Australia will immediately cancel the Protected Mobile Fire (PMF) self-propelled howitzer programme and use the savings to advance the procurement of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and associated missiles, according to the latest Defence Strategic Review published by Australia, on 24 April.
The key strategic document recommends the purchase of additional HIMARS and advocates for the continuous co-development and procurement of the Precision Strike Missile in all variations.
HIMARS is a highly mobile artillery rocket system offering the firepower of MLRS on a wheeled chassis. The system is intended to engage and defeat artillery, air defence concentrations, trucks, and light armour and personnel carriers, as well as support troop and supply concentrations. Following a ’shoot-and-scoot’ model, the platform launches its weapons and moves away from the area at high speed before enemy forces locate the launch site, and has been used to great effect by Ukrainian forces during the full-scale invasion Ukraine by Russia.
The review goes on to say the Army must cancel the second regiment of PMF self-propelled howitzers due to concerns that the system does not meet the necessary range or lethality requirements.
Australia committed to the purchase of an additional regiment of self-propelled howitzers as part of the PMF programme on 3 July 2020, as part of the second phase of LAND 8116. This built on an initial procurement of 30 platforms first committed to in May 2019 as part of Phase 1, built in Victoria, Australia. LAND 8116 was itself a revival of the previously cancelled self-propelled artillery project proposed in 2006.
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The savings from the cancellation of this programme, in addition to savings from the reduction of the Land Vehicle Combat System programme from 450 to 129 vehicles, will accelerate the acquisition of additional HIMARS and a land-based maritime strike capability.
From the publication of the Strategic Defence Review, Australia is hoping to re-posture the capability of its Army to to enhance its littoral manoeuvre operations and long-range fires.
The US approved the oversea sale of 20 HIMARS manufactured by Lockheed Martin and other military equipment for US$385m on 26 May 2022, with the expressed intention of increasing Australia’s defence capabilities and enhance interoperability between Australian and US forces. Reports emerged in October 2022 suggesting that Lockheed Martin were considering manufacturing HIMARS in Australia.