THE world’s first six-wheel-drive (6x6) Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon was officially unveiled to the Australian media at the Royal Australian Air Force’s Amberley airbase near Brisbane this week.
Specifically developed for the Australian Defence Force as part of a 15-year lifecycle contract signed with Daimler AG in 2008, the first deliveries of 2146 G300 Military vehicles started in July, and will continue until June 2015.
Mercedes-Benz will also provide vehicle support as well as special “strategic agreements” until 2023 at the earliest.
The German 4WD replaces the Land Rover 110 vehicle fleet – the newest of which dates back to the early 1990s.
The eight G Military variants comprise 4x4 single-cab carryall (cab-chassis), 4x4 panel van, 4x4 wagon, 6x6 single-cab carryall, 6x6 single-cab ambulance, 6x6 dual-cab Canine, 6x6 dual-cab Command Post Mobile, and a 6x6 single-cab Surveillance and Reconnaissance vehicle.
Averaged out, each unit costs the Australian taxpayer about $220,000, though this figure does not include the 13 prototype W461s imported in 2011 for test and evaluation purposes.
Initially, about 700 6x6s will be brought into the country.
Additionally, 1799 trailers that are specially designed and built in Australia for the G-Wagon are supplied by Haulmark Trailers, while the family-owned Varley company of NSW is subcontracted to provide 1347 of the necessary modules that make up most of the eight body styles.
Built in Graz, Austria, at the Magna Styr plant, the G Military vehicles arrive at the Australian Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Melbourne, before their fit-out.
Among the modification are extra chassis strengthening and more spot welds in areas such as pre-determined airlift points, to cope with airdrop exercises.
The camouflage paint is shipped to Graz and applied to each vehicle using an ADF-supplied stencil.
Each is powered by a 3.0-litre common-rail turbo-diesel V6 engine (making it a G300 in Mercedes nomenclature), driving all wheels via a five-speed automatic gearbox.
Euro-5 compliant, it delivers 135kW of power and 400Nm of torque, and relies on a 95-litre fuel tank backed up by a 55-litre reserve.
As with all international W461 G-Wagons, the front suspension is made up of MacPherson struts and coil springs, the rear end has leaf springs, while the steering is a recirculating ball design.
Alloy wheels are used for all the vehicles and associated trailers to reduce weight, which in turn increases the available payload – be it fuel, ammunition or other army-related items.
For the first time, and in an effort to fight fatigue and tiredness in what are often classed as inhospitable environments, ADF personnel will be in vehicles fitted with air-conditioning and power steering, as well as the safety of anti-lock brakes.
Significantly reduced levels of noise and heat intrusion, combined with more-ergonomically designed seating and controls, are further important plus points.
According to Major Tim Keeffe – officer commander of the Land 121 training team – each G-Wagon is designed for ADF support in humanitarian and disaster-support roles, rather than for dangerous combat or high-threat scenarios.
He also states that the G Military’s level of safety, driveability and capability goes far beyond anything the ADF has had before.
“It is a real landmark day for the project,” Major Keeffe said.
More than 100 G Military 6x6 vehicles are also destined for the defence forces in Sweden, while the Singaporean army is also said to be showing interest in the G Military 6x6.
Currently, Mercedes provides more than 60 armies with G-wagon derivations.
Dating back to 1979, the original W460 Geländewagen (or G-Wagen for short, although the ADF asked for the official German nomenclature to be anglicised for Australia) was Daimler’s response to the fledgling Mk1 Range Rover.
About 130 civilian vehicles made their way Downunder between 1982 and 1989.
Peugeot (and later its offshoot Panhard) also built a variation of the W461 G Military under licence from Daimler AG for the French army in the early 1980s, fitting what was later deemed unsuitable 504-series engines and 604-series transmissions to the German 4WD.