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Australia countering IEDs in Afghanistan

Dec. 13, 2011 at 8:41 AM

CANBERRA, Australia, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Australia intends to acquire route-clearance vehicles for use by its troops in Afghanistan.

Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith and Minister for Defense Materiel Jason Clare announced that Australia would also upgrade about 200 Bushmaster vehicles to better protect troops from improvised explosive devices.

The route-clearance systems will include Husky MK IIIs from the United States, purchased through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program.

The four route-clearance packages will cost a total of about $71.5 million. Each package includes two Husky MK III vehicles with ground-penetrating radars; one Husky with an interrogator arm to confirm from a safe distance that an explosive hazard has been found; two protected High Mobility Engineer Excavators to repair damaged routes or create bypass routes; and two Australian-made Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles with mine rollers.

The ministers said three systems would be deployed to troops in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, while the fourth would be used for training in Australia.

Australia in September announced it was borrowing two route-clearance systems from Canada. The Canadian vehicles will be used by Australian engineers in Afghanistan for one year, beginning in early 2012.

Defense officials said the 200 Bushmaster mobility vehicles for carrying soldiers will be upgraded in Australia as well as in the Afghanistan area. The upgrades will include energy-absorbing seats.

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