Cold War West German Other Vehicles

Minenräumpanzer Keiler

West Germany (1977)
Mine Clearing Vehicle – 24 Built

The most effective and safe way of clearing a path through mine-laden ground has long been debated. Do you remove it from the ground, as with a mine plow? Or do you detonate it where it sits, as with a line charge or other means of sympathetic detonation? Mine Flails – which were first deployed by the British in the Second World War aboard tanks such as the Sherman Crab – are one of the less extreme methods of the latter technique. These flails consist of a rotating drum suspended from the front of the vehicle, to which are connected a series of chains. The drum rotates at a high speed, causing the chains to pummel the ground, detonating any mines that may be buried.
The German Minenräumpanzer Keiler is one of these tanks. It is known as a Mine Detection and Clearing Vehicle or ‘MDCV’. The Keiler was the Kaelble Company’s answer to a 1971 request from the West German Federal Ministry of Defence for a mine-clearing vehicle. The MOD asked a number of German arms companies to design such a vehicle, but it was Kaelble’s flail vehicle that received military approval in 1983.
After a period of further development, Rheinmetall was contracted for the construction of the vehicle which would be based on the American M48 Patton. Rheinmetall completed and unveiled the first prototypes in 1985. A full-scale production contract was awarded in 1993, with the vehicles finally entering service with the Bundeswehr between 1997 and 1998.

The Minenräumpanzer Keiler. This vehicle belongs to the Gebirspionier 8 and was photographed in 2014. Photo: Ralph Zwilling, Tankograd Publishing


The 1971 request from the West German Federal Ministry of Defence was, in fact, a trilateral endeavor between West Germany, France and Italy, based on a mutually agreed tactical needs and requirements. Numerous companies were lobbied and a design contest was held. The companies that submitted designs were Rheinstahl, Industriewerke Karlsruhe, Krupp MaK Maschinenbau (now Rheinmetall Landsysteme), AEG/Telefunken, Dynamit Nobel and Carl Kaelble. In 1972, Italy pulled out of the project, followed in 1976 by France, leaving the project to become a solely West German endeavor.
Trials with functional prototypes of the clearing equipment from each company followed. Mine flail systems appeared to be the most successful, at it was Kaelble’s design that grabbed the MOD’s attention. It consisted of a complex flail rig, mounted atop a tank chassis. When not in use, the rig could be stored atop the vehicle, and then pivoted around and down for clearing operations. Several further contracts were signed with Kaelble to develop and produce further operational flail system prototypes based on this design. In 1982, Krupp MaK Maschinenbau was chosen as the overall contractor and was subsequently contracted to build two trial vehicles that Kaelble’s flail could be mounted on. These vehicles would be known simply as ‘01’ and ‘02’. They were constructed in close cooperation with MTU, Renk and of course, Carl Kaelble. MTU would handle propulsion, Renk the transmission and Kaelble the mine-clearing equipment.

Prototype of what would become the Keiler undergoing field trials. Photo: Bundeswher/Tankograd Publishing
By 1985, both ‘01’ and ‘02’ were ready for field, troop and technical trials. They took part in numerous tests at Bundeswehr (German Army, also known as ‘Heer’) field ranges and test centers in the first quarter of 1985. ‘01’ was sent for tests in Arctic conditions in Norway. After passing the trials, ‘01’ was given to Rheinmetall as a reference subject for series production. In Germany, where ‘02’ was under trial, the vehicle cleared a total of 54 live mines without any damage to the vehicle or mine clearing apparatus. In total, 25 kilometers (15 miles) of safe lanes were cleared in the tests without issue.

Prototype vehicle ‘01’ in operation in Mostar, Bosnia, 1996. Photo:
On October 1st, 1991, authorization was given for the vehicle, now designated the Minenräumpanzer Keiler’ (MiRPz, Eng: Flail Tank, Wild Boar), to enter full-scale production and enter service.

Production Confusion

The latter part of the Cold War was an economically unstable period, which lead to some confusion and a number of re-evaluations of just how many MiRPz. Keiler vehicles should be produced. In 1975, around the time of the vehicle’s initial conception, it was expected that the Bundeswehr would purchase 245 vehicles. By 1982, the figure had been reduced to 157, with it dropping again in 1985 to 50. With the vehicle’s acceptance into service in 1991, the Bundeswehr pushed the order back up to 72 units. However, with the Cold War now coming to an end, the German Army went through a period of budget cuts and restructuring. This resulted in a single production run of a 24-vehicle batch, running from 1996 to 1998. These vehicles were delivered straight to Pionierkompanies, the engineer units of the Bundeswehr.

Base Vehicle, the M48

Kaelble’s mine clearing device needed a suitable carriage. The developers, not wanting to sacrifice the Bundeswehr’s serving tanks, opted for a recently retired tank. The tank they chose was the American origin M48A2GA2. The M48 Patton, designated the Kampfpanzer (KPz) M48 in Germany, was one of many American tanks supplied to the fledgling West German Army in the 1950s The GA2 was an indigenous German upgrade to the tank which, among other smaller things, replaced the original 90mm gun with the infamous 105mm L7 gun.

