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South Korean Armor Can Change Ground Warfare

February 2, 2021
Via Hanwha Defense.

A new infantry fighting vehicle developed by Hanwha Defense is competing against a German rival for one of the biggest land system contracts in the Asia-Pacific. Under the Land 400 program, which is supposed to equip the Australian Army with wheeled and tracked infantry transports, the Phase 3 requirement for 450 IFVs will be decided by 2022 and the rivals are the AS21 Redback (pictured above) and the Rheinmetall KF41 Lynx. In January this year Hanwha Defense Australia received the hull of its Redback mounting a turret enhanced with defensive features by Israeli manufacturers Elbit Systems and Plasan.

At 42 tons heavy, the Redback–a brand name taken from a local species of arachnid–was designed to meet the Australian DoD’s requirement for “Mounted Close Combat Capability” to replace the army’s obsolescent M113’s and provide “high levels of protection, mobility and lethality, capable of lifting six dismounts in a standard infantry battalion section.” According to the DoD the three-stage trials ended their initial stage in late 2019 that established the local subsidiaries of Hanwha and Rheinmetall as the main rivals. The “risk mitigation activity” is ongoing for the rest of this year until final evaluation of the “preferred tenderer” is made in 2022.

Details about the Redback provided by Hanwha Defense indicate a top speed of 65 kilometers per hour and space for 11 soldiers, including three crew. Its armaments are in line with other NATO IFVs, bringing together a Bushmaster II 30mm cannon and tandem launchers for anti-tank missiles supplied by Israel. An active protection system supplied by Elbit Systems is installed on the turret to defeat incoming high velocity projectiles. The Redback isn’t amphibious, however, nor is it being adapted to other roles given how new it is. Since Rheinmetall won the Land 400 Phase 2 and secured a contract for 211 Boxer 8×8’s classified as combat reconnaissance vehicles its prospects in Land 400 Phase 3 are very strong. But Hanwha Defense’s own advantages are just as impressive; its development of the K200 and K21 troop carriers deployed with the ROK Army are undeniable success stories. Its latest wheeled armored vehicle the Tigon is a potential rival to other modular wheeled APCs from Europe, including the German-made Boxer.

It must be clarified the Redback isn’t in service with the ROK Army, who maintain a diverse fleet of APCs, and is foremost an export to meet the growing demand among militaries for “heavy APCs” that have superb protection and firepower. The models that have appeared in the last handful of years are all in low-rate production and, when it comes to Asia in particular, China and Singapore are the only success stories. The latter’s Hunter AFV is the first and most advanced of its kind in Southeast Asia. Like the Redback, Singapore’s Hunter boasts a weapon suite put together by global suppliers.

Regardless of the outcome for Land 400 Phase 3 the Redback’s future will be an interesting one. Multiple tenders for heavy APCs are going to emerge this decade and an even larger market awaits in India, whose own efforts at the same vehicle type have gone nowhere, and the Middle East where conscript armies are stuck with inadequate APC models. At this point, Hanwha Defense’s track record as an exporter of premium military products is unassailable with the bestselling K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer whose production has been transferred to India and Turkey. The K9’s success in Europe is unprecedented and more sales to NATO members are forthcoming.

Australia’s military is amid a historic transformation that will see it better equipped for deploying abroad and deterring hegemonic adversaries in Asia.

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