Production is underway for the first of New Zealand’s Bushmaster NZ5.5 vehicles by Thales Australia in Bendigo, Victoria.
The Bushmaster vehicles will provide New Zealand Army personnel with high levels of blast and ballistic protection. They are designed with a V hull, which redirects blasts out from under the vehicle, saving lives.
Project teams are made up of experts of both Ministry of Defence staff and New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel, but the Ministry has particular responsibility for the selection of suppliers, contract negotiations and project management. NZDF personnel are responsible for the introduction into service, in-service and disposal phases, which for some capability is up to 30 years.
Ministry of Defence project team leader, Gillian Rodger says a close working relationship, from the start of the process, has proven vital to the success of the project.
“The Bushmasters are scheduled for delivery in late 2022 and will replace New Zealand’s current New Zealand Army Pinzgauer fleet. They are not a combat vehicle but will provide our personnel with greater protection while deployed on operations, and they’re used by many of our partners overseas,” she said.
Lieutenant Colonel Sara Harrison is the project team’s Capability Integration Lead. She says the 11 tonne vehicles will have an operational life of 30 years and come in five different variants.
“They’ve been designed to provide high-level protection for our people against a range of threats found in the contemporary environment, including peace and security operations and humanitarian and disaster responses. This will in turn enable our people to better protect others,” said Lieutenant Colonel Harrison.
Due to the project’s scale, cost, risk, and complexity, the project is being run by the Protected Mobility Capability Project team, which is made up of both Ministry of Defence staff and NZDF personnel.
“The team has worked with Thales Australia to adapt previous Bushmaster vehicle designs, so the Bushmaster NZ5.5 will be unique to New Zealand and best suit our needs. They’ll be able to undertake a range of tasks, from transporting troops, through to acting as mobile communications and command hubs,” said Ms Rodger.
The Bushmasters are able to function as protected ambulances, when needed. They also introduce improved networking and communications technologies between the vehicles themselves, and other assets deployed in the field, allowing for more efficient communication over greater distances. The new communications capability has been developed in partnership with the Network Enabled Army project team.
COVID-19 restrictions on travel have presented some challenges to the project team, but the fleet’s delivery remains on track. Ms Rodger says she’s very proud of this – and the team’s ability to adapt.
The Bushmaster vehicles project follows the team’s success introducing the Polaris MRZR-D vehicles into service earlier this year.
Bushmaster NZ5.5 Facts and Figures:
Name: Bushmaster NZ5.5
Arrival date: 2023
Manufacturer: Thales Australia, Victoria
Fleet number: 43
Weight: 11 tonnes, with a 5 tonne payload
Height: 2,650 mm
Length: 7,180 mm
Width: 2,480 mm
Fuel Capacity: 319 Litres
Max speed: 100 km/h
Steering system: 4×4 power assisted
Passengers: 10 personnel
Project cost: $102.9 million