A decision can be expected later this year on how and when Defence will acquire the first of two regiments of 155mm 52 calibre self-propelled howitzers (SPH) and supporting vehicles.
Whether open tender, closed tender or Smart Buyer sole source, this will deliver on the government’s surprise announcement during the 2019 election campaign that it will purchase 30 SPHs under Project Land 8116 Phase 1 Protected Mobile Fires.
“A Request for Information has been completed, with the information being used to develop an acquisition and sustainment strategy. This strategy will be considered by the Government in the second half of 2020,” a Defence spokesperson told ADM.
Land 8116 Phase 1 essentially covers the same ground as the Land 17 Phase 1C self-propelled artillery project. This sought proposals for 18, 24 or 30 SPHs to replace the Army’s 36 M198 towed howitzers but was cancelled in 2012 to save money.
Instead, Army received the consolation prize of an additional 19 M777A2 155mm ultralightweight towed howitzers to supplement the 35 that first entered service in 2011.
According to the 2020 Force Structure Review, the indicative cost for what is understood to be 30 SPH and 15 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles is $900 million – $1.3 billion.
The Government’s May 2019 announcement said the future SPHs would be produced and maintained at Geelong – the location now earmarked by Hanwha Defence Australia as its manufacturing centre should its Redback be selected for the Land 400 Phase 3 Infantry Fighting Vehicle requirement.
Land 17 saw Raytheon Australia team with Samsung Techwin and its K-9 ‘Aussie Thunder’ SPH in competition with Kraus-Maffei Wegmann and its PzH2000 teaming with BAE Systems Australia. The K-9 was reportedly favoured by Army prior to the project’s cancellation.
Raytheon subsequently said it would resume the acquisition process should the Commonwealth decide to reconsider acquiring self-propelled artillery. However, Samsung Techwin was taken over in 2015 by Hanwha Defence whose Australian subsidiary has made it clear it will be the prime offering an improved ‘Huntsman’ variant of the K-9 together with K10 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles for Land 8116.
The K-9 is currently in service with South Korea, Turkey, Poland, Finland, India, Estonia and Norway.
Raytheon Australia declined to comment on its Land 8116 Phase 1 intentions, as have KMW/Rheinmetall and BAE Systems.
A second tranche of SPHs and support vehicles will be delivered in the late 2020s under Land 8116 Phase 2 at an indicative cost of $1.5-2.3 billion, the spokesperson disclosed.
Furthermore, Army’s 54 M777A2s would be replaced or enhanced under Project Land 8112 (Artillery Replacement project) with capability delivered in the mid-2030s, the spokesperson said. No costing was given.