Body of the Beast

The M48 hull went through a complete metamorphosis to turn it into the Keiler. The only recognizable feature left over from the M48 is the bulbous nose, driver’s hatch and running gear. The running gear and suspension did not escape modification though. Although the torsion bar suspension was retained, vibration dampeners were installed into the suspension components to make the vehicle a little more pleasant to operate for the crew when the mine flail is in operation. Also, in a recent upgrade program that took place in 2015, the original American made rubber chevron T97E2 tracks were replaced by German-made flat rubber tile 570 FT tracks, as found on the Leopard 2 tank. These tracks allow the Keiler to operate without restriction in Arctic conditions and necessitated the addition of new teeth to the sprocket wheel.

Profile photo of the Keiler showing the distinctive M48 Patton running gear. This is, perhaps, the only recognizable feature of the M48 within. Photo: Ralph Zwilling
The engine compartment remained at the rear of the vehicle, and for the majority of its service life retained the same powerpack as the M48, this being the 750hp Continental engine and General Motors transmission. This propelled the vehicle to a top speed of around 45 km/h (28mph). Unfortunately, performance data of this engine while the flail was in operation is unavailable at the time of writing. As part of the 2015 upgrades, the old powerpack made way for an engine made by MTU (Motoren- und Turbinen-Union meaning, Eng: Motor and Turbine Union), and a 6-speed (4 forward, 2 reverse) transmission by Renk. The engine is the MB 871 Ka-501. It is liquid cooled, 8-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engine producing around 960 hp when in travel mode. When in mine-clearing mode, the engine produces 1112hp. This engine propels the 56-tonne vehicle to a top forward speed of 48 km/h (30 mph), and it can also reverse at a respectable 25 km/h (15 mph). Due to the fact that the engine was used to propel both the vehicle and the flail, the Keiler had a high fuel consumption. So much so that it has developed a bad reputation for being a ‘gas guzzler’.
The upper hull of the M48 saw the heaviest modification. The turret was removed and a new, shallow superstructure built up atop the vehicle. This structure had a completely flat roof on top to accommodate the flail equipment in the travel position. This roof extends forward into a protective overhang above the driver’s position. The commander’s position is located roughly halfway down the length of the vehicle, slightly off center to the right of the hull. There is a vision cupola above his station.

The Keiler in operational mode. Note the flat roof with Commander’s cupola, the smoke grenade launchers on the engine deck and the various air intakes. The large box hanging off the rear of the vehicle is the ‘CLAMS’ Clear Lane Marker System. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A number of different vents were added to the engine deck to provide air to the various pieces of equipment on board, including the new, more powerful engine. The most prominent of these are the large cooling-air intakes that hang over the fenders of the vehicle, just above the sprocket wheel. Further, smaller intakes can be found on the left and right of the vehicle, above the fifth and sixth road wheels. These provide air into the engine for combustion. An intake that brings air to the engine’s cooling fan can also be found on the left side of the vehicle. The large overhanging intakes can be folded to reduce the width of the vehicle when traveling under its own power or via transport.

The large cooling air intakes on the rear of the vehicle. Note also the smaller air intakes on the side of the vehicle. Photo: Ralph Zwilling
The Keiler is completely devoid of any offensive armament. The only defense the vehicle has is a rack of 76mm smoke grenade launchers mounted on the left of the engine deck, in front of the left overhanging air intake. It consists of a bank of 16 launchers, divided into two rows of 8 side-by-side barrels. The grenades are fired 1 side at a time, launching all 8 at once. The grenades fly around 50 meters and cover a 45 Degree arc on each side of the vehicle. For safety reasons, the launchers are electrically blocked from firing if the crew hatches are open.

The Boar’s Tusks

In the wild, the boar uses its specially adapted head to dig through the soil in search of food. Similarly, the mechanical beast that bears this swine’s name uses its specially adapted ‘head’ to detonate buried explosives, or throw them clear of the vehicle. Designed by Carl Kaelble, the flail installed on the Keiler remains one of the most sophisticated in existence.

The clearing apparatus of the MiRPz Keiler in travel mode, aligned horizontally atop the hull. The flail arms are lifted to a 90 Degree angle for storage so a travel lock (note the rod stretching from the hull to the central arm) can be attached. Spare flail elements are stored on the left sponson. This is an older photo, showing the Keiler with the original American tracks and sprocket wheel. Photo: Jürgen Plate
An innovative and rather unique feature of the Keiler is its fold-away flail that can be placed in a ‘travel mode’. The whole flail unit is attached to a single pivoting arm, rooted at the front left of the upper hull. For travel mode, the entire unit is stored horizontally along the length of the vehicle. For operation, the arm swings the equipment around 110 Degrees to the front end of the hull. The flail equipment is then lowered into place, locking into two horn-like supporting hydraulic rams. These control the up and down movements of the unit. A large shield underneath the bow of the vehicle protects these hydraulic ‘horns’ from exploding mines. In travel mode, this shield is stored up against the lower glacis and held in place by a chain. When clearing, the shield is hydraulically lowered into touching distance to the ground. Pitch of the flail is controlled by hydraulics connected to a crescent-shaped bar on top of the frame.

The bow of the Keiler. Note the tusk-like hydraulic rams on the left, and the lowered blast shield. Photo: Public Domain.
The flail assembly is supported by a carrier frame, consisting of three arms, all connected to one long cylinder which contains the axial-piston hydraulic engines which power the rotation of the clearing shaft. The shaft is in two parts, connected from the far right arm to the central arm, and the far left arm to the central arm. The shafts are staggered with the right shaft further forward than the left. Each shaft is equipped with 24 chains, at the end of each chain is a 25kg solid metal weight, or ‘element’, shaped like an elongated bell with notches cut into the end. Due to this shape, the metal weights have become known as ‘Elephant’s feet’. It is recommended that these elements are replaced after every 3,000 meters of clearance. Six spare elements are carried on board the vehicle during clearing operations. When in travel position the chains are wrapped around the rotating shafts and ratchet-strapped down.

