Weapons: An end to Self-Propelled under Land 17 | ADM July 2012

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The Government has finally decided to cancel the self propelled (SP) element of Land 17. The contenders of Raytheon/Samsung Techwin and KMW respectively with the K-9 and the KMW PzH2000 have been put out of their misery with the decision that has been lingering on the books for far too long.

Minister for Defence Stephen Smith said the decision would save $225 million across the forward estimates when the announcement was made. The project was outlined in the Defence Capability Plan (DCP) between $500 million and $1.5 billion. When Defence was questioned further on the breakdown of the savings figure, a Defence spokesperson could not comment as the matter was deemed to be commercial in confidence.

Cancellation of Phase 1C will lead to the purchase of 18 more M777s, bringing the expected total to 53 M777A2 guns. These guns are accompanied by Raytheon’s Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS). Precision rounds will include Diehl/Rheinmetall’s SMArt 155 anti-tank rounds, and ATK’s screw-on XM1156 Precision Guidance Fuze kit for GPS-guided shells.

The former Defence Minister’s 2005 release noted that once in service, the new towed artillery pieces would be used to reequip units based in Darwin, Townsville, Brisbane and the Combined Arms Training Centre in Puckapunyal, Victoria. This translates into:

• 8/12 Medium Regiment (M198 155mm, Palmerston near Darwin)

• 4 Field Regiment (L119 105mm, Townsville)

• 1 Field Regiment (L119 105mm, Enoggera Barracks near Brisbane)

understands that the 8/12’s M198 howitzers will likely be devolved to other units. One scenario was that the 8/12 Medium Regiment’s M198 howitzers would transfer to reserve units. They would supply the single battery of 3 Field Regiment plus the two independent batteries of the former 6/13 Field Regiment, replacing their vintage M2A2 guns that predate the Vietnam War.

Under that scenario, all regular Australian Army units would become standardised on 155mm artillery. This would leave the reserve units of 7 Field Regiment and 23 Field Regiment in NS W operating the L119 Hamels, as the only remaining 105mm artillery in the ADF.

“The proposed acquisition of additional M777 Towed Howitzers will provide Army with benefits derived from owning and sustaining a common fleet,” a Defence spokesperson explained to ADM. “Army has operated a Towed Artillery capability for over 20 years and our people are now confident and well practiced in the operation of the M777. Our people know how to deploy the system, how to fire it, how to defend it and how to maintain it. Only small changes are required to adapt our doctrine and training”.

FMS case

The initial buy of M777s was under a Foreign Military Sales arrangement announced in July 2008 for 57 M777A2 155MM Light-Weight Howitzers, 57 AN/VRC-91F Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SIN CGARS ), integration, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, US Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost was $248 million.

The first tranche of 35 guns for four batteries will be supplemented by an- other two batteries of 18 guns under options of the original FMS that will now be exercised, according to industry sources. Again, Defence could not comment due to commercial in confidence issues.

“Towed artillery can be moved by a greater number of tactical and strategic mobility platforms, especially air platforms,” a Defence spokesperson said. “This flexibility offsets the cross country mobility advantage afforded by a Self Propelled Howitzer and also allows rapid deployment into potentially difficult terrain.

“If approved, Land 17 Ph 1C.2 – Future Family of Ammunition, will provide Army with a modernised fleet of indirect fire weapons that will be less volatile in storage and safer to transport and operate. It is intended that the new fleet of ammunition provides Army greater lethal and non lethal ammunition options and the potential to fire over greater distances.

“Owning a single equipment fleet affords other benefits including, the operation of a common supply chain and simplified warehousing and inventory management requirements,” said a Defence spokesperson.

But the companies involved in the competition for the SP element are far from impressed with the decision to cancel Phase 1C.

“The Government’s announcement not to proceed with the acquisition of self propelled artillery for the Australian Army is a disappointing outcome for Raytheon Australia, Samsung Techwin and our SME partners who have worked on this project for the last seven years,” said a Raytheon spokesperson in the wake of the May announcement. “The decision has denied the Australian Army an important new heavy artillery capability which would have offered an unprecedented level of protection for Australian forces.”

When asked to comment on the move Vincent Williams on behalf of KMW in Australia was concerned about the impacts of the decision on Land 121 Ph 4 and Land 400 down the line.

“The SP element was considered integral only at the end of last year,” Williams said.

He was also keen to point out that since KMW declined to participate in the DMO tender two years ago, any issues that Minister Smith spoke of were not to do with the PzH2000.

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