COLOGNE, Germany — German and U.S. military officials had planned, then canceled, a demonstration this week of the Bundeswehr’s Puma infantry fighting vehicle, as the U.S. Army surveys candidates for its Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program.
A German Army spokesman confirmed that an event had been scheduled at the Munster tank-training area for Jeffrey White, a deputy to U.S. Army acquisition chief Bruce Jette. White ended up canceling because of a scheduling conflict, the spokesman told Defense News.
Officials on both sides of the Atlantic were tight-lipped about the details of the planned visit and whether another date is being explored. It is also unclear which country initiated the contact, though the government interested in another’s hardware would typically lodge the request for a demonstration.
The apparent curiosity by the U.S. Army in the Puma evokes memories from 2010 and 2011, when the German vehicle, still largely in the development stage at the time, was a contender for the now-defunct Ground Combat Vehicle program. Boeing and SAIC, along with the German manufacturing consortium of Rheinmetall Defence and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, had pitched a modified version of the vehicle for the U.S. Army.
Contenders for the new Army vehicle program, NGCV, are still getting into position to pounce on a request for proposals. Rheinmetall this time has teamed with Raytheon to offer the Lynx vehicle, unveiled last June at the Eurosatory trade show in Paris.
News that the Puma is on the Army’s radar brings up the question of how Rheinmetall, a co-developer of the vehicle, would proceed if the Americans were to invite the Puma to join the field of contenders. Another unknown is how Rheinmetall’s stated desire to acquire Krauss-Maffei Wegmann is going play out.
In any event, it remains to be seen how a German tank design will fare in the race for a high-profile U.S. defense program in the age of President Donald Trump’s sour attitude toward Berlin. Trump has repeatedly berated Germany about what he considers lackluster defense spending, and he has threatened to impose tariffs on German cars in retaliation for what he deems unfair trade practices.
Foreign bidders historically have played up their U.S. partnerships in joint bids to appease a bias toward domestic manufacturers in defense programs, with mixed results. Breaking into the domestic ground-vehicles market has turned out to be a particularly hard nut to crack because long-standing Army suppliers like General Dynamics or BAE Systems have deep support on Capitol Hill.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.