When the Australian Army needed a new light combat vehicle, it turned to STEYR Motors Australia to support and maintain the vehicle’s innovative diesel engine.

Nestled in a small industrial enclave surrounded by leafy parkland and neat Brisbane suburbs, STEYR Motors Australia is supplying and maintaining state-of-the-art engines for vehicles deployed in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones.

Hawkei light vehicle

As part of a new Australian Defence Force Program called LAND 121 Phase 4, the Australian Army has ordered more than 1100 new ‘Hawkei’ light vehicles to replace the unprotected combat Land Rover. The 7-tonne Hawkei is a four-wheel-drive, highly protected tactical vehicle built by prime defence contractor Thales in Australia in a contract worth $1.3 billion. The vehicle is driven by a STEYR turbo diesel engine which is designed, manufactured by parent company STEYR Motors in Austria. The engine will be supported and maintained at STEYR Motors Australia’s facility in Brisbane.

STEYR Motors Australia is a family-owned Australian company operated by Rob and Bern McIntyre. It is the exclusive and authorised distributer for STEYR Motors’ diesel engines in Australia and is largely focused on defence in Australia and the broader Asia Pacific region. ‘We’re a highly specialised business,’ explains Managing Director Rob McIntyre, ‘but this allows us to adapt to our customers’ requirements, and that’s why we’re in the Thales program.’

The business is just one of thousands of Queensland entities in the defence industry’s supply chain that are creating a multiplier effect and leading to increased jobs and growth in the state and beyond. Queensland’s heavy vehicle capability has been growing for the past three decades and the state is now Australia's largest manufacturer of heavy vehicles and boasts an impressive hub of expertise supporting billions of dollars of defence vehicle contracts.

The Queensland Government, through Defence Industries Queensland (DIQld), invited STEYR Motors Australia to participate in the government’s trade stands at Pacific 2015 and 2017 and Land Forces 2014 and 2016. ‘This was very helpful,’ explains McIntyre ‘as it allowed us to directly interact with the global defence primes in the maritime and land defence space.’ The Queensland Government also helped raise STEYR’s profile by showcasing its engine to more than 200 companies, including Thales, at a networking function at Parliament House in November 2015.

Steyr engine

The company’s strength lies in its ability to import – and then modify, maintain and service – diesel powered engines that can run on a wide range of fuels in marine and automotive environments. This adaption is particularly important in military or isolated settings where fuel sources may be unreliable.

The first tranche of vehicles will be produced in the latter half of 2017 and delivered in 2018. The STEYR Motors engine will provide the Hawkei with the impressive power and reliability needed for a military vehicle, and is designed to operate in extremes of temperature and carry up to five people while also towing a trailer.

Rob McIntyre explains that ‘STEYR’s small, light, powerful, state-of-the-art diesel engines are particularly suited for use when space and weight are the critical factors to power a vehicle or a vessel.’ This was a significant factor in its selection for the Hawkei, which is designed to be very light yet offer mine blast and ballistic protection similar to a Bushmaster armoured vehicle.

The STEYR engine has been specially adapted in Austria for the Hawkei program and is being marketed worldwide. Its engine and transmission are uniquely designed to create more internal volume for soldiers wearing bulky body armour and weapons.

STEYR Motors Australia works with prime defence contractor Thales to supply both the Army and the Navy, plus individual private sector clients. McIntyre says the contract to supply the Hawkei engines represents STEYR Motors Australia’s biggest contract in one order. With only eight employees, he anticipates hiring additional employees as the work ramps up to support the program. ‘We’re a boutique business. We don’t offer a wide range of products but they’re very specialised.’