LAND 8116, Protected Mobility Fires
Australia’s 2020 Force Structure Review identified that, late in the decade, two regiments of self-propelled guns will be established. Already, it is evident that an organisational re-structure is required for the three standing field artillery regiments. Further, the review discusses the acquisition of a battery of long-range rocket artillery and missile systems with the intent of establishing a regiment thereafter.
Benjamin Gray, Commanding Officer of the School of Artillery, wrote "The violence created by massed land-based fires transcends the movement and manoeuvre of battalions. Arguments that dismiss its utility are symptomatic of decades of wars of choice, the lack of a tangible threat, and a propensity to seek quick solutions offered by technology or stand-off capabilities; artillery is a fundamental apparatus of war. Unfortunately, many military professionals do not realise, ignore, or have difficulty accepting the efficacy of mass and destruction. Instead, there is a preference for discreet delivery and precision.
"The reality; however, is that in a high intensity conflict (particularly one of necessity) it is entirely appropriate to problem-solve with high explosives. Precision is seductive and enticing, but it is neither practical nor applicable in all contexts. There is a distinct need to recollect the visceral reality of close combat in a high intensity industrialised war and reinvigorate fires to meet emergent challenges. To address this problem, the Army plans to endow itself with a credible self-propelled artillery piece compatible with combined arms formation manoeuvre, numerous long-range missile platforms to support both land and maritime operations, and systems to facilitate rapid expeditionary deployment.....
"The majority of contemporary pseudo-futurists appear to forget, or have chosen to ignore, the visceral reality of close fighting and the need for persistent mitigation of manoeuvre vulnerabilities. The ‘fog of war’ will persist and the ability to throw volumes of high explosive at problems, whilst inelegant, is extremely effective(9). Admittedly entirely aspirational, but at the tactical level there should be an aim to yield force dominant enough to either lead to instantaneous capitulation or impose destruction so comprehensive that even if a subsequent engagement is needed, the result is preordained."
The Morrison Coalition Government on 14 May 2019 announced a revival of the previously cancelled LAND 17 Phase 2 self-propelled artillery project for Army. The project was originally described by the Howard Coalition government in the 2006 Defence Capability Plan (DCP), before being delayed and then cancelled by the Gillard Labor government in 2012 due to defence funding cuts. For the previous LAND 17 Phase 2, the Samsung K9 tracked vehicle offered by a teaming of Raytheon Australian and Samsung was notionally down-selected by Army before the project was cancelled.
Following an election commitment by the Australian Government in April 2019, the Government allocated $1.1 billion for the acquisition of Protected Mobile Fires from 2020-21 to 2027-28, and work is planned to commence in Geelong, Victoria, before the end of 2022-23. The Government agreed to Defence’s first pass submission in August 2020, which approved the planned release of a single supplier limited tender to Hanwha Defense Australia.
Land 8116, the program responsible for introducing Protected Mobile Fires, seeks to procure 30 K9 self-propelled guns and 15 K10 armoured artillery resupply vehicles. LAND 8116 Phase 2, announced in the 2020 Force Structure Plan, is anticipated to commence in the late 2020s, delivering additional Protected Mobile Fires capability, and LAND 8116 Phase 3 is anticipated to commence in the mid-2030s, delivering a mid-life upgrade that will provide an opportunity to incorporate emerging technologies.
The RAA’s current field artillery capability is limited to the M777A2 lightweight medium howitzer. Each of the three multi-role combat brigades has an artillery regiment under direct command, with three batteries of four howitzers in each regiment. Although air portable, the primary means of transporting a M777A2 is towing, an effort achieved by the recently introduced Rheinmetall HX77 8x8 truck. Towed artillery has long been Australia’s preference for close support field guns, with their effectiveness reinforced during 20th Century South East Asian conflicts. The introduction to service of the K9 will not eliminate the Army’s requirement for towed artillery. Although towed guns’ mobility is incommensurate with current mechanised systems (or future ones acquired in project Land 400) they are still suitable for motorised and light combat.
