Hanwha Redback goes through its paces before press
Hanwha Defense showed off its Redback infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) during a rare media event at the base of the Korean Army's 11th Division in Chuncheon, Gangwon on Friday.
Coming at the end of the Korean Army's six-week trial of the vehicle and before further tests in August, field maneuvers of the Redback for the media were held in a muddy clearing, replete with trees, waterlogged ditches and other natural obstacles that the next-generation IFV might face in combat.
The Army's trials follow the Redback's tests last year in Australia, where Hanwha Defense hopes to be selected as the preferred bidder for Canberra's LAND 400 Phase 3 project, worth $18-21 billion and aimed at acquiring about 400 next-generation IFVs to replace the country's M113 armored personnel carriers, which have been in service since the mid-1960s.
Hanwha Defense has already inked a 930 billion won ($733 million) contract to supply Australia with 30 K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers and 15 K-10 armored ammunition resupply vehicles in a deal signed in December, a year after the K-9 was selected as the sole preferred bid for a massive artillery modernization project by the Australian Army.
The tests in August will put the Redback on approximately 10,000 kilometers (6,213 miles) of both paved and unpaved roads in an undisclosed location, where it can achieve speeds up to 65 kilometers and 40 kilometers per hour, respectively.
Pointing to the Redback's turret — a mass of artillery, sensors, radars, advanced optical cameras, and a retractable missile platform along with armament 30mm cannon — Lee commented, "The Redback is the most advanced IFV to date. The turret design and mounted systems take into consideration the technological progress made in the field of tank-busting portable missile launchers, such as the RPG-7 and FGM-148 Javelin."
The Redback's turret includes a retractable two-round SPIKE anti-tank guided missile launcher, which features AI-powered target tracing capabilities with high accuracy for multiple targets.
Low on the Redback's turret is the Iron Fist active protection system, developed by Elbit Systems of Israel, which allows the vehicle to automatically detect, classify and intercept a range of incoming threats. Integrated radar and electro-optic equipment activate the system's two double barreled launchers, which provide a wide range of protection while avoiding interference with the vehicle's other weapons systems.
The Redback is also equipped with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) system that enables communications resistant to detection and jamming, as well as Iron Vision technology — also developed by Elbit — that allows soldiers within the hatch to maintain 360-degree situational awareness through head-mounted visual technology akin to virtual reality (VR) projection.
The need for such defensive systems to protect troops in armored vehicles has become more apparent in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where Ukrainian defenders have inflicted devastating losses on Russian tanks with U.S.-supplied Javelin missiles.
As a further precaution against anti-tank weapons, which rely in part on heat traces to track their targets, the Redback is equipped with Solar Sigma Shield technology, developed by German defense company Rheinmetall, which reduces the vehicle's solar heat load and minimizes the chances of infrared, visual, radar and ultraviolet detection.
Vehicle survivability and troop safety were the Australian Army's key criteria during the Redback's tests last year, according to Hanwha Defense.
According to the company rep, the Korean Army's requirements for the Redback will be specified if and when it is deployed, with the Redback scheduled to undergo durability and maneuverability testing on Korean terrain during the August trial.
"Every country has its own set of criteria, and the Redback was designed to fulfill Australia's requirements," Lee said. "The Korean Army has its own requirements, and we believe the Redback can be adapted to fulfill those accordingly."
The Korean Defense Acquisition Administration Program (DAPA), Seoul's arms procurement and development agency, appears optimistic about the Redback being selected as the Korean Army's next-generation IFV.
"We are considering acquiring a Korean version of the Redback that meets the Army's operational vision and is capable of featuring technology and performance required by the armed forces under a fast-track research and development program," Cho added. "With this approach, the Korean Army will be able to deploy next-generation IFVs earlier than originally scheduled."
The Redback is also receiving attention from U.S. and European defense sectors.
The Oshkosh Defense Consortium, which includes Hanwha Defense USA and Hanwha Defense Australia, has highlighted the Redback's evaluation results for the U.S. Army's Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) program Concept Design Phase, which aims to replace nearly 3,800 Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
Several European nations have also expressed interest in the Redback for their IFV acquisition programs, and a Redback vehicle will be on display at the biennial Eurosatory defense exhibition in Paris in June, according to a company official.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]