Growing uncertainty over the army’s most expensive procurement project on record will be in sharp focus as Australia’s largest weapons expo, Land Forces 22, begins in Brisbane on Tuesday.
- A decision on the winning design for up to 450 new infantry fighting vehicles to replace the army’s 60-year-old armoured personnel carriers has again been delayed
- The army has informed companies vying for the contract that government consideration of the project is still not imminent
- Discussion on the future of the multi-billion dollar procurement is expected to dominate the Land Forces conference in Brisbane
The ABC can reveal a decision on the winning design for up to 450 new infantry fighting vehicles to replace the army’s 60-year-old armoured personnel carriers has again been delayed, raising renewed speculation the costly project could be scaled back or scrapped.
Last week, the army’s head of armoured vehicles Major General Jason Blain informed German and Korean companies vying for the LAND 400 Phase 3 contract, worth $18-$27 billion, that government consideration of the project was still not imminent.
Previously the Morrison government had stated a decision on the IFV project would be made in September, but now military insiders fear an announcement won’t be made until after Labor’s Defence Strategic Review is completed in March next year.
A spokesperson for Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy told the ABC, “We do not comment on cabinet processes”.
Liberal Senator David Van, who is attending the Land Forces Conference as a member of parliament’s Defence Committee, said he had hoped a decision on the winning design would already be announced.
“It’s a piece of capability that the Australian Army has needed for an awfully long time. An IFV is very heavily armoured, it gets soldiers into the fight next to the tanks, lets them get out safely, protects them while they’re demounted and then gets them back out of that battle in a very safe way,” he said.
“If we cancel the IFV order, or delay it, do we want to put our troops in harm’s way by having them travel into a battle in a Bushmaster, or our old M113 armoured personnel carriers?”
“Personally, I’d much rather see our soldiers protected to the highest capability that we can, which is an infantry fighting vehicle”.
Discussion on the future of the multi-billion-dollar IFV procurement is expected to dominate the three-day conference, which is being staged at Brisbane’s Convention Centre for the second year running.
‘A twisted, brutal business model’
Activists vowing to “Disrupt Land Forces” have been gathering for several days as they prepare to target the 12,000 military, government and industry representatives expected to attend the international weapons fair.
Greens’ Senator David Shoebridge is travelling to Brisbane to join the activists, but will also venture into the Land Forces conference to inspect the more than 700 companies displaying their lethal technology.
“War might frighten the rest of us, but for these multinational arms manufacturers with their goods on display it’s literally like striking gold”.
“They use our fear, and at the moment fear from the conflict in Ukraine and fear of conflict with China, to make their fortunes,” the Greens’ defence spokesperson said
“The whole purpose of this industry is to win multi-billion-dollar government contracts from increasingly sophisticated ways of killing people — it’s a twisted, brutal business model on display, and it’s time more politicians stood with peace activists to call it out”.