CANBERRA, Australia, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Supacat has opened a vehicle engineering design and analysis facility in Australia as part of its contract to produce a special operations vehicle for the army.
Australian Minister for Defense Materiel Jason Clare officially opened the Melbourne facility, which employs 18 design, analysis and systems engineering experts.
"Australia will be the first country outside the United Kingdom where Supacat provides complete in-country support," said Clare.
"Its establishment here in Melbourne shows the strength of our local industry."
The first SOV prototype was recently delivered to the army and the Supacat facility is focusing on analysis of the project, the Ministry of Defense said. The vehicle can carry a range of weapons, communications and surveillance equipment.
Supacat, with headquarters in the United Kingdom, was this year selected to develop a prototype vehicle for the Special Operations Vehicle -- Direct Action requirement under Project JP2097 Phase 1B. The prototype will establish capability options for Second Pass project approval by the government and final design of the vehicle.
Last year Supacat put together what it calls Supacat Team Australia, a supply chain partnership of Australian companies which made up the British firm's bid for the contract.
The Supacat Team Australia partners are Aerostaff, Andrew Engineering, Baker and Provan, Broens Industries, Cablex, Eggler Consulting Engineers, Hallmark Logistics and Engineering, Hofmann Engineering, Marand Precision Engineering, PS Management Consultants, QinetiQ, Tectonica Australia, Unique Solution Partners and VEEM.
Supacat Team Australia is led by Australian national Michael Halloran who transferred from Supacat's headquarters in the United Kingdom where he was managing director.
Supacat already supplies a reconnaissance vehicle to the army's Special Operations Command. The vehicle was named in honor of Warrant Officer David Nary, an Australian Special Forces soldier who died during a training operation in the Middle East in 2005.
The SOV is a more robust vehicle that includes stronger rollover protection, a remote weapon station, an ability to carry a Javelin Anti-Tank missile system and improved self-recovery capability.
The vehicle is capable of being slung under a CH-47 Chinook helicopter for fast interjection and evacuation in the field.
The Defense Ministry also has begun trials for the recently delivered Hawkei prototype from Thales Australia under Stage 2 of Project LAND 121 Phase 4 -- a $1.5 billion project for up to 1,300 protected and unprotected light vehicles.
"This year the government allocated $38 million for further development and testing of the Hawkei," Clare said.
"Under this agreement Thales will supply six prototype Hawkei vehicles and one trailer for testing and evaluation."
The Hawkei prototype was made at Thales's Bendigo facility which has been producing Bushmaster vehicles since 2003.
The Hawkei is a 4-by-4, 7-ton light protected armored vehicle. It has a large protected interior for six soldiers, superior blast and ballistic protection and advanced technology for rapid up-armoring in the field.
The remaining five Hawkei prototypes will be delivered by June, Clare said.
Thales Australia unveiled its Hawkei at the Land Warfare Conference in Melbourne in October.