The PANTHER of today is essentially the product of 30 years of further development with the constant goal of being the best ARFF vehicle for emergency crews. However, even if this target is always the drive and motivator, there are still other determining factors that influence the further development of a product. Changes in extinguishing agents, operational tactics, changes in norms and environmental standards are just a few examples of influencing factors that must be taken into account. In addition, there is constant and rapid technological change, which for the most part offers new possibilities and opportunities, but also harbors risks.
The task in the development of the first generation PANTHER was to use new production methods, such as GFRP. At the same time, a serial chassis with adaptations was to be used instead of a special chassis. The operation of the vehicle also played an important role at the time. This is shown, for example, by the dashboard of this PANTHER generation with what was then a revolutionary display and PLC-based control electronics.
From the first generation to the second, the main problem was the conversion from GFRP to aluminum as the carrier material for the body and a production structure that made it possible to manufacture larger quantities and at two locations. For the US market it was also necessary to use a new chassis.
In the course of the development from the second to the third generation, the challenge was “form follows function”. New extinguishing methods, new technological frameworks in electronics, and more stringent emission regulations all had to be packed into an exciting design. The introduction of the Airbus A380 also revolutionized aircraft fire protection. The answer was new and more powerful extinguishing systems (pumps, turrets, proportioning systems), CAN bus as a means of communication for the control units, and a proprietary Rosenbauer chassis, which at the time met the Euro 4 emissions standard and later Euro 5.
The transition from the third to the fourth generation also brought a new approach to the development of such vehicles. A user-oriented customer study resulted in requirements coupled with stricter regulations in the areas of safety and exhaust emissions. The answer was a complete renewal of the vehicle and an even greater fusion of chassis, body, extinguishing system, and the human-machine interface (HMI).
Exactly this merging or fusion is the result and the knowledge from 30 years of PANTHER development and the answer to diverse challenges. The current PANTHER is a symbol of this fusion. All components are directly matched to each other. The proprietary chassis was perfectly tailored to the needs of such a vehicle type. The structure and chassis have been mutually optimized without compromise, the extinguishing system designed and integrated as efficiently as possible. The connecting element is the human-machine interface, which is user-oriented and establishes communication between the functionally coordinated components, and is easy and logical to operate.
However, the past also showed that many developments took place as part of a major model development that could be planned for a long time and with foresight. But the fast pace of change in the technological environment of vehicles has taught us that we must also be flexible in this respect. The technologies, available components, and materials change faster than the product life cycle of a fire engine. Customer needs are increasingly derived from pioneers in the tech or automotive industry, while at the same time meeting classic fire department requirements, such as fail-safety and worst-case scenarios. As a result, there is constant adaptation and further development throughout the life cycle. Together with our clients, the users and their feedback, the PANTHER embodies precisely this ability to constantly improve, even within the respective generation.