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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2206

Senator JONES —My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. I refer the minister to Project Bushranger—the projected equipping of selected Australian army infantry battalions with infantry mobile vehicles. I ask the minister what stage this project has reached and, if carried through, what extra mobility does he envisage it will give to our infantry battalions?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Project Bushranger proposes to increase the mobility of army brigades by equipping the battalion of 6th Brigade, the ready reserve brigade in Brisbane, and some selected general reserve battalions, with up to 800 infantry mobility vehicles. As a first step, the battalion of 6th Brigade will be equipped with some 300 general service vehicles of the types already in service with the Australian Army.

  This is phase one of the project. Phase one was approved in the context of the 1993-94 budget, and production of the vehicles is planned to commence in 1995. Approval will be sought in the 1994-95 budget for the next phase of the project. An invitation to register interest will be released to industry for production of approximately 500 protected—that is, lightly armoured—vehicles later this decade. It is proposed that the vehicles will have a high level of commercial commonality.

  Tenders for trial vehicles will be let in 1995-96. There will be a heavy emphasis on Australian industry involvement. Ultimately, this project will provide protected mobility to four infantry battalions—that is, 16 rifle companies—and unprotected mobility to a further nine rifle companies, which is a total of 25 infantry rifle companies overall. At present these units have no inherent land mobility.

  Widely dispersed operations of the types envisaged for the ADF mean that a large area of northern Australia would have to be covered by a small number of troops. The 1993 strategic review emphasised the importance of having highly mobile and capable forces which can deal with hostilities quickly, on our own terms.