Australia’s revitalised Federal Government has announced it’s spend $1.3 billion on new LPMVs -Light Protected Mobility Vehicles – for the Army.
The new LPMV, named Hawkei, will be manufactured by Thales Australia, which also makes the larger Bushmaster armoured personnel carrier, in Bendigo ::::
The Hawkei will replace part of the Army’s ageing Land Rover fleet, the Australian Army will order 1,100 Hawkeis, which are classed as “Light Protected Mobility Vehicles”.
Equipped with a V-shaped hull which Thales says will help deflect IED blasts, the vehicles can be armed with weapons including heavy machine guns and grenade launchers, and is light enough to be carried by a Chinook helicopter.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne made the announcement at a test facility at Monegeetta, north of Melbourne early yesterday morn. Mr Turnbull said the investment will generate 170 jobs in technology manufacturing and provide soldiers with the best equipment available.
“This $1.3 billion investment will mean greater capability for Defence, around 170 more jobs in the innovative frontier of technology manufacturing in Victoria, and will consolidate Australia’s position as a world leader in military transport technology,” The Prime Minister said. “The men and women of our armed services are entitled to the best equipment we can provide them to do their job and do it well, to faithfully defend our nation and our national interests. It’s been designed with the future in mind so that as new technology becomes available it can be engineered into the vehicle to give our soldiers the best available tools in the most dangerous situations.”
Ms Payne said the Australian-made vehicle would be a world leader and said there was “enormous potential” for it to be sold internationally.
“The fact that it is a lighter vehicle than the traditional Bushmaster, the fact that it has a degree of mobility in very high-risk areas, and has a significant degree of blast and ballistic protection for our serving members means that it should be very attractive on the international market,”Ms Payne said. “We will work closely with Australian defence industries to make the most of those opportunities wherever and whenever we can. As well as Victoria there’s obviously support and sustainment activities that occur elsewhere in Australia as well, so it does have a positive and very beneficial effect for Australian industry elsewhere.”
The Government estimates the project will keep 170 jobs in the region and sustain another 60 in wider Victoria. The Hawkei will follow the widely-praised Bushmaster armoured personnel carrier off the production line in Bendigo.
Thales was identified in December 2011 as the Federal Government’s preferred bidder, and prototypes of the Hawkei have undergone a testing process since. Member for Bendigo Lisa Chester said it was an exciting day for the region.
“It is so needed to be able to lock in the jobs,” Ms Chester said. “We have got a great team out there that have been working there for many years on developing the Hawkei prototype, so the first thing is it locks in manufacturing jobs in Bendigo. It is very exciting news that we are finally at the point where we are going to have the contract locked in and secured to be able to manufacture and continue to manufacture these vehicles here in Bendigo.”
Speaking before the official announcement, Labor leader Bill Shorten said “big defence contracts” should stay in Australia.
“Ideally they should be built and… the money should be spent in Australia,” Mr Shorten said. “We want make sure that we have the best quality equipment for our service people, but we want to make sure that — all things being equal — the money gets spent in Australia.”
A Bushmaster Infantry Mobility Vehicle drives through a patch of bulldust in Afghanistan
The Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle or Infantry Mobility Vehicle is an Australian-built four wheeled, all-wheel drive armoured vehicle. The Bushmaster is based on a design by Irish company Timoney Technology Ltd under a licence agreement with Perry Engineering in Adelaide; that licence was sold, with permission granted by Timoney as required by the licence terms, to Thales Australia. Once the Bushmaster was selected by the Australian Army after trials in 1998 to meet the Bushranger project requirements, the range of variants was developed further by Thales Australia in Bendigo. Oshkosh Truck has a contract to provide support and would manufacture in the US if there were an American order. The Bushmaster is currently in service with the Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Netherlands Army and British Army.
The role of the Bushmaster is to provide armoured transport, with infantry dismounting from the vehicle before going into action. As the Bushmaster is only lightly armoured, the term Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV) was initially adopted to distinguish it from a heavier wheeled or tracked armoured personnel carrier, such as the ASLAV and M113 also in Australian service. The Bushmaster replaced a stop-gap unarmoured 6×6 vehicle of the Land Rover Perentie family called the Infantry Improvised Mobility Vehicle (IIMV). Later the Bushmaster’s designation was changed to Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV).
