“More than 100 Victorian-based companies are part of Thales Australia’s supply chain for Bushmaster, proving the ingenuity, confidence and innovation which this company places in this advanced technology sector”, chief executive Innes Willox said in a statement.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne are travelling to a test facility at Monegeetta, north of Melbourne, to make the announcement.
Reuters and others report that pilot production will begin next year and full production in 2018, with the vehicles a lighter version of the Bushmaster, also made at Bendigo.
“It secures and creates jobs at the Bendigo Thales site and will lock-in manufacturing for at least the next five years”, she said.
About the same size as the U.S Military’s new Oshkosh L-ATV, the 15,000-pound Hawkei is similarly protected from both ballistic and roadside explosives thanks to a V-shaped hull design and armor constructed from ceramic composites and steel, but is still light enough to be transported into action by a CH47 Chinook helicopter.
“This particular vehicle will be a world leader… and has enormous potential in an export market”, Defence Minister Senator Payne said.
Sacked former defence minister Kevin Andrews couldn’t let the moment pass without taking a few of the credit.
Thales defeated several overseas bidders for the contract under a project called Land 121 Phase 4 that will guarantee hundreds of jobs at its Bendigo factory for the next decade and beyond.
It was designed and developed in conjunction with United States military giant Boeing and is a replacement for a few of the army’s fleet of specialist Land Rover vehicles.
Here’s a look at the Hawkei from the Thales site.
Hawkei undergoing sea water and beach testing.
“The reality is that IEDs, for example, are a feature of the modern battlefield – and regardless of the context in which the ADF is operating, that type of threat is nearly certainly going to be there”, Mr Turnbull said.