Armored Lithuania confirmed this week its order for 88 Boxer 8×8 armored infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) signed with the German consortium ARTEC. The Lithuanian army will call this vehicle “Vilkas”, which means “wolf”.
The contract worth 390 million euros ($435 million) was signed on August 22. The vehicles will be produced by two German defense manufacturers – KMW Group and Rheinmetall Defense. The selection of the German vehicle was announced on December 11, 2015. Deliveries of the Boxer vehicles will begin in the second half of next year and will last until 2019. They will equip the “Iron Wolf” mechanized brigade and; possibly another infantry brigade to be formed in 2021. KMW will manufacture 53 vehicles, Rheinmetall will manufacture the remaining 35.
Powered by a 530 kW (720 hp) turbocharged diesel engine, the Boxer has a top speed of over 100 km/h with a combat weight of 36.5 tons. The vehicle’s modular concept – consisting of a driver’s cab and mission modules – results in exceptional flexibility and versatility.
Lithuania has assessed some vehicles, including the Swiss MOWAG/Piranha, Patria’s AMV in Finland, the French VBCI offered by Nexter, the Italian SuperAV from Iveco and two Turkish models – the 8×8 Arma from Otokar and the PARS of FNSS. The German Boxer was the one recommended by the MOD evaluation board but was also one of the most expensive – one of the reasons for the high cost was the turret, as the Germans offered the Lance turret which is a derivative of the turret already used in the German infantry fighting vehicle Puma.
Based on the Lithuanian recommendation, an alternative turret was considered (and eventually accepted) – the Israeli Samson 30mm MK II remote weapon station turret manufactured by RAFAEL. This turret is designed for unmanned operation, it features a low profile and supports a unique reload capability from inside the vehicle, allowing the crew to replenish ammo in the turret without being exposed. It is designed to mount primary and secondary armaments, of Eastern and Western origin, including a 30/40mm autocannon, 40mm automatic grenade launcher (AGL) and coaxial 7.62mm machine gun. Additionally, the turret has space for anti-tank guided missiles and smoke dumpers. In its basic configuration, the Samson Mk II is unarmored, but can be applied with armor protection meeting STANAG levels 1-4.
The turret features two dual-axis, gyro-stabilized, retractable sights and a weapon mounting system, supporting independent operation for commander and gunner, enabling “hunting-kill” functionality for the crew. In addition to rapid traversal, the RWS supports very high elevation angles of up to 70 degrees, making it suitable for urban warfare.
Lithuania becomes the third international operator of the Boxer. To date, only two countries have chosen to buy the vehicle: Germany and the Netherlands. Australia is also evaluating a version of the German 8×8 vehicle for its Land 400 Phase 3 armored reconnaissance program. The Bundeswehr already has 405 of these vehicles in its inventory, while the Dutch armed forces have another 200. Operational experience gained in Afghanistan confirms the Boxer’s significant contribution to military sustainment and mobility.
In addition to the formation of the Lithuanian mechanized regiment Iron Wolf with the Vilkas, neighboring Estonia recently acquired 79 tracked armored infantry fighting vehicles (CV9035NL) from the Netherlands, and Norway and Latvia formed a regiment mechanized with 123 armored reconnaissance vehicles provided by the British. Army surplus. The three nations equip their vehicles with anti-tank guided missiles, namely RAFAEL’s Spike LR (Lithuania and Latvia) and Javelins (Estonia).
Located at the gates of Russia, the Baltic States are equipping themselves with military equipment to strengthen their defensive posture against a possible escalation with Russia or an overflow of the conflict into neighboring Ukraine. For years, NATO members refrained from supplying the Baltic states with advanced weapons, to avoid escalations with the Russians. However, following the situation in Ukraine, the European Baltic States are ready to help and sell state-of-the-art military equipment while the Baltic States increase their defense spending and their cooperation within NATO.