The Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle or Infantry Mobility Vehicle is an Australian-built wheeled armoured vehicle. The Bushmaster is based on a design by Irish company Timoney Technology Ltd under a licence agreement with Perry Engineering in Adelaide; that licence was sold, with permission granted by Timoney as required by the licence terms, to Thales Australia. Once the Bushmaster was selected by the Australian Army after trials in 1998 to meet the Bushranger project requirements, the range of variants was developed further by Thales Australia in Bendigo. Oshkosh Truck has a contract to provide support and would manufacture in the US if there was an American order. The Bushmaster is currently in service with the Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Netherlands Army and British Army.
The role of the Bushmaster is to provide armoured transport, with infantry dismounting from the vehicle before going into action. As the Bushmaster is only lightly armoured, the term Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV) distinguishes it from a heavier wheeled or tracked armoured personnel carrier, such as the ASLAV and M113 also in Australian service. The design replaced some troop carrier variants of the Land Rover Perentie.
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.
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 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 Bushmaster is air transportable by C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III and Mil Mi-26 aircraft.
A pre-production Bushmaster
Six Bushmaster variants are in production for the Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force. These variants are:
- Troop variant
- Command variant
- Assault Pioneer variant
- Mortar variant
- Direct Fire Weapons variant
- Ambulance variant
The Troop variant being used by the Royal Australian Air Force originally differed from the Army variant in that it was fitted with 10 seats for infantry and a third weapon mount. All Troop variants are now fitted with 10 seats.
Thales Australia has developed a civilian fire fighting variant of the Bushmaster called the FireKing and a military cargo carrying variant called the Armoured Combat Support Vehicle (ACSV). This variant is currently being evaluated for service with the Australian Army under LAND 121 (Project Overlander), which will see the replacement of up to 2,000 vehicles and trailers.
According to the Australian National Audit Office, unit price for Bushmasters in 2000 differed slightly between variants, ranging from A$562,878 for the troop carrier variant and A$589,182 for the ambulance variant.
Bushmaster in Australian service
In keeping with the vehicle's role and capabilities, the Australian Army designates Bushmaster equipped infantry units as being motorised, and not mechanised. Following the vehicle's troubled development, a total of 299 Bushmasters were ordered by the Wheeled Manoeuvre Systems Program Office of the Defence Materiel Organisation for the Australian Defence Force (reduced from the 370 which were originally ordered). Bushmaster deliveries began in 2005 (three years later than was originally scheduled) and were scheduled to be completed in July 2007. Deliveries of the troop carrier variant (152 vehicles) were completed on 7 June 2006. Deliveries of the command variant were completed by mid-2006 followed by the delivery of the other variants.
In December 2006 the Australian Minister for Defence announced that the Australian Bushmaster order has been increased and over 400 vehicles will be delivered. This figure was confirmed as 443 vehicles in a subsequent press release. In August 2007 an additional 250 were ordered for a total ADF delivery of 696 vehicles of all configurations. This was further increased in October 2008 to 737 vehicles for the Australian Defence Force. On 12 May 2011 the Australian government announced the purchase of an additional 101 Bushmasters, in order to replace vehicles damaged on operations and to provide additional vehicles for training and operational use. A further order for 214 vehicles was announced in July 2012.
The South Australian Forestry Corporation (ForestrySA) has ordered 15 FireKings. Deliveries of the FireKing to ForestrySA were completed in November 2005.