Australia chooses Korean gun for W1T deal
Korea’s prized K-9 self-propelled howitzer was selected as the sole preferred bid for a massive artillery modernization project by the Australian Army, said the weapon’s manufacturer on Thursday.
Hanwha Defense, one of Korea’s leading arms makers, said it expects to export 30 K-9 howitzers and 15 K-10 armored ammunition resupply vehicles (ARVs) under a contract valued at around one trillion won ($960 million).
A final deal is set to be signed after prices are negotiated with the Australian government following its review of Hanhwa Defense’s bid, the company said.
The announcement represents no small feat for Korea’s defense industry, with the deal essentially being brought back from the grave after the Australian government called off a similar project in the past.
In 2010, Hanwha Defense’s K-9 was chosen as the sole bidder for Australia’s Land 17 artillery replacement program, but Canberra scrapped the project due to a lack of funds.
But the country’s changing security landscape, threatened by the rise of China, has renewed impetus for modernizing its defense, as outlined in the Australian Defense Ministry’s 2020 defense white paper released in July.
According to the plan, Australia plans to spend around 270 billion Australian dollars ($197 billion) for the next ten years to beef up its military. The artillery procurement project, called Protected Mobile Fires, is designed to enhance the firepower of the Australian Army.
Hanwha added it was committed to building the vehicles locally in Australia’s Geelong region, where the company will set up a factory “to serve as an alternative sustainment and supply chain base for the global K-9 family of vehicles,” according to a press release.
The Australian government estimates the project will create up to 350 new jobs in the area, as well as provide opportunities for small and middle-sized businesses to cooperate with Hanwha.
The K-9 Thunder, as the 155-millimeter (6.1-inch) caliber self-propelled howitzer is known, has been a major success for Korea’s defense industry since its development by Samsung Techwin in 1999. Over 600 units have been exported around the world to countries like Poland, Estonia, Finland, India and Turkey.
The K-10 serves as a robotically automated vehicle used to resupply ammunition to the K-9, capable of carrying 104 rounds per trip. If the deal with Australia passes through, the country will become the second importer, after Norway, to acquire the K-10.
Hanwha Defense is also competing with German arms maker Rheinmetall Defense to win a tender to build tracked infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) for the Australian Army. Hanwha’s AS21 Redback IFV, a variant of the Korean Army’s K-21 vehicle, is currently being tested along with its competitor before a decision is made in 2022.
Australia plans to procure up to 450 IFVs through this project at a cost of approximately 15 billion Australian dollars.
Analysts say Hanwha’s successful bid with the Australian government for its K-9 howitzers — for which it also competed against Rheinmetall — may work in its favor to winning the IFV tender.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]