The Keiler’s flail assembly. Note the 24 flail chains, each equipped with 25kg ‘Elephant’s foot. The rods at each end of the assembly are for measuring ground level. Photo: Ralph Zwilling
In the operational position, the flail is set at a permanent 20 degree oblique angle from the direction of travel (simply put, the left side of the carrier frame sits closest to the hull than the right side). The shafts rotate anti-clockwise at 400 revolutions per minute, meaning the ‘Elephants feet’ pummel the ground at a speed of around 200 km/h. Any mine encountered is either detonated, smashed beyond use, or kicked out of the path of the vehicle. It is estimated that between 98 and 100-percent of explosives are cleared during operation. Clearance depth is electro-mechanically governed by the ground level measuring rods found at the ends of the carrier frame. (These are stored on the rear of the vehicle in travel mode). They are in permanent contact with the ground, and the measurements they record are set via hydraulics, keeping a constant clearing depth. The flail clears a path 4.7 meters wide with a typical clearance depth that can be set between +50 and -250mm. When surface clearing at +50mm, the speed of the vehicle is 4 km/h, for deeper clearing this is reduced to 2 km/h. For -250mm (on hard ground), clearance speed is 300 meters/hour, in soft ground like sand, the speed is between 500 and 600 m/h. It can clear a 120-meter lane in 10 minutes. With the flail system forward (but not lowered into operational position), the Keiler can travel at 21 km/h (13 mph).

Close up photo of the Keiler’s flail operating at full speed. In operation, the flail kicks up a tremendous amount of debris that often results in the top deck being covered in a thick layer of muck. Photo: Ralph Zwilling

An impressive photo of the Keiler detonating a buried mine during a joint German and Dutch training exercise in 2014. Photo: Alexander Koerner

Lane Marker System

Located centrally on the rear of the Keiler is a large box. The box is the vehicle’s lane marking system known as ‘CLAMS’ or ‘Clear Lane Marking System’. Designed and produced by Israeli Military Industries (IMI), this system can drop markers down the center of a cleared lane automatically or manually every 6, 12, 24, 36 or 48m. The markers consist of round metal discs painted white, with a sprung red square on top. There is a clip on the back of the square that can accommodate a glow stick if operating in low visibility or darkness.

The ‘CLAMS’ marker system at the rear of the Keiler. Note also, on the air intakes, the stowage positions for spare track links and rods for the ground level measuring system. This is a pre-track upgrade Keiler, denoted by the fact the original American tracks are installed. Photo: Ralph Zwilling

Crew Positions


The Keiler is operated by a small crew of just two personnel, consisting of the Driver and Commander. Up until 2004, the original Driver’s hatch from the M48 was retained. It was found that this hatch was not strong enough to stand up to overpressure caused by a mine exploding on top of it. As such, it was replaced by a purpose-built detonation proof hatch. The protective overhang that extends forward from the flat upper hull is in place to stop soil and debris kicked up by the flail accumulating on top of the hatch.

The driver’s position at the front of the vehicle. Note the retractable shield on the bow is in the raised position. The ladder on the right was part of the 2015 upgrade which saw the addition of a ‘safe climbing kit. Photo: Ralph Zwilling
In mine-clearing operations, the driver operates almost blind due to the amount of debris kicked up by the whirling flail. The three vision blocks around his head become useless, as such a gyroscope was installed on the right of the steering wheel. There is a marker that shows forward direction and indicates when the vehicle is veering off course. The driver corrects direction with corresponding movements of the steering wheel. One of the three periscopes can be replaced with a BiV night vision device.


The Commander’s position is located in the middle of the vehicle, slightly off center to the right of the hull. His position is topped off with a cupola with eight periscopes installed – like the driver, one can be replaced with a BiV night sight. On the right of his position are the controls for the 76mm smoke launchers. The Commander is in overall charge of the mine clearing equipment. The controls for the hydraulics are controlled by the Commander’s operator panel, found in his position.

The commander’s position atop the Keiler. The roof is covered in debris thrown up by the flailing process. Photo: Tankograd Publishing
Due to the direction the flail rotates in, the roof of the Keiler often becomes covered in a deep layer of whatever muck and mire the vehicle happens to be carving through. As such, both crew members will often exit the vehicle through the Driver’s hatch to stop dirt and debris falling into the Commander’s position.


Before the Keiler even approaches the area that needs to be swept, a good deal of preparation has to take place at a safe location. First, the flail is unbolted from the travel lock. Next, the Commander, using his control panel, rotates the flail equipment forward from the travel position so it is aligned in front of the vehicle. The ratchet straps are then removed from the flail chains which are then unfurled from the rotating shaft. The detachable ground level measuring rods are then installed on each end of the clearing shaft (If they haven’t been left on from a previous job). The headlights – all German tanks are required by law to have these, as well as tail lights and wing-mirrors for driving on public roads – are removed from the fenders over the idler wheels at the front of the Keiler to prevent them from being damaged.

