As Germany started rebuilding its military in the early 1950’s to protect itself against Soviet agression the goal was to have 12 operational Army divisions by 1960. This substantial force was planned as a fully mechanized force. Lessons learned from WW2 would play a crucial role in shaping procurement decisions, especially with regards to mechanized doctrine.
The WW2 mechanized infantry (Panzergrenadiere) mounted on armored halftracks would lay the basis for the concept of the modern Panzergrenadier force. For this reason West-Germany needed an armored vehicle that could not only deliver troops to the fight but also partake in it.
To develop a set of requirements for such a vehicle a Panzergrenadierlehrbataillon (Armored infantry training battalion) was established. This battalion was equipped with US donated M39 troop carriers. While the M39 was combat proven it had several major shortcomings. As an open top vehicle it only provided limited protection to mounted infantry and it’s single M2 50. Cal machine gun armament was found to be lacking.
Therefore a new vehicle had to be adopted to fill this role. However as a result of WW2 and following arms industry restriction German industry was not able to fulfil such a demand.
The German government therefore started looking for a suitable platform on the international market. The French AMX-13 VTP was considered as an option but ended up being too expensive. The US M59 APC on the other hand was found too be to large and lacking in protection. The Swiss based Hispano-Suiza made a proposal for a vehicle that met German demands and would come in 30% cheaper then the AMX-13 VTP. This vehicle would end up in service desginated as the Schützenpanzer Lang HS.30.
An order was placed placed for a prototype vehicle in March 1956. But even before it delivery of the prototype a massive production order of 10.680 units would be placed by the German procurement authorities. Hispano-Suiza meanwhile was completely unprepared for such order and sub contracted substantial workloead to Layland, Henschel and Hanomag to build HS.30’s for them. The German government was not informed about this. When the first production units arrived they were found to be riddled with technical problems. The suspension was too weak, the tracks wore out to quickly, the engine was under-powered and servicing that engine in field conditions was close to impossible. The production order was cut down to 2.178 units and as soon as 1959 a new set of requirements was drafted for a replacement vehicle.
The new set of requirements were:
- Keep up with the MBT during the attack with a hp/t ratio of at least 20
- Operational range equal to the Leopard 1
- Allow the crew to engage ground and air targets while mounted
- 360° day and night visibility
- Be easy to maintain in the field
- Use as many already in service components as possible
- Large number of dismounts
- Be armed with a 20mm cannon
- Full NBC protection
- Fording capability up to 5 meters.
Right from the start it was envisioned that the chassis of this new AIFV was to be used for a whole family of vehicles.
- AIFV and command vehicle
- Gun based tank destroyer
- Missile based tank destroyer
- 120mm mortar carrier
- Air defence command vehicle
- Tracked cargo vehicle
- Gun based Air defence
- Missile based air defence
The large number of potential variants however turned out to be unfeasible with the gun and missile based tank destroyers ending up being build on a different platform all together. These would be the
Kanonenjagdpanzer and Jaguar, ready for service in 1967.
As early as 1960 the order to develop this new AIFV was given to the German defence industry. Two teams where formed. The Rheinstahl group with Rheinstahl/Witten, Rheinstahl-Hanomag/Hannover and design bureau Warnecke. The other team was comprised of Henschel AG and the Swiss MOWAG. MOWAG left the competition in 1968. Design work was however be continued by Thyssen Industrie AG Henschel.
The Rheinstahl Group manufactured the RU 111, RU 112 and RU 122 prototypes in 1962 while Henschel would build the 1 HK 2/1 and 1 HK 2/2 prototypes in 1960/61. MOWAG built the HM1 and HM2 prototypes.
All prototypes had a similar weight of around 16 tonnes. Trials on these 7 prototypes took longer than expected due to mismanagement and bilateral quarrels. Germany and the USA had previously signed a bi-national agreement to develop a new AIFV. However Germany had jump-started this program on their own. The US Army would end up participating as the M113 APC was deemed to be outdated as concept.
In 1963 the trails on the second generation of prototypes started. 1 M1/1, 2 M1/2 and 3 M1/3 from MOWAG and Rheinstahl Group’s RU 241, RU 261 and RU 262 took part in these trials.
Two years later in 1965 the third generation of prototypes started their trials. These would improve the vehicles combat parameters and saw the introduction of the iconic rear mounted machine gun. In 1966 a change were made to the design requirements. The new AIFV now featured a 2 man turret with externally mounted 20mm cannon under full armor. This lead to the introduction of the Wegmann designed turret armed with the Rheinmetall MK20 Rh202 cannon and an MG3 coaxial machine gun.
In total 23 prototypes would be built and trailed across all 3 generations. This lead to the order for the construction of 10 pre-series vehicles (0-series). These where fitted with a new transmission from Renk allowing for a much steeper angle on the upper glacis plate. Four firing parts with where added to the rear of the hull for use by the dismounts and the turret housing and machine gun mount where reworked to ease production.
Without side-skirts these 0-series vehicles ended up at a weight of 26,5 tonnes. Further trials would be held on these vehicles between October 1968 and March 1969. These trials finally satisfied the demands placed on the design. This lead to the first troop trials with the 92nd Armored Infantry Training Battalion. Additional teething problems where found and it was discovered that the training demands were much higher than anticipated.
However in early 1971 after solving most of these teething problems a production contract for 2.136 vehicles was signed. 1.161 were built by Rheinstahl while the other 975 where built by MaK. The first series production units where handed over to the Bundeswehr on the 7th of May 1971. This new vehicle would be adopted as the Schützenpanzer Marder.
- A1: In 1977 the Marder saw its first upgrade with the installation of the Miland ATGM launcher on the turret. Later in 1979 a more extensive upgrade was installed causing the first model to be redesignated as the A1.
