The original provider of the bonnets and other composites for the $1.3 billion LAND 121 Phase 4 Thales Hawkei vehicles has withdrawn from the project.
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Australian advanced composites manufacturer Quickstep Holdings will be ceasing involvement with the program, for which it was responsible providing the vehicle's bonnet, side skirts and mud guards, citing "profitiability and growth" reasons.
"Quickstep has undertaken a comprehensive review of all aspects of the Quickstep business, which was completed in July 2017," the company told Defence Connect.
"Having developed a strong and robust plan under the ‘OneQuickstep’ banner, to accelerate profitability and growth, Quickstep confirms that subject to appropriate program timing, the company will cease non-core programs that do not fit with our future growth plans. This includes the Thales Hawkei project which uses glass fibre technology which is not aligned to Quickstep’s business."
A Thales Australia spokesman told Defence Connect it is working with a new company to provide these composite parts and that it is not expecting any delays in the final delivery of the project.
"Thales Australia is working with Penguin Composites Pty Ltd to provide bonnets and other composite assemblies for the Hawkei," the spokesman said.
"It is not expected that this will affect the delivery of the project."
No definitive date on final handover between Quickstep and Tasmanian SME Penguin Composites has been given, but Quickstep told Defence Connect they "will complete current orders and plan to fill remaining orders through 2017."
Thales Australia was chosen by the Commonwealth in 2015 to deliver 1,100 of the 4x4 vehicles and over 1,000 companion trailers.
In 2014, when the project was yet to be secured and Thales was yet to be selected as preferred tenderer, Quickstep was awarded a pre-contract by Thales Australia to use its Resin Spray Transfer (RST) to deliver components suited to the Hawkei's operational requirements, which Quickstep said would help enhance its opportunities to sell its RST technology to automobile producers.
"Quickstep is recognised for innovation and cutting-edge research," said Kevin Wall, Thales Australia vice president protected vehicles, in 2014.
"Quickstep’s record on projects such as the Joint Strike Fighter and Lamborghini performance cars is testament to their unique skills. It’s great to see Australian companies teaming up to deliver the next generation of protected light vehicles to the Australian Defence Force."
Quickstep's website reported that completion of the agreement was expected to be valued in excess of $8 million.
Production of the bonnets and other composites was being carried out Quickstep's Bankstown facility in NSW.
Mark Burgess, Quickstep chief executive, said in his investor presentation earlier this month that programs considered to be "non-core" would be ceased, as part of the company's realignment for growth and strategy.
"This refocus will involve a rationalisation of our current R&D operations and will see a reduction of 12 full-time employees across the first half of FY18," Burgess said.
"We will be adopting an intense focus on the rapid commercialisation of our core process technologies, such as Qure and the Quickstep Production System (QPS).
"Subject to appropriate program timing, we will be ceasing non-core programs that do not fit with our future growth plans."