THE Dutch army has made a $15million order for another 13 Australian-built mine resistant Bushmaster patrol vehicles amid growing international interest in the rugged battlefield taxi.
Spain is also showing strong interest in the Bushmaster to fill a requirement for a high-mobility protected vehicle, according to Canberra-based defence sources.
The Australian understands that growing defence links between the two countries have resulted in a recent decision to appoint defence attaches in Madrid and Canberra.
The Dutch order brings to 73 the number of Bushmasters purchased by other nations, including 49 by The Netherlands, most of which are serving with combat units in Afghanistan.
Featuring a blast-resistant V-shaped hull, the 12-tonne off-roaders capable of carrying nine fully equipped soldiers are earning a good reputation on the frontlines in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of the 36 Bushmasters the Dutch have used, at least four have been destroyed or seriously damaged -- mostly the result of roadside bombs, the insurgent's weapon of choice. But no crew or passengers were killed as a result of the attacks.
Defence Procurement Secretary Greg Combet told The Australian yesterday he was confident of further export orders for the vehicles, which have an average cost of about $800,000.
"I have been promoting Australian defence industry capabilities during recent visits to the United Kingdom, Europe and the US," Mr Combet said.
"At least one other European country is known to have a requirement for vehicles of the Bushmaster type and presents a potential market opportunity."
In May, Britain's defence ministry ordered 24 Bushmasters, which are believed to be in operation in Iraq.
The Australian Defence Force is by far the biggest Bushmaster user, with more than 700 ordered and vehicles currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They can be fitted with a variety of weapons, including light machine guns, a 40mm grenade launcher or a remotely operated 12.7mm heavy machine gun.
Spanish interest in the Bushmaster comes after $11 billion in Australian defence orders for three yet-to-be-built air warfare destroyers and two amphibious assault ships, secured by Spain's state-owned Navantia.
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