- A1 A; 1.112 A1 models where updated to A1 A standard which saw the installation of a dual feed system for the 20mm cannon, stronger turret drive motors and revised internal ammunition storage.
- A1 (+); 674 A1 models would be upgraded to A1 (+), these received all the upgrades of the A1 A but also got the PERI Z 59 passive night vision sight with Thermal location/detection system.
- A1 (-); the last 350 A1 got upgraded to A1 (-), these received all upgrades of the A1 (+) variant but without the PERI Z59 sight. The mounts and cabling routing for the PERI sight was however installed allowing for later upgrade.
It is worth noting that the A1 A, A1 (+) and A1 (-) retained the A1’s original IR targeting/searchlight system.
- 1 A2; The 1.462 A1 A and A1 (-) were fitted with the WGB-X Thermal imaging system and had their rear mounted machine guns removed.
- A1 A2; The 674 Marder A1 (+) were re-designated as the Marder A1 A2 when the 1 A2 model entered service. Just like the A2 these vehicles had their rear mounted machine guns removed.
- A3; The 2.100 1 A2 and A1 A2 started to be upgraded to 1 A3 standard between 1989 and 1998. The main upgrade was realized with the vehicles’ armor. It received an all-round armor add-on package. This increased the weight of the vehicle by 5,5 tonnes requiring upgrades to the running gear and suspension. A new braking system were fitted as well as a modification to the gearbox allowing for better handling. The SEM 70/80/90 radio system was installed and the coaxial machine gun received its own independent mount on the turret. A further upgrade to a 720hp engine was not performed due to budget constraints.
- A3 VB; A Marder 1 A3 that had the Milan ATGM launcher removed and were fitted with the ZOG TZG 90 target location system and served as forward artillery observer vehicles.
- A4; This is a command version of the 1 A3 that received the SEM 93 radio set. Only 26 of this variant were put into service.
- A5; During NATO peacekeeping missions in the 90’s it was found that the 1 A3 had very poor mine and IED protection. To remedy this a set of changes where made to the vehicle. A new hull floor was installed and the seats for the crew and dismounts were suspended from the hull roof instead of the floor greatly reducing the energy transferred to them from a mine blast. New side skirts where fitted and a new 500mm wide track was installed. In total 74 1 A3 were upgraded to this standard increasing the vehicles weight to 38,5 tonnes. These later had their Milan launcher replaced with a MELS launcher.
- A5A1; An update introduced to 10 1A5’s in 2010 that saw the installation of an AC system which was housed in a box at the rear of the vehicle. Additionally it also received the CG12 IED jamer and SAAB Baracude camouflage system.
- A5A1 Triple ESB; A further upgrade to the 10 “1 A5A1” from 2013 that saw the installation of a night vision system for the driver, better ballistic protection for the crew, reworked ammunition storage and a rear facing camera.
- Panzermörsers 120; A 120mm mortar carrier developed on the Marder A1. 6 prototypes were built but the vehicle would never enter service.
- Giraffe; An ATGM carrier build on the Marder A1 with a telescoping arm that would carry 4 HOT ATGM. Work on this concept was continued on the Leopard 1 chassis. While promising it would not enter service.
- Marder Fahrschulpanzer; A driver training variant equipped with the same instructor cab as the Leopard 1 DDT.
- Flugabwehr-Raketenpanzer ROLAND; A Marder equipped with the ROLAND Short Range Air defence System. Due to budget cuts this was the only of the planned system family that was adopted with 143 units build. The last ones where decommissioned in 2005 and scrapped.
- TAM; The Tanque Argentino Mediano or TAM for short is a light tank/direct fire support vehicle based on the Marder 1 armed with the FM K.4 Modelo 1L 105mm gun used by Argentine.
The Marder saw limited export success when a large number of Bundeswehr units where retired and sold on the second hand market.
- Chile acquired 280 retired Marder 1A3s to go along with their fleet of Leopard 2A4CHL MBT.
- Argentine purchased a total of 280 TAM light tanks/direct fire support vehicles
- Indonesia purchased 50 retired Marder 1A3’s to go along with the Leopard 2RI.
- Jordan acquired 75 ex-German Marder 1A3 the last of which was delivered in 2020.
- Greece ended up trading 40 BMP-1A1 OST for 40 Marder 1A3 with Germany under Ringtausch. Those BMP’s would then go to Ukraine.
Germany jointly pledged IFV’s to Ukraine with the USA in January of 2023. As of the writing of this article Germany has pledged 100 Marder 1A3 to Ukraine of which 60 have been delivered. In Ukrainian service we have only seen these in use with the 82nd Air Assault Brigade which is currently engaged in fighting around Robotyne and Verbove alongside the 47th Mechanized Brigade.
Tankograd – Militärfahrzeug Spezial N° 5017 SPz Marder written by Peter Blume
Original Fahrzeuge “In Detail” (https://panzer-modell.de/referenz/in_detail/in_detail.php)
Ukrainian paratroopers showcase Marder 1A3 IFV maneuvering skills (https://mil.in.ua/en/news/ukrainian-paratroopers-showcase-marder-1a3-ifv-maneuvering-skills/)
Ukrainian armored vehicles break through the Surovikin Line (https://mil.in.ua/en/news/ukrainian-armored-vehicles-break-through-the-surovikin-line/)
Tank Chats #136 | Schützenpanzer | The Tank Museum (https://youtu.be/YKpMLxOUQqM)
Marder (infantry fighting vehicle) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marder_(infantry_fighting_vehicle))
Tanque Argentino Mediano (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanque_Argentino_Mediano…)
Weapon Loadout: West German Panzergrenadiers (1960s) (https://youtu.be/sHvgrix3PQU )
The original thread on Twitter