Weapons and Kit

Wiesel: Meet Germany's small but lethal tank

The word tankette might not conjure fear in your mind but the Wiesel, Germany's small but lethal, air-transportable armoured fighting vehicle, packs a mighty punch. 

The smallest vehicle in the Bundeswehr's inventory is manufactured by Rheinmetall Defence and can be flown into battle. It has seen action in Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Afghanistan. 

Rheinmetall – a leading integrated technology group that manufactures a wide variety of things from military vehicles and unmanned aircraft to air purifiers and personal protective equipment – started manufacturing Wiesels in the 1980s.

German soldiers 37th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Wiesel 1 MK20 vehicles U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany August 25 2015 Image ID 2151094 CREDIT US Army Spc. Courtney Hubbard
German soldiers of the 37th Mechanized Infantry Brigade line up Wiesel 1 MK20 vehicles for multiple integrated laser engagement systems installation (Picture: US Army/Spc. Courtney Hubbard).

The mini tank's purpose was to give West German paratroopers armoured mobility upon landing and can be airlifted as underslung cargo or carried inside a CH-53 transport helicopter. 

Rheinmetall says: "The Wiesel 1 comes in TOW, MK 20 automatic cannon and recce versions, enabling it to perform a variety of tactical roles, including reconnaissance, C4I and security operations." 

The first incarnation of the Wiesel was six foot tall with an 86-horsepower diesel engine which, compared to a modern-day mid-sized family car with an hp of between 110 and 200, is quite modest. 

German Wiesel Armoured Weapons Carrier (AWC) fitted with a BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile launcher on Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018 Image ID 45166226 CREDIT Crown Copyright
A German Wiesel Armoured Weapons Carrier (AWC) fitted with a BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile launcher (Picture: Crown Copyright).

However, its light weight meant the low horsepower didn't impact its speed and mobility across different terrains. 

Its downside was that while its firepower was fierce for a small tank, its armor was made of much thinner steel than other battle tanks of the time. 

In 2001 it was time for an upgrade. 

 

The state-of-the-art Wiesel 2 is bigger inside than its predecessor and has a larger payload. 

It is designed to carry out missions such as reconnaissance, command and control, air defence and recovery and the evacuation of wounded personnel. 

This version of the Wiesel is nippy with a horsepower of 110 and has a maximum speed of 70kph. 

Rheinmetall says: "The Wiesel 2 is available in lightweight air defence, medivac, combat engineer reconnaissance and mobile command post versions." 

German soldier 37th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Wiesel 2 Ambulance vehicle U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany August 25 2015 Image ID 2151094 CREDIT US Army Spc. Courtney Hubbard
A German soldier of the 37th Mechanized Infantry Brigade guides a Wiesel 2 Ambulance vehicle to a work bay for multiple integrated laser engagement system installation (Picture: US Army/Spc. Courtney Hubbard).

The Wiesel impressed soldiers from X Company, First Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, while they trained with Germany’s 91st Infantry Battalion at Altmark in Eastern Germany. 

Corporal Tom Bewlay, First Fusiliers Reconnaissance Platoon said: "The Wiesels, I don't think I've ever seen anything like that, in all the countries I've worked with. 

"It's rapid, cuts across the area, pops into a roadblock, pops out somewhere else and then just takes a shot at you and you're dead. 

"It's wild." 

Wiesel 2 – the statistics

Here we give an overview of the length, height, max speed and more of the Wiesel 2.

 Length 3.76m 
 Height (max) 1.9m 
 Width 1.82m
 Curb Weight  2.6t 
 Combat Weight 4.1t 
 Driving Range  550km
 Maximum Speed  70km/h 
 Ground Clearance 302mm 
 Fording  500mm 
 Grave Traversal Capability     1,500mm 
 Guns  Krauss-Maffei Wegmann 7.62mm MG3 machine gun 
 Grenade Launchers Smoke grenade launchers
 Type           4 cylinder TDI 
 Transmission                                 Automatic (4 speed) 
 Engine Power           81kW (110hp)

 

Cover image: Crown Copyright