Dutch Choose Bushmaster IMVs for Afghan Mission
Despite ongoing US procurement of M1151/M1152 Hummers, the retreat from Jeep-like vehicles is accelerating among Western militaries. Insufficiently protected against land mine threats in modern conflict zones, and insufficiently protectable due to inherent design limitations, conventional vehicles like G-Wagens, Land Rovers, and HMMWVs are being replaced in manufacturer lineups and military acquisitions by more protectable truck-based models, or by dedicated mine-resistant patrol vehicles. A wide array of countries are buying these vehicles for the first time. Meanwhile, nations that were ahead of the curve continue to add to their stocks.
Australia’s move to more than double its original order of 300 Thales-ADI’s Bushmaster IMVs, which have proven themselves with Australian forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, offers ample evidence of the seriousness with which they view the global trend toward IED land mines in conflict zones. First-time buyer The Netherlands has also adopted the Bushmaster, to strengthen its own Afghan force.
The Dutch move to field mine-resistant vehicles was concluded in close cooperation with 2 friendly foreign governments, and it has just placed its 6th order…
- The International Trend [NEW]
- The Dutch Decision
- 3 Governments in a Cooperative Effort
- Contracts and Key Events [updated]
- Additional Readings
The International Trend
The last couple of years has seen the USA’s ramped-up purchases of M1117 Guardian ASVs, as well as its 15,000+ vehicle MRAP (Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected) program featuring numerous different vehicles, and the follow-on 3,000-5,000 vehicle Oshkosh M-ATV order. Beyond the USA, and Australian Bushmaster orders, the recent trend also includes:
In a lesser protected class, but still far above a Hummer or G-Wagen, see also recent orders for:
BAE RG-32M: Ireland, Sweden.
Textron M1117: Bulgaria.
The Dutch Decision
According to the Defence-Aerospace.com translation, the need for an additional Dutch patrol vehicle was recognized in the Afghan province of Uruzgan, where Dutch forces are operating as part of NATO/ISAF. The new vehicle had to offer more protection than the Mercedes Terreinwagen in use, and also had to “ensure more flexibility” than their 1970s vintage Patria and YPR armoured personnel carriers.
On June 23/06, the Defensie Materieelorganisatie (defence procurement agency, DMO) started an acquisition project that has resulted in the selection of ADI’s Bushmaster. This was an urgent requirement, and was completed in about one month – a timeline that offers ample testament to the contract’s urgency.
- They confirm that the remote weapons system on the 12 equipped vehicles will indeed be Thales SWARM, though Recon/Optical has since maintained on July 9/07 that a $2.2M production contract was signed to supply 17 RAVEN R-400 RWS for integration onto Dutch Bushmasters.
- Thales SOTAS M2 will be supplied as the communications system. SOTAS 2 can be used in practically any military vehicle, between vehicles, and between vehicles and command posts. It enables speech, video and data transfer and can be used to set up a local area network. Its noise filters ensure unambiguous communication. Thales Land & Joint Systems in Huizen, The Netherlands will supply them.
The delivery time was possible because the Australian government provided the initial 25 vehicles out of its own stocks for conversion to Dutch systems; ADI’s Bendigo plant will then use some of the funds to replenish the ADF’s fleet. Australian forces are apparently serving in the Dutch area of operations, and fight with them on combined operations, so the commonality is doubtless welcome and the infrastructure already in theater.
Other in country project support in Afghanistan will be provided by Thales Netherlands, and through-life support will be provided by ADI’s US partner Oshkosh in The Netherlands and in Afghanistan.
3 Governments in a Cooperative Effort
Funding for this project was appropriated by the Dutch cabinet as a supplemental, and the procurement also involves two governments. Australia pledged to provide close cooperation, and took the 25 vehicles from its own stocks. As a stopgap, in 2006 Canada loaned Dutch forces in Uruzgun 10 of its RG-31 Nyala armored patrol vehicles.
The Canadians are serving as part of the same ISAF force in Southern Afghanistan, under British command; though no quid pro quo was specified, DID has noted the Canadian Forces’ need for CH-47 helicopter support in theater, and the fact that Canada had sold all of its machines to The Netherlands. Dutch helicopters were available to help NATO allies, and Canada’s RG-31 loan is just a different sort of cooperation.
Contracts and Key Events
Aug 19/09: The Dutch government orders another 14 Bushmasters plus an option for 8 more, in a deal worth roughly EUR 10.9 million (about $15.4 million) plus for vehicles and an unspecified stabilized remote weapons system. This brings the number of Bushmasters purchased by the Dutch MvD to 86, including a training vehicle and the 9 variants with a robotic arm.