A pre-2015 upgrade Keiler traveling at speed. The driver is operating head out. Photo: SOURCE
Once preparation is complete, the Keiler will drive to the area of clearing. Once there, the Commander will lower the flail into clearing position and order the Driver forwards at whichever clearing speed is required. In mine-clearing operations, it could be said that the Keiler gains a third crew member in the form of an outside observer. As the crew operates mostly blind due to the kick up from the flail, a Troop Commander, stationed at a safe distance from the clearing area, guides the vehicle by radio communication to the Commander, who then relays the commands to the Driver.

Troops of the Bundeswehr stand before a Marder 1A3 (I) and Keiler. Photo: MDR


In its 22 years of service, the Keiler has been deployed to various countries with the German Army. In the late 1990s, the German Army took part in NATO’s Implementation Force (IFOR) Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Bosnian War, codenamed ‘Operation Joint Endeavor’. They remained here for Stabilisation Force (SFOR) operations as well.

Keiler in operation in Butmire, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1997. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Unfortunately, further details about its deployments are scarce. Recently in 2015, the Keiler was part of the German contingent that took part in NATO’s Trident Juncture ‘15. The exercises took place in San Gregorio in Spain.

Keiler in operation in Trident Juncture ‘15 in San Gregorio, Spain. Photo: Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum
The Keiler is projected to remain in service with the German Army for the foreseeable future and remains one of the most technically advanced and reliable mine clearing vehicles in the world today. It is part of a vast arsenal of Mine Clearing vehicles in service, such as the Wiesel 1 based Detektorfahrzeug Route Clearance System (DetFzg RCSys) and Manipulatorfahrzeug Mine Wolf MW240 (MFzg RCSys). One of the Keilers that was deployed to, and operated in, Bosnia as part of IFOR can be found in the Deutsches Panzermuseum, Munster. It is in running condition and is often part of the Museum’s displays.

The IFOR veteran MiRPz Keiler preserved in the Deutsches Panzermuseum, Munster. Photo: Public Domain

Specifications (Post 2015 upgrade)

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.4 x 3.63 x 3.08 meters
Total weight, battle ready 56 tonnes
Crew 2 (Commander, Driver)
Propulsion MTU MB 871 Ka-501 liquid cooled, 8-cylinder, turbocharged diesel, 960 – 1112hp
Transmission Renk 6 speed (4 forward + 2 reverse)
Speed Travel Mode (forward): 48 km/h (30 mph)
Travel Mode (reverse): 25 km/h (15 mph)
Flail Deployed: 21 km/h (13 mph)
Clearence Mode: 2 – 4 km/h (1.2 – 2.4 mph)
Suspensions Torsion bars
Equipment Mine Flial, 400 rpm, twenty-four 25kg elements impacting at 200 km/h, 98-100% clearence
IMI CLAMS (Clear Lane Marking System) marker system
76mm Smoke grenade launchers
Armor 110 mm (hull front)
Total Production 24


Ralph Zwilling, Minenräumfahrzeuge: Mine-clearing Vehicles from the Keiler to the German Route Clearance System, Tankograd Publishing
Ralph Zwilling, Tankograd In Detail, Fast Track #15: Keiler, Tankograd Publishing

The Minenräumpaner Keiler in travel configuration. In this mode, the entire flail unit is stored horizontally along the length of the vehicle. The protective shield on the bow is also raised so it is clear of the ground while the vehicle is in motion.

TheMiRPz Keiler in mine clearing mode with flail assembly deployed. Note the flail chains, each equipped with 25kg ‘Elephant’s foot’. The rods at each end of the assembly are for measuring ground level. The bow shield is also deployed. 

Both of these illustrations were produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.


Cold War West German Other Vehicles

Flakpanzer Gepard

Western Germany (1973) SPAAG, 377 built

In 1966, the Bundeswehr (German Army) was looking to replace its now redundant American-supplied M42 Duster Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns (SPAAGs). Two projects were investigated. These were the ‘Matador’ (designed by Rheinmetall, AEG, Siemens, and Krauss-Maffei) and the ‘5PFZ-A’ (designed by Oerlikon, Contraves, Siemens-Albis, Hollandse Signaalapparaten and Kraus-Maffei/Porsche). In 1971, it was finally decided that the 5PFZ was the better vehicle, and as such a test batch of four 5PFZs, with the designation of ‘B1’, were delivered. Another pre-series batch of twelve 5PFZ-B1s were delivered in 1973.
By September 1973, the vehicles had received the name Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard (often shortened to Flakpanzer Gepard. Gepard meaning Cheetah in English). The first order for the vehicle totaled 420 units. After the first 195, the remaining 225 were equipped with a Siemens Laser Rangefinder. These Gepards were given the B2 identifier.
The Gepard has served non-stop since its introduction and has only started to see retirement in 2010. It has served with a number of countries.

