In February 2006 the Australian Government gave first pass approval for the replacement of the ADF’s current 105mm and 155mm artillery pieces with new, more capable, artillery systems that feature improved mobility, protection, range and accuracy. Current systems are all towed, and include the aged 105mm M2A2, the L119 Hamel 105mm Field Gun, and the M198 155mm Howitzer. Options for replacing them include a mix of self-propelled artillery systems and lightweight towed artillery systems under an A$ 450-600 million project known as LAND 17. The project will also examine advanced high precision munitions and a networked command and fire control system.
So, how does this project fit into Australia’s larger defense plans? What’s the expected program timeline? And who are the declared and potential contenders? That matters even more now that the solicitation has been released. DID covers the program, and a number of the confirmed or likely competitors… but one category has now been decided.
The LAND 17 Program
LAND 17 fits the combined arms group concept that forms part of the Hardened and Networked Army (HNA) initiative. It also fits with the requirements set out in Australia’s Defence 2000 White Paper, by supporting the ADF’s capacity to sustain a brigade deployed on operations for extended periods whilst maintaining at least a battalion group available for deployment elsewhere.
The Australian Department of Defence planned to release an open Request for Tender (RFT), to identify companies that can provide artillery systems with the level of capability sought. It was expected that the formal LAND 17 RFT would be released in late 2006, with in-service delivery anticipated between 2011-2013. The formal Phase 1 tender wasn’t released until September 2007, however, and the decision wasn’t made until October 2009.
Phase 2 was delayed, and eventually cancelled.
Both artillery types were to be complemented by Australia’s choice of a digital terminal control system. It would allow the tactical control of artillery, naval and close air support fires by forward observers and joint terminal attack controllers. This element of the project was supposed to be considered by Government in the second half of 2010, but the contract took until mid-2012.
Phase 1: The Towed Competition
LAND 17, Phase 1 involved a purchase of 155mm towed artillery pieces. The winner was BAE’s Ultra-Lightweight M777 Howitzer. It uses titanium parts to drive the weapon’s weight down to just 8,250 pounds (4.1 tons), about half the weight of Australia’s existing 155mm M198s. These towed howitzers can easily be airlifted by helicopters like Australia’s CH-47s, and are also qualified to fire the GPS-guided M982 Excalibur shell.
Titanium is a key Australian export, and Canada and the USA have used M777s successfully on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq. In July 2010, Australia added itself to the customer list, with a buy of 35. The guns entered service in July 2011, once the first 15 were delivered. Deliveries of the other 20 guns were expected to finish in February 2012, with Final Operating Capability scheduled for 2013.
Cancellation of Phase 1C will lead to another buy of 18 more M777s, bringing the expected total to 53 M777A2 guns. These guns are accompanied by Raytheon’s Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS), and the September 2011 release will be used for operator training and live-firing activities. Precision rounds will include Diehl/Rheinmetall’s SMArt 155 anti-tank rounds, and ATK’s screw-on XM1156 Precision Guidance Fuze kit for GPS-guided shells.
The Minister’s 2005 release noted that once in service, the new towed artillery pieces would be used to re-equip units based in Darwin, Townsville, Brisbane and the Combined Arms Training Centre in Puckapunyal, Victoria. This translates into:
* 8/12 Medium Regiment (M198 155mm, Palmerston near Darwin)
* 4 Field Regiment (L119 105mm, Townsville)
* 1 Field Regiment (L119 105mm, Enoggera Barracks near Brisbane)
Since all of the contenders are 155mm systems, the 8/12’s M198 howitzers will likely be devolved to other units. One scenario was that the 8/12 Medium Regiment’s M198 howitzers would transfer to reserve units. They would supply the single battery of 3 Field Regiment plus the two independent batteries of the former 6/13 Field Regiment, replacing their vintage M2A2 guns that predate the Vietnam War.
Under that scenario, all regular Australian Army units would become standardized on 155mm artillery. This would leave the reserve units of 7 Field Regiment and 23 Field Regiment in New South Wales operating the L119 Hamels, as the only remaining 105mm artillery in the ADF.
