StrikeMaster: a Bushmaster variant with a big bite

As Australia’s defensive focus switches to development of mobile missile systems to discourage any potential attacker, the highly successful Australian-designed and -built Bushmaster armoured troop carrier may be born again with a powerful set of new teeth.

A concept is being put together for a Bushmaster variant carrying a launcher for a pair of anti-ship missiles with a range of over 250 kilometres. The missile can also be used effectively to attack targets on land.

If the concept is accepted by the Australian Defence Force, the StrikeMaster will be built on the existing ‘ute’ design using the latest Bushmaster technology, with front doors as in variants sold recently to the Netherlands and tougher axles as in those sold to New Zealand.

The vehicle would be provided by its manufacturer, Thales Australia, and the naval strike missile launcher from Kongsberg Defence Australia for the Australian Army’s deployable land-based anti-ship system (Project Land 4100, Phase 2).

The missile is already in operational use in Malaysia, Norway, Poland and the US Navy and US Marine Corps, and is being delivered to Germany, Romania and Canada.

The system is versatile, with the US Marine Corps using a twin launcher on an unmanned joint light tactical vehicle and Poland using four missiles in a ‘quad pack’ carried on a large truck.

The missile can fly over land and sea at a low level, making it highly effective in both the littoral and blue-water environments.

It is designated as ‘totally passive’ in that it uses an advanced imaging infrared seeker to search for, detect and automatically recognise enemy vessels down to specific ship classes.

The missile is also in contention for fitting to the Royal Australian Navy’s major surface combatants under Project Sea 1300 and is suitable for its offshore patrol vessels. A helicopter version could also be carried on the navy’s MH-60R Seahawks.

The launcher can operate independently if needed or as part of a broader strike missile coastal defence system with integrated fire control and sensors.

The StrikeMaster could be transported on the Royal Australian Air Force’s transport aircraft and on small landing craft, making it highly deployable. That is a core requirement for the US Marine Corps’ operational concept of ‘island hopping’ launchers as part of its anti-access/area-denial activities.

The launcher and vehicle would be made in Australia—the Bushmaster by Thales Australia and its local supply chain, and the launcher by Kongsberg Defence Australia and its local supply chain.

The companies say the launcher system could be operational in two to three years.