Bushmaster written into folklore

Bushmasters are loaded onto the Kangaroo Island ferry at Cape Jervis in South Australia as part of Operation Bushfire Assist. Photo: Corporal Tristan Kennedy

Bushmaster written into folklore

In 2008, an improvised explosive device struck a Bushmaster in Afghanistan, throwing a soldier seven metres into the air, only to hit the bonnet on the way down and summersault onto the ground.

This story of survival was used by Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell to highlight the vehicle’s excellence as he launched The Bushmaster: from concept to combat in December.

The book, by Brendan Nicholson, begins with the Bushmaster’s approval in the late 1990s as a vehicle to chase bandits in Australia’s north.

A legacy of mines and guerrilla warfare in Africa shaped the Bushmaster’s construction at the Thales factory in Bendigo, while internal debate raged about what type vehicles were needed.

“Only two decades ago, some in the Army scoffed at the concept of an ‘infantry mobility vehicle’,” General Campbell said.

“Like any military, there’s a natural period of soul-searching whenever we’re confronted with a new challenge or asked to accept a new capability.

“Some may remember the first time you heard about the Bushmaster.

“I know as a young Army officer, my first reaction was an enthusiastic ‘what the hell is this, and who can we dump it on?’.”

Two Bushmaster prototypes deployed to East Timor in 1999 where locals called them “battle taxis”.

Deployment of 10 production Bushmasters to Iraq followed in 2015.

The book goes on to cover stories of Australian soldiers almost being killed in IED explosions in over the next decade.

Weighing 15 tonnes, accommodating a driver, crew commander and eight seated rear occupants, the Bushmaster comes in seven variants and features an air conditioning system and V-shaped hull.

“There’s only one number that matters above all others in the Bushmaster story … zero,” General Campbell said.

“Zero Australian soldiers have been killed in IED strikes against Bushmasters on operations.”

General Campbell thanked those who worked on the project dealing with things such as the wheels-versus-tracked debate, audits finding and fixing project management deficiencies, contract negotiations and adding a 10th seat.

Effects of the Bushmaster’s performance in Afghanistan were sent back to Defence scientists and Thales, allowing them to make changes to improve vehicle survivability.

Today, Australia has sold more than 100 Bushmasters to seven countries including Japan, the Netherlands, Jamaica and Fiji.

The ADF has procured more than 1000 Bushmasters which are expected to be in service into the 2030s.

The vehicle is also being fitted out for new roles, including a satellite communications-on-the-move headquarters and a mobile maintenance workshop.

Following the explosion under his Bushmaster in 2008, the Australian soldier got up and prepared to respond to a potential ambush.

He was Corporal Mark Donaldson.

Weeks after the explosion, his actions during another ambush led to him receiving the Victoria Cross.

“Undoubtedly, a Bushmaster saved his life and he went on to save the lives of others,” General Campbell said.

“It’s just one story of many that everyone involved in the Bushmaster project can be proud of.”


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