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A few days ago, the Australian Armed Forces presented the electrically powered prototypes of the Bushmaster armored wheeled vehicle at the Australian Chief of Army Symposium (CAS). The conventionally powered version of the vehicle had recently attracted attention after the Australian government handed over 60 to the Ukrainian armed forces.

The armored wheeled vehicle Bushmaster is currently manufactured in twelve different versions by the armaments company Thales in Bendigo in the Australian state of Victoria. Alongside Australia, the Netherlands are the largest users of the all-terrain and air transportable vehicle, which can optionally be provided with protection up to STANAG 4569 Level 3. In the prototype presented at the CAS, referred to as the electric Protected Military Vehicle (ePMV), the 300 hp six-cylinder 3126E 7.2 diesel engine from Caterpillar was replaced by a new electric drive.

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The electric Bushmaster at its presentation at the Australian Chief of Army Symposium (CAS), Photo: Commonwealth copyright / Department of Defense Australia / Max Bree

Col. Robin Smith, head of the Robotic and Autonomous Systems Implementation and Coordination Office (RICO), has high hopes for the development of the ePMV, as he said on the sidelines of the presentation. The RICO department of the Australian Armed Forces, which specializes in unmanned systems, is responsible for the prototype and sees it as a precursor to future combat vehicles, some of which could also operate unmanned. Smith sees the advantages of the ePMV over vehicles with combustion engines, which have already been realized, in greater acceleration, higher torque and lower maintenance costs due to fewer individual mechanical components. In addition, the power supply for additional external consumers on the digitized battlefield of the future is a relevant capability. The expert also addressed the lower heat and noise signature compared to conventional drives. According to the manufacturer, the next development step is to increase the range of the vehicle to up to 1,000 km.

When considering the ePMV program, it should also be noted that RICO was in charge of implementing it, without the involvement of Thales as the manufacturer of the base vehicle. Only after the troops have evaluated the technical and tactical requirements and drawn up specifications will the Australian armed forces approach the industry. According to Smith, this step will only take place in a few years and will only lead to a possible procurement process once funding has been secured.

Kristóf Nagy