Rheinmetall and the Bundeswehr: Profile of a 50-year Partnership
Rheinmetall and the Bundeswehr: Profile of a 50-year Partnership
Düsseldorf, Germany -- (Rheinmetall
AG) July 28, 2005 -- Setting the pace of technology in Force Transformation
– from the machinegun to comprehensive protection of forward operating bases and
convoy defence The Bundeswehr turns 50 this year. For Rheinmetall – Germany’s
premier supplier of equipment for ground forces – the 50th anniversary of the
foundation of the German Armed Forces represents five decades of close and
A clear expression of
its technological excellence in the field, the new Puma infantry fighting
vehicle is a crucially important project of the German defence industry.
Characterized by an extremely high level of crew protection and outstanding
survivability, this medium-weight system can be airlifted in the new A400M
transport aircraft, reflecting a systematic orientation to the new mission
profile of the German Bundeswehr. With its newly developed HPD engine, unmanned
turret and programmable airburst ammunition, it sets a new global standard in
armoured vehicle design. Today, more than thirty years after fielding the first
Marder IFV, the Bundeswehr will soon have a combat vehicle in its inventory
whose exceptional capabilities place it in a category all its own. This unique
armoured vehicle is being developed under the aegis of Projekt, System und
Management GmbH of Kassel, a joint venture of Rheinmetall Landsysteme and
Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, each of which hold a 50% stake in the company. (Rheinmetall
Beginning with the production of infantry weapons, artillery and ammunition for
the newly founded Bundeswehr, in succeeding decades Rheinmetall would supply it
with some of the world’s finest armoured vehicles and main armament as well as
cutting-edge electronic systems: for half a century, Rheinmetall has been one of
Germany’s and Europe’s most important defence contractors. In Germany alone,
Rheinmetall Defence has plants and facilities at 16 locations. Employing a
workforce of 6,800, the company generates €1.4 billion in annual sales.
Rheinmetall has a 50% stake in the Puma infantry fighting vehicle (IFV)
programme, one of the most important land systems projects in Europe. The first
prototype Puma will be officially transferred to the Bundeswehr at the end of
2005, which eventually plans to field 410 of these new systems; the contract is
worth over €3 billion. Unquestionably the world’s most advanced IFV, the PUMA is
a flagship project critical to the modernization of the German Army.
As a systems supplier of technology for ground forces, Rheinmetall has been
quick to respond to the changing requirements of today’s military, offering
comprehensive new solutions for force protection in the field, including convoy
security and the defence of forward operating bases.
In 1955, Rheinmetall laid the foundation stone for cooperation with the newly
mustered Bundeswehr, supplying West Germany’s fledgling army with a
tried-and-tested machinegun. Originally manufactured in Neuenburg (Baden) and
later in Düsseldorf-Derendorf, the MG 42 was considered the best weapon of its
kind anywhere; by 1979, 139,000 units had been produced. At the end of the
Second World War, however, the Allies had had quite different plans in store for
the German arms industry, originally intending to ban forever the production of
military equipment in the former Reich. Following Germany’s capitulation on May
8th 1945, its surviving production plants and facilities were shut down,
confiscated and largely dismantled. The continued existence of German armaments
companies was not desired. The then Rheinmetall-Borsig AG, successor of the
original Rheinische Metallwaaren- und Maschinenfabrik AG founded in 1889,
likewise lost most of its factories and assets and suffered a complete halt to
production. Starting in 1950, the company, now half-owned by the new Federal
Republic of Germany, tried its hand at building up a line of civilian products
in its bombed-out works in Düsseldorf; but the company experienced only limited
success as a maker of office machines, shock absorbers and transport and loading
New prospects opened up with the advent of the Cold War, which forced Western
governments into a major strategic rethink. The Korean War, the founding of the
German Democratic Republic and tensions over Berlin in the early 1950s led the
Allies to recognize that the only way of defending Western Europe from the
threat of Communist expansion would be a rearmed, democratic West Germany,
anchored in a new transatlantic alliance.
The decision to create a West German Army was immediately followed by the
question of how it would be equipped. The answer: to urgently re-establish a
defence industry in the country. Because the Federal Republic of Germany was not
permitted to operate its own defence plants, the first steps were taken to re-privatize
Rheinmetall. The new owners, the Röchling family, were expected to meet a single
but very important condition: they must engage in defence production on behalf
of the Federal Republic of Germany, thus ensuring that the new Bundeswehr would
be properly armed and equipped – a commitment which the company honours to this
day. Continuously augmenting its portfolio of top-quality products, for five
decades the company has remained on the cutting edge of defence technology,
responding to the changing needs of the armed forces of Germany, its allies and
other likeminded nations.
MaK, STN Atlas, Henschel Wehrtechnik, KUKA Wehrtechnik, Mauser-Werke, Buck Neue
Technologien, Nico and Nitrochemie: over the years, all of these companies have
joined the Rheinmetall Group, and all have contributed to creating the German
defence industry’s global reputation for unsurpassed technical excellence.
For example, the combat effectiveness of the world’s top-performing tank, the
Leopard 2, is due above all to its main armament and ammunition, both of which
bear the Rheinmetall hallmark. The company’s “Spürfuchs” armoured NBC
reconnaissance vehicle enjoys a global reputation, as do its air defence systems,
medium-calibre products (e.g. aircraft cannon), simulation systems, fire control
units, and protective countermeasures systems, the latter used primarily in a
As the Bundeswehr gears up to meet new global responsibilities and increasingly
takes on the role of an intervention force, Rheinmetall is now more than ever
setting the pace of military modernization.
To protect troops in hazardous areas of operation – in forward operating bases,
for example, or in convoys – Rheinmetall now offers an integrated system made up
of a diverse array of individual components and subsystems, all networked into a
total solution providing a high degree of force protection: a requirement-driven
solution that combines the capabilities of reconnaissance, command, fires,
mobility, sustainability and survivability – all from a single source.
Today, fifty years after it began cooperating with the Bundeswehr, the company
remains squarely focused on the security challenges of the contemporary world.
Furthermore, in a world where it is increasingly difficult to differentiate
between internal and external threats to national security, civil defence and
law enforcement technology are now firmly on Rheinmetall’s agenda as well.
Rheinmetall’s new “Homeland Security” unit brings together the company’s
wide-ranging competencies in the domain of civil defence and internal security.
Here, technologies from the military sphere are modified and put to work in a
public safety role, helping to protect civilian populations both at home and
abroad. In this field, too, Rheinmetall is eager to build on the many successes
that have marked a corporate history that dates back well over a century.