Bundeswehr Gepard 1A2. Photo: Hans-Hermann Bühling

A Fearsome Feline

Like its World War II namesake, the Flakpanzer 38(t), the Gepard was based on the hull of an existing tank. The tank chosen was Germany’s own Leopard Main Battle Tank (MBT). Entering service in 1965, the Leopard 1 is one of the most famous tanks of the Cold War and Modern Era. It was lightly armored, but extremely mobile and armed with the potent British L7 105mm Rifled Gun.
After countless upgrades and derivatives, the tank was replaced in the Bundeswehr by 2003, by its successor, the Leopard 2. However, it continues to serve around the world in countries such as Turkey, Brazil and Greece.
The Gepard’s hull remained almost identical to the Leopard original, aside from a slight increase to the distance between the third and fourth road wheels. This also resulted in a slightly longer hull. The engine deck was also extended to house an additional six 24 volt batteries. Under the engine deck is the same the 830 horsepower MTU MB Ca M500 diesel engine used in the Leopard. This propelled the vehicle to 40 mph (65 km/h). The SPAAG was also equipped with a secondary Daimler-Benz OM 314 4-cylinder diesel to supply energy to the tank’s electrical systems. This engine is located in the front left of the hull where the original Leopard had an ammunition rack and works through 5 generators that power the turret’s traverse, gun elevation, and radar systems. The exhaust for this motor runs along the left-hand side of the hull.

The Gepard’s turret is lowered on to an awaiting hull. Photo: Peter Favier on Pinterest
The Gepard is operated by just 3 crew members consisting of a Driver, a Gunner and the Commander. The Gunner sits on the right-side of the turret with the Commander on the left. The driver remains the hull. The Gunner and Commander stations are equipped with stabilized panoramic sights which are incorporated into the turret roof. The sights can be paired, or ‘slaved’ to the tracking radar. The Commander is equipped with handheld viewing equipment when operating open-hatch. Both of these men share a large one-piece hatch in the turret roof.

Turret and Weaponry

The turret is the major change from the Leopard and houses the equipment that, at the time of its creation, made the Gepard one of the most deadly Anti-Aircraft vehicles ever built. The Gepard’s primary weapons are dual 35 mm Oerlikon KDA autocannons which are 90 calibers (3.15 m, 10 ft 4 in) long. As well as the full 360 degrees rotation of the turret, the guns can be elevated to almost a 90-degree vertical angle. The muzzle of the guns are fitted with a projectile velocity sensor. Each gun has a 550 rounds per minute rate-of-fire, with a combined rate of 1,100 rounds per minute. The cannons are chambered for 35×228mm standard NATO issue rounds. These include SAPHEI (Semi Armor-Piercing High-Explosive Incendiary), HEI (High-Explosive Incendiary) and FAPDS (Frangible Armor-Piercing Discarding-Sabot).

The Gepard firing its guns in a training exercise. Photo: SOURCE
The vehicle carries a mix of these ammunition types, holding 620 rounds in total. This amount is split equally between the guns. 40 Anti-Tank rounds are carried near the breaches of each gun for quick loading should the vehicle have to defend itself from attacking enemy tanks or IFVs (Infantry-Fighting Vehicles) in an emergency. The rounds are fed in by disintegrating belts. When fired, the links and spent cases are ejected from the elevation hub of the guns.
The cannon’s work in conjunction with the radar systems and a laser rangefinder. The Gepard started out with Doppler Radars. These work by using the Doppler effect to calculate velocity and distance data of a selected target. The same technology can be found in the speed guns used by Police. An MPDR-12 Doppler surveillance or ‘Search’ radar is mounted on the rear of the turret. This revolves 60 times per-minute and has a range of 15 kilometers (roughly 9 ½ miles). It is mounted on a swinging arm. When in use it is raised, when it’s off it is lowered. This radar searches for targets in the assigned airspace. When an aircraft is pinged and identified as hostile, the Doppler ‘Tracking” radar mounted on the nose of the turret takes over. This radar can rotate 180 degrees left and right and also a range of 15 kilometers. Once it is locked on, it automatically tracks the target in azimuth, elevation, and range.

Romanian Gepard in service – Source: Wikimedia commons, lt.col Dragoş Anghelache. Photo: SOURCE
The guns are also connected to an analog automatic firing control system (FCS). The computer calculates the correct lead angles and distance with the data from the radar systems. Once the target is identified through an IFF (Identification: Friend or Foe) system as hostile, the guns open fire.

Tank Encyclopedia’s own illustration of the Flakpanzer Gepard by David Bocquelet.

Gepard Afghanistan
Flakpanzerawbwehrkanone Gepard 1A2 Afghanistan 2010 or 2011

Dutch PRTL Pruttel
Dutch PRTL Pruttel, with the specific radar

Gepard Totendorf
Flakpanzer Gepard in its special “cheetah livery”, last live rounds at Totendorf in 2011.

Brazilian Gepard
Brazilian Gepard as of today

Romanian Gepard
Romanian Gepard, as of today


Over its career, the Gepard received a number of upgrades to its electrical systems. Some upgraded vehicles have a digital FCS, these were designated B2Ls. The Doppler radars were replaced as well. The Search radar was replaced with an S Band Radar (S band: Part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum covering frequencies from 2 to 4 gigahertz (GHz), used by NASA and in Bluetooth and WiFi devices). The Tracking with a Ku Band radar (Ku band: Part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum covering frequencies from 12 to 18 gigahertz (GHz), originates from the original K band used by NATO). These upgraded radars retained their 15-kilometer range.
In operation, the Gepard would often be deployed with Stinger Surface-to-Air (SAM) teams to take advantage of the scanning range of the Gepards equipment. In later models, the Gepard was equipped with attachment points on the gun elevation hubs for dual tubed ManPad (Man Portable Air Defence) SAM launchers. This was not very common and was surpassed by SAM armed Ozelot Light Flak vehicle, based on the Weasel Light AFV.

