Some recent developments in Land 400, Army’s most expensive acquisition program ever, have hardly raised eyebrows but nonetheless are worth noting.
Firstly, Brigadier Greg McGlone, leader of the multi-billion dollar project for the past five years, was recently unexpectedly and abruptly replaced.
Sources said the Land 400 Phase 3 contenders, Rheinmetall Defence Australia and Hanwha Defense Australia, each received an advisory telephone call from the head of CASG’s Armoured Vehicle Division, Major-General David Coghlan, less than 24 hours prior to BRIG McGlone’s 22 July replacement on an acting basis by Sarah Myers, Assistant Secretary in CASG’s Land Vehicle Systems branch.
In the absence of any official statement and responding to ADM questions, a Defence spokesperson said that Defence “could confirm that BRIG McGlone is no longer in the role of Director-General Armoured Fighting Vehicles and thanks him for his contribution to the program over a number of years.
“Any announcement of a replacement will be officially communicated with other Defence senior appointments at an appropriate time. A key consideration for any replacement will be to ensure long term continuity in the leadership of the Armoured Vehicle program in the years ahead.”
Missing was any explanation for the move, its method, or its timing, which came five years to the month since BRIG McGlone was appointed Director-General Armoured Fighting Vehicles, and eight months into the crucial Risk Mitigation Activity phase for what is officially titled the Mounted Close Combat Capability, aka Land 400 Phase 3.
This will deliver and support up to 450 Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) and 17 manoeuvre support vehicles that will replace the Army’s expensively-upgraded but now obsolete and vulnerable M113AS4 armoured personnel carriers (APCs).
Officially-forecast Phase 3 expenditure has remained at $10-15 billion since the 2016 Defence White paper - that is, until 1 July and publication of the 2020 Force Structure Plan, in which the Phase 3 estimate soared by an extraordinary 80 per cent to $18-27 billion.
Defence subsequently told ADM that the “additional investment” included an increased initial procurement of spares and a larger stockholding of munitions to support greater operational readiness, together with increased investment in supporting infrastructure and training ranges specific to the IFV capability.
“A longer, more feasible and sustainable vehicle build scheduled in Australia also impacts the out-turned cost of the project,” the spokesperson added without further explanation.
Neither Rheinmetall nor Hanwha would comment on this statement.
However, Defence told ADM that Army’s combat brigades would continue to operate the M113AS4 “until the capability is fully replaced by the IFV being delivered by Project Land 400 Phase 3.
“M113AS4s will be progressively withdrawn from service as the Land 400 IFV is introduced. Army does not intend to maintain an operational fleet of M113AS4s beyond this date.”
Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the selected IFV is set for 2024-25 while Final Operating Capability is anticipated by 2030-31, although movement on this timeline is possible.