Ukraine’s ‘New Crush’! Kyiv Pleads Australia For Hawkei Vehicles After Tasting Success With Bushmasters

As Ukraine gears for a potential spring offensive, the country is lobbying with the Anthony Albanese-led Australian government for its Hawkei light armored vehicle in a new social media campaign that is fast gathering steam.

The development comes a whole year after Australia announced in April 2022 that it was sending the Bushmaster Protected Military Vehicles to Kyiv. EurAsian Times had reported that Australia gifted 20 Bushmasters, including two ambulance variants, to Ukraine following repeated requests.

Ukraine has since received an estimated US$510 million in military assistance, including 90 Bushmaster-protected mobility vehicles, besides armored vehicles and ammunition. After significant battlefield performance demonstrated by the Bushmaster, Kyiv’s attention has now shifted to the Hawkei.

On April 11, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense’s official Twitter account posted a video with a caption that appealed for the Hawkei light armored vehicle. The one-minute video features a Hawkei in motion, dubbed the “perfect reconnaissance vehicle” and set to the tune of AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”

The caption accompanying the video read, “Our soldiers love Australian Bushmasters. But now they have a new crush: the Hawkei. These two would be a perfect match on the battlefield. We would truly appreciate their reunion in Ukraine.” The tweet also tagged Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

While the video was still doing rounds on social media, Ukraine posted another tweet calling for the Australian military vehicle. On April 13, the same official account tweeted just one word: “Hawkei.”

Although aimed at a completely different system, the campaign is reminiscent of previous Ukrainian social media appeals for Western tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles it has now secured.

However, this is not the first time Ukraine is pleading with Australia for the Hawkei military vehicles. In September, media reports suggested that Ukraine was lobbying Australia for a fleet of Hawkei vehicles to test them in a combat zone. However, Canberra refused to grant the request.

During a visit to Australia last month, the Ukrainian defense minister’s advisor, Yuriy Sak, pleaded with Australia to use Ukraine as a testing ground for the Hawkei vehicles, which had severe braking issues while being built. Ukraine has been used as a test bed for several Western weapon systems.

Sak reportedly said the vehicles would assist Ukraine in a planned counter-offensive in the future. There are speculations that Russia and Ukraine are preparing for a large-scale spring offensive in the coming weeks.

By giving Ukraine brand-new equipment rather than used items, Sak claimed Australia would make a significant statement to the world and inspire other countries to make similar commitments.

“This will signal the international community that the Ukrainian army will be supported with the best weaponry that the civilized world has at the moment,” he said.

What Is The Hawkei Military Vehicle Ukraine Wants?

The Hawkei is a light armored four-wheel-drive patrol vehicle designed and constructed at the Thales facility in Bendigo, Victoria. It recently entered Australia’s service after the government invested $1.3 billion to replace the Army’s old Land Rover fleet with 1,100 Hawkeis and 1,058 related trailers.

It was first developed as an armored support vehicle but later added light armored fighting vehicle elements. The Hawkei is named after the Barkly Death Adder, also known as Acanthophis Hawkei, a highly venomous snake living in the Barkly Tablelands near the Queensland-Northern Territory boundary.

Earlier, the former Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said, “The Hawkei is expected to reach Full Operational Capability in 2023 and is joining the existing Bushmaster and Protected Medium Heavy Capability trucks to create a suite of protected mobility vehicles. The new fleet of lighter vehicles…..will better protect ADF personnel from the blast and ballistic threats.”

File Image: Hawkei

Ian Langford, a retired military officer and national security expert, said it can carry up to five people, is very mobile, and weighs seven tons, making it light enough to be “slung on a CH-47 helicopter.”

Its ability to run command and control networks over long distances is one of its primary strengths. Additionally, it boasts a “protected mobility combat system” that offers striking power while protecting from blasts. In broader terms, the vehicle could be compared with the American Humvee.

However, Ian Langford told ABC News that the Hawkei focuses more on “survivability” than anything else. This is also the most decisive feature of this vehicle. “Firstly, they’re very good vehicles, [they] really save lives,” he told ABC News Breakfast. “They could help Ukraine fend off the enemy.”

Since Ukraine is calling for Hawkeis to complement the Bushmasters, understanding how the two differ is imperative. The only significant difference between the two is size. Hawkei can carry out the same tasks as Bushmasters, albeit less effectively.

An Australian Government-donated Bushmaster-protected mobility vehicle is loaded onto a cargo aircraft at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland. (Australian Department of Defence)

Bushmasters can sustain themselves for up to three days while carrying mortars and other heavy weaponry. “A Bushmaster is a protected mobility vehicle that can carry up to a section, which has up to nine people, including the driver and gunner,” Langford explained.

Hawkeis are considered an ideal companion to Bushmasters because they are a more compact tactical vehicle.