The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) has extended the developmental testing and evaluation of the six Thales Hawkei prototype vehicles and trailer that were acquired under the Australian Defence Forces' (ADF) project LAND 121 phase 4 programme.
An unnamed DoD spokesperson was quoted by Shephard as saying that the risk-reduction activity will 'further reduce risk prior to a second-pass consideration by government, which is expected in 2015'.
The extension means that the option to acquire a non-Australian vehicle 'remains on hold' pending the outcome of the manufactured and supported in Australia (MSA) development contract, the spokesperson added.
Six Hawkei vehicles, including two utility variants, two command variants, two reconnaissance variants and one trailer, have been undergoing testing under the MSA contract at the Monegeetata Proving Ground in Victoria and other facilities since May 2013.
Testing has been completed on the integration of communications systems, mobility, survivability, payload, reliability, air and sea transportability, and user assessments by Australian soldiers, according to the spokesperson.
The $1.5bn project LAND 121 phase 4, known as overlander, aims to purchase up to 1,300 protected and unprotected light vehicles to help replace one-third of the Australian Army's existing Land Rover vehicle fleet.
Hawkei was selected by the DoD as a preferred choice for the light-protected vehicle in December 2011.
Manufactured at Thales's Bendigo facility in Victoria, the Hawkei is a 7t, 4×4 next-generation light-mobility vehicle designed to safeguard soldiers against improvised explosive devices (IED) and ballistic missiles.
Thales Australia is the prime contractor for the Hawkei project, which also includes Boeing Defence Australia, Plasan Sasa and PAC Group as partners.
Image: A Hawkei vehicle undergoing testing at the Land Engineering Agency Proving Ground at Monegeetta, Victoria. Photo: courtesy of Scott McNaughton SMN / © Commonwealth of Australia 2014.