BlueScope looks to take part in international defence contracts

The Boxer combat vehicle in BlueScope's plate mill. The Port Kembla company is working with maker Rheinmetall to provide steel for the vehicle. Picture: Glen Humphries
The Boxer combat vehicle in BlueScope's plate mill. The Port Kembla company is working with maker Rheinmetall to provide steel for the vehicle. Picture: Glen Humphries

It weighs 35 tonnes, can reach speeds of 100km/h – and BlueScope could be involved in building it.

Rheinmetall is the largest supplier of military vehicles to the Australian Defence Force.

It is putting forward its Boxer armoured reconnaissance vehicle in a bid to win a federal government defence contract.

The company has joined forces with BlueScope and Unanderra steel processing company Bisalloy to help it develop the steel required for the project.

“At the moment Rheinmetall only has two suppliers of the high-quality high-hardness armoured steel we need for our products,” said Rheinmetall’s strategy director Tim Pickford.

“What we want to do is get BlueScope and Bisalloy qualified to produce that.”

Mr Pickford said once the Illawarra companies processes were at the level required it would open up new markets.

“Not only will Rheinmetall pull them into their global supply chain but you’re going to have European companies delivering into the European market going ‘hang on, there’s a bunch down in Australia who can produce what we want, let’s give them an opportunity’,” he said.

Rheinmetall was drawn to BlueScope because of its ability to survive in the tough global steel industry.

“We’re very impressed with BlueScope in that they’re a company that managed to survive in a global market which is just dominated by extraordinarily large-sized pours coming out of China and other places in the world.” he said.

“BlueScope has managed to compete at those levels.”

BlueScope’s national manager for manufacturing and marketing Troy Gent said the deal with Rheinmetall gave them a chance to show they were “globally capable of supplying into what is a very niche market”.

He said the amount of steel required to build the Boxers is “not a huge amount” in terms of tonnage.

But the order would represent a foot in the door for the Port Kembla steelmaker.

“It’s roughly 2- 2500 tonnes of steel for this project,” Mr Gent said.

“What it is is the beginning of further manufacturing. So Rheinmetall have a plan to manufacture long-term for export, so more tonnes would come.

“What it does in creating products like this is it pushes our capabilities, it tests us and keeps us innovative.”

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