Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price have announced the request for tender to locally-build 30 self-propelled howitzers as part of the Protected Mobile Fires project.
The 'K9 Thunder' SPH will provide significant capability enhancement for the Australian Army. 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 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.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said it marks a key step in progressing the project that was a key election commitment.
"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. 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," Minister Reynolds explained.
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.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the Morrison 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," Minister Price said.
Hanwha Defence Australia will plan to establish an integrated, advanced manufacturing and sustainment facility similar to the facility already slated for production of the Redback IFV (should it be selected for LAND 400 Phase 3).
This builds on a proposal presented to the Australian Army in late-2018 for the provision of 30 K9 Thunder SPHs and 15 K10 ammunition resupply vehicles, which served as the catalyst for this government announcement and will be the basis moving forward directly with the Commonwealth as an Australian prime.
Expanding on this, Minister Price added, "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," Senator Henderson said.
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.
Richard Cho, Managing Director of Hanwha Defense Australia (HDA) welcomed the Government's announcement, stating, "This is a tremendous outcome for our company and we very much appreciate the Commonwealth placing their trust in Hanwha for this opportunity.
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.
Mr Cho added, "We are working towards ensuring that our Geelong facility will be viewed as an alternative sustainment and supply chain base for the global K9 family of vehicles.
"There is a great deal going on behind the scenes to support this somewhat new way of doing business. This is a different approach to just building and exporting, which given the increasing trend of localisation being demanded globally, is beginning to preclude this sort of approach."
With this Government announcement, work will commence immediately to implement our plan for the building of facilities and skilling of the local Geelong based work force.
In addition to the manufacture of the vehicles, the facility will provide a deep level maintenance and enduring sovereign capability with the integration and design facilities to support and grow the Australian Joint Fires Capability.
Key to this will be the growing of the Australia industrial base that can support and eventually develop associated future technologies. To this end HDA is already exploring partnerships with the Australian SME base as well as Deakin University, Gordon TAFE and other local research and training organisations.
For the Land 8116 program Hanwha has developed the Huntsman Family of Vehicles comprising the K9 SelfPropelled 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.