By Peter Roberts
Australia has signed a $1 billion defence contract for new Self-Propelled Howitzers for the army from an Asian nation – from Hanwha Defense Australia and Korea – ending a purchasing drought and bias towards buying from European nations and prime contractors and the United States.
Hanwha plans to build and assemble its Huntsman self-propelled howitzers (pictured) in Geelong as well as supply Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicles, under the LAND 8116 Phase 1 project.
Minister for defence, Peter Dutton said this initial contract covers 30 Self-Propelled Howitzers, 15 Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicles, and weapon locating radars that help find enemy artillery.
Follow on contracts could bring the total value of the deal to $2.6 billion.
The purchase of the identical equipment was famously abruptly cancelled under a LAND 17 Phase 2 deal in 2012 when the howitzers had been selected over German competition and contract negotiations were advanced.
The cancellation bitterly disappointed the Koreans which would have considerably deepened the partnership between the two regional countries.
At the time the deal was being negotiated with US-owned prime Raytheon Australia – which had teamed with Korea’s Samsung Techwi then part of Samsung.
Since taking ownership of the Huntsman design Hanwha has established an Australian entity as well as developing a supplier network and planning to transfer significant technology to Australia through an armoured vehicle centre of excellence, as well as employment in the regional city.
Hanwha is also in a tender battle to have its Redback infantry fighting vehicle selected by the army, proposing again to perform significant manufacturing in Geelong.
Korea is not the only Asian nation to have been disappointed by Australia in defence procurement.
Taiwan and Australia previously canvassed the possibility of cooperating on the design and build of a diesel powered submarine fleet, including the potential for Australia exporting submarines to Taiwan.
However in fear of China’s reaction, we refused to change our defence export policies.
In the end Taiwan shipyard CSBC has had technology and systems help from the United Kingdom and United Sates for its own Indigenous Defense Submarine program which will build eight submarines by 2025.
Taiwan did reportedly recruit engineers, technicians and former naval officers from Australia, South Korea, India, Spain and Canada to advise the government and shipyard in the port city of Kaohsiung.
Encouraging bi-lateral collaborations between middle level powers in our region makes a lot of sense technologically and industrially.
We have never had the guts or the smarts to pursue then until now.
And just look at the shemozzle Australia has since made of submarine purchasing.
From having a nascent submarine design and builder in the ASC and its Collins boats….we have now retreated to again buying and importing submarines.
Some people – and some countries – never seem to learn.
Picture: Hanwha Defense Australia
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