The Australian Army has received its first 25 Boxer 8x8 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles (CRV). These vehicles are part of the $4.02 billion LAND 400 Phase 2 Mounted Combat Reconnaissance Capability project.
Out of the vehicles received by the Australian Army, 13 were of the multipurpose variant, while the remaining 12 were reconnaissance variants. This latter variant will make up 131 of the remaining 186 platforms that are to be produced in Australia. Other variants ordered are command-and-control, joint fire, surveillance, ambulance, and battlefield repair and recovery variants.
The Boxer CRV is an eight-wheeled heavily protected vehicle featuring the LANCE 30mm two-man turret. It is also equipped with the Spike LR2, a fifth-generation Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) system supplied by the joint venture partner Varley Rafael.
Boxer CRV has been a success story for its manufacturers, the ARTEC consortium, a joint venture between Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall. Initially founded to supply Boxer to the Dutch and German Forces, to date some 1200 vehicles in more than 20 different configurations are under contract by four NATO nations: Germany, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and the UK. Australia has been the first non-NATO country to receive Boxer, while Algeria is also producing the vehicle under license.
“Boxer is now enabling the capabilities that allow the Army to fight, survive and win on the modern, complex battlefields of today and tomorrow,” Rheinmetall Defence Australia Managing Director Gary Stewart said. “And Rheinmetall is simultaneously delivering early combat vehicle capability to the Australian Defence Force while creating a sovereign industrial capability in combat vehicle design and manufacture.”
Stewart said delivery of these initial vehicles was only possible by taking advantage of the current production lines in Germany and using this approach as part of technology transfer activities to ensure Australian workers and suppliers become familiar with manufacturing techniques for highly complex military vehicles. Rheinmetall Defence Australia has over 30 Australians currently living and working in Germany, working at Rheinmetall sites, and learning from German colleagues.
“This kick-starts the knowledge base for a sovereign Australian capability and is complemented with our engagement with the Australian TAFE sector and universities to ensure we build enduring pathways from our educational institutions into the military vehicle manufacturing industry, enabling graduates to understand what we do today so they are ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow,” Stewart said.
While this first batch of vehicles was constructed in Germany, Rheinmetall will build a majority of the vehicles at the company's specialised Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) in Queensland. This same plant will also be producing high mobility logistics trucks under the Land 121 Phase 3B/5B program. The project is also set to boost other sectors of Australia’s industry: The specialised armoured steel will be produced by Australian steel companies BlueScope Steel and Bisalloy, with engineering support provided by Melbourne-based Supacat Asia-Pacific.
The LAND 400 program, which the acquisition of Boxer is a part of, is a comprehensive armament program, aimed at replacing Australia’s fleet of ASLAV (a modified LAV-25) and M113AS4, in various variants. The program has been officially described as the largest and most expensive procurement program in the history of the Australian Army. With a total value of between $10.83 billion and §15.48 billion, it covers the acquisition of 611 armoured vehicles over 15 years.
LAND 400 is divided in four distinct phases: The first phase was a project study defining the scope of the requirements and the roles and missions that would need to be fulfilled. The second phase covers the acquisition of a CRV to replace the ASLAV. The third phase is the replacement of the M113AS4 and the fourth phase covers the acquisition of an integrated training system.
In Phase 2 Boxer competed against the AMV 35, a variant of the Patria AMV with the E35 turret of the CV9035 IFV and the Sentinel 2, a Singapore Technologies Kinetics Terrex 3 vehicle fitted with the Elbit MT30 turret. The decision in favour of Rheinmetall’s proposal was taken in March 2019. The first Boxer was handed over in September that year.
Phase 3, otherwise known as the Mounted Close Combat Capability requirement, initially considered BAE System’s CV90 Mk4, General Dynamics Land Systems’ Ajax, Hanwha Defence Australia’s AS21 Redback, and Rheinmetall’s KF 17 Lynx. The order aims at providing 450 tracked Infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) and 17 manoeuvre support vehicles (MSV) to be built in Australia. Added to the numbers of IFVs and MSVs, was a Request for Information (RFI) on the supply of 27 IFV logistics vehicles, 15 mortar carriers with 120mm calibre mortar, and 25 mortar ammunition carriers. On March 12, Australia displayed the last two remaining contenders: Hanwha’s Redback and Rheinmetall’s Lynx. Both vehicles are currently undergoing trials and contracts, supply chains, and maintenance will also be examined. A recommendation on the preferred tenderer will be presented for consideration of the Australian government in 2022.