Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price have confirmed that the Australian Army’s new Australian-designed and built Hawkei protected vehicle is ready to enter full-rate production at Thales’ Protected Vehicles facility in Bendigo, Victoria.
The vehicle’s production will support more than 200 local jobs in Bendigo as Victoria deals with the current outbreak of COVID-19, as well as more across the national defence industry.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the vehicle has performed exceptionally well throughout comprehensive ballistic and blast testing, meeting Defence’s stringent requirements for protection.
"This is a highly effective capability being delivered in partnership between Defence and industry that builds on Thales’s iconic Bushmaster, which has been highly successful on operations overseas and exported around the world," she said.
Under project LAND 121 Phase 4, 1,100 Hawkei vehicles and 1,058 associated trailers will be delivered, with the full rate production vehicles expected to commence delivery from mid-2021.
"The Hawkei is a significant enhancement to existing land capability that will provide superior mobility, survivability and communications, while protecting the lives of our soldiers when operating in increasingly lethal and complex environments," Minister Reynolds explained.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the project demonstrates the Morrison government’s commitment to maximising opportunities for Australian defence industry.
"The manufacture and ongoing support of the Hawkei vehicle creates significant long-term opportunities for Australian industry, including potential export opportunities, as we have seen with the Bushmaster vehicles," Minister Price said.
Senator for Victoria Sarah Henderson said the vehicle’s production is a welcome boost to the Victorian economy, explaining, "Approximately 50 vehicles per month will be manufactured out of the Thales Protected Vehicles facility in Bendigo until mid-2022. The Hawkei’s production will sustain around 210 jobs in Thales’ workforce in Bendigo, and around 180 additional jobs nationwide as part of Thales' supply chain."
Eighteen of Thales’ key 25 suppliers are based in Victoria, including:
- Albins Performance Transmissions, based in Ballarat, for the vehicle cross drive, steering rack, castings and shafts;
- Flexible Drive Agencies, based in Oakleigh, for the wiper and gear selector assembly;
- Thomas Warburton, based in Dandenong South, for fasteners and hardware; and
- Gough Transport Solutions, based in Noble Park, for the pneumatic system.
Defence plans to fit a quantity of the Hawkei protected mobility vehicles with the Electro Optic Systems Remote Weapon Stations.
Minister Price added, "This government is investing in the skills and knowledge base of Australia’s defence industry and delivering an internationally competitive and sustainable sovereign defence industry.
Senator Henderson reinforced Minister Price's statements, explaining the importance the program would have for the Victorian defence industry base, saying, "For many small-to-medium enterprises, work on the Hawkei has provided business continuity and enabled investment in people and facilities, as well as diversification into other Defence projects and adjacent industries."
The CEATAC radar, designed and built by CEA Technologies in Canberra, is also capable of being fitted onto the Hawkei utility vehicle and trailer.
Manufacturing Hawkei has continued Thales Australia’s long-term relationships with its extensive domestic supply chain, building Australia’s self-reliance and the capability of the broader Australian manufacturing sector.
Analysis of Thales’s supply chain by AlphaBeta Advisers found that in 2019, Thales spent $97 million with over 200 Australian suppliers for protected vehicles (Bushmaster sustainment and Hawkei manufacture), supporting 271 direct jobs in the supply chain.
Chris Jenkins, Chief Executive, Thales Australia added, "I want to thank the Australian Defence Force and the Government for backing the Australian designed and manufactured Hawkei. To reach this point we’ve had to come through an incredibly demanding testing process, with the added challenge this year of keeping our facilities operating through the COVID pandemic."
"Our whole organisation has been focussed on delivering Hawkei and its world leading capability to the ADF. I also want to thank all of our Australian suppliers – by backing Hawkei the ADF and the Government are backing the ability of Australian industry to design and manufacture advanced capability in Australia," he said.