The Australian government has signed a $1 billion (£537 million) defence contract with South Korea’s Hanwha Defense for new Self-Propelled Howitzers for the Australian Army.
The contract, which is the biggest ever concluded between Australia and an Asian country, will procure Self-Propelled Howitzers and Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicles from Hanwha Defense Australia, under the LAND 8116 Phase 1 project, which the Australian government committed to back in May 2019.
The initial contract covers 30 Self-Propelled Howitzers, 15 Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicles, and weapon locating radars to help locate enemy artillery. The 30 self-propelled howitzer artillery systems will complement the Army’s existing M777 towed artillery capability. The systems will be assembled at a new Armoured Vehicle Centre of Excellence to be constructed in Geelong, Victoria. Work on the new systems is expected to commence at the end of the 2022-23 financial year.
Hanwha Defense Australia teamed with Kongsberg Defence Australia on the Australian Army’s LAND 8116 Phase 1 Protected Mobility Fires requirement. KONGSBERG is Hanwha’s command, control, communications, and computing (C4) integration partner for the AS9 Huntsman self-propelled howitzer (SPH) and AS10 ammunition carrier that will be acquired for LAND 8116, which was revived by Australian PM Scott Morrison back in 2019 to address an artillery capability gap followingg the cancellation of Land 17/1C.
“This project will mean a significant increase in the level of firepower and security for Australian artillery capability,” said Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton. “The prime ability of the new vehicles is to fire and move quickly, avoiding enemy counter-attack.”
“The Self-Propelled Howitzer capability, including a strengthened industrial base, is one of several projects that will modernise the Australian Army, ensuring it continues to maintain a capability advantage now, and into the future”.
Prime Minister Morrison said Australia’s Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with the Republic of Korea is underpinned by the two countries’ joint commitment to defence and security cooperation. “The contract with Hanwha demonstrates the value of industrial collaboration in supporting our countries in addressing mutual security challenges,” he said.
But the landmark deal has already raised questions about ow greater defence and security co-operation between Australia and South Korea is likely to be perceived by China.
Morrison said the deal would create at least 300 jobs spread across facility construction, acquisition and maintenance, as well as generating ongoing support opportunities for Australian industry into the late 2040s.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said investment in Australia’s domestic industrial base enhances our ability to sustain critical defence capabilities and further positions Australia as an exporter of military equipment and technology to our allies.
“The new facility will create hundreds of local jobs and become a national asset for military capability, supporting land combat vehicles for the Australian Army,” she said.
“Australian industry will play a vital role delivering and sustaining the Huntsman capabilities at the new facility. The announcement of this significant contract and the future facility is tremendous news for Victoria and working Australians, as well as defence companies across the country.”