Phase 2: The Self-Propelled Competition (canceled)
LAND 17 Phase 2 involved a self-propelled artillery system, and the contenders break into 3 camps just like the global market. Australia’s Phase 2 competition was offered a choice of philosophies, therefore, in addition to a choice of vendors. The program was delayed, then cancelled entirely in May 2012.
In this category, traditional heavily armored tracked vehicles are being challenged by light mobile artillery, mounted on trucks. In between are a mix of wheeled and tracked choices: Soltam’s light tracked Rascal is C-130 portable, but Denel’s wheeled G6 would require a C-17, and so would KMW/GDLS’ wheeled Donar system with its truck-mounted Pzh-2000 turret.
Recent decades have seen the introduction of light truck-mounted 155mm systems such as Nexter’s Caesar and BAE’s Archer. They offer precision fire capability with more road mobility, and better air mobility via carriage in C-130 Hercules or other medium tactical transports.
BAE Bofors FH77-BW-L52 Archer is incorporated into a modified armored 6×6 articulated Volvo A30D truck chassis. It carries a remotely-controlled set of sensors and a machine gun for close-in defense, and the advanced electronics integrated into Archer grant it full compatibility with GPS-guided Excalibur rounds and full autonomy on the battlefield. It’s not air portable in Australia’s C-130Js, however, and will require C-17s for airlift. Thus far, the system has been ordered by Sweden and Norway.
The July 2005 teaming announcement involving BAE and Tenix was rendered moot when BAE bought Tenix, in 2008.
Nexter Ceasar 155mm wheeled self-propelled 155mm howitzer. Developed as a private venture by Giat Industries, the CAESAR system is based around a light 155mm/52 calibre howitzer, mounted on a 6×6 truck chassis fitted with an armored cab. Like the Archer system, it’s highly automated, and Caesar systems can be set into and out of action in less than one minute. Unlike Archer, it hasn’t yet been qualified with GPS-guided precision ammunition like the Raytheon/BAE Bofors GPS-guided M982 Excalibur shell. On the other hand, it can be transported in a C-130J aircraft, and is suitable for rapid deployment. Caesar has been sold to France and Thailand, and Saudi Arabia is interested.
In the French Army, Caesar is integrated with the Thales Land and Joint Systems Atlas artillery C4I (command, control, communications and intelligence) system. ADI (now Thales Australia) is Nexter’s partner, per the September 2004 teaming announcement
At the other end of the spectrum, traditional heavy armor tracked designs also have a slew of modern options like the British AS90 Braveheart, Germany’s PzH-2000, South Korea’s K9, and the USA’s modernized M109A6 Paladin-PIM. They offer full off-road mobility that can keep up with armored units on any terrain, and provide high levels of protection.
KMW & Rheinmetall’s PzH-2000NL tracked self-propelled 155mm howitzer. These vehicles have been used with great effect by Dutch forces in southern Afghanistan, even fighting alongside Australian forces at times. The Dutch government has reportedly floated offers to sell about 30 of their systems, all of which are quite new; the PzH 2000 is also in service with Germany, Greece, and Italy.
Its chassis is based on the Leopard 2 main battle tank, and includes on-board ballistics computer; sensors that monitor items like muzzle temperature, velocity, etc.; automated ammunition selection and loading; and a GPS-based inertial navigation system designed to determine positional and survey data. At 55 tonnes (about 60.5 tons), the PzH-2000 requires C-17 transport into theater, and heavy truck tank transporters for lengthy overland moves.
South Korea’s K9 Thunder tracked self-propelled 155mm howitzer. Raytheon Australia teamed with South Korea’s Samsung Techwin to offer the K9 and its innovative protected K10 ammunition resupply vehicle (ARV), along with Raytheon’s AFATDS command and control (C2) system. Each K10 ARV supports 2 K9 guns, using a conveyor belt to transfer rounds and bagged charges into the bustle at the rear of the K9 turret at a rate of 48 rounds & charges in 18 minutes. It carries 104 rounds, sufficient to resupply both K9 guns.
