Australia is in talks with an eastern European country to export Thales Australia’s cutting-edge Hawkei armoured vehicles.
Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne visited Warsaw to meet with Polish officials on Monday, where the possible contract for Hawkei vehicles was discussed.
Poland is working to significantly modernise its defence capability and is looking to initially acquire around 50 protected mobility vehicles, with follow on acquisition programs expected to increase this to approximately 700. This is part of a $46 billion expansion of their defence force.
Defence Connect understands negotiations regarding the potential export of these vehicles has been underway for some time, with interested countries, including Poland and Indonesia, waiting for the Hawkei vehicle to reach full production before finalising any contracts.
Australia ordered 1,100 of the vehicles in 2015, with more than 20 already delivered to the Commonwealth.
The vehicles, manufactured in Bendigo, support over 170 jobs in the regional Victorian town.
Gary Dawson, vice president of strategy for Thales Australia, told Defence Connect the company is actively pursuing export opportunities for the Hawkei and has welcomed the government's support for its export campaigns.
"We welcome the strong support from the Minister for for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne for the export campaigns to promote the new Hawkei vehicle in overseas markets, particularly in Poland this week," Dawson said. "Poland is a priority as the country looks to build its capabilities, and Hawkei is perfectly suited to the Polish requirements.
"Hawkei is a great success story for Bendigo and for Australian defence industry. It is a world-leading protected vehicle with outstanding off road ability and with advanced digital technology built in to improve its effectiveness. The vehicle was designed and developed in Australia incorporating the lessons learned from the Bendigo-manufactured Bushmaster, which performed with such life-saving distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Our number one focus is delivering 1,100 Hawkei vehicles to the Australian Army, with first deliveries in early 2018, but we are actively pursuing export opportunities for Hawkei in a number of countries, with strong support from the Australian government through Minister Pyne and Defence attaches in market."
Minister Pyne said the Hawkei is the ideal vehicle to meet Poland's capability requirements.
"Like Australia, Poland’s defence forces are undertaking an unprecedented renewal of their capabilities," Minister Pyne said.
"Thales Australia’s Hawkei vehicle is ideally placed to provide Poland’s defence forces with the world-class protected vehicle capability they need.
"If successful, Thales Australia’s bid to export the Hawkei to Poland will provide additional work and job security for their Hawkei workforce and the supply chain to Thales."
Exports of the vehicle have been on the cards for some time. When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Thales would build 1,100 of the Hawkei vehicles in 2015, he flagged the vehicle's export prospects as strong.
“The Bushmaster was exported to three countries ... the market for Hawkei is worldwide," the Prime Minister said.
Defence Minister Marise Payne echoed these sentiments, adding, "[Hawkei] will be very attractive on the international market, so let's hope that as we move into effective production we can engage internationally on that as well."
The Bendigo-built Bushmaster, known as the Hawkei's 'big brother', is already popular in the overseas market and is currently in service with seven countries.