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Top 5 for 2019: Defence Connect’s best Land domain stories

2019 was a big year for Defence and defence industry, with major projects kicking off across the three branches. In this top five, we will cover the most popular Land domain stories of the year.

2019 was a big year for Defence and defence industry, with major projects kicking off across the three branches. In this top five, we will cover the most popular Land domain stories of the year.

With much of the attention on both the Navy and Air Force due to the arrival of a growing number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Royal Australian Air Force, progress on the SEA 1000 Attack Class submarines and SEA 5000 Hunter Class frigates – Army has operated largely under the radar, despite major modernisation updates. 

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2019 has seen a resurgence of focus on Army's increasing number of modernisation and capability enhancements – with progress made on the $5.2 billion LAND 400 Phase 2 and the $10-15 billion LAND 400 Phase 3 programs.

The Army has also seen progress made on the LAND 19 Short Range Ground Base Air Defence and LAND 4503 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter replacement programs, and the federal government used the May 2019 election to announce the LAND 8116 Protected Mobile Fires self-propelled artillery gun program to support the development of the Army.

1. LAND 400 Phase 3 down select contenders announced 

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Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price confirmed the two down-select contenders for the Australian Army’s multibillion-dollar LAND 400 Phase 3 program. 

The LAND 400 Phase 3 program will replace the M113 armoured personnel carriers (APC), providing the Army with an advanced, world-class infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) capability.

Both options will provide the Army with a range of capabilities:

  • Hanwha Defense Systems AS21 Redback: The AS21 will include the capability to integrate active protection systems into an evolved turret system. The Redback will be capable of hosting a crew of 11 (three crew, eight troops), a top road speed of 70km/h, cross country speed of 40km/h, an operational range of 500 kilometres, with an armament consisting of a 40mm autocannon and a single 7.62mm coaxial machine gun.  
  • Rheinmetall Lynx KF-41: The Lynx KF41 will include the capability to support a crew of 12 (three crew, up to nine troops), have a max road speed of 70km/h, a road range of more than 500 kilometres, with an armament consisting of the Lance 2.0 30-35mm autocannon, a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and a variety of additional close-in weapons systems.

LAND 400 Phase 3 is a $10 billion-$15 billion program, which will recapitalise the Army’s Vietnam-era M113 APC force, with a combination of a tracked IFV and tracked APC.

The Risk Mitigation Activity commenced in late 2019. Following its completion, Defence will undertake a final detailed evaluation of the shortlisted tenders.

A decision on the preferred tenderer to supply the Phase 3 capability will be presented to government for consideration in 2022.

2. Army contest to replace Tiger ARH heats up

The Australian Army’s pursuit for a new attack helicopter has gathered pace as both Boeing and Bell Helicopters have presented offers for the venerable Apache and AH-1Z Viper, respectively. 

The Australian Army is planning to replace the current fleet of EC665 Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters (ARH) from the mid-2020s as identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper: "The government will replace the 22 Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters with a new armed reconnaissance capability from the
mid-2020s."

The LAND 4503 capability may be based on up to 29 aircraft, including support equipment and aircraft for individual training – LAND 4503 is a key part of the Army's modernisation and recapitalisation programs for the Australian Army and is designed to contribute to the creation of the modernisation and development of a 'networked and hardened' Army. 

LAND 4503's program of delivery is broken down into three delivery stages beginning with projected IOC in 2026 and FOC in 2028, including: 

  1. Up to 24 aircraft would be based at one primary location and another five are intended at a training location. The aircraft fleet may also be co-located in one primary location, however this is yet to be determined.
  2. IOC for LAND 4503 is based on a squadron of up to 12 aircraft. This organisation would be capable of generating a deployable troop of four aircraft, continued force generation of four aircraft, and an initial build-up training element of four aircraft. IOC will be supported by trained personnel and support systems.
  3. FOC for LAND 4503 is based on a regiment of up to 24 aircraft. This organisation would be capable of generating multiple concurrent deployed forces of up to squadron size. FOC will also be supported by a mature training system of up to five aircraft, with trained personnel and support systems. 

3. Government announces local SPH build, Labor agrees 

The Coalition announced renewed plans to deliver a new, locally-built and sustained self-propelled howitzer (SPH) artillery system, with the opposition agreeing to both the government’s plan and Army’s timely "need" for the capability.