The Raytheon Australian release adds that “In addition… we intend to offer… a Package D option for an upgrade for the in-service M198 155mm towed howitzer fleet to deliver reduced weight and a modern weapon management system (WMS)…”
The K9 & K10 are already in production for Korea and Turkey, with over 1,100 ordered thus far. It was also named by Forecast International as “the clear market leader” in its category through to 2015. A typical K9 battalion (or Regiment) would consist of 18 K9s, and 18 K10s for continuous and redundant re-supply. This makes for a total of 90 troops, compared with up to 216 required by Regiment of towed howitzers. The K9’s 56-ton weight would require a berth in one of Australia’s 4 C-17s if it wishes to be airlifted into theater, and heavy truck transports will be needed for lengthy overland moves.
Contracts & Key Events
2012 – 2018
March 23/18: Ammo orders Rheinmetall announced Wednesday the receipt of a USD$77 million contract to supply various types of its Assegai ammunition, fuses and propelling charges to the government of Australia. The order falls under the Land 17 Phase 1C.2 Future Artillery Ammunition project and includes options for additional five-year periods as well as war reserve stocks. First deliveries will occur during the year with a second lot coming in 2019. The order marks the first time that Assegai ammo will be used on the M777A2 field howitzer, a platform that is also in use with Canada and the United States.
Oct 16/12: M777s. The Australian government had approved another 2 artillery batteries of Lightweight Towed Howitzers, comprising 19 M777A2s, for A$ 70 million (about $72 million). In response to queries, BAE confirms that the actual contract still has to go through a Foreign military Sale case.
They will be a substitute for the self-propelled howitzers the Army had initially included under its LAND 17 Phase 1C program, and “Government will consider additional support and facilities costs associated with this acquisition later in the 2012-13 Financial Year.” Australia DoD | DID’s LAND 17 Spotlight.
June 3/12: DTCS Phase 1B buy. The Australian government announces that they’ve finally signed an A$ 63 million contract with Rockwell Collins Australia for 96 digital terminal control systems (DTCS), under Project Land 17 Phase 1B. It provides the ADF with control terminals, tactical full motion video systems, laser target designators and training, and in-service support.
Rockwell Collins provides more precision, characterizing it as an order for 152 systems that will be based on their FireStorm™ solution. Australia’s DTCS will include a tablet PC, a laser range finder, a laser target designator, a real-time video downlink receiver, a manpack radio, and the firm’s Defense Advanced GPS Receiver (DAGR).
Digital Terminal Control Systems allows Special Forces and artillery forward observers to identify targets with greater accuracy, using precision targeting software. Australian troops will use these systems to call on fire support from land, sea or airborne weapons, including the Army’s new M777 towed artillery. Australia DoD | Rockwell Collins.
May 10/12: Phase 1C cancelled. Australia’s budget features a series of reductions, including the cancellation of the LAND 17, Phase 1C self-propelled artillery program. The Army will buy another 18 M777s instead. Chief of Army’s Budget Message.
2009 – 2011
June 2011: The June supplement [PDF] to Australia’s Defence Capability Plan highlights a change in LAND 17, Phase 1B:
“Indicative YOD and IOC bands deferred. Cost band reduced (from $100m-$300m to < $100m) with reduction of provision due to early investment in Operationally Urgent Requirement.”
Which is to say, the 2010 purchase of 56 digital terminal control systems (DTCS) for use by special forces and other troops in Afghanistan.
Oct 8/10: Australian Defence magazine reports on the LAND 17 Phase 2 self-propelled howitzer competition, and says it may never get underway:
“Rather than announcing a preferred bidder after what would seem to be a fairly exhaustive and longwinded evaluation phase since tenders closed in April 2008, Defence has arranged a further offer definition and refinement process (ODRP)… Now there are dark rumours that the SPH requirement will not be considered in the latter half of 2010… and that the requirement will be shelved until 2012 when it will again come up for consideration.”
