Australian Army to acquire AS-9 self-propelled Howitzers

According to the Australian Defense Structure Plan 2020 released on July 1, 2020, Australia will strengthen the capabilities of its armed forces with new artillery systems including self-propelled howitzers, and rocket launcher artillery systems. 

Australian army plans to acquire tow regiments of self-propelled howitzers to complement existing land-based strike capabilities. This includes a future program of upgrades to hardware and software to ensure these systems retain their potency over time.

The government has announced that it is resuscitating a program to acquire self-propelled howitzers for the Army under $270 billion modernization plan, — Howitzer procurement programme is formerly known as Land 17 Phase 2.

The original program was cancelled following funding cuts in 2012 but will come back to life with Army set to acquire K-9 30 self-propelled howitzers under the Smart Buyer framework. Although the prime contractor has not been specified, the build will take place around Geelong from 2022-2023.

“We will acquire 30 self-propelled howitzers and their supporting systems, and we will build them and maintain them in Geelong, drawing on the large manufacturing skills base in the region,” PM Scott Morrison said in a statement.

“We will revive the self-propelled artillery project by bringing forward the Defence acquisition project known as ‘Protected Mobile Fires’ to address the capability gap left by Labor,” Minister for Defence Industry Senator Linda Reynolds said.

“When the acquisition process for self-propelled artillery was cancelled in 2012 Raytheon Australia had successfully led a team offering an Australianised version of the Korean K-9 self-propelled howitzer which became known as the AS-9 ‘Aussie Thunder’,” the spokesperson said.

The plan also includes The enhancement or replacement of the M777 155mm lightweight towed howitzer with a rapidly-deployable and lightweight artillery to maximize the flexibility of the ADF’s (Australia Defence Forces) suite of artillery capabilities. The procurement of a battery of long-range rocket artillery and missile systems, upgrades to the range of these systems to enable a land-based operational strike capability, and the purchase of additional units to enable the capability to be expanded into a full regiment of three batteries.

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Australia will also launch A future program to develop a directed energy weapon system able to be integrated onto ADF protected and armored vehicles, and capable of defeating armored vehicles up to and including main battle tanks. The eventual deployment of directed energy weapons may also improve land force resilience by reducing the force’s dependence an ammunition stocks and supply lines.

Currently, the artillery power of the Australian Defence Forces consists of 54 M777A2 155mm towed howitzers and 185 mortar of F2 81mm.

The F2 81mm mortar is the British L16 81mm mortar produced in Australia. The weapon can be man-packed by the mortar detachment, in which case the ammunition would be carried by other soldiers of the battalion. In addition to their normal equipment, each soldier would carry four bombs in a pair of two-bomb plastic containers. It has a maximum firing range of 5,650m.

The M777A2 is an improved version of the standard M777 lightweight 155mm towed howitzer designed and manufactured by the Company BAE Systems. The M777A2 is a towed 155 mm Howitzer jointly developed by the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps to replace the M198 155mm towed howitzer.

The M777A2 lightweight 155mmm towed howitzer can fire the full ranges of U.S. 155mm ammunition including unassisted projectiles to a range of 24 km and assisted projectiles to 30 km. With the upgraded fire controls system, it can also fire Excalibur Precision 155 mm Projectiles, Global Positioning System (GPS)-guided, extended-range artillery projectile M982 and M982A1 at a maximum range of 40 km.

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