In a nation where so many have a 4x4 and which has the best country in the world to drive over, Australia was bound to come up with a world-beating army vehicle.
Since the 1980s, the Australian Army has used a Land Rover Defender variant called the Perentie, which was built in 4x4 and 6x6 models and used Isuzu diesel engines rather than the Land Rover originals.
But the Australian Defence Force is replacing its ageing Land Rovers with two vehicles: the unprotected model is the Mercedes-Benz G-wagon, a well-known general purpose runaround for military use.
But it's the Thales Hawkei – replacing the blast-protected, combat Land Rover – that signifies a leap forward for Australia's design and build capability in defence industry.
"I was recently at the defence expo in Abu Dhabi," Thales Australia chief executive Chris Jenkins says. "There was a lot of impressive hardware at that show, but everyone was stopping for the Hawkei."
The Hawkei is a vehicle born of hard experience and grim reality in combat areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Taking all of what was liked about the Bushmaster, Australia's first domestically designed and manufactured protected land vehicle is getting rave reviews before it is officially deployed with the Australian Army.
It is driven by a 200kw Steyr turbo diesel engine, through an automatic transmission, and is a four-wheel drive with low and high ratios. It can carry five people and has a trailer designed to be towed behind.
It has been built to operate in desert heat and alpine cold and, according to Jenkins, it is very simple to drive and travels well on the road. "It's large but agile." (end of excerpt)
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