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Australia Signs for AS9 HUNTSMAN and AS10 ARRV

Hanwha Defense Wins A$1 Billion Contract

Hanwha Defense Australia (HDA) and the Australian government signed a contract on 13 December for the supply of 30 AS9 HUNTSMAN self-propelled howitzers (SPH) and 15 AS10 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles (AARV) under the Land 8116 Phase 1 programme, also known as Protected Mobile Fires.

Valued at approximately A$1 billion (€631 million) and including an undisclosed number of weapon-locating radars, the contract marks Australia’s first major defence acquisition from an Asian prime contractor. The tracked systems will be manufactured at a facility to be built in the state of Victoria.

The HUNTSMAN vehicles, based on Hanwha’s K9 THUNDER SPH and K10 ARRV, will mean “a significant increase in the level of firepower and security for Australian artillery capability,” according to Defence Minister Peter Dutton, who added their principal capability is to “fire and move quickly, avoiding enemy counter-attack”.

HDA noted that the 155mm/52-calibre SPH features “the highest levels of protection and survivability for this class of vehicle,” adding that its mission and fire-control systems provide “fully automated support for planning, co-ordinating, controlling and executing fire missions”. The AS10 AARV was described as a “highly protected and manoeuvrable ammunition resupply vehicle with a unique loading system that reduces risk to soldiers from enemy fire”.

Construction of Hanwha’s new Armoured Vehicle Centre of Excellence near Melbourne is scheduled to commence in the second quarter of 2022 and take 24 months to complete, with manufacturing of the SPHs slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2024. The contract will create “a minimum of 300 jobs” spread across facility construction, acquisition and maintenance, as well as generate ongoing support opportunities for Australian industry until the late 2040s, noted the DoD in Canberra, with Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price indicating that this investment will not only bolster Australia’s ability to sustain critical defence capabilities, but also further position the country as an exporter of military equipment and technology to our allies.

With Australia’s close proximity to [the] Republic of Korea, and the strong bilateral relationship between the two countries, Hanwha’s Australian facility will also become a critical and important secondary line of supply back to South Korea. The Australian operation [will] also help Hanwha fulfil contracts in other parts of the world and deliver capacity to engage with Five Eyes nations,” commented HDA Managing Director, Richard Cho.

According to DoD’s 2020 Force Structure Plan, the Australian Army is expected to acquire an additional fleet of these SPHs and AARVs in the late 2020s under the second phase of the Land 8116 project. Estimated costs for the additional fleet, which will also be built in Australia, are set between A$1.5-2.3 billion. Moreover, the plan revealed that costs for an upgrade programme to these vehicles – set to start in the 2030s – range between A$2.1-3.2 billion.

The Australian contract adds to the list of countries either already operating or acquiring K9-based SPHs, including Estonia, Finland, India, South Korea, Norway and Turkey. HDA is also aiming to provide the Australian Army with its AS21 REDBACK IFV under Canberra’s Land 400 Phase 3 project to acquire up to 450 tracked IFVs and 17 manoeuvre support vehicles. REDBACK and the Rheinmetall KF41 LYNX IFV are currently undergoing risk mitigation activity (RMA) trials in pursuit of this contract.

Gabriel Dominguez for MON

Australia’s initial fleet will consist of a total of 45 vehicles, with further quantities slated for procurement later in the decade. (Image: Hanwha Defense Australia)

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