The “Flakpanzer Leclerc”. Notice the two Stinger missiles connected to the gun arm. Photo: TankPorn of Reddit
A version of the Gepard 1A2 was also proposed with two Stinger missiles attached to each of the guns. However, it was not accepted by the Bundeswehr. The Flakpanzer Gepard turret was also proposed for mounting on the French Leclerc MBT. The demonstrator also has the missiles mounted. However, nothing more came of it.

Phasing Out

As already stated, the Flakpanzer Gepard started to be phased out in the late 2000s. It is in the process of being replaced by the MANTIS (Modular, Automatic and Network-capable Targeting and Interception System) gun system.



PRTL ‘Pruttel’
The Netherlands was the second largest user of the Flakpanzer 1, receiving 95 of the vehicles. In Dutch service, it was renamed Pantser Rups Tegen Luchtdoelen or PRTL. Translated to English, this literally means ‘Armour Track Against Air Targets’. It was often pronounced as ‘Pruttel’ (meaning ‘Sputter’) by its crews, perhaps as a result of the sound of the cannons when fired.
The Dutch Army did modify the scanning equipment of the Flakpanzer. They switched the Search Radar to X band, part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum covering frequencies from 7 to 11.7 gigahertz (GHz). The Tracking radar was replaced with Ka Band, Part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum covering frequencies from 26.5 to 40 gigahertz (GHz). Like Ku, Ka band is a further development of the NATO K band.
The PRTL was retired by Dutch Army. Some of the surplus has been sold to other countries.

The Dutch PRTL ‘Pruttel’, note the different radar equipment. Photo: Peter Favier of Pinterest

Other Countries

Brazil: 36 vehicles, still in operation.
Jordan: 60 vehicles previously Dutch PRTLs.
Chile: Only 4 ever received after the original order for 30 vehicles was abandoned due to financial issues.
Belgium: Operated 55 vehicles, now withdrawn from service.
Romania: 43 vehicles still in operation.

Jordanian PRTL
Jordanian Gepard, as of today. Notice the radar, as the models are former Dutch PRTL vehicles (HD photo). Stinger missiles has been added to the sides of the canons. Are SPAAGs still relevant today ? – The Jordanian thinks so. Src. Flickr.

Eastern Cousin, the Type 87

The Japanese took great interest in the Flakpanzer Gepard, so much so that they built their own version based on the hull of the Type 74 Main Battle Tank. The vehicle was designated the Type 87. The weaponry was supplied by Oerlikon. To avoid patent infringement claims, the arrangement of the sensory equipment was altered. The Search radar remained at the back of the turret, but the Tracking radar was moved to the turret roof. The SPAAG is currently in service with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), who operate 52 vehicles.
Full article on the Type 87 can be found HERE.

The Japanese Type 87, note the similarities to the Gepard. Photo:

An article by Mark Nash

Gepard specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 9.54m (7.09m without gun) x 3.25m x 2.61m
(31’3″ (23’3″) x 10’7″ x 8’6″
Total weight, battle ready 42.2 tons (84,400 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader/radio)
Propulsion MTU MB 838 10-cyl 37.4 L, 830 PS (610 kW)
Suspension Independent torsion bars
Speed (road) 65 km/h (40.4 mph)
Range (road/cross-country) 600/450 km (373/280 mi)
Armament 2x 35 mm Oerlikon KDA autocannons
Armor 19-21 mm steel plus 10-70 mm RHA (0.75-0.83 + 0.39-2.76 in)
Total production (all MBT versions) 377

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #16: Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank 1965–95

Cold War West German Other Vehicles

TPZ Fuchs

West Germany (1979)
APC – 2,400 built

The TransPortsPanzer “Fox”

The TPZ Fuchs was the second wheeled vehicle to be accepted into service with the Bundeswehr. It was developed in the 1970s following the trend given by the Soviet BTR family, Swiss Piranha or French VAB. Specifications asked for a vehicle which presented the perfect balance between protection, mobility and carrying capacity. For that, engineers designed a relatively long hull, with integral 6×6 drive, amphibious, NBC protection, characterized by a single large one-piece windscreen. The primary production vehicle (APC) stopped in 1986, manufactured by Rheinmetall Landsysteme (previously Thyssen-Henschel). Later on, the production was resumed for Algeria (1,200), and a total of 2,406 with exports to the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, USA and UK, plus Venezuela.
4x4 Fuchs prototype
The 4×4 initial prototype in the 1970s

Design of the TPZ Fuchs

The primary studies, engine and mechanical parts were manufactured by Daimler-Benz. The hull was of monocoque design, welded non-distorting steel plates with ballistic shapes. It offered optimal protection against small arms fire, shrapnel or mines splinters. The front compartment comprised the drivers and commander’s seat, two access doors with winged armored shutters, and a large central bulletproof windshield. In case the latter was shut, the driver still has access to several periscopes. The nose is given a two-fold trim vane automatically deployed when swimming. Comfort was not forgotten, the driver’s seat is adjustable, ergonomics for monitoring speed and engine specs are well-thought and positioned. Two hatches are managed in the cab’s door. The commander’s one could receive a light MG and possibly a fully protecting armored shield.

