When one thinks of German armored vehicles, massive tanks, like the Tiger and Tiger II, from World War II spring to mind. So does the Leopard 2, considered one of the best modern tanks in the world. But while Germany has developed some huge, armored powerhouses, it's also developed a pint-sized vehicle that packs some serious firepower.
In the 1970s, the West Germans realized that their regular infantry didn't stand much of a chance against hordes of tanks that the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact would deploy should World War III break out. To answer to this concern was the Rheinmetall Wiesel, a very capable, air-mobile armored vehicle.
Weighing about 20 percent less than an up-armored HMMWV, the Wiesel can be carried inside a CH-53 helicopter. (Bundeswehr photo)
The Wiesel weighs in at 9,557 pounds. To put that into perspective, the M1114 Up-Armored HMMWV comes in at 12,101 pounds. The Wiesel, however, is no slouch in a fight. Depending on the version, it can carry the BGM-71 TOW missile or a 20mm autocannon.
The Wiesel also made for a natural reconnaissance vehicle. The Wiesel 1 was ordered in 1985, entered service in 1989, and 343 examples were purchased by the Bundeswehr. However, a larger version, the Wiesel 2, was designed and entered service in 1994. The Bundeswehr ordered 179 of those vehicles, which serve as ambulances, command-and-control vehicles, mortar carriers, and air-defense assets.
The Wiesel can pack a 20mm autocannon, giving it an option to use against trucks, APCs, and IFVs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew Hulett)
The Wiesel, though, hasn't gotten a lot of export orders. The United States did acquire a few to test as unmanned vehicles but, to date, the only troops using the Wiesel have been Germans. The Wiesel has seen service in Operation Enduring Freedom and in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Somalia.
Learn more about this pint-sized tankette that packs a big-time punch in the video below.