AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Dutch Defense Ministry officials have ordered an additional 14 Bushmaster patrol vehicles for use by their troops in Afghanistan.
The ministry, in a release, said the new Bushmasters would be deployed to the Netherlands' Task Force Uruzgan in central Afghanistan. The Dutch, who have most of their approximately 1,800 troops in Afghanistan in that region, already have Bushmaster armored patrol vehicles in the country.
Those soldiers, part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, have been using the Bushmasters because of their success in protecting against roadside bombs.
The purchase of 14 new vehicles amounts to about $15.4 million and will give the Netherlands a total fleet of 86 of the patrol vehicles, Dutch Secretary of Defense Jack de Vries said in comments this week to Parliament.
The Netherlands put in a similar 14-vehicle order in June after having requested nine Bushmasters in January. Those vehicles were fitted with cameras and other equipment meant especially to help deal with improvised explosive devices.
A Defense Ministry release said nine of the vehicles from the latest purchase would be added to the available fleet with five held in reserve in case of future losses. The release said because of previous losses, costs and lost service time resulting from repairs to damaged Bushmasters, there was a possible of a shortage of the vehicles.
The ministry said a contract with Thales Australia, which manufactures the Bushmasters, would be signed shortly with the expectation that delivery of vehicles would begin in October. The process has undergone special "fast-track procurement," the ministry release said, because of the urgent need for the equipment.
The Dutch are to stay in Afghanistan until at least July 2010. They are working to train Afghan police while developing political and economic infrastructure in the country. The Dutch air force also has a presence in Afghanistan with Lockheed Martin F-16s and AH-64D Apache helicopters, manufactured by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, the ministry said.
The Bushmaster patrol vehicles are utilized by forces from Australia and the United Kingdom in addition to the Netherlands.
Thales Australia information states that the Bushmaster's V-shaped hull helps deflect mine blasts under the vehicle. There is additional protection provided from side blasts, the company said.
"Bushmaster's integrated high hardness and transparent armor, specialist welding and the shaping of its monocoque hull, protect troops and mechanical components from land mines and other blast weapons as well as small arms and artillery fragments," a company release states.
The vehicles can carry up to 10 people, weigh about 33,000 pounds, have a range of more than 500 miles and run on 6-cylinder turbo-charged Caterpillar diesel engines.