The Australian Bushmaster MRAP development started back in the late 90’s by Irish company Timoney Technology Ltd under a licence agreement with Perry Engineering in Adelaide. That licence was sold to ADI Limited, a former Australian Defence Manufacturer who were bought out by the French Firm Thales, (who are best known for their sighting equipment as used in the British Challenger 2 MBT) in 2006, but by this time the Bushmaster MRAP’s had been built for well over a year, with delivery to the Diggers (nickname for Australian soldiers) starting in 2005 and has since been exported to other nations.
The Australian Bushmaster MRAP Protection:
The vehicle is classed as a category 2 MRAP, which means its suitable for convoy lead, troop transport, ambulance, explosive ordnance disposal and combat engineering, putting it on par with the US Cougar & British Mastiff MRAP’s.
It uses the traditional V-Shape hull bottom (however there are storage bins running along the sides of the vehicle and so is not visible) as associated with MRAP’s and offers all round protection against 7.62mm MG fire, giving the vehicle protection between level 1 to 3 of STANAG 4569.
The vehicle also uses a central type pressurising system and as optional can have run flat types fitted.
The Australian Bushmaster MRAP Mobility:
Engine – 330 hp (246 kW) Caterpillar 3126E engine
Power/weight – 26.4 hp/tonne
Suspension – 4×4 double wishbone independent
Operational range – 800km
Top Road Speed – Over 100 km/h
The Australian Bushmaster MRAP Strategic Mobility:
The Bushmaster weights 12.4 tonnes (empty) so is air transportable by C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III and Mil Mi-26 aircraft.
The Australian Bushmaster MRAP Firepower:
By tradition the vehicle has a central gun ring in the roof that can be used to mount GMPG’s such as the FN Minimi & FN MAG, which are both used by Diggers.
In 2007 CROWS remote weapon systems were installed on vehicles operated in Iraq and Afghanistan. CROWS give Diggers the ability to acquire and engage targets via sights, which include thermal, whilst inside their Bushmasters so they are not put in harms way.
The Australian Bushmaster MRAP Variants:
The Troop Variant can accommodate up to ten fully equipped troops including commander and driver. The troops use the rear door and roof hatches and have additional ballistic protected windows along the sides of their section of the vehicle.
The Troop Variant is the common vehicle of the Bushmaster fleet and forms the base for all other variants including:
Assault Pioneer Variant
Direct Fire Weapon Variant
FireKing which is a fire fighting variant
The Australian Bushmaster MRAP Operators:
Australia – As the principal operator, the Diggers have ordered a total of 737 Bushmasters via various orders from 2005 to 2008. The Diggers have been committed to various international operations, including East Timor, the later years of the Invasion of Iraq and the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan and the Bushmaster has been deployed with them in these operations.
Its reported that a total of 40 Diggers have been saved during a significant number of IED attacks against the vehicle with no loss of life. However on the 17th of March 2010 a serious IED in Afghanistan against a Bushmaster saw the vehicles armour penetrated and 5 Diggers were wounded, 3 of them seriously.
Its been reported in a Australian newspaper in 2011 that the contract for phase three of a long-delayed project to build 900 protected utility vehicles in the 5, 10 and 15 tonne payload range, which is due to be awarded later in 2011, will got to the German Firm Rheinmetall Man. The loss of this contract which would be met by modified Bushmasters, will see the loss of 300 jobs at the Thales production line at Bendigo, Australia and 700 indirect jobs around the nation.
Netherlands aka Dutch – The Royal Netherlands Army have been deployed in the on going operations in Afghanistan since 2006 and as such sent an urgent requirement for an MRAP class vehicle and purchased 25 Bushmasters in the same year. Since then a total of 86 vehicles have been ordered by 2009, with a total of 10 lost and no recorded loss of life.
British Army – An Australian newspaper announced in 2008 that 24 Bushmasters had been bought, however there is mention of the vehicle on the British Armies website.
The Bushmaster entered the USMC’s MRAP contest, but withdrew in 2007. It is also reported the vehicle has been involved in trials in Spain, United Arab Emirates, France and Iraq.