma system has undergone various system upgrades based on operational experience, including the use of lightweight tracks, upgraded shock absorbers, and the same 900 hp ADVS-1790-6A diesel engine used in the earlier "Merkava" - Main battle tank series. Top road speed is 43 kilometers per hour, while the suspension is an improved form of the original Centurion Horstmann design.
If the Puma crew is under fire from an enemy threat, they will receive 6 smoke grenade launchers, which are used to create a smoke screen covering an area 200 feet wide and 25 feet high depending on the conditions. Additionally, the vehicle carries 3 x 7.62mm FN MAG machine guns to counter nearby enemy infantry threats and a 60mm Soltam field mortar for suppressive fire. One of the FN MAG machine guns is installed in a remote-controlled turret position developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israeli concern.
Using these systems, the vehicle can also provide its own level of protection to the landing force in the APC role.
Relatively low acquisition and operating costs and high reliability have kept Puma in service with the IDF for the past two decades. When Israeli tanks are called upon to fight against Hezbollah, Hamas, or anyone from a future enemy, the Puma is undoubtedly part of the vanguard of Israeli armor.
- Infantry Support
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
- Troop Transport
- Support/Special Purpose
55 tons (50,000 kg; 110,231 lbs)
217 miles (350 km)
1 x 7.62mm FN MAG, mounted in the remote control turret on top of the hull.
1 or 2 x 7.62mm FN MAG General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) mounted on trunnion brackets on top of the fuselage.
1 x 60mm Soltam Field Mortar.
1 x 20 Rocket Launcher.
2 x 6 Smoke Grenade Launcher.
12 x Smoke Grenade.
Puma Mk I - Name of the basic series; developed from the British main battle tank Centurion.