Hanwha Defence Australia has asserted its credentials for the resurrected LAND 8112 Protected Mobile Fires project, saying it stands ready to prime on the project itself instead of teaming with another more established local entity.
On May 14 the Morrison government announced its intention to order 30 self-propelled howitzers (SPH) for Army and that they would be built in Greater Geelong, a region which is split by the marginal federal seat of Corangamite which is currently held by the Liberal Party’s Sarah Henderson, and the seat of Corio which is held by Labor’s Shadow Defence Minister, Richard Marles.
In the wake of the government’s announcement, Raytheon Australia – which had teamed with Korea’s Samsung Techwin to offer the K9 for the previous LAND 17 Phase 2 project which was cancelled in 2012 – quickly released a statement welcoming the announcement. In the statement, Raytheon said it will “respond to the requirement” and that it “would refresh our offer and seek the involvement of capable Australian small businesses as part of our team.”
The 2012 LAND 17 Phase 2 cancellation was a victim of then Labor Government budget cuts, even after the K9 (then designated AS-9) had reportedly been down-selected ahead of the KMW/Rheinmetall PzH 2000, and when contract negotiations were already underway. The cancellation disappointed the Koreans greatly and reportedly resulted in a strained relationship with Raytheon. Samsung subsequently sold its military vehicle business including the K9 to Hanwha.
Despite Raytheon’s statement and the Government saying it wanted an Australian prime to lead the project to build the 30 SPHs in the Geelong region, Hanwha has apparently drawn a line in the sand. On May 15 the company announced it intended to develop its own manufacturing presence in Australia not only for its K9 SPH for LAND 8112, but also for other projects such as LAND 400 Phase 3 for which it has pitched its Redback IFV and which is currently in the critical tender assessment phase.
“As the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the K9 Thunder Hanwha is ready to build and assemble 30 K9 Thunder SPHs and supporting systems in Australia,” the company said in a statement. “Hanwha Defence Australia looks forward to the responsibility of being the Australian prime contractor and OEM for the Protected Mobile Fires program and other major combat vehicle programs to support the Australian Army.
“Hanwha Defence Australia is excited at the prospect of developing a significant advanced manufacturing hub and centre of excellence to build and sustain tracked armoured vehicles in the greater Geelong region of Victoria, thus contributing to Australia’s defence self-reliance, manufacturing capacity and industrial skills base,” the statement adds.
The company has stressed the commonality of key dynamic components of the K9 and the Redback, which it says includes “the powerful MTU 1000 hp engine, transmission and suspension system,” and which should provide “significant cross platform synergies and logistics efficiencies.”
It says it has been engaging with the Commonwealth since “late 2018 for the provision of 30 K9 Thunder SPHs and 15 K10 ammunition supply vehicles,” which it says was “the catalyst for this Government announcement and will be the basis moving forward directly with the Commonwealth as an Australian prime.”
The company also released a graphic showing the configuration of its proposed manufacturing facility, and on LinkedIn, published a graphic outlining the potential export sales from Australia for the Redback and its other vehicles including the K9.