The long-anticipated selection decision in Australia’s Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) has been delayed until 2023.
The two contending companies Hanwha Defense Australia and Rheinmetall Australia were so notified by the government. The announcement of the LAND 400 Phase III project award had been expected before the end of 2022. However, a government directed Defense Strategic Review (DSR) is underway and will not be completed before next year. Defense industry minister Pat Conroy explained “The government remains focused on Australia’s future defense capability. However, we do not want to pre-empt the findings of the Review, which is especially critical given the rapidly changing strategic circumstances facing our nation.”
The Australian government has, thus, determined to wait for the findings of the DSR before rendering its final decision. The objective of the Review is to consider projected security challenges and make recommendations on the country’s defense spending priorities to address them. The DSR findings are due early in 2023. However, it is also possible that the May 2022 election which saw a change in the ruling party may also have been a factor.
The Land 400 Phase III is intended to replace the Army’s aging fleet of M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers. The acquisition is considered by the Army as critical with “the well-protected and armed IFVs vehicles being the core of the army’s future combined-arms system” suggested Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell at a 2020 defense event.
Two candidates; the Hanwha Redback and Rheinmetall KF-41 Lynx were down selected and have been undergoing technical and field operational evaluations over the past 24 months.
The program objective is to acquire up to 450 vehicles with a potential contract value of at least $18 billion AUD ($11.5 billion US). There have, however, been suggestions that the scope of the procurement may be downscaled with the number of vehicles reduced to around 300.
Both companies have focused on increasing the Australian content of their offers. In fact, both Rheinmetall supports its production of the wheeled Boxer combat vehicle for the Army at its Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) in Redbank, Queensland while Hanwha is building a facility near Melbourne to build the country’s on-order Huntsman Self-propelled howitzers.
by Stephen W. Miller