10 Aug 21. ABC News in Australia reported yesterday that the $5.6bn Australian Boxer armoured vehicle fleet faces lengthy delays over multiple technical issues. An overweight weapons system is threatening to delay a multi-billion-dollar army project, prompting alarm across government, the military and defence industry.
- Dozens of combat reconnaissance vehicles face serious technical issues, posing a threat to the $5.6bn project
- The vehicle’s turrets are vulnerable to missile attacks as they are too heavy to add anti-missile protection
- Defence privately threatened manufacturer Rheinmetall with listing the CRV as a project of concern
The ABC can reveal the automatic cannon turrets for Australia’s new “Boxer” combat reconnaissance vehicles (CRV) are too heavy, and various other headaches with the massive program are emerging. Other concerns about the Australian Army’s largest project to date include the CRV fleet only being able to fire German-made ammunition and requiring bespoke European-produced tyres. In 2018, German company Rheinmetall was awarded the lucrative $5.6bn LAND 400 Phase 2 contract to construct 211 new light armoured vehicles, mostly in Queensland. The initial block of 25 vehicles, including 12 Boxers that are configured with a turret and 30mm main cannon, was assembled in Germany and arrived in Australia this year. Australia’s remaining 186 Boxers will be constructed at Rheinmetall’s Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) in Queensland. However, numerous figures across Defence, government and industry have expressed deep concerns to the ABC about the project.
‘Overweight’ turret unable to include anti-missile protections
Military insiders say integrating the Lance turret is proving far more complicated than first anticipated because crucial anti-missile and anti-drone countermeasures are making the weapons system too heavy and unstable. A Rheinmetall Defence Australia (RDA) spokesman said, “there are no known weight or stability concerns regarding the Lance turret and its integration” on the already delivered “Block 1″ Boxer CRV vehicles. RDA is not contracted to integrate an active protection system (APS) onto the Boxer CRV [but it] continues to work with Defence in identifying a sufficiently mature APS solution for future integration,” a company spokesman told the ABC.
However, sources inside the LAND 400 Phase 2 project warn there are now growing problems with the Lance Block 2 turret which will be integrated with the Spike 2 anti-tank missile and the Iron Fist Active Protection System (APS).
“It is the Lance Block 2 turret that is overweight — it’s unable to integrate the missile and APS without making the vehicle too heavy,” a Defence official, who declined to be identified publicly, told the ABC.
The German-owned supplier confirmed Australian taxpayers were supporting the costs of the “ongoing development” of integrating the Lance turret on the Boxer CRV.
“RDA is contracted by the Commonwealth to manufacture, integrate and deliver the Lance turret onto Boxer for the requirements of the LAND 400 Phase 2 contract,” the company said.
Boxers threatened to be put on ‘projects of concern’ list
A government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, said Defence informally threatened to put the program on the department’s “projects of concern” list at the end of last year.
“They (Rheinmetall) were told at Christmas that they could go on the list and then there was a meeting in March that headed off that listing,” the official told the ABC.
Rheinmetall has flatly rejected the suggestion it has received any cautions from government, and insists it is on track to meet all of the LAND 400 Phase 2 contract obligations.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, RDA remains on track to deliver all of the LAND 400 Phase 2 vehicles to the initial and final operational capability schedule milestones,” a spokesman said.
There are also concerns inside Defence that the LAND 400 Phase 2 project could be vulnerable to unreliable overseas supply chains because the new Boxer vehicles rely on European-made tyres and ammunition.
Rheinmetall confirmed the Boxer CRV used “a tyre exclusively manufactured at a facility in France” but argued, “such an arrangement is commonplace in military applications.”
Similarly, the company confirmed the German ammunition manufactured by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition Schweiz was the “only ammunition qualified” to be fired by the cannon on the Boxer.
“Rheinmetall has not been asked to qualify ammunition from other manufacturers,” a spokesperson said.
Earlier this year, the head of the Defence Department’s Armoured Vehicle Division, Major General David Coghlan, said “gun jamming” was one of the “technical issues” on the CRV.
Major General Coghlan told a June 1 Senate estimates hearing the army’s first 12 turreted vehicles were “going through verification and at this stage the turret is performing safely.”
“We are not at the end of that process yet. Once they are safe we will issue them to the unit.”
The Defence Department declined to respond to detailed questions from the ABC about the LAND 400 project. (Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news)
BATTLESPACE Comment: As the Ajax has a turret based on the Lance, these issues will multiply given the heavier weight of the CT40 canon and the 20,000lb recoil. BATTLESPACE understands that GDUK had to strengthen the Ajax turret due to these issues which would thus cause more weight on the chassis and a possible cause of the vibrations. There is also the question of the 7 tonne ISR package on the turret.