LAND 400 Phase 3 – Mounted Close Combat Capability RFT imminent.

It seems highly likely that the long awaited LAND 400 Phase 3 Request for Tender (RFT) release is imminent, probably in time for the Land Forces conference in Adelaide.

27th Aug 2018



 

 

LAND 400 Phase 3 – Mounted Close Combat Capability RFT imminent.

 

Kym Bergmann /  Canberra

 

It seems highly likely that the long awaited LAND 400 Phase 3 Request for Tender (RFT) release is imminent, probably in time for the Land Forces conference in Adelaide.  Asked for an update on the project, Defence confirmed it will acquire up to 450 modern Infantry Fighting Vehicles to replace the Army’s M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers, and a Manoeuvre Support Vehicle capability comprising 17 vehicles. Defence seeks a contemporary Infantry Fighting Vehicle with high levels of protection, mobility and lethality. The specialist Manoeuvre Support Vehicles will properly enable Army’s combat brigades to undertake joint land combat. 

 

The Integrated Investment Plan acquisition cost of Phase 3 is estimated to be $10-$15 billion.

 

Government provided First Pass approval for the project in March 2018. Defence says it will conduct an open approach to market and feedback on the process from industry has been received and has influenced the RFT. The decision on the preferred tenderer will go to Government for consideration in 2022.  Australian Industry Capability (AIC) is pivotal to the LAND 400 program.  During the solicitation process, Defence says it will require industry to demonstrate how AIC will be optimised in accordance with the RFT requirements. 

 

The competition

 

This is likely to be between five contenders:  two possible designs from Rheinmetall (PUMA and LYNX); BAE Systems (CV 90); General Dynamics (probably Ajax) and Hanwha Defense Systems (K-21).

 

This is a smaller field than at a similar point for Phase 2, simply because there are far fewer credible alternatives for a tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) than there are for 8x8 wheeled armoured choices.

 

Quick analysis

 

1)         As the winner of Phase 2, Rheinmetall are in a strong position – and they know it.  They also know that overconfidence would be a bad mistake and are approaching the competition taking nothing for granted.  Depending on what is in the RFT, they would seem to have two choices: the in-production PUMA IFV or a developmental LYNX.  While they could offer both, the cost of doing so would seem to be prohibitive.

 

The PUMA is in series production for the German Army with 350 on order – and is an advanced, highly capable IFV that has a crew of three and can carry six fully equipped soldiers easily and eight maximum.  It has an-add on modular armour system that can take its basic weight from 31 tonnes to a formidable 43 tonnes in its heaviest form.  The turret is uninhabited and houses a 30mm cannon as well as a 5.56mm machinegun as secondary armament.  It can also fire SPIKE anti-tank missiles, which have also been selected to arm the Boxer 8x8 vehicles selected for Phase 2, which are also made by Rheinmetall.

 

The Prime contractor for PUMA is PSM, whose shareholders are Rheinmetall and Kraus Maffei Wegmann.  It is very likely to be at the expensive end of the spectrum.

 

2)         The LYNX is a Rheinmetall company development and could be produced in either +30- or +40-tonne variants – almost certainly the latter for Australia.  Because it is a new concept – and if Australia were the launch customer – then it is possible that the global production line could be here.  If this sounds somewhat utopian, it probably is – because there is often an aversion for risk associated with such a decision.  On the other hand, Rheinmetall is a world leader in the design and construction of armoured vehicles – and they are now well established locally having won not only Phase 2, but also LAND 121 Phase 3B. 

 

3)         The CV 90 is a very successful IFV from BAE Systems – more specifically their Swedish subsidiary Hägglunds with 1,200 having been sold to seven nations, including all four Nordic countries. They have seen combat service, notably in Afghanistan.  The standard crew is three plus eight fully equipped soldiers.

The basic weight is 23 tonnes, though depending on turret and armour configurations this can be increased to 35 tonnes.  Depending on customer requirements, it can carry a variety of weapons.  For example, Sweden uses a 40mm cannon because the vehicles also have a role for air defence, while Norway and several others prefer the 30mm configuration.  They can also carry anti-tank guided missiles.

Asked for a comment about Phase 3, BAE Systems provided a rather generic response:

“The BAE Systems CV90 is the world’s exemplar Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

 

“As always, we look to support the Commonwealth to protect and enable our military forces where we can offer value for money, high performance system solutions that meet their needs.


“We will look forward to the Commonwealth releasing the Mounted Close Combat Capability requirements in due course.”

 

 

4)         AJAX IFV from General Dynamics UK, which has a long pedigree originating from the combat proven U.S. Bradley series.  The vehicle is currently in production with 589 on order for the British Army and possibly more to come.  The standard weight is 38 tonnes, with growth up to 43 tonnes possible.

 

Standard armament is a 40mm cannon and two anti-tank missiles.  Like all modern IFVs it carries a range of sensor and communications packages.

 

5)         K-21 – from South Korea’s Hanwha Defense Systems, this might be considered the outsider but nevertheless has considerable merit.  As the author can verify, the Republic of Korea has a very advanced, highly capable and innovative defence industry sector that is growing rapidly and achieving export success.

 

The K-21 is in series production for the South Korean Army and about 500 are expected to be built.  The weight of the vehicle is at the lower end of the range at about 26 tonnes – but if anyone concludes that this is at the expense of crew protection then they would be wrong.  Hanwha have made extensive use of carbon composite material and aluminium in the construction, leading to a very impressive power-to-weight ratio.

 

The vehicle is also relatively roomy, with a crew of three and carries up to nine fully equipped soldiers.  It has a two-man turret with a 40mm automatic cannon and the possibility of adding on anti-tank guided weapons.

 

What makes the K-21 especially interesting is that Hanwha Defense is able to offer an attractive industry package with a full production line in Australia – possibly in Geelong – with the chance of re-export to Korea.  In addition the company is still smarting from the 2012 decision of Army not to proceed with the purchase of AS/9 155mm self-propelled howitzers – a decision that we have repeatedly criticised in these pages.  Hanwha is large enough and profitable enough to throw in a few AS/9s as part of any deal, with assembly also to be carried out in Australia.

 

Cost of competition – and who will actually bid?

 

This is a big issue for all of the companies.  Firstly, it is just a fact of life that Australia is a very expensive place to chase defence business because of onerous demands for the supply of documentation, which costs a lot to write.  But the biggest expense will come when two companies are shortlisted and will need to supply vehicles for testing.  At least one of these from each bidder will be blown up – just like for Phase 2 – and if Defence follows a format of only partial cost recovery this is asking industry to shoulder a very large burden – possibly as much as $50 million for the unsuccessful shortlisted company.

 

When the RFT is released, it is this area that all of companies will turn to first.  Remembering that Rheinmetall are in a good position, it would be a brave business development manager who recommended to his board that the company be prepared to lose $50 million chasing the Australian opportunity – no matter how lucrative the prize might be in theory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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