Australia’s new Victorian-made Hawkei Protected Mobility Vehicles have been deployed into a warzone for the first time, as full production starts this year in Bendigo.
Minister for Defence Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne announced the Army has successfully deployed two Hawkei vehicles into the Middle East Region, as part of a Defence trial.
Minister Payne said the trial vehicles were sent to Iraq’s Taji Military Complex to test their sustainability overseas and their ability to deploy to and from an operational area.
"This will enable the Army to learn how to best deploy this capability to an operational environment and ensure it is ready prior to full production in 2019," Minister Payne said.
"Throughout the trial, these vehicles will be employed by our soldiers within Task Group Taji Six in Iraq’s Taji Military Complex.
"The two Hawkei vehicles will complete defined tasks designed to ensure we are best prepared to deploy this capability when it enters service."
The Hawkei is designed with cutting-edge technology to withstand significant blast and ballistic threats to protect soldiers from small arms fire and fragmentation. The vehicle has been designed, developed and manufactured by Thales Australia.
"The Hawkei showcases the capability, maturity and international competitiveness of Australian defence industry," Defence Industry Minister Pyne said.
"Defence and Thales Australia have been working closely to develop this vehicle by conducting a rigorous design, test and evaluation process, and both organisations should be proud of their work."
As previously reported on Defence Connect, Defence is looking to export the vehicle to Poland and possibly Indonesia.
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"I was proud to travel to Poland in October to support Thales Australia’s bid to export the Hawkei, and today’s milestone shows yet again the world-class capability being produced by Australian defence industry," Minister Pyne said.
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 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."
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.