The Commonwealth government has formally revealed the long awaited winner of the multi-billion dollar LAND 400 Phase 3 program which will transform the Army's combined arms combat capabilities.
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Defence Connect can reveal that Hanwha Defense Australia has been successful in their bid to provide the Australian Army with a fleet of 129 infantry fighting vehicles as part of the long running LAND 400 Phase 3 program. The LAND 400 Phase 3 project will have a value of between $5 billion and $7 billion, making it one of the largest capability acquisition projects in the history of the Army.
The fleet of vehicles will be manufactured in Australia at the company's AU$170 million dollar Geelong plant and has long been billed as a secondary supply source for South Korea should the relationship with its Communist neighbour deteriorate into conflict.
This highlights the growing importance of the Australia-South Korean relationship, which was highlighted by Hanwha Defense Australia's Richard Cho in an interview in late-2019 who highlighted the strategic intent and strategy, telling Defence Connect, "The relationship between South Korea and Australia is based on $42 billion worth of bilateral trade – the defence industrial aspect of the relationship is one that is still growing and Hanwha, on the directive of the South Korean government, is seeking to establish an entirely sovereign capability in Australia to support the continuing alliance and economic partnership."
"One of the key benefits for both Australia and Korea is the proximity of Australian manufacturing centres to potential markets, combined with Korea's pursuit of an advanced infantry fighting/armoured fighting vehicle, which the AS-21 Redback – Hanwha's proposal for LAND 400 Phase 3 – will serve as the basis for, while the potential offering of the AS-9 self-propelled howitzer to the British Army provides further opportunities for Australian industry," Cho explained at the time.
It is understood that the Redback performed marginally better than its German competitor, the KF-41 Lynx, with Defence deferring the decision ultimately to Government as both vehicles were deemed "suitable" for Defence's requirements.
This long running selection process was subject to a recent cut as a result of findings in the Albanese Government's Defence Strategic Review, which saw the program scaled back from up to 450 vehicles to just 129 vehicles as part of a larger 'reprioritisation' of Army investment and reorientation of capability.
A Hanwha spokesperson told Defence Connect, "As mentioned by Lieutenant General Simon Stuart, AO, DSC this morning at the announcement, Land 400 Phase 3 is the final piece of the Combined Arms Fighting System or CAFS. This sees a number of Army capabilities working together more effectively than ever before."
The Government highlighted an accelerated delivery timeline for the program, with the first vehicle will be delivered in early 2027, two years earlier than the former Government had planned, while the final vehicle is expected to be delivered by late 2028.
The Government also anticipates that the infantry fighting vehicles will be delivered at around the same time as the new HIMARS missile systems and Army Landing Craft – reflecting the Defence Strategic Review’s call for Army to be transformed for littoral manoeuvre operations from Australia.
Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy welcomed the announcement and decision for this major Army program saying, "The Albanese Government is deeply committed to investing in the security of our nation and the safety of Australian soldiers. We are also committed to supporting Australian defence industry so we can make more of the critical defence equipment we need in this country rather than relying on overseas suppliers."
Hanwha’s Redback is a next-generation IFV developed specifically for the Australian Infantryman with advantages literally built into it from the ground up.
Equipped with advanced situational awareness systems normally found on jet fighters such as see through vision and helmet slaved systems, the Redback rides on rubber tracks that reduce noise and vibration while offering superior ride quality for its crew and the soldiers it protects
Hanwha's spokesperson added, "This is enabled through advanced technologies such as active protection, more lethal armaments, and increased protection levels for soldiers. This approach is line with the recommendations from the Defence Strategic Review that will see Army fight in littoral areas with long range strike, tasks that the next generation Redback IFV are well suited for."
The vehicle boasts an advanced layered protection system including Elbit’s active protection system, Plasan’s world-class armour and a structure designed to protect occupants from the effects of blast. All this is supported by an independent suspension system which does not use torsion bars thus supplying more space for innovative blast mitigation systems which remove the dependence on old fashioned suspended footrests and other design constraints.
Redback’s main armament is a Mk44S Bushmaster II 30mm cannon capable of firing all natures of 30mm x 173mm ammunition in service with 19 nations, including the US, the UK, and other allies and NATO forces.
The cannon fires ammunition from numerous providers, including advanced munitions such as proximity fused rounds. Every cannon is fitted with a fuse setter for programmable rounds such as programmable air burst munition and proximity fused rounds. It can also be rapidly upgraded to the 40mm Supershot by exchanging three parts, giving increased lethality without the need to modify the turret or cannon.
The Redback is also armed with a 7.62mm co-axially mounted machine gun, and the Electro Optic System’s remote weapons station can be fitted with a range of weapons including 7.62mm machine gun, .50 calibre machine and an automatic grenade launcher.
The company has focused their integration efforts on improving interoperability between high-tech components while maximising protection, utility and vision for the crew.
According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by Hanwha in 2021, the company’s LAND 400 Phase 3 Australian industry capability package will generate $9 billion in total economic impacts across Australia with $5.7 billion generated in Victoria.
Highlighting the economic impact of this program, Minister Conroy added, "Our decision to build the Redback infantry fighting vehicles in Australia will support up to 600 direct jobs and more than a thousand jobs in the Australian industry supply chain."
Defence will now enter negotiations with the preferred tenderer and return to Government for final approval before the contract is finalised.
Minister Conroy said, "I would like to thank both Hanwha Defense Australia and Rheinmetall Defence Australia for their highly professional participation in the extensive and thorough process of selecting Australia’s new infantry fighting vehicle"