The Australian government and South Korean defense contractor Hanwha Defense have signed a $1 billion agreement for new self-propelled howitzers for the Australian Army.
The contract signing was witnessed by Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and Republic of Korea president Moon Jae-in on Monday.
Australia’s purchase of self-propelled howitzers and armored ammunition resupply vehicles is managed under the LAND 8116 Phase 1 project, after the country first revealed its choice of Hanwha’s K9 howitzer as the preferred solution in 2020.
Australian defense minister Peter Dutton said this initial contract covers 30 howitzers, 15 armored ammunition resupply vehicles, and weapon locating radars that help find enemy artillery, collectively referred to as the Huntsman family of vehicles.
“We are partnering with Hanwha to create an armored vehicle center of excellence in the Geelong region, which will establish a further strategic defense industry hub and future export opportunities for Australian businesses,” prime minister Morrison said.
“This contract will create a minimum of 300 jobs spread across facility construction, acquisition and maintenance, as well as generating ongoing support opportunities for Australian industry until the late 2040s.”
Australia is the seventh country to pick the K9 Thunder as its howitzer of choice. Other operators include Estonia, Finland, India, Norway, Poland and Turkey.
Worth noting is that Australia is also the second nation to buy the K10 automatic ammunition resupply vehicles after Norway. The K10 can load 104 shells at a time, and its rapid automatic ammunition supply maximizes the operational capabilities of the K9 self-propelled artillery.
The K9 155mm howitzer is capable of firing ammunition within 30 seconds of receiving a shooting command. It can fire up to 3 shots within 15 seconds and 18 consecutive shots for 3 minutes.
“The prime ability of the new vehicles is to fire and move quickly, avoiding enemy counter-attack. This project will mean a significant increase in the level of firepower and security for Australian artillery capability,” Australian defense minister Peter Dutton said.
“The self-propelled howitzer capability, including a strengthened industrial base, is one of several projects that will modernize the Australian Army, ensuring it continues to maintain a capability advantage now, and into the future.
“This new capability will give our soldiers the best possible chance of completing their missions and returning home safe to their families.”
“Australian industry will play a vital role delivering and sustaining the Huntsman capabilities at the new facility. The announcement of this significant contract and the future facility is tremendous news for Victoria and working Australians, as well as defense companies across the country,” Australian defense industry minister Melissa Price added
Work on the new facility is expected to start in 2022. First AS9 Huntsman self-propelled howitzers are scheduled to start production in the fourth quarter of 2024.
Australian companies involved with Hanwha on local manufacture and support of the new Howitzers include Kongsberg Defence Australia, ElmTek, Penske Australia, HIFraser, CBG Systems, TAE Aerospace, Bisalloy Steels, Thales Australia, Sigma Bravo and Elphinstone Pty Ltd.