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Defence is buying trucks by the thousands

Defence is buying trucks by the thousands

The Australian Defence Force is deep into a multi-billion-dollar modernisation and contracting program underlying its role as one of the nation’s biggest users of trucks, in its case for both military use and road freight.

The ADF has about 3414 trucks across its medium, heavy and fuel fleets operated by the three services, according to the Defence Department, with new trucks being introduced and older Unimog, Mack and S-Liner vehicles being withdrawn in a multi-year rolling replacement program.

Ending in early 2020s, a total of 2707 vehicles and 3858 mission-specific, add-on modules (most from Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Australia including about 2500 vehicles), and 1753 trailers are being introduced at ADF units across Australia under the Land 121 Phase 3B purchasing program, said to be costing more than $3 billion.

Last year the additional purchase was confirmed of 1044 Rheinmetall medium and heavy trucks, 872 modules and 812 trailers, said to be costing more than $1bn, under an optional Phase 5B.

The Defence Department says in a statement for this report: “The total program cost is $4.6bn. This will see approximately 3751 trucks and 4730 modules delivered to Defence. Under the Land 121 Phase 3B program, 2707 vehicles and 3858 mission-specific modules are in the process of being delivered to Defence. Of these vehicles, 2536 will be delivered by Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Australia, and 1753 trailers by Haulmark Trailers Australia.

“In 2018 the government confirmed the purchase of a further 1044 medium and heavy trucks, 872 modules and 812 trailers under the Land 121 Phase 5B program. The majority of these vehicles and modules will also be supplied by Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Australia. The trailers will be supplied by Haulmark Trailers Australia. The vehicles will be air-conditioned and approximately 30 per cent of the trucks will have combat-protected cabins,” it says.

Defence also contracts logistics work to the Linfox group, in fleet management, warehousing and delivery contracts totalling about $1.06 billion between 2013 and 2021, extended last year after an initial five years.

Former defence department and foreign affairs department secretary and ASIO director-general Dennis Richardson joined the Linfox Logistics Australia board in 2017. Linfox Logistics’ government and defence team president is Doug Fryer, a former Victoria Police assistant commissioner in charge of road policing.

The team of more than 600 employees operates from within 16 military sites in Australia, Linfox says. “The maintenance of more than 500 army vehicles in a ‘battle-ready condition’ will see Linfox employees driving more than 250,000 kilometres each year,’’ it says. The company dispatches more than 6000 consignments of defence freight each week, ranging from small parts to aircraft engines.

Defence Minister Christopher Pyne, then defence industry minister, welcomed new trucks and trailers to the army’s 7th Brigade in Brisbane in 2017, with later deliveries for Adelaide, Townsville and Darwin.

“These trucks, trailers and modules will revolutionise Defence’s logistics capability for decades to come,’’ Pyne said.

“They provide a generational leap forward from the current fleet of Unimog, Mack and S-Liner trucks, offering significantly increased protection for our soldiers and an improved combination of payload and off-road mobility,” he said.

“The new trucks and interchangeable modules, used on the vehicles for a range of tasks including fuel and water transportation, are being supplied by Rheinmetall together with a range of local suppliers,” Pyne said in a statement.

Local manufacturing in renewing the fleet include GH Varley (Newcastle, NSW), Sea Box International and ECLIPS (Canberra), Holmwood Highgate and Penske Commercial Vehicles (Queensland) and Thales Australia and RPC Technologies (Sydney) and Hilton Manufacturing (Victoria), as well as Brisbane-based Haulmark Trailers Australia.

According to the minister last year, “these modern trucks will be used for a broad range of military contingencies, from resupplying combat operations to supporting the ADF’s assistance to Australian and regional communities after natural disasters such as floods, fires and cyclones”.

“This project marks the final government approval for the LAND 121 program, which is replacing the ADF’s legacy fleet of ageing vehicles and trailers, many of which are in excess of 30 years old and becoming increasingly costly and difficult to maintain.” Australian industry is said to be getting about $500 million in acquisition, aside from ongoing sustainment.


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