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Netherlands wants more Bushmasters

Thick skinned: The Bendigo-made Bushmaster leads the charge of the Dutch Light Brigade.

Thales wins new Bushmaster order from its best foreign customer, Dutch Light Brigade

22 Jul 2015

THALES’ defence vehicle plant in Bendigo, Victoria, has won another significant order for its well-established Bushmaster armoured troop carrier.

The Dutch defence forces want an extra 12 Bushmasters to add to the 86 they bought between 2006 and 2009.

Thales Australia chief executive Chris Jenkins said the new order would be delivered by the middle of 2016.

“The Bushmaster has proven itself on operations with the Dutch military in Afghanistan and is a vital component of their Light Brigade,” he said.

“This export order shows their continuing confidence in the Bushmaster, its ability to protect troops in theatre and to save lives.” The Netherlands is the second biggest buyer of Bushmasters, behind Australia, which now operates 1050 Bushmasters.

Other countries to use the Bushmaster are Jamaica with 12 and Japan, which has bought four.

Although Thales is not saying anything, a report on the eliteukforces website indicates that British special forces, the SAS, acquired 24 Bushmasters for use in its campaign in Iraq, particularly for patrolling in urban areas.

The Bushmaster’s V-shaped hull is ideal for deflecting the blast from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or mines. The bodywork and glass can also withstand small arms fire up to 7.6mm.

The Bushmaster has four lockable roof hatches that serve as gun ports or escape hatches.

Gun mounts on three of the hatches can accommodate machine guns, grenade machine guns and heavy caliber machine guns.

The new order is good news for the Thales operation in Bendigo, which is the only defence vehicle plant in the Thales group. Thales operates in 56 countries and has revenues of €13 billion ($A19.3 billion) a year.

Since the Bushmaster was launched in 1998, more than 1100 have been made at the rate of around five a month. The Defence Department is not saying how many are still operable.

A Thales spokesman said maintainability is good thanks to the extensive use of commercial off-the-shelf components and the ready access the design offers for maintainers in the field.

“The Bushmaster has a well-established supply chain that has been functioning efficiently for many years,” the spokesman said.

“It involves more than 100 suppliers who deliver parts as required for either maintenance or upgrade. The company also keeps stores of critical parts on hand to ensure quick turnaround times.” The 12.4 tonne machines can carry up to 10 personnel, including the driver, and have a steel, V-shaped hull to deflect mine blasts. It comes in seven different variants. They cost around $560,000 each.

The Bushmaster is powered by a 7.2-litre turbo-charged Caterpillar diesel churning out 246kW and 1166Nm into a six-speed automatic ZF transmission. It is limited to 100km/h.

The spokesman said the Bushmaster had evolved and been upgraded since its launch and was still competitive as a mobile and life-saving vehicle in theatre.

Thales is developing a smaller armored vehicle in response to the ADF’s Land 121 procurement program.

The fourth phase of Land 121 calls for the supply of 1300 “light protected mobility vehicles”, and Thales has designed and developed its four-to-six-seat Hawkei vehicle for this contract.

The Hawkei has been named by the ADF as the preferred vehicle, and prototypes have been undergoing rigorous testing for some time. The ADF is also watching development in the US of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and may even choose a vehicle already on the market.

The 1300 vehicles to be bought by the ADF will replace around one third of the ADF’s Land Rover fleet.

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