IDF Combat Engineer Force had a requirement for a heavily protected vehicle to support their frontline tasks. The new vehicle was named PUMA (Poretz Mokshim Handasati or minefield break through vehicle). It entered service with Israeli Defense Forces in 1991 and replaced the makeshift Nagmashot heavy armored personnel carrier in service with combat engineers. Several hundred of these minefield breaching vehicles might have been produced for IDF.
The main role of this combat engineering vehicle is to clear routes through minefields in heavily defended areas. It opens routes for armored formations and gives them freedom of maneuver.
The PUMA is a derivative of the Nagmashot, which itself is an upgraded British Centurion main battle tank, converted into a heavy armored personnel carrier. It is worth noting that in the 1970s United Kingdom sold Israel several hundred Centrurion MBTs. These were later converted into heavy armored personnel carriers. The PUMA lacks turret and the hull has been rebuilt. During conversion vehicle has also been uparmored with passive armor arrays applied to the glacis, side skirts and other vulnerable points. At that time it was the latest generation Chobham-style armor, similar to that used on the Merkava Mk.3 and Magach 7 main battle tanks. Damaged modules of this armor can be easily replaced. Furthermore these modules can be replaced if more advanced armor is available. Later production vehicles are fitted with cage armor against RPG rounds.