The project will also provide valuable investment in Australia’s local defence industry, creating hundreds of jobs in Geelong, with the long-term potential to expand the industry through exports to international partners.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, "We will acquire 30 self-propelled howitzers and their supporting systems, and we will build them and maintain them in Geelong, drawing on the large manufacturing skills base in the region."

The Geelong area is currently divided into two electorates – the federal seat of Corangamite, held by Liberal Sarah Henderson, and the neighbouring seat of Corio, held by the shadow defence minister Richard Marles.

This program will significantly improve the force protection capability of Army, giving the ability to rapidly engage land targets at long ranges with a high degree of precision, to neutralise threats before they can deliver lethal effects on friendly forces.

"By reviving this project – which was cancelled under Labor – we will deliver the Army the capability it needs. By building it in Australia, we will create up to 350 jobs as part of growing our defence industry across the nation," Prime Minister Morrison added.

Marles and shadow assistant minister for defence industry and support Dr Mike Kelly responded to the Coalition's announcement, highlighting the opposition's commitment to work with Army to "acquire 30 self propelling howitzers to make sure it gets the capability it needs, when it needs it".

This statement reveals the opposition's commitment to a similar acquisition program and timeline to that announced by the Coalition  the 'Smart Buyer' initiative  which will see the government proceed with the acquisition as a role source program.

4. Australian-first facility to support Army and industry development

Former defence minister Christopher Pyne confirmed a major milestone for the Army’s $2.5 billion inner tier air and missile defence system – confirming that the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS) has been selected for the Australian government’s Short Range Ground Based Air Defence program, known as LAND 19 Phase 7B.

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The NASAMS acquisition brings transformational change to the Army’s existing force protection capability, including a progression from man-portable GBAD capability to a fully networked and distributed system.

These advancements allow the Army to counter complex air threats beyond visual range and significantly increases protection coverage for Australian soldiers.

System integration and final assembly will take place in the new, $50 million Raytheon Australia Centre for Joint Integration, which will be built in the defence industry precinct of Mawson Lakes.

Raytheon Australia anticipated the creation of about 200 jobs over the next year during the construction of the building and an estimated 300 additional jobs in the coming years for those working on LAND 19 and other integrated air and missile defence projects, including the combat system upgrades to the Hobart Class destroyers.

Raytheon Australia and partner Kongsberg are building sovereign capability in this area, as evidenced by their national industry roadshow where the companies engaged with almost 200 local firms.

Additionally, Raytheon Australia has ambitions to export elements of the system from the new Adelaide facility.

5. Government takes delivery of next-generation Army ground combat vehicle

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price confirmed that the first of the fleet of new combat reconnaissance vehicles for the Australian Defence Force has been delivered at a ceremony at Enoggera Barracks in Brisbane.

The 211 new Boxer 8x8 CRVs will be delivered by Rheinmetall Defence Australia under the $5 billion LAND 400 Phase 2 Mounted Combat Reconnaissance Capability program.

Minister Reynolds said the new vehicles, with their high levels of protection, firepower and mobility, will provide a world-class capability to the Australian Army.

“These new vehicles are part of the government’s $200 billion investment in our defence capability to ensure the Australian Defence Force is equipped to succeed in our challenging strategic environment,” Minister Reynolds said

Over the 30-year life of the vehicles, Australian industry will secure $10.2 billion of the total investment in acquiring and maintaining the fleet.

Minister Price also announced an additional seven small businesses that have been contracted by Rheinmetall as suppliers for the first 25 Boxer vehicles.

"Our government’s investment decisions in defence capability are complemented by a comprehensive defence industry policy agenda to support a robust, resilient and internationally competitive defence industry, which will support jobs and investment across the country," Minister Price explained. 

The $5.2 billion LAND 400 Phase 2 program will have Rheinmetall deliver 211 8x8 Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles 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 in Queensland.

The first 25 vehicles will be built in Germany as part of the technology transfer process, with the remaining vehicles to be built in Australia. Boxer will replace the ageing ASLAV vehicles that have served with the Australian Army in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Top 5 for 2019: Defence Connect’s best Land domain stories
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