Minister for Defence and Minister for Defence Materiel – Boost to Force Protection in Afghanistan

Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today announced further measures to better protect troops in Afghanistan against improvised explosive devices (IEDs). 

The Government has approved under Project NINGAUI the purchase of four route clearance systems to more safely clear roads of IEDs before troops travel on them. 

As well, Bushmaster vehicles will be upgraded to give troops an even higher level of protection against IED explosions in Afghanistan. 

Project NINGAUI (Joint Project 154) 

The route clearance systems will be used by Australian Army engineers to detect and clear explosive hazards, creating a safer pathway for troops as they patrol Uruzgan province in Afghanistan. 

The four systems will cost about $70 million. Each system includes: 

  • Two HUSKY Mark 3 protected route clearance vehicles with ground penetrating radars (GPR) to detect explosive hazards;
  • One HUSKY Mark 3 protected route clearance vehicle with interrogator arm to confirm that an explosive hazard has been found from a safer distance;
  • Two protected High Mobility Engineer Excavators (HMEEs) to repair damaged routes and create bypass routes; and
  • Two Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles fitted with SPARK mine rollers to provide a greater level of protection against explosive hazards. 

The HUSKY mounted ground penetrating radars provide the ability to detect explosive hazard threats from within an armoured vehicle.  

It will protect our troops by allowing them to detect IEDs that other detection equipment might not be able to find, especially devices with low or no metal content.  

The interrogation arm is a safer way of confirming that an IED has been found. It allows our troops to make this confirmation remotely from a safe distance. 

In September, Mr Smith and Mr Clare announced that the Government would loan two similar systems from Canada. 

The Canadian vehicles will be on loan for around 12 months effective from early 2012. 

The Government will purchase the new systems to provide Australian troops with a permanent route clearance system after the loan of the Canadian systems. 

Three systems will be deployed to Afghanistan with one remaining in Australia for training.

The Husky vehicles will be purchased from the United States Government under their Foreign Military Sales system with the other elements of the system to be sourced commercially. 

Upgrades to Bushmaster vehicles 

The Government has also approved the upgrade of around 200 Bushmaster vehicles. 

The Bushmasters to be upgraded include those currently operating in Afghanistan and the additional 101 Bushmasters announced for production in May this year. 

As part of that announcement in May, the Government said that Defence would evaluate a range of enhancements to the Bushmaster vehicle to increase the level of protection it provides to ADF personnel. 

A series of tests and blast trials on the enhancements have since been successfully conducted and as a result the Government has now approved the upgrades to proceed. 

The upgrades will further increase protection of the Bushmaster vehicle against IEDs.  

The upgrades include energy absorbing seats and stronger welding to further reduce the probability of lower limb and spinal injury occurring from an explosion. 

The vehicle upgrades will occur throughout 2012 and are likely to be undertaken in both in the Middle East Area of Operations and at Thales’ Bendigo factory. 

Media Note:

Imagery re Project Ningaui is available at:

Media Contact:

Mr Smith’s Office: Ellen Shields (02) 6277 7800 or 0400 347 473

Mr Clare’s Office: Korena Flanagan (02) 6277 7620 or 0418 251 316

Department: (02) 6127 1999

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