Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR March 2010 Contents 28 | Asia Pacific Defence Reporter
And then there were three
he next stage of LAND 121 Phase 3 has commenced with the
down select of three vehicle types now remaining for further
trials. As a project it sets the direction for size and type of
Medium Heavy Weight vehicles for the Australian Army for
several decades to come. There is little doubt that the majority
of the vehicles not already replaced by earlier stages of LAND 121 are tired,
often inadequate, and unsuited for the type of military operations in the
current operational tempo and continuously evolving threat environment.
Many of these older vehicles currently in service have been rebuilt or
modified over time in order to remain operationally compliant however it
does get to a point were a complete technology refresh is required.
The challenge for Defence and particularly army is that these vehicles
are intended to serve and perform on the front line for the next 30 years.
Realistically the ongoing evolving threat environment and current tempo
of operations means it is unlikely that these vehicles will maintain their
suitability over this period of time as the transportation workhorse of the
war fighter. However this in no way denigrates the current range of offerings
or their abilities, but rather acknowledges that the nature of warfare is fluid
and random. Accurately predicting the needs and requirements of the
future is unlikely and the rate of technological evolution of land vehicles is
only set to increase.
Defence, which has been hurt by poor project management issues over
a variety of projects now maintains a culture that could be described as
cautious at best. This policy is to ensure that projects are well managed
and that every step undergoes extensive checks and balances with the aim
of mitigating risk - whether it is capability, sustainability or costs. However,
unless tightly managed this form of project management risk mitigation
strategy can - on the flip side - drag on, erode budgets and not always
impact positively upon the final decision making process.
The current Phase 3 is the result of refresh with what was formally 3A
and Phase 3B and is now known as Phase 5. A key element of this project
has been to acquire protected vehicles and Military Off The Shelf (MOTS)
vehicles. Stage 1 of the trials had been previously completed, thus ensuring
that the contending vehicles conform within Australian Design Rules and
that the vehicles are genuinely Off The Shelf. Initially it was thought that
the first down select of two vehicle types would occur in early 2010 however
this approach has been altered and instead seen the emergence of three
vehicles with the final selection planned for mid 2011. Vehicles selected
must be capable of achieving a minimum NATO STANAG 4569 Level 2.2B
of threat protection ballistic and blast. When the project was first let in
2005 the STANAG level of protection was at Level 1 which has now moved
to Level 2.2. Some competitors have Level 3 protection available however
this is beyond the budget perimeters of the project which is seeking to have
all vehicles equipped with protection.
Phase 3 will see 2900 Medium Heavy MOTS vehicles acquired with 1500
of these vehicles protected to Level 2.2B protection. Phase 5 of the project
will see the acquisition of unarmoured vehicles in this class with these
most likely to be allocated to Reser ve and stay at home and training units.
Furthermore an additional 351 vehicles in the form of the Thales Utility
is likely to be acquired under the Medium Heavy category that emerged
from Round 2.
Trials were undertaken with four different contenders at the testing
facility Monegeeta Victoria, the Army School of Transport in Puckapunyal,
Testing involved delivery by all the Primes of their vehicles to the
Monageeta Test Facility managed by Australian Testing Services where
they were put through their paces on the test track. The majority of the
drivers were from a wide variety of Arms and Service Corps from within the
The Unimog is in urgent need of replacement. Credit: ADF
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