Spz-1 Fuchs APC interior.
The mid-mounted engine is a V-8 Mercedes-Benz OM402A giving 320HP at 2500 rpm. It is coupled with the ZF transmission model 6 HP 500 6-speeds. It is automatic with a torque converter. An automatic fire extinguisher is located inside the compartment. Top speed is about 105 kph, range 800 km, and is capable to climb a 70% slope or cross 1.10 m of water. It is also fully amphibious, being able to “swim” almost completely submerged with its two rear schottel four-blade propellers traversable for direction. The compartment still left room for a small right gangway, allowing the commander to access the rear compartment. The 6×6 drive counts also individual suspension units with coil springs and shock absorbers.
The usable compartment at the rear could be tailored for multiple usage, access is granted by two pillarless rear doors. It is adjustable and roomy enough for a 6m2 payload or 2 to 4 tonnes maximum. Rails on the floor could help palletized payload quick delivery. Benches for ten infantrymen could also be installed in the APC configuration. The rear section of the roof receives two hatches allowing the crew to fire with MGs.
 Spürpanzer Fuchs ABC
The Spürpanzer Fuchs ABC (NBC recon variant).


The regular APC was followed by an engineer transport, bomb disposal, NBC reconnaissance and electronic warfare vehicles, and about 90 retrofit combinations were designed (32 are used currently). In addition, armour upgrades were set up on the long run, consisting of various bolted add-on armor plates to cope with modern AP ammunition, Anti-mine protective plating in the wheels cases, Reinforced bullet-proof windows and visors, Spall-lining in the vehicle compartment and a shielding for the commander’s firing position.

Operators of the TPZ Fuchs

The sole operator was Germany until the 1980s, which has in total 1,003 vehicles so far including 144 upgraded. Algeria is the main operator of the vehicle today with some 1,200 in service, tailored to its needs thanks to a joint venture for a local production. These are followed by the specialized vehicles of the US Army (123 M93 Fox) and UK (11 UK MLI Fox), the Netherlands (23), Saudi Arabia (36) or Venezuela (10).

The M93 Fox

The American M93 Fox (translated from “fuchs”) was recognized as an excellent specialized chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) reconnaissance vehicle and therefore chosen by the US Army in the 1980s from similar specs in the German Army. 48 XM93’s were built on US requirements. In 1990, for the Desert Storm operation, Germany donated 50 more vehicles to the US Government. The upgraded Block 1 M93A1 Fox (1995) integrates now a mass spectrometer with additional identification capabilities. In civilian service, its could be also deployed to identify environmental hazards (TIC/TIM). The whole series was upgraded to this standard in 1998. It was gradually replaced (from 2007) by the new Stryker CBRN variant. They were issued as six vehicles per recon platoon (per heavy division) and six per ACR, two per separate brigade and some additional at Corps level.
M93 Fox
US Army M93 Fox in 1991

Active service

These vehicles were given to Armoured Reconnaissance Battalions, the Panzergrenadiers mechanized infantry, the Franco-German Brigade, the mountain infantry and the Jäger (rangers) of the German Army. Standard armament includes two MG3s and in many cases a compact MILAN ATGM. The “foxes” were first deployed Afghanistan with the ISAF, and had a GMG grenade launcher or M2 Browning heavy machine gun mounted instead of the standard MG3 at the front position. German vehicles were also used in peace-keeping operations with KFOR in Kosovo. The British vehicles were all specialized for NBC reconnaissance, in the Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear Regiment (deactivated in 2011, but apparently scheduled to join the Falcon Squadron, Royal Tank Regiment.


The TPZ Fuchs on wikipedia
On panzerbaer
Documentary (in German)

Fuchs specifications

Dimensions 7.33 x2.98 x2.37m (24 x9.9 x7.9ft)
Total weight, battle ready 18.3 tons (36,600 Ibs)
Crew 2+10 (driver, cdr+ operators/10 infantry)
Propulsion V-8 Mercedes-Benz OM402A 320HP at 2500 rpm
Suspension 6×6 independent coil springs, shock absorbers
105 km/h (65 mph) – 10 kph (6.2 mph)
Range 800 km (497 mi)
Armament 2x 0.303 in (7.7 mm) MG3 – see notes
Armor STANAG I prot. 0.3in to 1in AP
Total production 2,500

Standard APC version (transportspanzer) - Bundeswher
Standard APC version (transportspanzer) – Bundeswher
Chemical recon Bundeswehr APC Budeswehr GECON ISAF Afghanistan 2005
Chemical recon APC Budeswehr GECON ISAF Afghanistan 2005
Tle ABC Abwehr Btl7 Operation Endurnig Freedom Kuwait, 2003
The ABC Abwehr Btl7 Operation Enduring Freedom, Kuwait, 2003
TPZ1A1 Bundeswehr NBC GECONISAF Afghanistan 2004
TPZ1A1 Bundeswehr NBC GECONISAF Afghanistan 2004
TPZ1A1 Fuchs NBC recon with the Norwegian Army, 2005
TPZ1A1 Fuchs NBC recon with the Norwegian Army, 2005
Algerian Fuchs
Algerian Fuchs


M93 Fox NBCRS (chemical bat. USMC) in amphibious exercise.


A British Light Armored Field Radar Vehicle Transportpanzer 1 Carrier sits at a Living Support Area (LSA) belonging to Regimental Combat Team 5, in Kuwait (KWT), during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM

Fuchs being treated after a NBC exercise.

