In this month’s installment, we’re taking a look at an armored personnel carrier from across the pond. The TPz (Transportpanzer) Fuchs (“fox”) was originally developed in the late 1970s by Daimler-Benz, and saw service as the second wheeled vehicle to be added to the West German Army (Bundeswehr) fleet. Because of its effective and modular design, the TPz Fuchs continues to be in service today and has seen use by Allied forces in recent conflicts in the Middle East.
Built by Thyssen-Henschel in 1979, the TPz Fuchs uses a monocoque hull design, welded with non-distorting armored steel plates. This tub-like configuration provides effective protection against small-arms fire, as well as shrapnel from land mines and other explosives. Similar to the Soviet BTR-80 and the Véhicule de l’avant blindé (VAB) developed by the French, the purpose of the TPz Fuchs is to strike a balance between mobility, cargo capacity, and protection for the occupants.
To that end, the original Fuchs 1 amphibious transport featured an integral 6×6 drive with individual coil spring and shock units for each wheel. It was powered by a mid-mounted 12.8-liter Mercedes-Benz water-cooled diesel V8 motor that developed 320 horsepower. That powerplant was hooked to a ZF 6HP500 automatic gearbox that featured six forward gears and one reverse, coupled to a single-speed transfer case. This combination gave the 19-ton APC a payload capacity of over five tons and a top speed of 65 miles per hour over land (8,800 pounds and 6.2 mph in water). When outfitted with a 100-gallon fuel tank, the Fuchs 1 had an operational range of roughly 500 miles.
In terms of layout, the front compartment featured access doors on either side, with seating for a driver on left side and a commander on the right. Both the door windows and large bulletproof windshield utilized armored metal shutters. When closed, periscopes fitted in the roof of the vehicle could be used for navigation.
The cargo and troop section of the TPz Fuchs 1 was roughly ten and a half feet long, four feet high and five feet wide, and featured either three or four hatches installed in the roof (depending on configuration), with rear access through two pillarless rear doors. In APC layout, the Fuchs 1 offered seating for ten infantrymen (along with two in the front compartment).
For amphibious maneuvering, the Fuchs 1 was outfitted with two rear-mounted four blade propellers that could swivel a full 360 degrees, allowing the vehicle to “swim” almost completely submerged. Bilge pumps were equipped to remove water, while a trim vane – which is stowed while traveling on land – would be hydraulically deployed before entering the water.
Over the years, numerous variants of the TPz Fuchs 1 were created, and it saw use not only as an armored personnel carrier but in bomb disposal, nuclear, biological and chemical detection and surveillance, as well as electronic warfare roles. To date, roughly 1200 examples of the TPz Fuchs have been produced since its initial introduction.
Designed in the early 2000s and first built in 2007, the Fuchs 2 was an updated version of the TPz Fuchs, the former developed by Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles GmbH. The Fuchs 2 boasted a number of design improvements over the original vehicle, including an upgraded drivetrain consisting of a water-cooled, four-stroke TE20 turbodiesel V6 that generated 456 horsepower at 1,800 rpm. It was mated to a more modern ZF 6HP 602 gearbox which, like the original, featured six forward gears and one reverse gear.
Designed to enhance survivability for its personnel, the Fuchs 2 was outfitted with more advanced passive armor package than its predecessor. Its roof was raised by 5.7 inches to improve internal space, but troop capacity in the rear section was reduced to nine passengers due to the utilization of new blast-resistant seating.
Due in part to its enhanced powertrain, the Fuchs 2 had a payload capacity of over 13,000 pounds, more than a ton greater than that of the original TPz Fuchs.
Maneuverability was also enhanced by way of power steering on the front four wheels, while a central tire inflation system option was available in its standard configuration to improve capability. 30mm cannons, 7.62mm machine guns, and anti-tank missiles comprised some of the weaponry the Fuchs 2 could be outfitted with, while a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defense system was equipped to the Fuchs 2 as standard.
To date, roughly 100 examples of the TPz Fuchs 2 have been built, though future requirements should bring this figure to over one thousand units by the end of its production cycle.
While the original TPz Fuchs was operated exclusively by the West German Army during its initial production, today the vehicle and its numerous variants are operated by militaries all over the world, including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Algeria – the latter of which has been granted permission to undertake production of the Fuchs 2 as of 2014.
Noting the impressive capability of the original Fuchs design after it saw use on loan from the German government during Operation Desert Storm in 1990, the United States military decided to create a version of their own using much of the German APC’s specifications.
The result was the M93 Fox. This version of the Fuchs tailored for American use features a mass spectrometer, which analyzes soil and air samples for CBRN defense purposes. In the mid-2000s, a batch of M93 Foxes was further upgraded to a new M93A1 standard in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Concerns about biological warfare use during this operation saw the M93A1 spec focus largely on improved chemical threat detection methods by way of the M21 Remote Sensing Chemical Agent Alarm, which allowed operators in the M93A1 to detect such threats from up to 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) away. Though its crew is reduced to just three, the M93A1 is capable of chemical and radiological reconnaissance operations within contaminated areas with virtually no need for chemical protective gear or masks for its crew.