Rheinmetall Defence Australia has shed light on major progress at the company’s new Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) as the company gears up to commence construction of the first Australian-built Boxer CRV's for the Australian Army.
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The $5.2 billion LAND 400 Phase 2 program will see Rheinmetall Defence Australia (RDA) deliver 211 8x8 Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles (CRV) as part of the first phase of a broader, multibillion-dollar recapitalisation and modernisation program set to transform the Australian Army.
Under the company's offering to the Commonwealth, Rheinmetall will build a majority of the vehicles at the company's specialised MILVEHCOE in Queensland – with the first 25 vehicles will be built in Germany as part of the technology transfer process. Currently, more than a dozen BOXER vehicles are either in production at the MILVEHCOE or have been delivered to Defence.
Gary Stewart, managing director of Rheinmetall Defence Australia, said, "Australian engineers, project managers, welders, technicians, trainers and more are living and working with their colleagues in Germany.
"They are there to build a deep understanding of Rheinmetall products and, crucially, acquire the skills and certifications to transfer this expertise and intellectual property to Australia."
Boxer CRV production well underway
Commissioning of RDA's new MILVEHCOE is currently ongoing with the installation of plant and equipment into the new production hall. The remaining office, manufacturing and test facilities have been completed and are in the process of being furnished.
The MILVEHCOE is already being used for production, with a significant number of medium and heavy recovery vehicles completed along the truck production line. Rheinmetall continues ramp up to full production for the company’s LAND 121 Phase 3B/5B activities.
Currently, MILVEHCOE is at the centre of RDA's Australian Boxer AIC program – this is where RDA will undertake Australian design, manufacture, testing, training and support of the Boxer vehicles and training systems.
Stewart said, "Rheinmetall is simultaneously delivering early combat vehicle capability to the ADF while creating a sovereign industrial capability in combat vehicle design and manufacture."
The MILVEHCOE provides a sovereign facility where Defence, Australian industry and research organisations can innovate and collaborate on the Australian Boxer and other defence programs.
As part of the agreement with thew Commonwealth, Rheinmetall delivered the first of the 25, German-manufactured Boxer vehicles, with final delivery expected in 2026.
These initial vehicles form the 'Early Capability Delivery' requirement from the Commonwealth – these serve a fundamental role in supporting the development of Australian workers and suppliers on manufacturing techniques for the vehicles.
Rheinmetall Defence Australia currently has over 30 Australians currently living and working in Germany working at Rheinmetall sites and learning from German colleagues. This is fostering close co-operation and a genuine partnership to realise the capability for the Australian Army.
While this workforce capability development is currently taking place, development, production and integration work is well underway within the MILVEHCOE, with more than a dozen Boxer vehicles currently in production or have been delivered to Defence.
Stewart added, "This is complemented with our engagement with the Australian TAFE sector and universities to ensure we build enduring pathways from our education institutions into the military vehicle manufacturing industry, enabling graduates to understand what we do today and are ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow."
Aussie SMEs and building sovereign capability as key milestone within sight
This work is a key component of the company's knowledge transfer activities for full rate BOXER production in Australia – further supporting this, RDA has expedited Australian industry capability (AIC) integration into the initial fleet.
This has resulted in Rheinmetall awarding contracts to more than 20 companies to supply products and services into these vehicles, and ensuring that Australian SMEs are building and supplying components onto every Australian Boxer vehicle.
Delivery of the initial fleet of Boxer CRVs is expected to be complete during the first half of 2021. Boxer production for the remaining vehicles is scheduled to commence in Australia after commissioning of the MILVEHCOE production line is completed.
As a result of the rigorous and extensive tender process for the Australian Boxer program, Rheinmetall has committed to an AIC level for this project of more than 50 per cent.
RDA’s scope and approach to achieving this AIC is outlined in Rheinmetall’s Public AIC Plan and available on the Defence’s Australian Industry Capability website.
As part of this, RDA has worked to actively nurture the potential of Australian companies and businesses across the nation, with more than 1,200 companies registered as a result of the ongoing engagements with Australian industry.
German and Australian procurement teams for Boxer design and production have audited more than 80 Australian companies - with work awarded to companies in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and Western Australia.
The benchmarking and audits conducted over the last five years have demonstrated there is a credible manufacturing base and capacity in Australia that can compete and produce to global standards for performance and quality.
"While we grow the AIC opportunities for local companies on the LAND 400 Boxer program, we continue to award work across various other projects in the LAND domain and invest in those companies that have the greatest potential," Stewart explained.
RDA's commitment to building AIC and supporting Australian industry participation has seen a number of stand out performers, including:
- Awarding more than $350 million of work over four years to hundreds of companies, including Hilton Manufacturing (LAND 121 Phase 3B, LAND 121 Phase 3B/5B, LAND 400 Phase 2), Holmwood Highgate (LAND 121 Phase 3B, LAND 121 Phase 3B/5B), TRT(LAND 121 Phase 3B) and many more;
- Work through its global supply chain program to companies like Cablex, MILSPEC and Tectonica for delivery of product to nations including Germany;
- Working with its tier one suppliers in Europe to create AIC and technology transfer – companies like Precision Metal Group, which is now supplying blast-attenuating seats to our seat supplier in Europe to install on German Boxer vehicles ahead of LAND 400 Phase 2;
- Supporting the German government qualification of Australian armoured steel from Bisalloy for Australian and international programs; and
- Direct investment in product development for companies like Supashock and Supacat.
Stewart said, "This kick-starts the knowledge base for a sovereign Australian capability."