Hawkei special operation vehicle variant (all photos : Thales Group)
Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today announced the proposed acquisition of a further 214 Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles for the Australian Defence Force.
Bushmasters have saved Australian lives in Afghanistan. The vehicle has proven to be very effective, providing Australian troops with mobility and protection, particularly against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Thales Australia is currently manufacturing Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles at its factory in Bendigo. This manufacturing capability, and the skills of the workforce, is an important national security capability.
In December 2011, the Government announced that in order to retain critical skills in Bendigo it would explore the purchase of additional Bushmaster vehicles.
In March 2012, the Government announced it would spend more than $15.5 million to manufacture long lead components of the next tranche of Bushmaster vehicles from Thales Australia’s Bendigo factory.
This announcement is in addition to the purchase of 101 Bushmasters to support Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations in Afghanistan announced by the Government in May last year. It underlines the Australian Government’s commitment to the retention of critical skills in Australia’s defence industry.
The new Bushmaster vehicles will progressively replace the oldest Bushmasters in the present fleet and as well provide ongoing protected mobility for the command and control of our artillery.
Production of the additional Bushmaster vehicles will commence in October 2012. Production will be based on successive tranches of 50 vehicles with orders dependent on Thales meeting key milestones to develop Hawkei into a suitable vehicle for Project LAND 121 Phase 4.
This will provide for continued expertise at the Bendigo plant until the start of production of Thales Australia’s Hawkei vehicle under Project LAND 121 Phase 4.
LAND 121 Phase 4 is a $1.5 billion project to provide up to 1300 protected and unprotected light vehicles for Army. Thales Australia’s Hawkei has been selected as the preferred vehicle for the development and testing under Stage 2 of the Manufactured and Supported in Australia (MSA) option under LAND 121 Phase 4.
Following exhaustive testing and assessment of the MSA participants, Defence recommended the Hawkei vehicle as the most likely to meet the future capability and value for money requirements of the LAND 121 Phase 4 MSA option.
The next stage of Phase 4 will include funding for further development and testing including the manufacture of prototype vehicles.
Subject to successful testing of the vehicles, final Government approval of the LAND 121 Phase 4 project is expected in 2015. Production work could potentially commence in Australia as early as 2016.
In addition to ongoing development of the Hawkei, the Government and Defence continue to monitor progress of the United States’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) Program, which is another possible option for LAND 121 Phase 4. Australia has previously committed $43 million towards the Technology Development phase of the JLTV program.
The JLTV program is currently progressing towards the Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase. Contract award and the formal commencement of the Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase is expected in mid 2012.
While the Government and Defence continue to monitor progress in the JLTV program, no further contribution or commitment has been made by Australia to enter the next phase of the JLTV Program.