PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has singled out Bendigo-built Bushmaster and Hawkei military vehicles as examples of innovation and technology in Australis’s defence industry during a visit to the company’s Sydney headquarters.

Mr Turnbull this week signalled the government’s intentions to expand the nation’s defence exports industry, with Thales’ Bendigo plant expected to be a significant beneficiary of additional sales of armoured military vehicles around the world.

Launching Australia’s Defence Export Strategy, Mr Turnbull said the government was keen to ensure it maximised opportunities for Australian jobs, technology and

“Thales Australia has shown us so many examples of technologies that they have produced here that are being exported. But we have got the capacity to do so much more and we need to make sure we have a strategy that delivers it,” he said.

“Just standing behind us here is the Bushmaster vehicle. This is a life-saving vehicle developed in Australia. Australian technology, sold around the world. I was with Shinzo Abe in Tokyo recently and Japan has bought eight of them. There have been many other countries that have acquired them. They have saved hundreds of lives. Hundreds of lives have been saved by this vehicle.

“On our right we have the Hawkei, the smaller utility vehicle which uses the same technology. Again, that’s being built for the Australian Army but, of course, it too has enormous export potential.”

Thales Australia chief executive officer Chris Jenkins said Australia has some of the smartest, most capable and skilled workforces in the world. 

“Our engineers, our scientists, our production staff are definitely world-leading and this kind of strategy being launched generates real confidence in Australian industry, so that companies can invest for the long term. Start to invest in the future products that are not only great for Australian defence forces, but also for our coalition partners and partnership nations around the world,” he said.

This week’s strategy launch comes two weeks after the government confirmed that two Bendigo-built Hawkei vehicles have been deployed in Iraq.

Defence minister Marise Payne confirmed the vehicles would complete defined tasks designed to ensure Australia was “best prepared to deploy this capability when it enters service”.

“This will enable the Army to learn how to best deploy this capability to an operational environment, and ensure it is ready prior to full production in 2019,” Ms Payne said.

“The Hawkei’s cutting-edge technology and design means it is able to withstand significant blast and ballistic threats, which will protect our soldiers from small arms fire and fragmentation.” 

Defence industry minister Christopher Pyne said the Hawkei was a pioneering protected vehicle designed, developed and manufactured by Thales Australia.

“The Hawkei showcases the capability, maturity and international competitiveness of Australian defence industry,” Mr Pyne said.

The Australian Defence Force has agreed to purchase 1100 Hawkeis as part of the LAND 121 Phase Four program.