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Weapon carrier weasel 1 MK/TOW
Waffentrger Wiesel 1 MK/TOW

The new mission profile of the German armed forces produced a rising requirement for lightweight, highly mobile vehicles offering a level of crew protection commensurate with the contemporary threat. Ideally suited to the operations of airmobile units, the Wiesel family of vehicles features flexibility, mobility and rapid availability in the area of operations. Transportable by helicopter, the Wiesel 1 and Wiesel 2 are extremely versatile vehicles which can be configured for a wide array of different missions, including reconnaissance, command and control, the evacuation of wounded personnel or the transport of ammunition.

In the mid 1970s, the Bundeswehr awarded MaK - now Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH - a contract to develop an airportable armored transport vehicle to be known as the Wiesel ("weasel"). The firm of Porsche created the Wiesel light tracked combat vehicle for the FRG Armys airborne troops. The Wiesel vehicle was originally developed by Porsche in the seventies; but for lack of funds, development was interrupted for about 5 years. Then, new operational requirements were drawn up, additional prototypes were built and four of its improved prototypes underwent field trials in 1986. In early 1988, after winning the bid for series production of the vehicle, Krupp Mak was designated as prime contractor.

The Bundeswehr order, of course, greatly enhanced Wiesel's export chances. Several countries expressed interest in the vehicle by 1988. The United States wanted to buy about 10 of the Wiesels, some of them for the purpose of conducting trials in conjunction with robots on the battelfield. Though the Wiesel was normally equipped with an Audi 100 engine, other engines may be used, e.g., to provide more power (for air conditioning among other things) in hot climates.

The vehicles welded armor hull protects against bullets and fragments of artillery and mortar rounds. The driver is accommodated in its right front section and the engine-transmission compartment is on the left. The five-cylinder diesel engine is made in the same block as the automatic transmission. The running gear includes four road wheels and one track support roller on each side. It has torsion-bar suspension. The vehicle has good mobility on broken terrain and is distinguished by low noise during movement. Because of its small weight it can be moved by military transport aircraft and helicopters and is adapted for a parachute landing. Two armament versions are provided: the American TOW ATGM or the Mk 20Rh 202 20-mm automatic gun installed in a single-place armored turret. The gunner uses the PERI Z-l6 periscopic sight, replaced in hours of darkness by a light-gathering and amplifying passive night sight, for observation and for conducting ?re from the gun.

Serial production of the vehicle began in the early 1980s. The first version to be built was the MK 20, equipped with a Kuka-Wehrtechnik turret and armed with a 20 mm Rh 202 automatic cannon from Rheinmetall. Ultimately, the first Wiesel vehicles were transferred to the German Army's 1st Airmobile Division in 1990 in two versions: one equipped with the Rh 202, the other with the TOW antitank missile, giving it a night fighting capability. Vehicle deliveries were made in the period 1989-1992. The Bundeswehr command purchased 343 Wiesel light combat vehicles for its airborne troops, of which 210 were armed with the TOW ATGM.

In June 1994, Rheinmetall unveiled an advanced version of this airportable armored vehicle, the Wiesel 2. The Wiesel 2 is a stretched version of the Wiesel 1, with a fifth roadwheel. Logistically almost identical to its predecessor, the Wiesel 2 comes in several new configurations, including an armored personnel carrier version, a command post vehicle, a field ambulance and a platform vehicle for weapon systems, thus plugging a number of existing capabilities gaps. Featuring a greater payload capacity, the new vehicle can carry a full ton of cargo, while its roomier interior offers space for a crew of seven rather than three. The Wiesel 2 has a lower silhouette, produces less ground pressure (important in snow-covered or swampy terrain), and is equipped with a more powerful engine.

For the Germany Army's LeFlaSys light antiaircraft system, developed by the company known today as Rheinmetall Defence Electronics GmbH, the first weapons platform version of the Wiesel 2 was ordered in 1995. In 1997, Rheinmetall and the then MaK cooperated in developing a highly mobile "mortar track" based on the Wiesel 2. Its 120 mm recoiling mortar can be operated from inside the vehicle, which, just like the Wiesel 2, can be transported by helicopter.

The ambulance version of the Wiesel was first transferred to the Bundeswehr for field trials in November 1997, and certified as fieldworthy in 1999. In the years 2002 and 2003, twenty of these vehicles were manufactured for the Bundeswehr at Rheinmetall's Unterl plant.

In 1999, the Bundeswehr was also supplied with a Wiesel 2 command post vehicle for field trials. Three years later, Rheinmetall Landsysteme of Kiel supplied the Bundeswehr with the first Wiesel 2 combat engineer/reconnaissance vehicle, likewise intended for field trials. Equipped with an NBC protection system and a variety of combat engineer-specific equipment sets, it can carry out a diverse range of missions such as demolition operations and reconnoitring minefields and river crossing points. Like all members of the Wiesel 2 family it is fully airportable.

Under development since 1997, the latest version of the Wiesel 2 was the world's first digitized armored vehicle. Steering, accelerating, braking and shifting gears are all possible without mechanical controls. The great advantage of this computer-supported vehicle is that it can operate in unmanned, autonomous mode in areas where it would be highly hazardous to deploy people.

The Weasel (P. vulgaris) is the most diminutive of its tribe. Its height from the ground, w hen the back is not arched, does not exceed two inches and a half; and the length of its body is less than eight inches. The tail is shorter than in most of the genus, being about two inches and a half, and terminating in a point. The colour varies a little in the individuals, and still more with climate; but, generally speaking, the upper parts and the legs are pale brown, the throat and belly white ; and there are two spots of brown behind each corner of the mouth. The eyes are small and round, and of a clear black color. the weasel, when on the hunt, or when by any means excited, is an exceedingly energetic and powerful animal for its size.






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