Australia has given a $5-7 billion AUD contract to South Korean company Hanwha for the production of infantry fighting vehicles. This is part of a move to replace the outdated M113 fleet.
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The “LAND 400 Phase 3” project is one of the largest acquisition projects in the history of the Australian Army, said Pat Conroy, the Minister for Defense Industry. The first vehicle is expected to be delivered in 2027, two years earlier than previously scheduled, with the final vehicle delivered by 2028.
This contract is a victory for Hanwha, despite being smaller than initially planned. The Labor Government reduced the intended purchase from 450 to 129 vehicles. The original estimate for the 450-vehicle contract was $27 billion.
The Redback vehicles will be delivered with the new HIMARS missile systems and Army Landing Craft. Hanwha designed the Redback specifically for Australia, but it does not fully meet South Korea’s future requirements, particularly for operations in cold and snowy conditions.
South Korea’s Deputy Minister of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, Maj. Gen. Cho Hyun-ki said that Korea might consider buying the Redback for emergency forces. This could generate jobs and revenue for Australia.
The defense cooperation between Australia and South Korea started in December 2021 when Hanwha was given an AUD 1 billion contract to build 30 self-propelled howitzers and 15 armored ammunition resupply vehicles.
Germany tried to persuade Australia to buy from them, even sending 150 troops to participate in Australia’s premier international exercise, and having their Army Chief of Staff visit Australia. Despite these efforts, Australia chose the South Korean Redback due to its performance, supply lines, and diplomatic ties.
The story behind AS21 Redback
Hanwha Defense has proposed an innovative development of the K21, the AS21 Redback. This sophisticated machine is equipped with a 30mm caliber automatic cannon, making it a formidable contender for the Australian Army’s Land 400 Phase 3 IFV competition. In the autumn of 2019, both Rheinmetall’s Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle [IFV] and Hanwha’s Redback AS21 IFV found themselves on the shortlist for the Australian Army’s high-profile project, Land 400 Phase 3.
Fast forward to 2021, the Australian Army received prototype AS21s for rigorous testing. The turning point came on July 27th, 2023, when the AS21 Redback was declared the triumphant bidder for the Australian Army requirement, marking a significant milestone in defense technology.
Meanwhile, Oshkosh Defense ventured into developing a version of the Redback for the U.S. Army Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program. Despite the promising submission by the Oshkosh/Hanwha collaboration, it wasn’t selected for implementation.
In the broader context of strengthening Polish-Korean relations in the armaments sector, the Polish government expressed interest in the Redback in October 2022. This marked a strategic move to replace its outdated fleet of BMP-1 vehicles. With the Redback now in trials, the Polish army anticipates a decision to integrate the vehicle with the Polish BWP Borsuk.
Notably, Romania has also shown an interest in the Redback as part of its military modernization efforts, further highlighting the vehicle’s international appeal and potential for broad implementation.
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