The Bushmaster is optimised for operations in northern Australia, and is capable of carrying up to 9 soldiers and their equipment, fuel and supplies for 3 days, depending on the type of variant. The vehicle is fitted with air conditioning and was once planned to have a cool water drinking system, but was omitted upon production due to cost constraints. After operational complaints the drinking water cooling system is being reconsidered for installation. It has a road cruise speed of 100 km/h and an operational range of 800 km.
The Bushmaster is a mine protected vehicle and provides a high degree of protection against land mines, using its v-hull monocoque to deflect the blast away from the vehicle and its occupants. The vehicle’s armour provides protection against small arms of up to 7.62 mm calibre. The fuel and hydraulic tanks of the vehicle are located outside the crew compartment, while it also has an automatic fire suppression system. The troop carrier variant of the Bushmaster is fitted with one gun ring. The forward gun ring can be fitted with a 5.56 mm or 7.62 mm machine gun. The two rear hatches each have a mounting boss to allow the attachment of a swing mount capable of holding a 5.56 mm machine gun (such as the F89 Minimi).
The Bushmaster is air transportable by C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III and Mil Mi-26 aircraft. It is the first armoured vehicle to be designed and completely manufactured in Australia since the Sentinel tank during the Second World War.
Seven Bushmaster variants have been produced for the Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force. These are:
- Troop variant
- Command variant
- Assault Pioneer variant
- Air Defence variant
- Mortar variant
- Direct Fire Weapons variant
- Ambulance variant
The Troop variant being used by the Royal Australian Air Force originally differed from the Army variant in that it was fitted with 10 seats for infantry and a third weapon mount. However, all Troop variants are now fitted with 10 seats.
Thales Australia has developed a civilian fire fighting variant of the Bushmaster called the FireKing and a military cargo carrying variant called the Armoured Combat Support Vehicle (ACSV). This variant is currently being evaluated for service with the Australian Army under LAND 121 (Project Overlander), which will see the replacement of up to 2,000 vehicles and trailers. As of 2015 an Electronic Warfare variant with a 6-metre (20 ft) mast is currently under development to meet a Australian requirement under the Defence Capability Plan.
According to the Australian National Audit Office, unit price for Bushmasters in 2000 differed slightly between variants, ranging from A$562,878 for the troop carrier variant and A$589,182 for the ambulance variant.
In keeping with the vehicle’s role and capabilities, the Australian Army designates Bushmaster equipped infantry units as being motorised, and not mechanised. Following the vehicle’s troubled development, a total of 299 Bushmasters were ordered by the Wheeled Manoeuvre Systems Program Office of the Defence Materiel Organisation for the Australian Defence Force (reduced from the 370 which were originally ordered). Bushmaster deliveries began in 2005 (three years later than was originally scheduled) and were scheduled to be completed in July 2007. Deliveries of the troop carrier variant (152 vehicles) were completed on 7 June 2006. Deliveries of the command variant were completed by mid-2006 followed by the delivery of the other variants.
In December 2006 the Australian Minister for Defence announced that the Australian Bushmaster order has been increased and over 400 vehicles will be delivered. This figure was confirmed as 443 vehicles in a subsequent press release. In August 2007 an additional 250 were ordered for a total ADF delivery of 696 vehicles of all configurations. This was further increased in October 2008 to 737 vehicles for the Australian Defence Force. On 12 May 2011 the Australian government announced the purchase of an additional 101 Bushmasters, in order to replace vehicles damaged on operations and to provide additional vehicles for training and operational use. A further order for 214 vehicles was announced in July 2012.
The South Australian Forestry Corporation (trading as ForestrySA) has ordered 15 FireKings. Deliveries of the FireKing to ForestrySA were completed in November 2005.
The majority of Australia’s Bushmasters are to be allocated to the Army, though 12 are operated by the Royal Australian Air Force’s Airfield Defence Guards.
