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Australia opens Gaza Ridge vehicle facility

April 18, 2013 at 12:03 AM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, April 18 (UPI) -- Australia officially opened its new LAND 21 maintenance training facility at the Gaza Ridge Barracks near Bandiana in northern Victoria.

The facility will train more than 2,000 military personnel over the next decade, a statement from the Defense Materiel Organization said.

Australia set up the facility to maintain the next generation of field vehicles, including the newly introduced Mercedes-Benz 4x4 and 6x6 G-Wagon fleet.

It also will support the Introduction of LAND 121 Project Overlander, a $7.5 billion, 10-year program providing more than 7,500 new protected and unprotected vehicles for the defense forces.

"This state-of-the-art facility will provide our vehicle mechanics and vehicle electricians with a better understanding of the vehicle's capabilities and limits to ensure we get the best levels of performance possible from our equipment," Minister for Defense Materiel Mike Kelly said.

"The facility's workshop will have the capacity to manage even the largest and most sophisticated of Australia's new generation of field vehicles. It also will allow engine access on vehicles fitted with protective armor."

Australian company St Hilliers Construction built the facility for around $10 million within 14 months and it's expected to be in use for at least 30 years, the DMO statement said.

The deal for 2,146 G-Wagons was signed between the Ministry of Defense and partners Daimler and Mercedes-Benz Australia in February last year for deliveries starting midyear 2012.

The G-Wagon is a joint Steyr-Daimler-Puch development and is assembled by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. Mercedes provides some interior design as well as the drivetrain.

The G-Wagons are being manufactured in Europe and supplied to Mercedes-Benz Australia in Mulgrave, Victoria, where Australian-made modules and tray bodies will be fitted, the DMO said last year.

Australia ordered 8 variants of the G-Wagon, including a light truck, panel van, ambulance command post and soft-top surveillance-reconnaissance versions.

The G-Wagon's boxy design dates from the 1970s and the "G" comes from the German word Gelandewagen, meaning cross-country vehicle.

Students at Gaza Ridge also will be trained to maintain medium and heavy trucks to be delivered under LAND 121 Phase 3B and light protected mobility vehicles under LAND 121 Phase 4 contracts.

The LAND 121 Phase 3B -- a contract for Overlander replacement field vehicles, trailers and modules -- at one time was officially listed as a Project of Concern by the Department of Defense.

Phase 3B is for up to 2,700 protected and unprotected medium and heavy vehicles but it became a Project of Concern in 2008 because of rising technical, cost and schedule risks.

There also was concern about the ability of the original preferred supplier to deliver against their offer, leading the government to retender the project in 2010.

The government selected Rheinmetall MAN as the new preferred supplier and the contract was removed from the Projects of Concern List in late 2011.

Gaza Ridge Barracks also has the Army Museum Bandiana showcasing the history of the army's logistic corps and is home to the 37th Australian Army Cadet Unit.

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