Plan Beersheba and Plan Keogh, two recent force restructure initiatives, introduced an armoured cavalry regiment (ACR) and mechanised infantry battalion to each combat brigade. These units, consisting of tanks, light armoured vehicles, and armoured personnel carriers, are expected to form highly mobile and lethal Battle Groups. Current capability delivers a lacklustre fire support platform, with towed artillery’s mobility incommensurate with armoured or mechanised units. A brigade’s requirement to defeat enemy artillery is also unsupportable. The M777A2 and its current suite of 155mm ammunition is unable to achieve range overmatch against most threat platforms
The K9, native to South Korea, is a significant improvement in mobility, survivability and lethality to the RAA’s current fleet of M777 howitzers. This new system will be so different from any gun so-far employed by Australian artillery that significant changes will also be required to tactics, techniques and procedures; the K9’s ability to emplace and fire within 30 seconds as well as achieve three-rounds simultaneous impact is unprecedented in the RAA. The Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicles share common components with the protected mobile fires platforms, meaning the same skilled workforce in the sovereign and enduring Geelong facility can build them and undertake deep maintenance.
The Morrison Government’s 2019 election commitment to build 30 self-propelled howitzers, creating up to 350 jobs, was progressing on schedule with the release of a Request for Tender on 03 September 2020 for the Protected Mobile Fires project. The Request for Tender was released to preferred supplier Hanwha Defence Australia, to build and maintain 30 self-propelled howitzers and 15 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles, and their supporting systems. Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said it marks a key step in progressing the project. “Through this project, this Government is delivering the capability Army needs while creating local jobs in and around Geelong that will grow our highly skilled workforce,” Minister Reynolds said.
Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price said the Morrison Government is committed to maximising opportunities for Australian industry. “This project builds on our efforts to strengthen Australia’s Defence industry capability, and represents a program of continuous investment well into the next decade in the Geelong region,” Minister Price said. “This project is expected to create up to 350 jobs to build and maintain the new vehicles. It will also provide significant opportunities in other areas such as transport and warehousing, as well as component manufacture and repair.
On 03 July 2020 the Morrison Government committed to acquiring an additional regiment of Self-Propelled Howitzers and supporting vehicles for the Army as part of Defence’s Force Structure Plan 2020. This announcement built on the first phase of 30 Protected Mobile Fires the Morrison Government committed to in May 2019. The capability will be acquired under a second phase of LAND 8116 and will be built and maintained in Geelong, Victoria.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said this project builds on the Government’s efforts to strengthen Australia’s Defence industry capability. “The Morrison Government is focused on maximising opportunities for Australian industry and is extremely proud of its commitment to build and sustain this capability in Geelong,” Minister Reynolds said. “This acquisition will double the number of operational platforms being delivered under LAND 8116, providing the Australian Defence Force with a critical artillery capability.
“Both phases of LAND 8116, will include supporting Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicles, which will also be built in Geelong. Compared to existing resupply vehicles, the Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicles will offer far higher protection for the resupply crew and shorter reloading time through the use of an automated ammunition transfer system.”
Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price said this project represents for the people of Geelong a program of continuous manufacturing well into the next decade. “We are ensuring Australian companies are participating in projects which develop and maximise Australia’s defence base. The LAND 8116 project secures support and maintenance opportunities for Australian industry beyond 2050,” Minister Price said. “These opportunities will include future mid-life upgrades, harnessing emerging technologies to enhance the protection, firepower and mobility of Australia’s protected mobile fires capability.”
Senator for Victoria, Senator the Hon Sarah Henderson, said this demonstrates the determination of the Morrison Government to support defence vehicle manufacturing jobs for Geelong. “This commitment to boosting the number of Howitzers to be built and maintained in Geelong, along with the decision to produce a number of Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicles, is incredible news for our city,” Senator Henderson said. “The scale of this project cannot be underestimated. Not only will this allow us to develop a major defence manufacturing industry in Geelong, it will drive enormous opportunities for defence suppliers.”
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