(Updates with statement from Australia-Korea Business Council and Global Data statement.)

The government’s 2019 election commitment to build 30 self-propelled howitzers, creating up to 350 jobs is progressing on schedule with the release of a Request for Tender in September 2020 for the Protected Mobile Fires project. The Request for Tender will be released to preferred supplier Hanwha Defence Australia, to build and maintain 30 self-propelled howitzers and 15 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles, and their supporting systems.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said it marks a key step in progressing the project. “Through this project, this government is delivering the capability Army needs while creating local jobs in and around Geelong that will grow our highly skilled workforce,” Reynolds said. “This comes at an important time as Victoria deals with its latest outbreak of COVID-19. The acquisition of this capability will provide the ADF with the mobility, lethality and protection required to support Joint Force operations in the land domain. The self-propelled howitzers will be built in the Geelong region, with ongoing deep maintenance conducted in the same Australian facility to support the systems throughout their service life.”

South Korean Soldiers in the 631st Field Artillery Battalion, 26th Mechanized Infantry Division Artillery, coordinate fires from a battery of six K9 Thunder 155 mm self-propelled howitzers. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

The Request for Tender will progress this first phase of the Protected Mobile Fires capability. Together with the subsequent phases announced in the 2020 Force Structure Plan, it will ensure a long-term future for industry’s involvement in the delivery of this critical capability for the ADF.

Hon Melissa Price MP
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the government is committed to maximising opportunities for Australian industry. “This project builds on our efforts to strengthen Australia’s Defence industry capability, and represents a program of continuous investment well into the next decade in the Geelong region,” Price said. “This project is expected to create up to 350 jobs to build and maintain the new vehicles. It will also provide significant opportunities in other areas such as transport and warehousing, as well as component manufacture and repair.

Senator for Victoria Sarah Henderson said opportunities in the local Geelong area extend through the supply chain. “These opportunities will include future mid-life upgrades, harnessing emerging technologies to enhance the protection, firepower and mobility of Australia’s protected mobile fires capability. “The announcement of this next important stage of the Howitzer Defence Project is wonderful news for the people of Geelong and our city’s manufacturing sector.”

South Korean Soldiers in the 631st Field Artillery Battalion, 26th Mechanized Infantry Division Artillery, coordinate fires from a battery of six K9 Thunder 155 mm self-propelled howitzers. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

LAND 8116 Phase 2, announced in the 2020 Force Structure Plan, is anticipated to commence in the late 2020s, delivering additional Protected Mobile Fires capability, and LAND 8116 Phase 3 is anticipated to commence in the mid-2030s, delivering a mid-life upgrade that will provide an opportunity to incorporate emerging technologies.

Senator David Van, Senator for Victoria.

Senator for Victoria David Van has congratulated Hanwha Defence Australia on being given the sole-source opportunity to respond to the Request for Tender for the LAND 8112 self-propelled artillery project. “The Morrison Government is investing in the best possible capability for our Australian Defence Force and it is great that Victoria will be playing a leading role in developing these high-tech military vehicles for Australia.” Van said. “This is a key step in progressing the Morrison Government’s 2019 election commitment to provide this critical capability for ADF as well as creating jobs in Victoria. A key component of the Hanwha response was their desire to create alliances with Australian industry and local businesses to develop a secondary supply chain and manufacturing base.”

Hanwha Defence Australia (HDA) issued a statement saying it was pleased to learn of the government’s announcement concerning the Protected Mobile Fires program. “This is a tremendous outcome for our company and we very much appreciate the Commonwealth placing their trust in Hanwha for this opportunity,” said Richard Cho, managing director of HDA.

Hanwha has already been engaged for a considerable period with Australian defence industry, especially in the Greater Geelong region, to ensure that Land 8116 creates an enduring and self-reliant industrial base by which the Commonwealth can sustain, develop and grow an indigenous capability for the self-propelled and joint fires capability in Australia. Steps have already been taken to begin the work required to build the facilities and industrial base necessary to deliver Land 8116.

For the Land 8116 program Hanwha has developed the Huntsman Family of Vehicles comprising the K9 Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH) and the K10 Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicle (AARV) to deliver a complete mission system. These will be designated as the AS9 SPH and the AS10 AARV respectively for the Australian market. The Huntsman SPH is a 50 tonne, 52 calibre, 155mm platform capable of taking advantage of current and emerging 155mm munitions technologies. It has a crew of four or five depending on the configuration with an ammunition capacity of up to 48 rounds and accompanying modular charge systems. The Kongsberg ODIN Fire Control System which sits within the broader Kongsberg Integrated Combat System allows passage of information to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) forming the core of the C4I system. The AS10 AARV is a largely robotised system built on the same chassis as the K9. It holds 104 rounds of 155mm ammunition and is used to provide ammunition resupply under armour and forward to the Artillery unit.

Business council approves decision

The Australia-Korea Business Council (AKBC) supports the Australian government’s decision to name Hanwha Defence as the preferred supplier to build and maintain 30 Self-Propelled Howitzers (SPHs) and supporting vehicles and systems under the LAND 8116 project. AKBC Chairman Simon Crean said the project is the first major Australian defence contract awarded to a South Korean company.

“With the government’s focus on building our sovereign defence industry capability, there are emerging opportunities to partner with South Korea to transfer experience, skills and technical design to Australia and build our domestic capabilities. Our defence industry partnership has great untapped potential and a long history stemming from our support in the Korean War 70 years ago,” Crean said. “Making the most of these opportunities is vital for both nations as we navigate and confront the shifting geopolitical circumstances in the region…Hanwha will build and assemble the SPHs in Geelong – generating 350 jobs at a time of recession – and plans to develop an advanced manufacturing hub and partner with SMEs and local institutions to build the skills of local workforce. This will provide a program of manufacturing to support the region for decades to come.”

GlobalData says Hanwha strengthens foothold in Australia

Mathew George, Ph.D., Aerospace & Defence analyst at GlobalData, said “Hanwha Defence’s announcement confirms a steady progress the company is making in growing its foothold in Australia. At the same time, it shows the commitment of the government of Australia to invest in and build the local defence industry. Given the economic hardships locally, Australia will look at means to ensure this project moves forward to secure jobs, build local talent and retain local expertise in to the future. Hanwha Defence is aware of the industry-wide trend to localise, and seems to suggest that it will follow this path in other markets. For Australia, it proposes to provide the foundations for local jobs and manufacturing of the K9 and K10 in Geelong, Australia. It even agreed with the estimate of this project providing for 350 jobs while suggesting that it would look to continue the model elsewhere. As both parties work towards a contract, it’s good news on both the fronts. It shows Hanwha as a serious player in the defence market with a growing stature. For Australia, it allows the government some potential good news as it deals with the first recession in 30 years.”


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