The New Zealand (NZ) Government has approved NZD102.9m ($67m) funding for the purchase of a fleet of Bushmaster vehicles for its army.

The funding also covers the procurement of a desktop simulator, support equipment and infrastructure upgrades at Linton Camp, as well as training.

Once delivered, the new fleet of 43 Bushmaster vehicles will replace NZ’s existing armoured Pinzgauers.

Designed by Australia, the Bushmaster NZ5.5 armoured vehicles will provide enhanced personnel protection and carrying capacity.

Deliveries of the vehicles are expected to commence in late 2022. The entire fleet is anticipated to be introduced from late 2023.

NZ Defence Minister Ron Mark said: “The age and lack of protection offered by the old fleet make this another investment in New Zealand Defence Force capability that must be made in order to protect our service people.

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“The need to replace the army’s fleet of land vehicles was outlined in last year’s Defence Capability Plan, with the armoured Pinzgauer highlighted as a vehicle type reaching the end of its operational life and prioritised for replacement.

“The NZ Army operates in diverse and challenging environments, so a multi-purpose, highly mobile vehicle has been selected, one that has proven its ability to provide a high level of protection.”

The vehicle will increase the army’s ability to support communities during missions including natural disaster and peacekeeping operations.

In addition to supplementing other vehicles, the fleet will offer new capabilities to the army as a protected ambulance, troop transport, and a command and communication hub.

Currently, the Bushmaster is in service with NZ’s Special Operations Forces, Australia, the US, the UK and Canada.

Mark added: “This is the second fleet of protected mobility vehicles approved for purchase by the government.

“It follows delivery this year of the Polaris MRZR fleet of side by side all-terrain vehicles that were announced last year to replace the quad bikes and other small vehicles used by the NZ Army.”