“The German government has now shared its intention with the Australian government to buy Australian-made Boxer CRVs for the German army,” German ambassador to Australia Markus Ederer told The Australian Financial Review in an exclusive interview.
“With the increased needs which we’ve seen because of Ukraine, many countries have to replenish their stocks of almost everything from vehicles to ammunition to air defence, so it’s only natural the Boxer vehicle is also in demand.”
“The German parliament has adopted a special fund of €100 billion and procurement decisions are now flowing from that.”
The eight-wheeled, heavily armoured Boxer is fitted with a 30mm cannon and can operate in a variety of war zones, such as amphibious operations and in heavily urbanised environments, as well as peacekeeping missions. It can carry up to seven soldiers.
The vehicles bound for Germany would largely share the same specifications as the Australian ones.
As part of its winning bid in 2018 for the Australian Defence Force contract, Rheinmetall established a factory and testing ground at Redbank near Ipswich in south-east Queensland, dubbed the Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence, or MILVEHCOE.
The company is about to start production on the second tranche of vehicles to be delivered to the Australian army, which will be the first built locally. The production run is due to finish in 2026.
The initial 25 vehicles were made in Germany before being shipped to Queensland for final integration and testing as part of a process of transferring manufacturing processes and skills to Australia.
Rheinmetall is ramping up to employ 1000 people at its Queensland factory to produce the vehicles for the Australian army. It would need to significantly increase its workforce should the German contract come through, while component suppliers will also need to expand, creating thousands of extra jobs.
While a German company building a German design for its home military may seem straightforward, Australian government permission is required for exports and the urgency of the sale.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said the relationship between Australia and Germany was growing significantly, including through defence industry.
“We are very excited about the prospect of Rheinmetall building Boxers for the German army in Brisbane – a prospect that we seek to advance with Rheinmetall and with the German government,” he said.
“Companies like Rheinmetall are participating significantly in helping Australia build our defence capabilities.”
Queensland State Development Minister Steven Miles said the Palaszczuk government had worked hard to attract Rheinmetall to the Sunshine State.
“Having Australia’s most advanced military manufacturing facility call Queensland home means big deals and more jobs,” he said.
“Being able to export home-grown state-of-the-art combat vehicles would continue to boost Queensland’s economy and defence manufacturing capabilities.”
The German export deal is not contingent on Rheinmetall winning the Australian army’s tender for the infantry fighting vehicle, known as Land 400 Phase 3.
Rheinmetall is locked in a competition with South Korean manufacturer Hanwha for the contract to build the armoured personnel carrier. A decision on that project has been delayed until the government has considered the findings of the Defence Strategic Review.
While the infantry fighting vehicle contract was originally for 450 vehicles and worth up to $27 billion, there is speculation that the order may be slashed to about 300 vehicles, with the strategic review expected to recommend reduced spending on armoured vehicles suited to a land war in favour of long-range strike capability and an enlarged navy for maritime operations.
While there is chatter Hanwha’s Redback vehicle has outperformed expectations, Rheinmetall’s Lynx would share a common turret with the Boxer, enhancing interoperability between the two vehicles.
Dr Ederer said the Boxer project, as well as Rheinmetall’s infantry fighting vehicle bid, showed “how integrated our defence industries have become”.
In an indication of deepening defence co-operation, Dr Ederer said all three branches of the German military would participate in the Australian Defence Force’s flagship war games, Exercise Talisman Sabre, later this year, with a company of paratroopers, an airlifter and naval amphibious forces deployed.
This followed a visit by a German frigate in 2021 – the first such Australian port call since 1988 – and Luftwaffe Eurofighters taking part for the first time in the RAAF’s multinational Exercise Pitch Black last year.
“It just shows that we continue to expand our participation in exercises with Australia,” he said.