21 April 2023

Ukraine calls on Australia to donate more armoured vehicles

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Hawkei protected military vehicle

The Hawkei PMV is built by Thales Australia in Bendigo, but has suffered from issues with its anti-lock braking system. Photos: ADF

The government of Ukraine has called on the Australian government to donate more armoured vehicles to its war effort following the success of donated Australian Bushmaster Protected Military Vehicles (PMV).

The 15-tonne Bushmaster – built by Thales Australia in Bendigo, Victoria – has proven successful in defending troops it is carrying against small arms and mines, and is even reportedly in use by unit commanders to visit their forward-deployed troops.

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Australia has committed to donating 90 Bushmasters to date, at least 70 of which have been sent to Ukraine via Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster II transports, or leased Ukrainian Antonov An-124s.

The PMVs are serviced, stripped of Australian radios and other specialist equipment, and repainted in an overall olive drab green before they depart Australia.


A Ukrainian military image of a Bushmaster in action in the contested Donbas region.

Now, Ukraine has requested an unspecified number of the smaller eight-tonne Hawkei PMV – also built by Thales Australia – to bolster its armoured vehicle capabilities.

The Hawkei is designed to tow trailers and artillery pieces, and can also be used as a communications and electronic warfare platform. The Australian Army is also adapting the flexible Hawkei platform to carry anti-aircraft radars and missiles as part of its forthcoming Project LAND 19 Phase 7B NASAMS short-range ground-based air defence system capability.

In a 10 April tweet set to a soundtrack of AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’, the Ukrainian military posted a video of Bushmasters in operation in Ukraine, praising the vehicles while saying it had a “crush” on the Hawkei.

“Our soldiers absolutely love Australian Bushmasters. But now they have a new crush – the Hawkei,” the tweet read. “These two would be a perfect match on the battlefield.”

But, despite more than 1000 vehicles having been built, the Hawkei is yet to achieve an initial or fully operational capability with the Australian Army due to problems with its anti-lock braking system (ABS).

While this isn’t generally considered to be a problem when driving relatively slowly over rough terrain, the issue has meant the Army is reluctant to accept the vehicle as it is required to deploy over long distances on Australian roads.


Former Australian Army M113AS4 APCs being loaded on to a Ukrainian An-124.

This doesn’t seem to matter to Ukraine, with its Australian ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko saying the life-saving potential of the vehicles far outweigh any possible faults with the ABS, which he says would rarely be required in the areas they would be operated.

“Firstly, they’re very good vehicles, [they] really save lives,” he told ABC News Breakfast on 11 April. “They could help Ukraine fend off the enemy.”

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“This is a new piece of equipment which Australia has, we’ll be able to provide feedback,” he added, saying Ukraine could be a valuable testing ground for the Hawkei.

Australia has promised or delivered nearly $500 million in equipment and aid to Ukraine since the February 2022 invasion by Russia, and Mr Myroshnychenko said he was having ongoing discussions to see what else might be available.

“It’s not only about the shopping list, Hawkei is one of the items we request and many other things that Australia could support to Ukraine,” he said. “What is important is that that support continues.”


An RAAF C-17 unloaded equipment and aid at Rzeszow in Poland.

Apart from the Bushmasters, other items supplied by Australia include surplus M113AS4 armoured personnel carriers (APC), M777 howitzer artillery pieces, Javelin anti-tank missiles, drones, helmets, and other equipment.

RAAF C-17s have also made several delivery flights of Australian and US-supplied equipment into the Polish city of Rzeszow near the border with western Ukraine.

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