The Bushmaster is operated by the following Army units:
- B Squadron, 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment, (3 Brigade)
- 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (support elements only), (1 Brigade)
- 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (support elements only), (1 Brigade)
- 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, (7 Brigade)
- 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (7 Brigade)
- 7th Combat Service Support Battalion, (7 Brigade)
- 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers (one squadron), (Army Reserve unit)
- 4th/19th Prince of Wales’s Light Horse (one squadron), (Army Reserve)
- Combat Arms Training Centre
- Army Logistic Training Centre
The Bushmaster is also operated by both the RAAF’s Airfield Defence Squadrons. Each ADS is equipped with six Bushmasters.
- No. 1 Airfield Defence Squadron
- No. 2 Airfield Defence Squadron
The Motorised Combat Wing of the Army’s Combat Arms Training Centre provides initial training to Army and Air Force Bushmaster drivers. Maintenance training is provided by the Army Logistic Training Centre.
To date, Australia’s Bushmasters have been deployed on five operations:
Two prototypes were deployed to East Timor in 1999 for trials and VIP protection.
Ten Bushmasters were deployed to Iraq with the Al Muthanna Task Group in May 2005. This force was later redesignated Overwatch Battle Group (West) and operated 19 Bushmasters from September 2006.
A small number of Bushmasters have been attached to the Australian Special Forces Task Group in Afghanistan since its re-deployment in September 2005.
A Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment was equipped with Bushmasters during its role as the security response force for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
The Reconstruction Task Force, later redesignated the Mentoring Task Force, which was deployed in Afghanistan from August 2006 to late 2013 was also equipped with a large number of Bushmasters.
While a full independent assessment of how well the Bushmaster has performed on these deployments is not yet available, Australian Department of Defence press releases and the Army’s service newspaper have stated that the vehicles have proven successful. The Bushmaster’s high degree of crew and passenger comfort has apparently been particularly appreciated in Iraq.
In September 2006 the Australian Department of Defence announced that it was modifying its fleet of Bushmasters in response to criticisms from Australian soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. These criticisms include concerns that the Bushmaster’s gunner is exposed to enemy fire and the absence of a drinking water cooling system. The modifications will include fitting a CROWS remote weapon system (RWS) to at least some Bushmasters and developing an improved water cooling system. The protected weapons stations were installed to vehicles deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in early 2007. The installation team comprised staff from Project Bushranger and the Army and was conducted in theatre.
On 17 March 2010, all five Australian soldiers from the 1st Mentoring Task Force who were occupying a Bushmaster were wounded, three of them seriously, when it was hit by a roadside bomb in the Chora Valley north of the main Australian base near Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan Province during a routine vehicle patrol. As of May 2011, 31 Bushmasters have been damaged beyond repair while serving with the Australian Army.
In July 2006 the Dutch Government announced an urgent purchase of 25 Bushmasters to equip Royal Netherlands Army units operating in Afghanistan. Due to the urgency of this purchase these vehicles were taken from Australian Army stocks. Additional Bushmasters will be built to replenish the Australian inventory. 23 Bushmasters were directly delivered to Dutch Army units in Afghanistan starting from 28 August. The remaining two vehicles were transported to The Netherlands to be used for training purposes. Twelve of the Bushmasters were fitted with a Thales SWARM remote weapon station before delivery.
9 July 2007, Electro Optic Systems Holdings Limited was awarded a contract of A$5.8 million for the supply of remote weapon systems for use by the Netherlands army. The contract was awarded to EOS by Thales Australia for fitting to the Bushmaster Infantry Mobility Vehicles manufactured by Thales for the Netherlands army. The order entails 17 CROWS Remote Weapon Stations. It is expected that the first of these systems will be operational in theatre by August 2007.
On 20 September 2007, during an engagement with the Taliban a 20-year-old Dutch soldier was killed in action. His body was evacuated in a Bushmaster which was subsequently attacked with small arms, mortars and RPGs. The vehicle was struck several times but all soldiers in the Bushmaster survived and were unhurt. Since the vehicle was immobilized and still under attack, they were forced to abandon it. Since salvage was not possible the Bushmaster was later destroyed by a Dutch Apache helicopter. The troops were transported out of danger by a second Bushmaster IMV.
