‘Free the Hawkei’s’ has become the ‘war-cry’ of a campaign, by the Ukrainian Australian community and its allies, to increase military support by the Australian Government for Ukraine as it prepares for its pending offensive.

 Australia has, to date, provided some $500 million in military support which includes 90 Bushmaster armored personnel carriers as well as training in the UK for Ukrainian troops. However, the Australian Government has not made any new substantive pledges of military aid to Ukraine, since approximately October 2022. Australia is a non-NATO participant in the Ramstein format for allied coordination of Ukrainian military support.

 The focus of the community’s campaign has been the Hawkei, an Australian-built, next-generation, light-armored vehicle that is operationally similar to the American High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HUMVEE).

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 The Hawkei is a “bit of a Swiss Army Knife”, according to retired Australian military officer and national security expert Ian Langford who spoke to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The vehicle was designed to undertake a wide range of missions, including troop movement, command and control, electronic warfare, liaison, surveillance and reconnaissance.

 Ukraine's ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, has requested the Hawkei vehicles as “they would help save soldiers' lives while providing a testing ground for the new vehicles.”

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The Hawkei, which carries up to five personnel, only recently went into service in Australia with the government spending $1.3 billion on 1,100 vehicles and more than 1,000 associated trailers.

The Hawkei is named after a deadly snake found in northern parts of Australia and is also an allusion to the highly-esteemed, former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.

 Australia currently has an apparent surplus of the vehicles, including those being stored at a manufacturing facility (pictured below) some two hours north of Melbourne.

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“As Ukraine gets ready to launch its spring offensive, any extra military assistance from the Australian Government would be greatly appreciated,” said Ms Kateryna Argyrou, Co-Chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations (AFUO), the main community body responsible for organizing the campaign.

“We know the Ukrainian Government thinks the Hawkei would be a ‘perfect match’. We are grateful that Australia is a strong, generous supporter of Ukraine. We urge the Australian Government to ‘free the Hawkei’, so we can secure victory together,” Ms Argyrou, who is a successful businesswoman born in Kyiv, added.

Kyiv Post can confirm that the Ukrainian Government has prioritised Hawkei’s and other equipment in its representations to the Australian Government.

 The request for Hawkei’s builds on previously provided Bushmasters that are highly valued by the Armed Forces of Ukraine; Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense recently released an advocacy video featuring the Bushmaster and a soundtrack from legendary Australian rock bank, AC/DC.

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 The video said that “since our friends down under gave us bushmasters last year our soldiers can't stop yabbering about how great these rigs are for beating back Russians.. but now we have a new crush [on Hawkei’s].”

The integrated ‘Free the Hawkei’s’ campaign featured:

·      public demonstrations with hundreds in attendance in all of Australia’s major capital cities and in Bendigo where the Hawkei’s are built under contract by Thales Australia for the Australian Army;

·      a professional-level social media push with Hawkei’s illustrated with distinctive ‘snake’ graphics;

·      organised advocacy to Australian elected officials at the constituency and national levels, and;

·      Australian media coverage.

 The campaign builds on on-going efforts by the Ukrainian Australian community and its Australian allies. That includes the work of one group of Sydney-based Ukrainian activists, led by Anton Bogdanovich, a IT academic. It has held public demonstrations nearly every week since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Their efforts have included targeting Australian companies that continued to trade in Russia, such as globally-successful software developer Atlassian, and the Australian branch of Amnesty International, which issued an erroneous and unsubstantiated report about the Ukrainian military’s practices.

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