CANBERRA, Australia, May 31 (UPI) -- Thales Australia has delivered the final two of six Hawkei vehicles to Australia's Defense Materiel Organization for testing and evaluation.
The two reconnaissance variants join two command and two utility vehicles, plus a trailer, all of which have been delivered on schedule. The four vehicles previously delivered have undergone half of the planned 60,000 miles of testing, Thales Australia said.
The majority of the evaluation process is being at Monegeetta, north of Melbourne in Victoria state. Testing includes survivability, communications system integration, electro-magnetic interference/compatibility, reliability trials and user assessments.
The 4x4, 6-crew, 7-ton Hawkei is Thales Australia's next-generation protected vehicle based on its Bushmaster.
The Hawkeis have been delivered under Stage 2 of the Manufactured and Supported in Australia option of Land 121 Phase 4 contract -- a $1.5 billion project to provide up to 1,300 protected and unprotected light vehicles for the military.
The government announced in December 2011 that the Hawkei had been selected as the preferred vehicle for development and testing in Australia's search for an improved protected mobility vehicle.
Thales Australia, formerly ADI, said it expects final approval of the project sometime 2015, as set out in Australia's 2012 Defense Capability Plan.
"We have invested $30 million in Hawkei and Australian industry also has put significant effort into the development of these vehicles," Thales Australia Chief Executive Officer Chris Jenkins said.
The name Hawkei comes from the Latin name for the deadly adder -- Acanthophis hawkei -- which is native to Australia, Thales said.
The vehicle is manufactured at Thales's Bendigo facility in Victoria that employs around 200 people.
The Bendigo facility also makes the 4x4 Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle in use with Australian military operations overseas.
The army acquired its first 300 Bushmasters from 2004-08.
Australia has around 700 Bushmasters, many of which are in Afghanistan and are credited with saving numerous Australian soldiers' lives, the Australian Department of Defense has said.
In March 2012, Australia announced it would spend more than $15.5 million with Thales for the manufacture of Bushmaster components as part of a conditional program to buy more vehicles.
The components have long manufacturing lead times and include hulls, axle and suspension systems, fire suppression systems, radiators, gun rings, insulation and hydraulics parts.
In December, British company Supacat opened a vehicle engineering design and analysis facility in Australia as part of its contract to produce a special operations vehicle for the army.
The Supacat facility in Melbourne employs 18 design, analysis and systems engineers.
Supacat was selected last year 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.