Background – The Italian Puma 4×4 and 6×6 Wheeled Family
Thou the Italian Army has a successful modern family of tracked Armoured Fighting Vehicles, such as the Ariete Main Battle Tank and Dardo Infantry Fighting Vehicle, it is more geared towards a family of wheeled Armoured Fighting Vehicles.
The head of the family is the Italian 8×8 Centauro Tank Destroyer, which is armed with a 105mm rifled main gun and doubles up as a Fire Support Vehicle. The Centauro fleet is twice the size of the Ariete’s fleet, with production commencing in 1991 and final deliveries in 2002. The Army then needed other wheeled vehicles to work with the Centauro.
Besides the VBM Freccia 8×8 Wheeled Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the Puma family was developed as well as a 6×6 Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carrier and the 4×4 Wheeled Reconnaissance Vehicle.
The first Puma prototype was built in 1988 and by 1990 a total of 5 had been built by IVECO & Oto Melara. The Italian Army then issued a contract for the purpose of field trials, x1 fitted with a TOW Anti-Tank Missile launcher, x1 fitted with a MILAN Anti-Tank Missile launcher, x1 Mistral SAM launcher, x1 field ambulance and x1 Command Post. A total order of 580 Puma vehicles were ordered at the end of 1999. First vehicles were completed in mid-2003.
6×6 Puma Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carrier
The 6×6 version carries driver plus 8 troops. The number of variants of the 6×6 ordered, ie anti-tank, ambulance etc, is not fully known. The gunners station can be fitted with either 7.62mm or .50cal Machine Guns or Wire-Guided Anti-Tank Missile launchers.
4×4 Puma Wheeled Reconnaissance Vehicle
The 4×4 version carries driver plus 6 troops. In Italian service, the 4×4 variant carries two soldiers in addition to the driver and gunner, and is used in pairs for battlefield reconnaissance. The vehicle can be transported by Chinook Helicopter.
The 160hp IVECO 4-cylinder turbo-charged diesel engine is mounted in the front of the vehicle, with a 5-speed automatic gearbox, which offers an operational range of 700km and top road speed of 110km/h. The vehicle is all welded steel construction, offering protection against 7.62mm MG fire and artillery splinter shells.
Italy – 250 of the 6×6 and 330 4×4 Puma’s have been ordered. Puma was first deployed in southern Iraq in early 2005.
Argentine – The Army also uses two Puma vehicles for training purposes.