Netherlands army to upgrade its Thales Bushmaster armored vehicles


Henk Kamp, Dutch Minister of Defense, issued a document on December 14, 2021, announcing his project for the Mid-Life Updating (MLU) of the Thales Bushmaster armored vehicles currently operated by the army of The Netherlands.
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Thales Bushmaster of the Dutch army (Picture source: Army Recognition)


The Netherlands currently has got 102 Bushmaster armored vehicles in service at the Land Forces Command. These vehicles were purchased in 2006 with an expected life of approximately 30 years. To keep these Bushmaster's operationality in the complex security environment, a Midlife Update (MLU) is required. With this, the Defense will keep the Bushmasters operationally relevant, future-proof and technically deployable up to the middle of the thirties. This also contributes to the control of maintenance costs. The project is part of the investment program of the Defense Memorandum 2018 (Parliamentary Paper 34 919, no. 1 of 26 March 2018).

Background

In 2006, the Dutch Defense purchased Thales Bushmasters for the Task Force Uruzgan deployed in Afghanistan in the framework of ISAF (Parliamentary Paper 27 925, no. 221 of 21 July 2006). These Bushmasters have since been intensively used in Afghanistan and Mali. After the ISAF mission, the Bushmasters are assigned to the Army Command, including support units within the 13th Brigade (Kamerstuk 27830 No. 162 of October 26, 2015).

The Bushmaster wheeled armored vehicle is assigned to units in a (combat) supporting role and has a versatile usage profile: it is used in various variants for, among other things, command and control, logistics, and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). In addition, 15 Bushmasters are stored in a central pool, making them quickly available for deployment in missions.

Midlife update

The Defense has a package of measures drawn up for the necessary technical and operational improvements. The work covers a wide spectrum of measures to improve protection, firepower, mobility, perception, command, maintenance and the workout. The project includes modifications that will apply to virtually the entire Bushmaster fleet as well as specific modifications to some variants.

For the fleet-wide adjustments, the midlife update means that the onboard weapon stations will be brought up to modern standards, so increasing the self-protection capability. The upgrading of the armoring will also improve the personnel’s protection. To increase situational awareness, the Bushmasters are being prepared for better communication systems, and command and control systems. In addition, the payload will be increased and road safety will be improved by installing a new rear camera.

The explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) variant will be provided with adjustments that will allow them to perform their work more efficiently and safely.

Finally, variants of the Bushmaster will be equipped with a secondary energy source. This will reduce the use of the vehicle engine for static tasks, and also lower the heat and noise emission. In addition, this will limit fuel consumption and reduce CO2 emissions.

Acquisition

The modifications mainly concern the integration of existing components. Modifications to this MLU can only be implemented by the original manufacturer because it alone has the intellectual property to do it.

The shortcomings of the current Bushmasters and the solutions for them are well known to the manufacturer and available off the shelf. The project risks are therefore limited. The intention is therefore to tender the MLU single source at the original manufacturer of the Bushmaster: Thales.

Implementing the MLU on the vehicles will imply the participation of the Dutch industry. It is expected that part of the built-in and integration activities can be taken in charge by the Dutch defense industry. Hence, parallel to the procurement process, the Ministry of Economic Affairs is examining the possibilities of industrial participation, as The Netherlands is part of the Bushmaster user group. Within this user group, the countries exchange information about modifications as well as experience data about maintenance and use.

In the implementation of this project, there is a relationship with a number of ongoing equipment projects:
* Project Improved Operational Soldier System (VOSS)
* Program FOXTROT
* Project Replacement ESM Capacities KL EOV System
* Project C-RAM and Class 1 UAV Detection Capability
* Project Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED)

Financial aspects

The project budget ranges between €25 million and €100 million (price level 2021). This investment is charged to the investment budget of the Defense ministry. The operating costs will increase to a limited extent; these costs will be part of the project’s budget.

Looking ahead

The project will be carried out in the period 2021 to 2027. The first modified Bushmasters are expected to be operational in early 2024 taken. Given the financial size of this project of less than EUR 100 million, the Dutch Minister of Defense intends to mandate the Defense Materiel Organization to complete the project feed. The Parliament will be informed about the progress of this project through the Defense Project Overview (DPO).


 

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