POLAND could become the latest country to import Bendigo-made armoured vehicles into its defence force.
Australian defence minister Christopher Pyne visited Warsaw to meet with Polish officials on Monday – and a possible contract for hundreds of Thales Australia’s Bushmaster and Hawkei armoured vehicles was top of the discussions.
The negotiations have been ongoing for several years, but foreign governments have been waiting for the Hawkei to reach full production next year before finalising contracts.
Indonesia is also believed to be considering importing the vehicles.
The Australian Army contract for the Hawkei vehicle must be complete before production begins for export markets. The Army has received more than 20 of the vehicles, and a further 1000 will be produced.
Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said Poland was one of several countries interested in the vehicles.
“I know the team at Thales have been in discussions about a possible Poland export contract for the last few years,” she said.
“Defence contract negotiations are complicated and it’s typical for these decisions not to be made public until a contract has been signed.
“I believe that as our Bendigo Thales manufacturing facility ramps up its Hawkei manufacturing, more and more countries turn to Bendigo Thales for armour vehicles.”
The Bushmaster has been imported by seven foreign governments including Jamaica, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Japan.
The vehicles roll off the production line in Bendigo and involve up to 120 companies in the supply chain.
More than 170 people work on the Hawkei at the Bendigo factory.
The federal government recently provided Thales with additional funding to market its vehicles to international buyers.
Thales has targeted countries which have limited defence manufacturing capabilities of their own.
Like many eastern European countries, the Polish military remains relatively underdeveloped.
Ms Chesters said targeting these countries was a clever way of ensuring the Bendigo-made vehicles found the right market and were not competing with countries like Germany, France and the United States.
“These export orders are vital. Export contracts of the life-saving Bendigo made Bushmasters will help secure local jobs in the short-term,” she said.
“Maintaining a strong industrial base, including the skilled workers here in Bendigo, has important strategic implications for Australia, therefore, we must not allow this industry to die.”