1982 – the Cold War was still a daily fact of life and Marder has just reached one half of its intended lifespan. In other words, it was high time for the Germans to start looking for a replacement, or so they thought at least. From 1982 to 1984, a military-wide discussion was held regarding the properties any future IFV was to have. Based on this discussion, the German military procurement agency formulated the following requirements:
The IFV was to have at least the same battlefield mobility as the Leopard 2 MBT
Seats for 7 mechanized infantry troops (Panzergrenadiere)
Frontal protection against Soviet 30mm armor-piercing rounds (to counter the Soviet BMP-2)
Fully stabilized automatic cannon of 35mm to 50mm caliber
Between 1984 and 1988, a number of proposals were submitted and in 1988, the Krauss-Maffei company was selected as the general contractor for the hull, powerplant and suspension, while Rheinmetall was tasked with the development of new automatic cannon, turret and fire control system. The ammunition feed was to be provided by Oerlikon Contraves and Heckler Koch. This new IFV project became known as the Marder 2. The initial goal was to produce 1000 of these new IFVs between 1997 and 2001. The first prototype was finished by 1991 and shown to Bundeswehr on September 17 of the same year.
Compared to the earlier Marder 1, it was massive, weighing 44.2 tons (over 16 tons more). This increase was not just due to its size – the vehicle was also larger than its predecessor and could carry 7 armed troopers as required – but because of the increased protection levels. The basic hull of the Marder 2 was made of steel and protected the front of the vehicle from any known 30mm shells, while the sides and the rear were protected from 7.62mm AP bullets and 155mm shell fragments. With a planned additional armor, the vehicle could resist 14.5mm AP bullets from any angle.
Rheinmetall developed a new turret for the vehicle, designated TS 503. It was a two-man turret with the gunner and the commander sitting next to one another (the gunner was sitting on the right side of the gun) while the driver was left in the hull. The turret was armed with new Rheinmetall Rh 503 dual caliber automatic cannon – the weapon could use two types of barrels – one was 35mm and one was 50mm. The barrels and feeds that could be easily changed – it took mere minutes to switch to another caliber. The gun was fully stabilized and its rate of fire could be set between 150 and 400 rounds per minute (the amount of rounds carried was 277). The maximum range was 2000 meters, the maximum elevation was +45 degrees and the maximum depression was -10 degrees.
The gun could fire the following types of ammunition:
35mm HE-EFT (High Explosive Electronic Time Fuse – advanced programmable HE ammunition)
50mm HE-EFT-T (a 50mm version of the advanced 35mm HE ammo, but with a tracer added)
The following data on Oerlikon ammunition were produced in the late 1990s:
35x228mm APDS-T: weight projectile: 380g mv: 1440m/s: penetration 90mm/0°/1000m
35x228mm APFSDS-T weight penetrator: 388g mv 1417m/s penetration 120mm/0°/1000m
50x330mm APFSDS-T weight penetrator 640g mv 1600m/s penetration 180mm/0°/1000m
The gunner had advanced optics at his disposal: the PERI-ZTWL 128/45 sights that featured:
The commander had an independent PERI-RT 60 periscope at his disposal and could also utilize the gunner’s thermal imager via a video feed.
The vehicle was powered by a MTU 881 Ka-500 turbocharged V8 18.3 liter diesel engine (the same that was later used in the Panzerhaubitze 2000) producing excellent 1000hp, giving the vehicle very good mobility and solid power-to-weight ratio of 22.62 hp/t. The engine was paired with Renk HSWL-284-C transmission, allowing the Marder 2 to go as fast as 62 km/h.
Overall, it was an excellent vehicle featuring cutting edge technology, but it had two big problems:
It was quite expensive
It came in 1991
By the time it was introduced, the Cold War was over and there was little need for a new super-modern IFV. The threat of the Soviet Union was over, German unification was back on the table and everyone realized that this process would not come cheap. On both NATO and Russian side, the 1990s were the time when many promising projects were buried – and such was the fate of the Marder 2.