800th Australian Bushmaster rolls of the production line

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The 800th Australian Defence Force Bushmaster to roll off the Bendigo production line has been officially handed over to Stephen Smith, Minister for Defence.

The handover ceremony at Thales Australia’s Bendigo facility yesterday was also attended by Jason Clare, Minister for Defence Materiel; Steve Gibbons MP, Federal Member for Bendigo; as well as a host of representatives from Bushmaster suppliers and industry associations.
“Bushmasters have unquestionably saved lives in Afghanistan. The vehicles have proven to be very effective, providing Australian troops with mobility and protection, particularly against Improvised Explosive Devices,” the Australian Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a statement.

Workers at the Thales factory in Bendigo have been producing Bushmaster vehicles for the Australian Defence Force, and export orders for the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

In May, the Australian government announced the purchase of an additional 101 Bushmaster vehicles to support ADF operations in Afghanistan. The purchase provides for operational attrition. 31 Bushmasters have been damaged beyond repair in recent years and their replacement with a further 70 vehicles will support current and future operations.

The 101 vehicles, together with associated support, are being purchased at a total cost of AU$133 million. This includes fitting Middle East Area of Operations protection kits and protected weapons stations.

It also includes funding to evaluate a range of enhancements to the Bushmaster vehicle to increase the level of protection it provides to ADF personnel. If these enhancements are viable they may be applied to the 101 vehicles.

The vehicles will be manufactured at the Bendigo factory and will be delivered over the next 18 months.
“Our Bendigo facility is unique, not only because it is the home of such an innovative vehicle, but also because we have the engineering and manufacturing skills to evolve the vehicle to meet new threats on the battlefield,” said Chris Jenkins, Thales Australia’s CEO.

Ministers Smith and Clare paid tribute to the professionalism of the workers at the Bendigo factory, saying that their work was helping to save the lives of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Ministers also recognised that Australian workers around the country are also involved in the production of the Bushmasters. Iron ore mined from the Pilbara and coking coal from the Hunter is forged in Port Kembla and cut to size in Melbourne and delivered to Bendigo where it is welded together to produce Bushmaster vehicles.
“This local expertise, and that of all the suppliers to the programme – the vast majority of which are Australian – gives the Australian Defence Force a significant resource it can use to adapt the vehicle to its own unique needs,” Jenkins said.
“In addition, new Bushmaster variants such as the Single Cab Utility, as well as new vehicles such as the Hawkei, have only been possible because of the proven capability found in our Bendigo facility.”

The Bushmaster is an Australia-built wheeled armoured vehicle that was selected by the Australian Army after trials in 1998. It was originally designed by the Irish company Timoney Technology Ltd under a licence agreement with Perry Engineering in Adelaide. This licence was then sold to Thales Australia. In addition, Oshkosh Truck has a contract to provide support and, if it the vehicle received an American order, the company would manufacture it.

The Bushmasters are produced in seven military variants – troop, command, mortar, assault pioneer, direct fire weapon, ambulance and air defence.

Bushmasters have been built for the Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force, Netherlands Army and British Army. It has been used in the conflicts in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. Deliveries to the Australian Defence Force began in 2005 and up to 2009, a total of 737 vehicles were ordered.

Since it is only a relatively lightly armoured, mine-protected transport vehicle, the Bushmaster does not classify as an armoured personnel carrier; rather it is classed as an infantry mobility vehicle, with capacity for up to nine troops.

The Bushmaster was developed with South African assistance and features an obscured blast-resistant, v-shaped monocoque hull. The hull will withstand blast from two TM-57 anti-tank mines (equivalent to 19kg of TNT) and has been tested extensively. The Bushmaster is a direct competitor to several South African MRAP designs.