The Australian Army is finally on track to receive a significant upgrade to its field artillery with the signing on 13 December of a contract with Hanwha Australia, a subsidiary of the Republic of Korea’s Hanwha Defence, for self-propelled howitzers.
The order under defence project Land 8116 Phase One will cover the delivery of thirty (30) 155mm/ 52 calibre AS9 Huntsman systems plus fifteen (15) AS10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicles.
The systems are to be manufactured in the Hanwha Australia facility that is to be established in Greater Geelong, Victoria. Support is to be provided by other local firms including Kongsberg Defence Australia, HIFaser, Thales Australia, ElmTek, Bisallot Steel, TAE Aerospace, Penske, CBG Systems, Sigma Bravo and Elphinstone Pty Ltd.
Production is planned to begin in late 2024. The contract is valued at $788 million.
The AS9 Huntsman will replace some of the current M777 155mm towed guns fielded in 2010 and 2012. The AS9 and accompanying AS10 Resupply Vehicles are both based on the K9 Thunder and K10 systems respectively also in service with the ROK, Poland, Turkey, Finland, Norway, Estonia, and India.
Together they offer highly mobile supporting indirect fires suited for manoeuvre operations. It has a maximum range of 40 km with base-bleed ammunition. Semi-automatic loading allows delivering burst firing of three rounds in 15 seconds with simultaneous impact on target. Able to relocate and fire in 30 seconds it can ship positions quickly to ensure survival. The latest version of the Ammunition Resupply Vehicle carries 104 projectiles and 504 charges which can be transferred to the Howitzer through its automated system at a rate of twelve rounds per minute.
The Australian AS10 will be the first series production of the most advanced version of this resupply vehicle.
Introduction of the Huntsman will provide the Australian ground forces with the mobile artillery fires essential to supporting the manoeuvre capabilities being provided in its fielding of the Boxer Close Reconnaissance Vehicle, planned acquisition of M1A2 Abrams MBTs, and a current competition for a new Infantry Fighting Vehicle (in which Hanwha has a candidate).
by Stephen W. Miller