TPz-1 Fuchs NBC reconnaissance vehicle at Ex-Salty demo ’85

Cold War West German Other Vehicles

Wiesel AWC

Western Germany (1985)
Tankette – 148 built

The Tankette reloaded

The tankette fad lasted until the late 1930s. At that time it was fast and quite cheap to bolster armored forces but of limited military value on the battlefield. So why choosing to resurrect the concept? The requirement of the Bundeswehr for a light, airborne, and all-terrain vehicle which can fit into most NATO aircraft cargos bays was part of it. It was considered for both transport and combat support for paratroopers, to be air-dropped, and to be airlifted by helicopters if needed. Porsche answered the call with several prototypes and a small series began in 1979-1983, later derived into two series. These are the only true modern “tankettes” in existence in western Europe and could be compared to some extent to the Soviet ASU-57.

Hello, dear reader! This article is quite old and scheduled for careful proofreading and re-editing. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

WieselA1 TOW & MG3, 2005

The Wiesel 1

The Wiesel I is built in light steel armor which can resist small arms fire. The general shape of the hull reminds early British light tanks of the Mk.IVV series, with a narrow beak and large after section. The front section comprised the small transverse-mounted 64 kW Audi 2.1-litre 5 in line, turbodiesel engine which delivered 86 hp, the radiator and exhaust were at the left side and rear. Suspensions are made of torsion arms and shock absorbers, with four roadwheels on each side (one is the rear track tensioner). Two men can fit in, the driver and a gunner, using a remotely operated 20 mm quick-firing Rheinmetall MK 20 Rh202 in the standard Mk.I version. However other versions were tested and built in small series: The Wiesel 1 Aufklärung (recce), the Wiesel 1 ATM TOW (Anti-tank versions) armed with a single TOW launcher and reloads inside, later uprated with BMS. The Wiesel 1 Mk20 was upgraded with a new sight and BMS. 6 other prototypes were also tried. The Bundeswehr ordered 343 vehicles in 1985.
Wiesel 2 engine closeup

The Wiesel 2

However similar in shape, the Wiesel 2 is an enlarged version, with five roadwheels on each side, longer (4.78 m), wider (1.87 m) and higher (2.17 m) or 15.7, 6.2, 7.1 Overall weight was 4.78 tons (1083 ibs) in the heaviest version. The engine is a 1.9 L Volkswagen Straight-4 turbo-diesel with direct-injection delivering 109 hp (81 KW). The crew could be augmented to three. This vehicle saw several short series as the leichtes Flugabwehr System (LeFlaSys) air-defense light vehicle, Air Defence Command Post, Reconnaissance and Fire Control Vehicle (RFCV) with radar, and Air Defence Weapon Carrier (Ozelot) with four stingers or LFK NG missiles in vertical cells. For the army, there was also an ambulance, and Engineering Scout vehicle, a battalion command post vehicle, an Advanced Mortar System, with the sub-variants C2/JFSCT (command & control fire), 120 mm automatic laying weapon system and recce. 7 other variant prototypes were also tried. 178 were ordered by the Bundeswher.

Active service

The Wiesel (“Weasel”) was named for its small size, speed and agility on the battlefield. It was a difficult target to spot visually and was light enough to be carried, four at a time in the cargo bay of a C130 Hercules or C160 Transall, and a Sea Stallion CH53 heavy helicopter can airlift two of them. Air-droppings were tested but abandoned after four failed tests. The deliveries took place in the late 1980s but the Bundeswehr eventually canceled the project due to budgetary restrictions, after 148 were delivered. Porsche continued the development however for the export market but so far none has been ordered abroad, although the United States bought seven Wiesel 1 of the unmanned version for evaluation.
Nevertheless, the Wiesel saw active service with paratroopers units (Fallschirmsjägerbatallion) as organic support/antitank support to this day. This particular vehicle has been extensively deployed in airborne operations with UNOSOM II, IFOR, SFOR, KFOR, TFH and ISAF. It should be noted that seven Wiesel 1 has been lend to the US Army for unmanned robotic trials.

Preserved Wiesel 1 in sand livery for Afghanistan

Sources/Links about the Wiesel

The Wiesel on Wikipedia
Extra photos on Wikimedia
Rheinmetall page about the airborne mortar “Network Centric Warfare” concept.

Video documentary about the Wiesel (Welt) – must see !

Wiesel 1 specifications

Dimensions 3,55 x 1,82 x 1,82 m (11.6 x 6 x 6 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 2.75 tons (606 270 ibs)
Crew 2 (Driver, gunner), see notes
Propulsion 2.1 L Audi 5-cyl in-line TD 85 hp (64 KW)
Suspension Independant torsion bars
Speed (road) 70 kph (43,5 mph)
Range 200 km (120 mi)
Armament Standard: Rheinmetall MK 20 Rh202 20 mm cannon
Armor 6-8 mm estimated
Total production ? in 1986-88.

Wiesel-1 AWC
Wiesel-1 Mk20.
Wiesel-1 AWC
Wiesel-1A1 ISAF, Afghanistan
Wiesel-1 AWC
Wiesel-1A1 HOT tank hunter, .5/FschJgBtl – Fallschirmjägerbatallion 263
Wiesel 2 Ambulance
Wiesel 2 Ambulance, 1990s.


Credits Marcus Qwertyus for wikipedia - public domain
The fire support Wiesel 1A1 M20 on display in 2009.
Wiesel 1/2
Comparison graphic beween the two versions – Rheinmetall AG, wikipedia licence CC
Wiesel 1/2
A Wiesel 1 as carried by a CH53G Stallion.

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