Army battles to maintain multibillion-dollar vehicle project amid fears of defense review cuts

Concerns are growing within the Australian Army that its costliest procurement project in history, to replace 60-year-old armored personnel carriers with new infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), could be drastically reduced or even abandoned.

Under the LAND 400 Phase 3 project, Defense is evaluating rival Korean and German options to build up to 450 state-of-the-art IFVs in a program worth $18-27 billion. dollars.

Senior military and industry officials expect a recently announced strategic defense review to examine military programs in search of savings, to help fund projects instead expensive navy and air force such as nuclear submarines and joint strike fighters.

“Twentieth Century Ability”

Defense analyst and former army officer Leo Purdy warns that the government should not wait for the conclusions of the strategic review before deciding which option to replace Australia’s war-era M113 armored personnel carriers. Vietnam.

“If we don’t upgrade the M113 and replace it with a newer system which is the infantry fighting vehicle – we are dooming the infantry to fight potential wars in the 21st century with the capability of the 20th century,” said the retired Lt. Col. ABC.

“Frankly, the government has to search long and hard if this is what it wants.”

Last week, the Australian Army’s new Chief Lieutenant General, Simon Stuart, gave a keynote address to publicly advocate for the proposed new land combat vehicle system.

“The combined arms combat system that protects our soldiers today is based on a 60-year-old armored personnel carrier,” General Stuart told the Indian Ocean Defense and Security Conference in Perth.

“We can and must do better – and we have a plan to do so.”

Purdy is urging the federal government to fully commit to the 450-vehicle program, well ahead of the completion of the Defense Strategic Review in March 2023.

The army plans to replace its obsolete M113s with a Korean or German infantry fighting vehicle.(Department of Defense)

“Given the pressures inflation has put on the budget, they’re not going away anytime soon, so the longer this decision is delayed, the greater the risk of this program costing more,” he warned.

The Army’s concerns about the future of IFVs have been heightened by several defense commentators who have questioned the need for the equipment, arguing that the Army should instead focus on missile strike capability at Long range.

Among those who have recently criticized the massive LAND 400 Phase 3 project is former defense chief Michael Shoebridge of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

“It is very difficult to see anywhere in Southeast Asia, or the South Pacific or even the wider Indo-Pacific (ranging from India to mainland China and Korea) where the he Australian Army must structure itself to fight large-scale land battles,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“The places where the ADF has to fight are in our close region: when I look at that, I don’t see the obligation for the army to use its 75 Abrams tanks, its 200 combat reconnaissance vehicles, its 1 000 bushmasters and its 1,000 Hawkeis and 450 infantry fighting vehicles”.

Bid lowered

Just before this year’s election, the ABC revealed that the government was considering scaling back the IFV project significantly, with Korean firm Hanwha and German Rheinmetall having since been asked to resubmit revised bids for 300 vehicles instead of 450.

A decision on LAND 400 Phase 3 was widely expected under the Morrison government last year, but is now expected to be unveiled before Christmas.

In a statement, a Department of Defense spokesperson told the ABC: “LAND 400 Phase 3 is awaiting a government decision and is going through a live tender process.

“A recommendation on the preferred LAND 400 Phase 3 tender remains on schedule for government consideration this year.”

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