Thales out of $5 billion LAND 400 defence contract bid

Thales' Bushmaster and Hawkei vehicles, manufactured in Bendigo.
Thales' Bushmaster and Hawkei vehicles, manufactured in Bendigo.

The Victorian government has thrown its support behind BAE Systems Australia’s bid to win a $5 billion defence contract to provide the next generation of Army vehicles – but despite its history manufacturing such vehicles, it looks like Bendigo’s Thales site will not play a part in the project.

BAE Systems has put forward its AMV-35 combat vehicle for the federal government’s LAND 400 project, for which it is in the running against German company Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH.

The LAND 400 project will replace Australian Army’s ageing light armoured vehicle fleet.

BAE Systems has already awarded a work package worth more than $20 million to Ararat company AME Systems to manufacture electrical wiring harnesses and a $15 million contract to Moorabbin-based Marand to build the vehicle’s turret shell, should it win the federal government contract.

But the office of acting Victorian Trade and Investment Minister Ben Carroll has confirmed Thales is not part of BAE System’s bid.

Last July, the Bendigo Advertiser reported Thales was in talks with BAE Systems and its competitor Rheinmetall.

BAE Systems has also formed agreements with other Victorian defence companies, including MOOG Australia, Motec, RUAG Australia, DVR Engineering, Milspec, Parker Hannifin and APV.

Thales has extensive experience manufacturing vehicles for the Defence Force.

The company’s North Bendigo site manufactures the Hawkei armoured defence vehicle, of which it is building 1100 for the Army under a contract worth $1.3 billion.

The first Hawkeis were deployed overseas last month, undergoing testing in Iraq.

Thales Bendigo workforce also builds the Bushmaster armoured personnel carrier, which has been exported to four foreign defence forces including the United Kingdom and Japan

The state government says that if BAE Systems wins the vehicle manufacturing contract, it would inject close to $1 billion into Victoria’s economy and create up to 2000 manufacturing and supply chain jobs.

Rheinmetall will base its operations in Queensland should it become the successful tenderer.

The Bendigo Advertiser has contacted Thales and BAE Systems for comment.