Hanwha Defense Australia has signed a contract to supply the Australian Army with its Huntsman AS9 self-propelled artillery system. The £932 billion ($785 million) deal was announced earlier in December by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison and Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-in in Canberra.
Hanwha Defense is the first Asian prime contractor to win a major defense bid from Australia. The deal is part of Phase 1 of Land Defense Project 8115, an effort that will see the acquisition of 30 AS9 Huntsman and 15 AS10 armored refueling vehicles.
The vehicles will be manufactured at a new Hanwha plant to be built in Victoria, Australia. The new vehicles will help transform the Australian Army’s artillery capability. Hanwha Defense Australia Managing Director Richard Cho tells us more.
Norbert Neumann: This is Australia’s first major defense acquisition from an Asian defense contractor. How important is this project for Hanwha Defense?
Richard Cho: This win is key to our development approach to getting more actively involved in the Five Eyes community. It will also position Australia to play a bigger role in the global K9 supply chain. We also plan to work closely with the Australian Army to add additional capabilities to the platform, such as automated logistics and networked UGS support systems.
The AS9 Huntsman was specially developed for Australia. How does the AS9 differ from the South Korean K9 and the K9 used by Norway? Why were these changes necessary?
The AS9 is the fourth generation SPH based on the venerable K9 pedigree. The K9 and K9A1 (General One and Two respectively) were intended for the Republic of Korea Army. The third generation was the K9 Vidar for Norway and NATO.
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The Huntsman’s differentiators are an increased protection package for active and passive systems such as configurable kinetic energy systems, improved mine blast protection, mobile camouflage systems, and hybrid slatted fences to name but a few. name a few.
Self-protection is enhanced through larger digital situational awareness systems and a remote weapons station, and mobility capabilities are enhanced to accommodate increased mass.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the first and fourth generation K9s is the digitization of the platform from the command, control, communications, computers and intelligence architecture to the overall awareness of the situation, which further enables crew operations.
The Huntsman FOV is also joined by the C2 variant with room for eight command post operators who can comfortably stand in the rear while working and enjoy the same protection and mobility as the rest of the SPH battery. This new variant is built on the chassis of the AS10 Armored Ammunition Supply Vehicle.
Why is the AS9 Huntsman the best choice for the Australian Defense Force?
The K9 and K10 fleets are one of the most widely used and operationally proven systems in the world today. The K9 has rivaled the best SPH systems in the world and has proven itself time and time again. Australia will benefit from the large global community of users and the significant upgrade and development path that has been set for the fleet. The K9 and K10 vehicle set represents a systems approach to the high operational rates of fire and agility that modern indirect fire systems need to survive on the modern battlefield in peer-to-peer engagement.
Construction of the new Hanwha factory in Australia is expected to begin in 2022. Will the factory use mostly local or South Korean labor? Why is it necessary to build a new facility instead of using existing ones?
The factory is a key part of the HDA plan to create a sovereign, self-sustaining armored vehicle business in Australia. The workforce will be based in Australia using an Australian-based supply chain with selective integration with some of our key technology partners. For example, we have already positioned a key Australian supplier to work with a South Korean-based company for the supply of parts in the South Korean military’s supply and upgrade programs.
To achieve this, and also to support our business growth ambitions both globally and in Australia, a purpose-built new facility was essential. The facility will house a research and development (R&D) centre, training centre, systems integration lab and room to accommodate our growing Australian and international business partners who choose to locate with us.
We have established an Industry Development Unit which will coordinate activities between workforce skills, Australian industry capacity development and engagement with Australian R&D institutions, to ensure a sustainable, long-term approach to advanced manufacturing in Australia.
Production of the AS9 Huntsman will start at the end of 2024. When do you expect to start delivering the howitzers and when do you expect to deliver the last of the 30 AS9 vehicles?
The first AS9s are expected to be delivered to the Commonwealth in the second quarter of 2025. These first vehicles will then undergo a rigorous acceptance process before entering service. The last of the AS9 vehicles are expected to be delivered to the Commonwealth in the second quarter of 2027.
Does Hanwha Defense plan to contribute to the Land 8116 defense project in any other way?
We have already started to develop a set of automation proposals for consideration by the Australian Army. We also endeavor to ensure that the Australian Army fully benefits from any future work we carry out for any other client. We plan to ensure that in the medium to long term we are positioned to deliver the benefits of AI and automation across all joint fire requirements. We are working there in the areas of logistics, unmanned aircraft systems, local protection and digitization upgrades with our partners. We intend to be fully involved in the SPH howitzer capability for the life of the program type and all other phases.