The greater Geelong area has been selected as the site for a new $170 million armoured vehicle manufacturing hub.
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Hanwha Defense Australia has announced plans to construct its specialist armoured vehicle manufacturing plant on a 20-hectare site at Avalon Airport in the Greater Geelong precinct, 60 kilometres west of Melbourne’s CBD.
The plant has been designed with multiple assembly lines, a 1,500-metre test track, a deep-water test facility, and an obstacle course to test capability.
The site will be leased from Linfox, an Australian-owned logistics and supply chain management company.
The $170 million project is scheduled to commence in the second quarter of 2022, spanning approximately two years.
Construction of the new 32,000 square metre facility is tipped to generate an estimated 100 local jobs.
Once completed, the plant is expected to house the manufacture of 30 AS9 self-propelled howitzers and 15 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles — referred to as the Huntsman family of vehicles — as part of Hanwha Defense Australia’s $900 million-$1.3 billion LAND 8116 contract, awarded by the Commonwealth government in December.
The facility may also support the production of up to 450 Redback infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) if Hanwha secures the $18-$21 billion LAND 400 Phase 3 project.
“The selection of this site in a strategic growth corridor of Victoria is a very significant step in further establishing Hanwha’s defence business in this country,” Richard Cho, managing director of Hanwha Defense Australia, said.
“We will build a modern facility here in Victoria to manufacture armoured vehicles and utilise the skilled and experienced workforce available to us in Geelong.
“Our facility will be a genuine centre of excellence, one that we can expand and adapt to fulfil different projects across different domains in the future.”
Cho said the project would also help build bilateral ties between Australia and South Korea, where the global defence prime is based.
“With Australia’s close proximity to Republic of Korea, and the strong bilateral relationship between the two countries, I think it is likely Hanwha’s Australian facility will also become an important secondary line of supply back to South Korea,” he said.
“It may also help Hanwha fulfil contracts in other parts of the world.”
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price welcomed the announcement, stating it would help bolster Australia’s sovereign industrial capability.
The minister added that the LAND 8116 project would support at least 300 jobs in the region over the course of the contract.
“This project demonstrates the Morrison government’s commitment to supporting local jobs,” she said.
Senator for Victoria Sarah Henderson said Avalon Airport is a prime location for armoured vehicle manufacturing.
“Avalon Airport, complete with its international terminal which the Morrison government helped build, is a wonderful asset for our region and will make a first-class home for the Howitzer defence project,” Senator Henderson said.
Hanwha Defense Australia has enlisted the support of a number of local firms to support its armoured vehicle projects, with the facility potentially enabling co-location on the site.
“With five Australian-owned companies currently shortlisted to construct the armoured vehicle centre of excellence, a sovereign national asset for military capability manufacturing, this will deliver an immediate jobs boom for our region and for Victoria,” Senator Henderson added.
“Geelong is set to become one of Australia’s most important defence manufacturing centres. It is expected that other defence industry suppliers will consider re-locating to the Geelong region so the opportunities for future growth are enormous.”