Thales Australia has handed over the first Hawkei protected mobility vehicle (PMV) and trailer prototypes to the Australian Army.
Delivery follows selection as the preferred vehicle for development and testing under the manufactured and supported in Australia (MSA) option of the Australian Defence Forces' (ADF) Project LAND 121 Phase 4 programme in December 2011.
Thales is under contract by the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) to develop and deliver six prototype Hawkei vehicles to the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) for user assessment trails.
Australian Defence Materiel minister Jason Clare said that the vehicle brought together safety with speed for soldiers in battlefield, and were being produced at Thales's Bendigo facility, which has been developing Bushmaster vehicles since 2003.
"This year, the government allocated $38m for further development and testing of the Hawkei," he said.
"Under this agreement, Thales will supply six prototype Hawkei vehicles and one trailer for testing and evaluation."
The remaining five prototypes are scheduled for delivery by June 2013, after then the vehicles will undergo a comprehensive testing programme, including communication system integration testing, reliability growth trials, survivability testing and user assessments throughout the year.
Valued at $1.5bn, the Project LAND 121 Phase 4 seeks acquisition of up to 1,300 protected and unprotected light vehicles to help replace the army's Land Rover utility vehicle fleet, subject to successful testing and final government approval expected in 2015.
Production work under the programme is scheduled to start in Australia in 2016.
Powered by a Steyr V6 diesel engine, the Hawkei is 7t, 4×4 next-generation light mobility vehicle designed to safeguard soldiers against improvised explosive devices (IED) attacks and ballistic missiles in the battlefield.
Thales Australia is prime contractor for the Hawkei project, which also include Boeing, Plasan Sasa and PAC Group as partners.
Image: The Hawkei lightweight protected vehicle. Photo: file image.