The brief from Dutch Defense Secretary Jack de Vries adds that a combination of recent losses and the long time it takes to get damaged Bushmasters operational again, especially when repaired in Australia, had created a shortfall in theater. The MVD expects a contract with Thales Australia shortly under fast-track procurement rules, with the expectation that delivery would begin in October 2009. Some of the vehicles (5) will be held in reserve, while 9 will deploy to Afghanistan with Task Force Uruzgan. MvD release and Ministerial brief [in Dutch] | Thales Australia | Aviation Week Ares | UPI Asia.
June 15/09: The Dutch MvD briefs Parliament that it has bought an extra 14 Bushmasters as an urgent operational requirement. The cost will be EUR 14.2 million (about $20.3 million) from the regular defense budget, while the expected EUR 3.4 million (about $4.9 million) cost for transport to the mission area , operations, and maintenance will fall under the MvD’s dedicated HGIS budget. The contract with Thales Australia, was closed on April 30/09, and the desired delivery date is August 1/09.
This brings total orders to 71. As of this letter, 3 Dutch Bushmasters have been destroyed and 8 damaged during operations in Afghanistan. It’s expected that some of the damaged vehicles can be repaired. See “Bestrijding internationaal terrorisme; Brief staatssecretaris over urgente aanvullende behoefte aan veertien Bushmaster-patrouillevoertuigen” [in Dutch].
Jan 9/09: The Claw The Dutch government orders another 9 Bushmasters for deployment to Afghanistan – but these will be different. This set will be equipped with robotic arms to help the crews safely defuse IED land mines from a distance. BAE’s RG-33L MMPV vehicles have this feature as well, and are in use by American Explosives Ordnance Disposal teams.
June 13/08: The Dutch MvD announces that The Netherlands will buy another 13 Bushmasters, spares, and service in a EUR 14.5 million (about $22.3 million) contract modification. This brings the Dutch order total to 48, with 6 vehicles destroyed thus far in land mine attacks that caused no casualties. Dutch MvD | Ares | Australia’s DoD, who adds on Aug 8 that Britain has also bought 24 vehicles.
Nov 20/07: The Dutch MvD places a EUR 8.5 million (about $12 million) order for another 10 Bushmasters as combat replacements, after 2 vehicles are destroyed and 2 others heavily damaged by IED land mine attacks in Afghanistan. It’s not unusual for blast-resistant vehicles to be destroyed by land mines and still protect their crew, however, an outcome that is considered a success. No details regarding that aspect of those incidents are released, but the MvD usually announces casualties and includes vehicle types; DID has searched, but seen no reports involving the Bushmaster. MvD release [in Dutch] | Accompanying brief: “Aanvullende behoefte Bushmaster-patrouillevoertuigen.”
Oct 18/06: The Dutch Ministry of Defense announces that Bushmaster vehicles have made their very first operational patrol with Dutch forces in Afghanistan, as escorts for a trailer carrying 2 YPR-765 tracked APCs from Kandahar to the front lines near Karin Towt. How the new vehicles hold up will be their next big test, as this has been a problem for previous equipment. Note this line: “The extreme circumstances in Afghanistan, such as heat and terrain, take a high toll of material. The maintenance and repair units thus have their hands full.”
June 23/06: Thales subsidiary ADI will supply 25 V-hulled Bushmaster armored patrol vehicles for EUR $24.9 million ($31.7 million at current conversion), 23 of which will be available by August 28 for transport to Afghanistan. The other 2 will be used back in Holland for training. Each vehicle can carry up to 8 soldiers + 2 crew at speeds of up to 90 km/h. Of these 25 vehicles, 12 will replace the pintle-mounted machine gun up top with “overhead weapons systems” that use advanced optics and thermal imaging, and can be controlled from inside the vehicle.
- DID thanks subscriber David Vandenberghe and our friends at VNCcc, among others, for their translation assistance and tips.
- Thales Australia/ ADI – Bushmaster
- Digger History – Bushmaster
- Brisbane Times (Aug 2/09) – Australian vehicle masters Taliban
- DID (Dec 7/08) – Dutch Grapple with Equipment RESET/RECAP Needs. Just like every other military with troops in combat.
- Defense Technology International (Sept 7/07) – IEDs Trigger Vehicle Procurement Rush. Talks about European programs, with a strong focus on Germany.
- CASR (August 2006) – Armour for Afghanistan – ISAF Military Leaders Agree: Troops Need More (and Better) Armoured Vehicles
- Australia DoD, Army newspaper (Aug 11/05) – Masters of the Desert: Aussie-made IMV a success on first deployment