Defence Connect can confirm that the ADF has successfully completed a series of trials in Stage Two of the Hawkei program, with full-rate production due to start at Thales' Bendigo facility later this year.
A defence spokesperson told Defence Connect that the Hawkei has completed several "key elements of the testing regime", including:
- A blast test of the two-door vehicle was undertaken on 2 March 2017 at Proof and Experimental Establishment Graytown, followed by the blast test for the four-door vehicle on 17 March 2017. Both tests were successful. A two-door vehicle successfully underwent additional blast testing on 17 May 2018.
- A two-week user trial with Army and Accredited Test Services was conducted at Townsville Field Training Area from 6-17 February 2017 employing prototype Hawkei vehicles. A second user trial, employing low-rate initial production Hawkei vehicles that are more representative of the final build state, was also conducted with the 3rd Brigade in Townsville from 8-25 October 2018. Feedback from the user trials is being incorporated into the vehicle design.
- A successful external air lift trial was conducted over June-July 2017 in Townsville on both the two-door and four-door vehicles in various load states.
- Defence conducted a formal trial involving the deployment of two Hawkei vehicles to Iraq and Afghanistan from December 2017 to August 2018. The key trial objectives included the identification of operations and support issues and evaluating the deployment considerations for the Hawkei capability.
Stage Three of the program is "full-rate production", with the remaining 1,000 vehicles and 958 trailers to be delivered to Defence by 2022.
The government signed an agreement with Thales Australia in October 2015 for the acquisition and support of 1,100 Hawkei vehicles and 1,058 companion trailers, for use in "command, liaison, utility and reconnaissance roles".
The vehicles are being specifically developed to meet the ADF's requirements for survivability, mobility, payload, communications, useability and sustainability.
"The Hawkei delivers an entirely new capability for the ADF, providing a level of protection comparable to the Thales Bushmaster at around half the weight. These vehicles can be utilised independently or as part of a combat team and in co-operation with existing Bushmaster and Medium Heavy Capability vehicles in combat, combat support and combat service support missions," the defence spokesperson said.
"The Hawkei will provide a high level of protection for soldiers against blast and ballistic threats, with superior off-road mobility to enable it to operate in high-risk areas. It will pioneer a next-generation, open-architecture Integral Computing System so the battle management system, radios, sensors and weapon systems can all be managed through a common interface."
Final tests are still being carried out on the vehicles, but are due to enter full-rate production later in 2019.