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Bushmaster - A Success Story in Battlefield Protection

On Friday 23 September, three soldiers from Mentoring Task Force – Three (MTF-3) were wounded when their Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) struck an IED during a partnered Mentoring Task Force – Three (MTF-3) and Afghan National Army (ANA) resupply mission in the Karmisan Valley.

Director of Health, Headquarters Joint Operations Command, Group Captain Karen Leshinskas said the three wounded soldiers received immediate first aid and were evacuated by helicopter to the Role 2 Medical Facility in Tarin Kot.

“The soldiers were assessed as being in a satisfactory condition and have since returned to restricted duties,” Group Captain Leshinskas said. Once again, the Bushmaster provided high levels of protection from mine blasts, ballistic rounds and improvised explosive devices to soldiers operating in the high-threat environment of Afghanistan.

Expert Defence and industry engineers from Thales and Stratos Seating developed the upgrades based on data from damaged Bushmaster vehicles hit by improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and blast trials conducted in Australia.

From the outset, the Bushmaster appears to be a great success story for the Australian defence industry from the days of the first proto-types being deployed into East Timor in 1999 to wide use in Afghanistan. It is the only armoured military vehicles to be designed, developed, manufactured and supported in Australia.

Better known as the Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV), the Bushmaster was originally developed by Thales Australia in collaboration with Timoney Technology, Ireland, to provide integral ground mobility capability to infantry battalions as part of the ADF’s Project Bushranger. It is now a recognised global class of vehicle in its own right.

bushmastersuccessstoryThe Bushmasters are produced in seven military variants – troop, command, mortar, assault pioneer, direct fire weapon, ambulance and air defence.

The v-shaped monocoque hull of the Bushmaster provides a high degree of protection against Improvised Explosive Devices, deflecting blast away from the vehicle and its occupants – and it is this feature which predominantly saving the lives of ADF members. The armour provides protection against small arms fire up to around 7.62 calibre.

Since the deployment of the proto-types into East Timor, the Bushmaster has been deployed to Al Muthanna Task Group 1 and later the Over Watch Battle Group. 6RAR used the vehicle during the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and later that year Bushmasters were deployed under the Reconstruction Task Force into Afghanistan.

Taking into account feedback from the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, including exposure of the gunner to enemy fire and the lack of a drinking water cooling system, the vehicle design was changed to include the Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS). With a quick response to these changes, the upgrades were installed on Bushmasters deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 by a team from Project Bushranger and the Australian Army.

More recently further upgrades have been undertaken in theatre include the installation of new seating and flooring in the cabin to provide additional protection for commanders, drivers and the troops being transported. Expert Defence and industry engineers from Thales and Stratos Seating developed the upgrades based on data from damaged Bushmaster vehicles hit by improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and blast trials conducted in Australia. The upgrades were completed in August this year.

Design and delivery:

Under the prime contractor, Thales Australia, Project Bushranger delivered 737 vehicles in seven variants (troop, command, mortar, assault pioneer, direct fire weapon, ambulance and air defence). All 300 troop, command, assault pioneer, mortar, direct fire weapon and ambulance variants under the original acquisition contract (Production Period 1) have been delivered, says a Defence spokeperson.

“Delivery of 144 Enhanced Land Forces vehicles (Production Period 2) was completed in April 2009. Delivery of the residual 293 Protected Mobility Vehicles for Project LAND 121 (Production Period 3) will be completed by March 2012 on schedule.”

Earlier this year, Government announced the acquisition of an additional 101 Protected Mobility Vehicles (Production Period 4), with deliveries scheduled for completion by May 2013. This will see this phase of the project extended for a further 18 months and the delivery of a total 838 PMVs.

The prime focus of the project for 2011-12 is the completion of the delivery of 293 Bushmaster vehicles by June 2012 to satisfy Production Period 3 (Project LAND 121) requirements. The project will also determine the most appropriate way to meet the requirement for the provision of up to 184 protected mobility vehicle compatible trailers, which are also part of Production Period 3.

In mid-October, it was further announced that four Bushmaster ambulances have been delivered to the Air Force Health Services Wing at RAAF Base Amberley. The Bushmaster ambulance is one of seven variants of the Bushmaster vehicle being built for the ADF at a cost of $670,000 each. So far 25 Bushmaster ambulances have been delivered to the ADF including:

  • 19 to 7 Brigade based at Enoggera Barracks, Brisbane;
  • One to the School of Health at Latchford Barracks, Bonegilla;
  • One to the Motorised Combat Wing, School of Artillery at Puckapunyal Barracks; and
  • Four to the Air Force Health Services Wing at RAAF Base Amberley.

The Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare said the Bushmaster ambulances were an improvement on the
Sprinter ambulances currently used by the Royal Australian Air Force.

“The Bushmaster is a terrific vehicle – saving lives in Afghanistan,” Mr Clare said. “These ambulances provide blast and ballistic protection. That means protection from bullets and artillery fired at the vehicle as well as roadside bombs.

“This gives patients, paramedics and drivers better protection in high threat environments.”

Mr Clare said the Bushmaster ambulances are fitted with the latest in medical equipment.

“The Bushmaster ambulance can transport two stretchered patients, or one stretchered and four seated patients, at the one time,” Mr Clare said.

The vehicles will be ready for operational service after personnel have completed their training and medical fit-out has been finished.

Workers at the Thales factory in Bendigo have been producing Bushmaster vehicles for the Australian Defence Force, and export orders for the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

In May, the Government announced the purchase of an additional 101 Bushmaster vehicles to support ADF operations in Afghanistan. The vehicles, together with associated support, are being purchased at a total cost of $133 million. This includes fitting Middle East Area of Operations protection kits and protected weapons stations.

It also includes funding to evaluate a range of enhancements to the Bushmaster vehicle to increase the level of protection it provides to ADF personnel. If these enhancements are viable they may be applied to the 101 vehicles.

The vehicles will be manufactured at the Bendigo factory and will be delivered over the next 18 months.

The Bushmaster is a truly Australian vehicle with workers around the country being involved in the production. Iron ore mined from the Pilbara and coking coal from the Hunter is forged in Port Kembla, cut to size in Melbourne and delivered to Bendigo where it is welded together to produce Bushmaster vehicles.

As of May 2011, 31 Bushmasters have been damaged beyond repair while in service with the Australian Army. As the soldiers in Afghanistan continue to face the ever-evolving threat, particularly from Improvised Explosive Devices, it is certain that the best protection and mobility possible will continue to be provided for these members through the Bushranger Project.

Author:Phil Pyke

Source: Australian Peacekeeper Magazine, Summer 2011. p11-14

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