In April, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds announced an SICP grant made out to Frontline Manufacturing for a brake press – which is being commissioned at an overall cost of $1.42 million. On Tuesday, the company released a timeline for assembly.
Brisbane-based Frontline Manufacturing received $700,000 of Commonwealth funding towards the brake press, for the purposes of manufacturing metal plates to be used on armoured fighting vehicles. The grant was made out earlier this year as part of the Land Combat Vehicle and Technology Upgrade Priority.
At the time, Defence said that the award contributed directly to "an integrated processing armour plate capability in Australia, supporting LAND 400 all the way from the manufacturing phases through to maintenance and future upgrades".
On Tuesday, the company provided an update on time frame for completion of the project, specifying that the press is currently being produced by Belgian metalworking specialists Deratech.
Once complete, it will make its way to Australia for subsequent installation at Frontline’s manufacturing plant in Meadowbrook, Queensland in November 2020.
Frontline said that the 1,500-tonne brake press "closes the loop" in the firm's in-house manufacturing capacity. While it already boasts a 14x3m plasma cutter with full milling and drilling capability, as well as high-end welding qualifications and equipment, the company said it "lacked the ability to bend the high-cost and complex armour plate required for sovereign manufacture of the CRVs and IFVs under LAND 400".
Matthew Ellis, Frontline founder and current special projects manager, said that “high tolerance bending has been a key part of Frontline’s internal capabilities for many years through our CNC controlled brake presses. However, the complexity in folding heavy armour plate, and the high cost of error, meant it was not viable for Frontline [to] offer a fabricated armour plate solution without this level of control”.
Ellis also thanked the Commonwealth for its support throughout the acquisition process.
"All of us at Frontline take this responsibility gravely and we will put everything into justifying Defence’s faith shown in us," he said.
The $5.2 billion LAND 400 Phase 2 program will have Rheinmetall deliver 211 8x8 Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles (CRV) to the Australian Army.
Under the company's offering to the Commonwealth, Rheinmetall will build a majority of the vehicles at the company's specialised Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) in Queensland.
The Army will accept 133 reconnaissance variants of the Boxer, which will be equipped with Rheinmetall’s cutting-edge Lance 30mm automatic cannon turret system, amounts a number of other variants.
LAND 400 Phase 3 is a $10-15 billion Army program which will recapitalise Army’s Vietnam-era M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) force, with a combination of a tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and tracked APC.