The magazine believes that the government may decide not to move forward with Phase 2 at all, and declare that the M77A2 towed howitzer satisfies all of Australia’s 155mm artillery requirements.
July 19/10: BAE systems announces 3 contracts related to its M777 howitzers. For starters, Australia is buying 35 guns as US Foreign Military Sales (FMS), under LAND 17. The order makes Australia the 3rd M777 customer, after the USA and Canada; contract details were not disclosed.
The US Army and U.S. Marine Corps are buying another 58 guns, and the 3rd order is an USD $18 million spares and engineering support package with Canada, for their 37 M777 guns.
Phase 1 contract
Oct 20/09: Phase 1 win. Defence Minister John Faulkner announces that BAE Systems’ M777 has won the towed portion of Australia’s LAND 17 competition, whose total value is placed at A$ 493 million.
Phase 1 will provide the Army with 35 M777A2 guns, equipping 4 batteries of towed 155mm howitzers. An earlier DSCA request specified up to 57 systems, which allows Australia to order more guns later if it decides that’s necessary.
Phase 2 will pick an accompanying self-propelled artillery system. The competition could become quite interesting, as BAE has past partnerships involving the heavy PzH-2000, as well as its own truck-mounted Archer system. Nexter’s similar Ceasar truck-mounted system is also expected to compete, as is a Raytheon/Samsung K9/K10 entry that would compete with the tracked PzH-2000. The choices offer different philosophies, as well as different systems.
July 17/08: Phase 1 request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Australia’s official request for 57 of BAE Systems’ M777A2 howitzers, 57 of ITT’s AN/VRC-91F Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS), plus integration services, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is USD$ 248 million.
Note that a DSCA request is not a contract, merely a step that’s required for export approval. It’s also common within competitions, as a way of ensuring full export approval for a contending American item.
2006 – 2008
April 14/08: P2 response. Raytheon Australia delivers its LAND 17 Self Propelled Howitzer (SPH) Request for Tender (RFT) response to the Defence Materiel Organisation. Teamed with South Korea’s Samsung Techwin, Raytheon Australia’s solution includes the AS-9 (Samsung Techwin K9) and through life support. Source.
Oct 3/07: SMArt 155 shells. Australia’s DoD buys German SMArt 155 precision-guided anti-tank artillery shells, to replace the laser-guided Copperheads in its stocks. SMArt can be fired from any 155mm howitzer, so its selection will not influence the LAND 17 choice. See: “Get SMArt: Control for Aussie Artillery.”
Oct 1/07: Excalibur shells. Australia requests 250 M982 Excalibur GPS-guided shells, as part of a larger order. Excalibur is not an anti-tank round, unlike the SMArt 155 shells Australia recently purchased. Its accuracy can deliver precise counter-fire at enemy artillery and mortars, however, or target a particular building in an urban environment.
According to Raytheon, 3 levels of Excalibur integration are fielded or in development. All can be integrated on any howitzer and with components from potential host country (communications, command and control, GPS, fire control and other howitzer digitization equipment. Determining Excalibur’s compatibility with each 155 gun requires analysis of gun characteristics and test firings, but a brief look an numerous of the world’s 155 howitzers has not identified any insurmountable road block to Excalibur compatibility. Fire control integration onto platforms is “a fairly simple prospect,” and the accompanying PEFCS module is slightly bigger than a brief case. Determining Excalibur’s compatibility with each 155 gun requires analysis of gun characteristics and test firings, but “a brief look an numerous of the world’s 155 howitzers has not identified any insurmountable road block to Excalibur compatibility.”
Sept 27/07: Australia’s DoD releases LAND 17 solicitation documents. The systems to be acquired include protected self-propelled howitzers; lightweight towed airportable howitzers; and a digitised, networked battle management system. The battle management system includes the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System for the command and control of joint fires, and digital terminal control systems for target acquisition. Australian DoD release.
