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Penguin Composites secures $8 million defence contract

A prototype of the Hawkei panels to be manufactured by Tasmanian-based Penguin Composites for Thales Australia. Image: Australian Government Department of Defence.

Tasmanian-based Penguin Composites has signed a contract with Thales Australia to build bonnets and various associated parts for the new Hawkei protected Army vehicles.

The Penguin Composites team with a prototype of the Hawkei panels

Left to right, Penguin CEO John van der Woude, Engineer Piers Findlay and Manager David Mercer with a prototype of the bonnet, guard and sidesteps for the Hawkei protected army vehicles for the Australian Defence Forces.

The three-year contract, worth over $8 million, represents the company’s first major defence-related contract.

Announcing the contract, the Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, said it would provide a significant boost to Tasmania’s share of the nation’s defence investment. 

“This contract will not only create new jobs in Tasmania, it will also involve the up-skilling of existing personnel to help deliver this work,” Minister Pyne said.

“The manufacture of prototype parts is already underway with production parts scheduled to be available from late December.”

“This is a textbook example of how Australian small-to-medium enterprises are building their capabilities and contributing to our sovereign defence industry capability.”

In October 2015 Thales Australia signed a $1.3 billion contract with Defence to supply 1100 Hawkei vehicles and more than 1000 trailers, and is now ramping up for low-rate production.

Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins said Penguin Composites was one of around 40 Australian SMEs in the Hawkei supply chain. “This is a very exciting project and a critical capability for the Australian Army, so to be able to include outstanding Australian SMEs like Penguin in our supply chain at the very high standards required under the contract is tremendous for the project and for the broader economy.”

Penguin’s CEO John van der Woude said the contract had buoyed the spirits of all involved in the company and everyone was stepping up to the challenge. “The Thales contract requires stringent compliance to quality control systems now embedded in our ISO:9001 processes to deliver consistently high quality fully fitted components to the specifications.

“It has also required us to fully utilise the capabilities of our ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.

“We are upskilling the team across the company and have recruited 12 additional staff to date with total staff expected to increase by 30% to 50.  

John Van Der Woude with the moulds undr production at Penguin Composites.

John Van Der Woude with the moulds undr production at Penguin Composites.

“Under the contract we will supply Thales with a total of 1100 sets of bonnet, guards and side-steps fully finished with matching camouflage paint ready to complete the Hawkei build,” says John. “After a successful prototype phase, production output will start at one set per day for a weekly shipment across Bass Strait to meet the production schedule. 

Matching the paint with the rest of the body is just one of the challenges being worked through for the prototype before production gets fully under way in December. “We provided quite a bit of detailed engineering input into the designs of the components to resolve some identified problems.” 

The FRP components will be produced using a closed moulding process at the Penguin facility on Tasmania’s north-west coast where they will be painted and fitted with headlights and other parts ready to be mounted on the blast and ballistic protected body on delivery.

More information / Contacts

Penguin Composites

Thales Australia

Thales Hawkei Platform

Date published: 4 December 2017