Around 1,100 new vehicles will be supplied under the ADF's LAND 400 - Land Combat Vehicle System (LCVS), which forms part of the Army's Combined Arms Fighting System (CAFS). This series of measures was set out in the Defence White Paper 2009 to support the Army Objective Force (Force 2030), an overarching plan to secure Australia at a time of significant strategic change and uncertainly in the Asia-Pacific region.
Current status and milestones
Before the project was launched in the 2009 Defence White Paper, the government issued a Request For Information (RFI) in 2006, followed by a second RFI in 2010.
LAND 400 will be a key topic under the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) Defence and Industry Conference in Adelaide taking place in July 2014, with Government First Pass approval expected during 2013-2015. The draft Request For Tender (RFT) will also be released on the same timescale for industry to comment.
Remotely operated bomb disposal robots have saved innumerable lives since their introduction in the 1970s.
The programme is being managed through a Department of Defence Integrated Project Team (IPT), which consists of specialist staff from a number of key Defence agencies.
Fit for purpose
With a key decision gate due this year, Australia must decide whether its future fleet will be aimed more towards supporting non-conventional stabilisation missions or more traditional warfare.
Operational drawdowns are underway in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands. The 2013 Defence White Paper said would free resources to be used to increase the ADF's capacity to conduct stabilisation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief reconstruction and peacekeeping operations in the Indo-Pacific region and particularly in the South Pacific.
However, LAND 400's operational guidance focuses on high-intensity conventional warfighting in the Asia-Pacific region, with its Concept Of Operation stating candidate platforms must be capable of defeating a 'comparable' and 'adaptive' enemy, including through amphibious assaults.
Class-leading infantry fighting vehicles bridge the gap between APCs and main battle tanks.
While modern platforms offer a large degree of flexibility and adaptability, the Australian Government needs to decide which type of warfare fits best into its strategy going forward, or risk ending up with a compromise that supports neither to its best capacity.
With the key decision gate due this year, a bidding war has sparked off between state governments to take on the valuable manufacturing work. South Australia is putting forward a strong case to host the new capacity after the collapse of carmaker Holden, which is forecast to result in AUD1.2 billion hit to gross state product and 13,000 job losses. It has proposed that the Hoden manufacturing plant could be repurposed and skilled workers retrained, along similar lines to the state's Techport naval shipbuilding precinct.
While South Australia is far from the sole candidate, the Australian Government has dropped strong hints that it would like production work to remain domestic. In February 2014, Assistant Minister for Defence Stuart Robert told attendees at the Australian Defence Magazine Congress he would be lobbying very strongly for the vehicles to be either manufactured or assembled in Australia.
"And it is here that I am looking to both you in industry and State Governments to get together and look at creative ways of constructing competitive tenders once the project has received First Pass approval later this year," he said.