May 7/07: P2 Teams. Raytheon Australia announces their core team for the Land 17 Artillery Replacement Program. Their “AS-9” proposal teams with South Korea’s Samsung Techwin to offer the K9 tracked self-propelled howitzer, and its fully automated K10 reloader vehicle.
March 20/07: P2 Teams. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and BAE Systems Australia team for LAND 17. They will offer the PzH-2000 as the self-propelled solution. BAE Systems Australia adds their M777 ultra-lightweight towed howitzers to the partnership, for a combination towed/ self propelled solution.
Feb 22/06: Approval. The LAND 17 program receives first pass funding approval from the Australian government. DoD release.
Additional Readings & Sources
* Australian Defense Materiel Organization – Artillery Replacement 155mm Howitzer – LAND 17 Phase 1A
* Wikipedia – Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery
* Rockwell Collins – FireStorm™ Integrated Targeting System
* Australia Defence Magazine (September 2008) – Land 17’s shifting landscape. Reports that ST Kinetics’ Pegasus was ruled out on CH-47D transportability grounds, though Singapore uses it with those helicopters, and that the M777 is all alone in the lightweight towed howitzer category.
* Armed Forces Journal (October 2007) – The Case for Cannons. “In May, soldiers from the [US] Army’s 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, fired two XM982 Excalibur precision-guided, extended-range 155mm artillery rounds that consecutively penetrated the roof of a single house known to be a terrorist haven in the northern region of Baghdad…”
* Australia Defence Magazine (Dec 2006/ January 2007) – Defence Projects: Is Land 17’s C2 system in the bag? And is the choice of used PzH-2000’s likewise hardwired?
* Australian DSTO TR-1662 (April 2005) – An Application of Queues to Offensive Support Indirect Fire Weapons Systems
* Australian Defence Magazine (Nov-Dec 2004) – Hitting Harder: Future Army Firepower Assets
* Land Warfare Conference (January 2004) – Fitting Offensive Support for Network Centric Warfare? The Impacts of Alternative Organisational Structures
* Raytheon Australia (May 7/07) – LAND 17 Program. Their “AS-9” proposal teams with South Korea’s Samsung Techwin to offer the K9 tracked self-propelled howitzer, and its fully automated K10 reloader vehicle.
* Krauss-Maffei Wegman (March 20/07) – Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and BAE Systems Australia team for LAND 17. They will offer the PzH-2000. BAE Systems Australia adds their M777 ultra-lightweight howitzers to the partnership, for a combination towed/ self propelled solution.
* Army Technology – PzH 2000 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzer, Germany
* DID (March 28/05) – $834 Million for Ultra-Lightweight M777A1 Howitzers.
* DID (July 6/05) – Tenix and BAE Team Up for New Artillery Tender. The partner is BAE Systems Hagglunds, via BAE worldwide. The system is the truck-mounted Archer.
* Swedish FMV – Archer Artillery System 08
* GIAT Industries (Sept 28/04) – ADI Limited and Giat Industries team with CAESAR for land 17. Giat is now known as Nexter.
* Army Technology – Caesar 155mm – Self Propelled Artillery System
* DID (Oct 31/05) – Singapore Unveils new Air-Portable, Semi-Mobile 155mm Pegasus Howitzers. No word on whether they’ll enter it in LAND 17 – we’ll see once the requirements are out, but it is definitely a potential candidate. Pegasus uses an interesting concept that makes it air-portable using Australia’s CH-47 helicopters.
* The Israeli firm SOLTAM’s truck-mounted ATMOS 2000 System has been touted as a potential candidate in some circles. Its 20-ton tracked Rascal self-propelled system may also qualify, as it’s C-130 transportable. If not, a lighter truck mounted version of Rascal exists: the SPWH 2052.
* South Africa’s excellent G6 system cannot be ruled out, but at this stage, its search for an Australian partner is likely to be difficult. The wheeled self-propelled version would require a C-17 for transport.