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[Newsmaker] Hanwha named preferred bidder for W1tr Australia artillery project

K9 howitzer (Hanwha Defense)
K9 howitzer (Hanwha Defense)

South Korean defense firm Hanwha Defense was named the preferred bidder for an artillery project worth about 1 trillion won ($842 million) in Australia, which involves building self-propelled K9 howitzers and K10 ammunition resupply vehicles, the Australian Defense Ministry said Thursday.

“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,” the country’s Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said in a statement. Geelong is the Australian city where Hanwha is building local production plants.

Through the deal, set to be finalized next year, Australia is seeking to procure 30 K9 howitzers and 15 K10 ammunition resupply vehicles, which operate together in groups, along with a supporting system for the artillery.

Some of the artillery will be manufactured there in the southeastern port city of Geelong, with local plants starting production as early as 2024, according to Hanwha.

“Our plan for local production there may have tipped the negotiations into our favor this time,” a Hanwha official said.

Thursday marked the second time the Korean K9 howitzer has come close to an overseas deal with Australia since 2010, when Australia put on hold efforts to introduce the artillery due to a reduction in its defense budget.

Advertised for its enhanced firepower and mobility to operate in snowy fields and the desert, the K9 howitzer has made global delivery to six countries so far, from Norway to Turkey to India.

In addition to the K9 howitzers, two Redback infantry fighting vehicles developed by Hanwha were shipped in July to the Australian Army for testing, as part of a project worth roughly 5 trillion won.

The Australian military will decide whether to make a final offer on the Korean-made vehicles by late 2022, after testing them from November to August 2021.

Also on Thursday, Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration said it will unveil early next year a prototype of the country’s next-generation fighter jet, known by the project name KF-X, adding the jet will undergo another five years of test flights through 2026.

The KF-X project, led by the DAPA affiliate Agency for Defense Development, is the largest undertaking ever by the Korean military, with some $15 billion earmarked for investments until production.

By Choi Si-young (siyounghoi@heraldcorp.com)
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