With a shortlist of two companies for Land 400 Phase 3 imminent, here we take a closer look at the four competitors and how the program interacts with the self-propelled howitzer proposal under the recently-renamed Land 8116.
The four contenders for Land 400 Phase 3 are Hanwha's 42-tonne Redback tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), Rheinmetall's 44 to 48-tonne Lynx IFV, General Dynamics 42-tonne Ajax IFV and BAE Systems 38-tonne CV90 IFV, with support from its Hagglunds business.
Redback is an evolution of the K21 reimagined for Land 400, while the Lynx is a long bodied variant of a panzer grenadier track. The other contenders – the CV90 and Ajax - can each carry the required six dismounts but is only marginally suitable for the desired eight dismounts.
The original Request for Tender covered 383 IFVs and 17 engineering variants (described as Manoeuvre Support Vehicles). The IFVs were listed in two categories and by role as: 281 Direct Fire High Survivability Lift (DFHSL) vehicles - 232 IFVs, 19 Joint Fires, 9 Engineer Recon, 21 Command & Control (C&C) variants; and 102 Specialist Support - 24 Ambulance, 25 Repair, 22 Recovery, and 31 Combat Engineer variants.
In the DFHSL category, 260 vehicles will have a manned turret with a 30mm cannon and missile launcher. The C&C, Specialist Support (excluding the Ambulance) and Manoeuvre Support Vehicles will be more lightly armed.
The Request for Information (RFI) is for 117 vehicles: 67 IFVs, listed as 27 IFV-Logistics, 15 IFV-Mortar, 25 IFV-Mortar Ammunition; and 50 vehicles simply described as ‘amphibious’ and not necessarily a variant of the IFV.
A test and evaluation program lasting up to 18 months will commence in 2020. Decision on the RFT and presumably a converted RFI will be in 2022. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is scheduled for 2024 with Final OC in 2030.
The hard-copy Industry Brief did not specify the mortar criteria such as smoothbore or rifled, muzzle or breech-loaded, limited or all-around traverse. However, the required calibre is 120mm. The listed number of mortar IFVs is small but the number of ammunition IFVs is disproportionately large. Even with those numbers reversed, there could be at most seven for training/spares/attrition.
The link with Land 8112, now renamed Land 8116
The decision on Land 400 Phase 3 is certain to be influenced by the self-propelled howitzer (SPH) decision under Land 8116. A prime candidate for this would be Hanwha's K9 tracked SPH, which was evaluated as superior to KMW/Rheinmetall's PzH2000 in the Land 17 - Artillery Replacement project. That phase of Land 17 was cancelled in 2012. As mooted during the 2019 election campaign, 30 K9 'Huntsman' SPH and 10 K10 ammunition carriers would be produced in Geelong.
Whilst the Land 17 evaluation by CASG found tracked systems were 'far superior' to wheeled systems, if Land 8116 were to assess tracked and wheeled SPHs, then a prime combination would include KMW's 155mm turret, which is under development for SP use on a tracked chassis and also on Rheinmetall's Boxer chassis.
In 2018 that chassis, with a 30mm cannon module and various other mission modules, won selection for 225 vehicles in Land 400 Phase 2. The procurement includes 133 mission modules with a turreted 30mm. It is unclear what other mission modules were included and how many might be configurable with an 81mm or 120mm mortar.
Procurement from one consortium of most or all of the next generation of heavy and medium armoured vehicles and previously ordered cargo trucks could result in an undue concentration of production, maintenance and technical support in one location. If Defence wants to avoid this, Rheinmetall's Phase 2 success alongside their work on Land 121 could put Hanwha's Redback IFV in the box seat for Phase 3.
The Redback's engine, transmission and running gear are the same as those of the K9 155mm SPH, with the further benefit of proven rubber tracks for lower noise and shock levels. In addition, initial and continuing support from South Korea is likely to be just as assured and less expensive than from Germany. Redback also has an entirely new turret designed by Electro Optic Systems in NSW with systems integrated by Israel's Elbit Systems.
In terms of the amphibian for the RFI: the initial 27-tonne version of the K21 was amphibious with side-mounted inflation bags but that arrangement is unlikely to be acceptable for salt-water operations by 2 RAR and support units. Hanwha has since proposed its Australian Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV), capable of lifting 21 dismounts. Rheinmetall has not announced an intention to develop an amphibious variant of its Lynx, whilst the the 24-tonne BAE/Iveco 8x8 was recently procured by the US Marine Corps.
Another consideration for Land 400 and Land 8116 is that a force of 15 or 25 tracked 120mm SPM self-propelled mortars is too small to warrant local production of a new and extensive variety of ammunition. However, the field artillery battery in each of Army's six Reserve infantry brigades is currently equipped with the same 81mm mortar as issued to their light infantry battalions. The capabilities of those six batteries and also 2 RAR could be upgraded by acquisition of 120mm baseplate and/or towed or SP mortars.
An overall total of 90 or more baseplate, towed, tracked and wheeled 120mm mortars in Army's heavy, medium and lightweight units would certainly lead to local production of a usefully wide variety of ballistic, boosted and guided ammunition.
To conclude, Rheinmetall’s previous successes and the commonalities between Hanwha’s offerings for Land 400 Phase 3 and Land 8116 means the following procurements are most likely:
• 380+ K21 Redback IFV and variants assembled/built in Geelong;
• 25 Redback variants completed as IFV-120mm mortar and 15 as IFV-mortar ammunition;
• 50 BAE/Iveco SuperAV amphibians - including 30mm and mortar variants - assembled/built near Adelaide;
• 30+ K9 155mm SPH and about 15 K10 ammunition carriers assembled/built in Geelong; and
• about 20 Boxer 120mm mortar mission modules assembled/built in Ipswich.
Note: DJAC is a former public servant retired from the Department of Defence. He has not and is not seeking any form of emolument from commercial, industrial, non-government or governmental entities. His opinions are his own.
Editor's Note: Army Force HQ has recently renamed Land 8112 as Land 8116.