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As part of the Land 400 Phase 3 project, also known as the Mounted Close Combat Capability, Australia plans to acquire up to 450 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) and 17 support vehicles. These are intended to replace the recently expensive but now outdated M113AS4 Armored Personnel Carriers (APC). Australia focuses on extreme risk minimization in its projects. After the first few laps, there are now two candidates left for the multi-billion dollar contract. It will be the most expensive procurement program in the history of the Australian Army.

In September 2019, the Australian Army decided to only carry out the further tests with the two candidates Lynx KF41 from Rheinmetall Defense and the Redback from Hanwha Defense. Both are tracked vehicles and full-fledged armored personnel carriers. As part of the upcoming test series, several vehicles will also be blown up and shot at to assess their survivability.

This means that the candidates Ajax from General Dynamics Land Systems and CV90 from BAE Systems are no longer in the running. Rheinmetall and the South Korean Hanwha offer products through Australian subsidiaries. From unconfirmed sources it can be heard that the armored personnel carrier variant of the Ajax did not have sufficient capabilities - here especially with regard to the seating strength - and that the CV90 probably failed due to the price.

 

Australia is massively arming itself

The targeted 450 armored personnel carriers are only part of the large-scale modernization of the Australian armed forces. More than 211 boxers had already been ordered as part of the Land 400 Phase 2 project. Australia plans to use it for the next 30 years.

Consideration was given to merging phases 2 and 3 for cost reasons. In the end, however, it was decided that the armored personnel carrier should be assessed independently. The following requirements were laid down: rear combat area for six soldiers to be removed, the ability to be deployed from the two amphibious ships of the Canberra class of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the possibility of strategic air transport with the Royal Australian's C-17A Globemaster III Air Force (RAAF).

The manufacturers now have to produce three test vehicles within a year, one of which is to be blown up. For phase 3, 281 platforms with a tower and 119 variants without a tower are required. The turret will have 30 mm armament.

An important aspect to consider when applying to Australia is offset. Both providers promise that the test vehicles will be equipped with Australian-made Bisalloy armor steel, although this should apply to the entire hull and the tower in the case of the Redback. This steel is only used to a limited extent in the Lynx, as Bisalloy only received the qualification of the German government for the use of its steel in German military vehicles in June.

Hanwha's three Redbacks are being built in Changwon, South Korea, while the Lynx vehicles are under construction in Germany. Most of the assemblies will later take place in Australia. The delivery should take place between October 2020 and January 2021. The first series of tests will then take place in November 2020, with a final report and the purchase decision in 2022. The Australian Army intends to achieve Initial Operating Capability (IOC) and full capability (FOC) by 2030/31 by 2024/25.

 

Testing till you drop

The selection in phase 2 was based on existing and available vehicles that are already in use in some countries. Nevertheless, the vehicle you are looking for is ultimately modified according to Australian specifications and adapted for the customer. Therefore, the task now is to develop fully functional and robust vehicles as prototypes from the demonstrators in a short time. The Australian Department of Defense emphasizes that: "All test vehicles will be delivered in a configuration representative of the configuration advertised, with all exceptions documented in the RMA contracts".

The testing is broadly based and includes weapon systems, protection against mines and ballistic threats, the performance and mobility features of the vehicles, the integration of electronic systems, the maturity of the integration of subsystems and the tactical use of the vehicles in the role of an armored personnel carrier. For protection testing, for example, blast tests are carried out early in the testing phase. One 10 kg mine explosion will take place under a chain and another under the center line of the tub.

A 26-person test train is permanently available for the operational tests. The crews will not switch between the vehicles, but will only ever be trained on one of the two candidates. During the testing, the vehicles are supported and serviced by the platform manufacturers, although the basic maintenance and checking are carried out by the crews of the test train under supervision.

The combination of protection, firepower, sensors and access to the digital network would enable the armored personnel carrier to perform significantly better than its predecessor. Therefore, according to the Ministry of Defense, work is also being carried out on the doctrine and operational concepts (CONOPS) in order to be able to make optimal use of this new armored fleet.

Among other things, the armored personnel carriers should be able to operate in a mixed formation with the Australian Abrams M1A1-MBT main battle tanks. The leadership can also take place through the battle tank. All of this in conjunction with the steep fire of the artillery to suppress enemy forces and then to be able to attack directly from a favorable surveillance position. The use of (stabilized) weapons in movement is also important. The army command calls for an "army on the move" as well as "accelerated warfare" that can react adaptably to all operational circumstances. This is accompanied by a new armed forces structure that is geared towards ensuring that the armed forces can be deployed flexibly, deployable and effectively in low-intensity peacekeeping or stabilization operations or high-intensity battles. This is to be implemented by three similar combined multi-role combat brigades with combined weapon systems. It is planned that the new structure will consist of two standard infantry battalions, an armored cavalry regiment with armored personnel carriers and battle tanks as well as supporting elements, including artillery, telecommunications and engineers.

