As Prime Minister Gillard questions the value of Abrams tanks in Afghanistan recently, others are wondering what is happening with the selection of self-propelled 155mm artillery under Land 17 and their potential for fire support to the ADF in the MEAO.
Rather than announcing a preferred bidder after what would seem to be a fairly exhaustive and longwinded evaluation phase since tenders closed in April 2008, Defence has arranged a further offer definition and refinement process (ODRP).
While Raytheon offering the AS-9 complied, KMW in consultation with BAE Systems declined to participate in the process, disagreeing with the terms and conditions of the ODRP.
Nevertheless their tender was not withdrawn and as far as KMW was concerned it stood.
Now there are dark rumours that the SPH requirement will not be considered in the latter half of 2010 – when tender validity in both cases will have run out – and that the requirement will be shelved until 2012 when it will again come up for consideration.
By then the Government may well have second thoughts about the need for heavily armoured, tracked, self-propelled heavy artillery, and how relevant such systems might be in the context of contemporary warfighting experience and future hostilities.
In which case it might invoke the balance of the M777A2 lightweight towed gun systems approved by Congress in mid-2008 for sale to Australia and thus satisfy the ADF’s requirement for 155mm gun systems, able to fire the most advanced ammunition types, and fully networked with the AFATDS command and control system.