New rides for Australian SASR

Original story from The Australian

AUSTRALIA’S frontline warriors, the elite Special Air Service Regiment, will be trading up in November to a fleet of new gunbuggies as part of the army’s $4.6 billion re-equipment contract – its biggest vehicle procurement.

Ending a 50-year relationship with Land Rover, the army will also sign off next month on a $314 million contract with Mercedes Benz for 1200 new G-Wagon light four-wheel-drive vehicles as its off-roader of choice.

Special Operations Command troops, the SASR and commandos can expect to be driving an altogether new vehicle, the British-made Supacat – named the Nary in Australia in honour of Warrant Officer David Nary, who died during a Middle East pre-deployment operation in 2005.

Eight Nary trial vehicles are onschedule for a handover to theSASR in November, Defence Materiel Organisation sources confirmed yesterday.

Special forces have been allocated 31 new Nary patrol vehicles, which will replace the SASR’s fleet of ageing Long Range Patrol Vehicles.

While procurement of the light vehicles has proceeded smoothly, the same cannot be said for army’s medium and heavy truck fleet – the backbone of its frontline operational logistics.

Worth about $1.6 billion, the tender to replace the army’s ageing fleet of trucks and trailers is running more than 12 months behind schedule and has cost taxpayers $30 million. The tender has been refreshed and is now expected to start deliveries of 2500 up-armoured trucks in 2013. The army called for additional armour protection in response to the deadly toll from roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Concerns about whether preferred tenderer BAE Systems could meet the new armouring requirement resulted in the Rudd Government ordering the entire truck contract to be refreshed.

The Australian understands BAE will now compete against four bidders, Daimler-Benz, MAN, Mack and Thales.

G-Wagon numbers have been cut to incorporate 190 additional Bushmasters that will fill the original requirement for a light armoured people-mover.

DMO’s program manager for land systems, Brigadier David O’Brien, defended the decision to go back to tender, saying no risk was worth taking when it came to protecting the lives of soldiers.

“Industry knows if the risks go up, we (DMO) will do it again,” he told The Australian.

“So, I would suggest industry learn from this as we (DMO and contractors) don’t want to go down this road again.”

With deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor and Solomon Islands, the pressure is on to get the contract back on track as quickly as possible.

Many of the army’s heavy and medium trucks – its Unimogs and Macks – are approaching 30 years of service, while some trailers pre-date the Vietnam War. It is expected that some of the decommissioned four-wheel-drive vehicles will be disposed of as army surplus.

But military motoring enthusiasts should not expect to see any G-Wagons coming on to the used market any time soon.

German KSK special forces G-Wagon variant

German KSK special forces G-Wagon variant

Australian designed and built Bushmaster in Iraq

Australian designed and built Bushmaster in Iraq

Supacat SF vehicle (called "Nary" in Australian service)

Supacat SF vehicle ("Nary")

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