The Bushmaster, designed and produced by Thales Australia, here equipped with mine rollers, is a lifesaver in Afghanistan for Aussie soldiers.
As the Australian commitment to Afghanistan increased, the Bushmaster 4×4 Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) was deployed with the Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) in 2005. The vehicle was soon co-opted by the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR, now 2 Commando) component of the re-titled Special Operations Task Group (SOTG), as it provides a greater level of safety against mines and IEDs due to its V-shaped hull. The Bushmaster mounts an MAG 58 GPMG on its turret ring and features mounts for up to two F89 machine-guns (an Australian variant of the Minimi/SAW) next to the rear roof-mounted troop hatches. A Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) is currently being deployed to replace the GPMG.
The Bushmaster can also carry nine fully equipped soldiers (increased to ten in later versions) or several litters for casualty evacuation, allowing greater flexibility than the SRVs that 4 RAR were generally operating in. As the Commando element of the SOTG became more focused on DA raids, whilst the SASR returned to conducting mostly SR tasks, the vehicle also better matched operational requirements by being able to move Commandos quickly and relatively stealthily up to target locations, whilst offering a counter to any IEDs encountered en route. The Bushmaster PMV became one of the first of the so-called Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to be deployed to Afghanistan and to be employed by SOF. The Bushmaster is considered a Class 1 MRAP under the US designation system, based on vehicle weight, size, and envisioned role.
The role of the Bushmaster is to provide protected mobility transport (or protected troop lift capability), with infantry dismounting from the vehicle before going into action. As the Bushmaster is only lightly armoured, the term Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV) was initially adopted to distinguish it from a heavier wheeled or tracked armoured personnel carrier, such as the ASLAV and M113 also in Australian service. The Bushmaster replaced a stop-gap unarmoured 6×6 vehicle of the Land Rover Perentie family called the Infantry Improvised Mobility Vehicle (IIMV). Later the Bushmaster’s designation was changed to Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV).
The Bushmaster is optimised for operations in northern Australia, and is capable of carrying up to 9 soldiers and their equipment, fuel and supplies for 3 days, depending on the type of variant. The vehicle is fitted with air conditioning and was once planned to have a cool water drinking system, but was omitted upon production due to cost constraints. After operational complaints the drinking water cooling system is being reconsidered for installation. It has a road cruise speed of 100 km/h and an operational range of 800 km.
The Bushmaster is a mine protected vehicle and provides a high degree of protection against land mines, using its v-hull monocoque to deflect the blast away from the vehicle and its occupants. The vehicle’s armour provides protection against small arms of up to 7.62 mm calibre. The fuel and hydraulic tanks of the vehicle are located outside the crew compartment, while it also has an automatic fire suppression system. The troop carrier variant of the Bushmaster is fitted with one-gun ring. The forward gun ring can be fitted with a 5.56 mm or 7.62 mm machine gun. The two rear hatches each have a mounting boss to allow the attachment of a swing mount capable of holding a 5.56 mm machine gun (such as the F89 Minimi).
The Bushmaster is air transportable by C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III and Mil Mi-26 aircraft. It is the first armoured vehicle to be designed and completely manufactured in Australia since the Sentinel tank during the Second World War.