Armoured vehicle evaluation a minefield
‘Both vehicles could move themselves (after) maintenance actions’ MAJ GEN DAVID COGHLAN LAND SYSTEMS DIVISION HEAD
Allegations of selective media leaks, unfair testing and complaints from a high-level defence company executive have marred the selection process for the $4 billion-plus contract to supply Australian soldiers with armoured fighting vehicles.
International defence companies BAE Systems and Patria joined together to compete with contractor Rheinmetall Defence to supply the replacement for Australia’s ageing fleet of Australian light armoured vehicles (ASLAV), which have seen extensive service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Last month, as part of the evaluation regime, Rheinmetall’s Boxer and the joint BAE SystemsPatria AMV35 were exposed to blasting to calculate the vehicles’ ability to withstand threats such as landmines and improvised explosive devices.
Following the evaluation, claims emerged that the Boxer was able to be driven off a blast site after the tests while the AMV35 had to be towed away.
An industry source said the incident led to complaints that the Boxer was able to be driven away because it had not been drained of all fluids such as fuel — a standard requirement to prevent contami- nation of the site. While the AMV35, however, was unable to be driven off the pad because, as per normal, it had all fluids such as fuel drained and could not be started. The scenario of the Boxer being able to be driven away from the site appeared to have leaked to a media outlet, implying superior performance.
This situation then led to a BAE Systems executive making a complaint to Defence about the testing conditions and the leak.
Defence last week declined to comment in detail about the tests, citing commercial-in-confidence, but did say that “any concerns raised through the process have been investigated as appropriate, with suitable action taken to remove any possible perception of bias and ensure probity of the tender process”.
Last month, in a highly unusual move that appeared to confirm concerns had been raised about the testing and the media coverage, Defence issued an extraordinary online statement quoting Land Systems Division head Major General David Coghlan as saying that not all coverage of the blast-testing results had “been as accurate as possible and some commentary requires clarification”.
He stated that during the test and evaluation activities both vehicles had been subjected to simulated mine-blast tests that were designed to “test the survival of the people, not the vehicle”.
“The commonwealth considers that both vehicles could move themselves once they conducted necessary maintenance actions from the test site to a nearby low loader for transport to repair and assessment workshops,’’ General Coghlan said in the August 26 statement.
BAE Systems and Rheinmetall declined to comment.
The contract is part of Defence’s Land 400 project that involves supplying the military with 225 vehicles to replace the existing ASLAVs by the next decade. The winning tender is be announced next year.