As part of the plan, the current structure of the combat brigade was changed to a mechanized infantry battalion with M113AS4 APCs, a motorized infantry battalion with protected Thales Australia Bushmaster vehicles, a main battle tank regiment with a battalion with M1A1 Abrams tanks and two GDLS Australian Light Armored Vehicles (ASLAV) Battalions, an artillery regiment with 155 mm M777 howitzers and an engineer regiment, as well as communication, logistics and other support units.

The Army will continue to use their M113AS4 APCs until the new armored personnel carrier makes them available. The M113AS4 will be phased out gradually with the introduction of the IFV Land 400.

 

Candidate Lynx

The Lynx KF41 (KF stands for tracked vehicle, 41 for weight class) developed by Rheinmetall Defense requires a three-man crew and can accommodate up to eight infantrymen / grenadiers. There are other variants as recovery, repair, pioneer and ambulance vehicles.

The Lynx's 7.73 m long hull is a fully welded structure with internal spall liners. Decoupled seats and a false floor improve survivability against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). According to Rheinmetall, the vehicle's ballistic armor also shields the Lynx from above against anti-tank weapons, medium-caliber ammunition (generally up to 40 mm), artillery fragments and bomblets.

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Photo: Rheinmetall

The Lynx will also be equipped with the active protection system Iron Fist (APS) from Elbit Systems, the Rheinmetall Rapid Obscurant System - Land (ROSY), laser and acoustic sensors and the digital Lance tower. The Lance turret includes the Mauser MK30-2 30 mm cannon and a coaxially mounted 7.62 mm machine gun, and thus the same armament as an already ordered boxer variant. The machine gun is powered externally and has three barrels. If a pipe reaches a critical temperature, the pipe bundle is electrically rotated into an alternative pipe: a process that, according to Rheinmetall, can be completed in less than three seconds under armor.

In addition, the turret already has integrated containers from which, for example, the anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) of the Spike LR2 type or other subsystems can be fired. The Lynx includes a digital vision system, an integrated laser range finder and a computer-controlled fire control system.

The Lynx is powered by a Liebherr diesel unit (800 kW / 1,050 PS) with an automatic transmission from the Renk HSWL 256 series. The maximum speed is 70 km / h and the range is around 500 km.

Australia would be the launch customer for the Lynx.

 

Candidate Redback

The AS21 Redback comes from South Korea and is an adaptation development for Australia. Experiences from using the K21 IFV from Hanwha, which has been in service with the Army of the Republic of Korea since 2009, were re-implemented.

The vehicle weighs 42 tons and can reach speeds of up to 65 km / h on the one-piece rubber tracks, with a maximum range of 520 km. Here, too, the crew consists of three soldiers and the rear combat area can accommodate up to eight soldiers.

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Photo: Hanwha

The chassis consists of seven wheels with independent suspension, which enables individual adaptation to any type of surface.

The Redback is powered by a 1,000 hp MTU eight-cylinder diesel engine, which is equipped similarly to the Boxer CRV, and also uses the same Allison automatic transmission as the M1A1 Abrams main battle tank of the Australian Army.

The new modular two-man medium-caliber turret T2000 was developed by the Australian company EOS Defense Systems in cooperation with Elbit Systems. The T2000 is based on the standard MT30 tower from Elbit and was specially tailored to the requirements of Land 400, particularly in the areas of system integration, situation awareness and on-board training. The turret combines the structure and electrical propulsion hardware of the MT30, which EOS has integrated with the fire control system, electro-optics and the common user interface of its combat-proven R400S Mk 2 (RWS) radio-controlled weapon system.

The Northrop Grumman Bushmaster 30mm Mk44S is used as a cannon. This is an enlarged version of the 25mm M242 used in the Australian ASLAVs. There is also a 7.62 mm coaxial MAG58 machine gun. Two Spike LR2 and the Iron Fist APS are also integrated. There is also an EOS R400S Mk2 RWS that is mounted on the roof.

The tower and tub protection should be NATO STANAG level 6, the underbody protection NATO STANAG 4 and 4B. The vehicle was shown for the first time at IDEX 2019.

 

Situation of the Bundeswehr

The Bundeswehr has had its new armored personnel carrier, the Puma, for some time. This is currently supposed to finally be ready for use in the industry with great effort and high financial resources. The coming year will be the acid test, then he has to prove that he is ready for action so that there is still enough time for the training until the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) 2023.

Both the Army Command and the Panzer Grenadier Brigade 37 “Free State of Saxony”, which provides the main forces for VJTF 2023, are more than dissatisfied with the situation. According to Panzergrenadierbrigade 37, the Puma repeatedly demonstrated that it was not ready for action during training and exercise. For this reason, too, the operation and planning with the Marder AFV must be maintained in parallel. This costs additional resources in terms of time, personnel and financial resources.

Alternative solutions are already being considered in the Army Command. If the operational readiness is not proven in the coming year, an exchange of the Puma fleet can be considered. In briefings of the Army Command, the CV90 has so far been mentioned as an alternative and favorite. But the Lynx would certainly be a candidate as well, as it has the DNA of the puma and at the same time learned the lessons from the problems of the puma in the Bundeswehr.

André Forkert