Few defense contractors enjoy a captive market the way Thales Australia does. With the Hawkei, a 4×4 light utility vehicle, Thales is betting on what could be the world’s next favorite universal troop transport. But it all depends on the Australian Defence Force (ADF), whose Land 121 program is part of a bigger modernization effort that will equip it for tomorrow’s missions.
Under Land 121’s Phase 4, 1,300 light vehicles are needed to replace the Australian Army’s aging and unprotected Land Rovers. The total cost of Land 121 Phase 4 is $1.5 billion. Should the Hawkei enter production, it becomes the medium vehicle of choice for the Australian Army after the thin-skinned Mercedes Benz G-Wagon and the heavy duty MAN truck.
Thales Australia anticipated this requirement as early as 2009 when it unveiled the Hawkei, which takes its name from a species of venomous snake, the acanthopsis hawkei. Despite its menacing nomenclature the Hawkei serves as a troop transport foremost, nimble and well-protected without the heft and size of an MRAP.
Since 2012, only six Hawkei’s have been assembled in Thales Australia’s Bendigo, Victoria, factory and put through their paces. Despite years of testing, it’s remarkable how no other competing vehicles are being shopped to the Australian Army.
Based on information gathered from Military Today, the Hawkei is classified a light protected vehicle. It comes in two variants, the basic six-person transport and a flat-top for carrying gear. The Hawkei can also pull a trailer. What’s often left out of its product literature is how Thales sought Israeli armored vehicle fabricator Plasan’s help designing the Hawkei’s tough exterior without encumbering it too much.
Its 300 horsepower Steyr Motors 3.2 liter turbo diesel engine gives it a maximum road speed a little beyond 100 kilometers per hour. According to Steyr, the Hawkei’s range is 1,000 km. Its basic weight is 14,000 lbs, which meets the threshold for air transport via helicopter or cargo plane. The Hawkei’s protection level hasn’t been published yet, but it does comes with an applique armor kit.
As of this writing, the contract for the Hawkei hasn’t been signed. Thales aren’t biding their time and during the Eurosatory 2014 arms show, the largest in France, the Hawkei was shopped to potential foreign customers. This intention was revealed by a Thales Australia executive. According to him, the bolted-down modular features of the Hawkei make technology transfers and licensed-production more feasible.
Capitalizing on their experience so far with the ADF, Thales Australia is targeting Land Rover users who need an upgraded utility vehicle that can carry C4I gear and adequate protection.