On 19 October 2007 during a fire-fight between a Dutch patrol and Taliban insurgents, a Bushmaster was hit by an improvised bomb. Although none of the passengers were hurt, the bomb damaged the front of the Bushmaster. The Bushmaster was sent to Kamp Holland (the Dutch base) for repairs.
The Netherlands has ordered additional Bushmasters on several occasions in 2007 and 2008. On 20 November 2007 the Dutch Defence Ministry announced that it would acquire an additional 10 vehicles to replace the two damaged and two destroyed vehicles and a Patria armoured vehicle which was also destroyed in Uruzgan. One vehicle will be sent to the Netherlands for training purposes, and the rest will go directly to Afghanistan. The Dutch ordered a further 13 Bushmasters in June 2008, taking their total order to 49 vehicles. At this time six Dutch Bushmasters had been destroyed in Afghanistan.
In January 2009, another batch of nine vehicles was ordered. These vehicles will be fitted with cameras, sensors and a grappler to find and destroy Improvised explosive devices (IEDs). A further 14 Bushmasters were ordered in June 2009. In August 2009, another 14 vehicles were ordered, bringing the total Dutch order to 86. In 2014 the Dutch government announced that it would order an additional batch of 20 vehicles for use by the Royal Dutch Marines. Dutch special forces deployed as part of the Northern Mali conflict from April 2014 are equipped with a number Bushmasters. May 2015 a Dutch Bushmaster was struck by an IED near Kidal. Noone was hurt by this incident and the Bushmaster was returned to the Dutch kamp at Gao.
The British Army acquired 24 Bushmasters in mid-2008 specifically for use in Iraq to support Task Force Black and United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) operations around Basra. The vehicles were heavily modified and were used to provide armoured transport for strike teams. Features included an increased armour package, bull-bar, ECM and anti-IED suites, and a CROWS RWS fitted with an M2 .50 calibre machine gun. The Bushmaster was reportedly used instead of other platforms available to the UKSF due to its better all-round protection in built-up urban areas.
- Australia: a total of 1,052 Bushmasters have been ordered by the Australian Defence Force.
- United Kingdom United Kingdom: 24 Bushmasters purchased in May 2008. British vehicles are fitted with additional armour, electronics to counter IEDs and a .50 calibre machine gun mounted in a RWS.
- Netherlands Netherlands: 106 Bushmasters ordered; the Netherlands is the second largest operator of the Bushmaster. In operational use by the Dutch Army and Royal Dutch Marines.
- Indonesia Indonesia: 3 Bushmasters for initial order. The vehicles were delivered to the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) in February 2014.
- Jamaica Jamaica: 12 ordered in December 2013 to replace the Jamaican Defence Force’s fourteen Cadillac Gage V150s; deliveries will begin in 2015.
- Japan Japan: 4 vehicles ordered in April 2014. It is intended that they will be used to transport Japanese evacuees in the event of overseas hostage situations.
- Spain Spain: In August 2008, it was reported that the Spanish Government was “showing strong interest in the Bushmaster”.
- France France: The Bushmaster, under the name of Broussard (Bushmaster in French), is competing against a lightened version of Nexter’s VBCI and the Renault AMC for a 2,300 vehicle contract to replace the French Army’s VABs
- United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates: Trialled only.
- Libya Libya: Expressed interest in 100–400 vehicles.
United States United States: Thales has teamed with US truck manufacturer Oshkosh to market the Bushmaster in the United States. In late June 2007, it was prematurely reported that the United States Department of Defense was close to placing an order for 1,500 vehicles as part of its MRAP (armored vehicle) program. This sale did not go ahead. The Bushmaster was officially removed from the MRAP contest on 7 August 2007.
Canada Canada: A bid was submitted with Thales Canada and DEW Engineering for the Tactical Armored Vehicle Program, but later withdrawn when the Canadian government decided it wanted a smaller vehicle; the competition was ultimately won by Textron with a modified M117, tailored to Canadian requirements.
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image source: indeepmedia
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