Land 400 Phase 3 — Australian Army

There are growing concerns in the Australian Army that the most expensive procurement project in its history could be reduced in scope. Project LAND 400 Phase 3 aims to replace the army’s 60-year-old Vietnam-War-era, M113 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) with 450 new infantry fighting vehicles (IFRs). The project is worth between $18- $20 billion.

The Australian government is investigating Korean and German options for the updated infantry fighting vehicles (IFV). German company, Rheinmetall, has previously secured the $5.6 billion LAND 400 Phase 2 contract for combat reconnaissance vehicles (CRVs). The contract is to construct 211 new light armoured vehicles, “Boxers”, mostly in Queensland. The initial block of 25 vehicles, including 12 Boxers that are configured with a turret and 30mm main cannon, was assembled in Germany and arrived in Australia in 2021.

Rheinmetall is competing against South Korean company, Hanwha, for the far more lucrative Phase 3 IFV project.

In an interview with the ABC, Leo Purdy, a defence analyst, and former army officer stated how changes to the program is condemning the infantry to “fight 21st century wars with 20th century capability”. However, other defence commentators are questioning the need for the IFVs and suggest the money should be spent on cybersecurity or nuclear submarines.

The Australian Cabinet’s National Security Committee (NSC) and Expenditure Review Committee (ERC) have considered other possibilities to save costs. They aim to use the savings to help other programs such as the $9.9 billion cyber program REDSPICE. A recent axing of the 3.1 billion SkyGuardian program has helped fund REDSPICE.

Another option being explored is replacing some of the non-combative IFV (i.e. ambulances and supply vehicles) in the LAND 400 Phase 3 project with cheaper mobile bushmasters that are already assembled in Australia.

Just before the 2022 election, the government reviewed the Land 400 project and revised the bid to 300 vehicles instead of 450. This will around $1 billion in defence spending. The change to the tender is expected to also affect many small Australian SMEs that would provide components to the IFRs.

The final decision is expected to be announced before Christmas 2022.