Armor: Armored Engineers Proliferate


March 23, 2010: Israel is forming a fourth Combat Engineer Battalion, which will specialize in dealing with roadside bombs, mines and booby traps. As part of this effort, Israel will also upgrade the Engineer's combat vehicle, the Puma. Based on the Centurion tank, with the turret removed, the Puma has been a standard combat engineer vehicle since the early 1990s.

Some of the Puma's are equipped with the Carpet mine-clearing system. This consists of 20 rockets, which can be used singly, or all together. The rockets contain a fuel air explosive warhead, which spreads a cloud of fuel fumes and then detonates it. The overpressure from the explosion detonates most mines. The Puma advances, behind a set of rollers, to detonate any mines the fuel-air explosion did not get.

The 50 ton Puma has a round armored structure, with bullet proof windows, where the turret used to be, so the crew can get a good view and operate the equipment (which includes a dozer blade and an armored mast that can be raised, so that vidcams can get a better look at potential bombs, mines or enemy fighter). Additional armor is fitted, to make the vehicle basically impervious to RPGs.

Armament consists of three 7.62mm machine-guns, one in a remote control turret. There are also two 60mm mortars and smoke grenade dischargers. There is also electronic equipment for detonating roadside bombs, or jamming detonation signals. The crew can be up to eight engineers. Top speed is 40 kilometers an hour. New equipment, for dealing with roadside bombs, is being added, and the crews are being trained to deal with the growing numbers of explosive devices Hamas has been seen using in Gaza.



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