22 May 2023

Illawarra's Bisalloy Steel racks up more international defence contracts

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Steel plate

Steel plate being manufactured at Bisalloy’s Unanderra facility. Photo: Bisalloy Steel.

Unanderra-based Bisalloy Steel has won another defence contract, with a significant order for armour plates from the Korean parent of Hanwha Defence Australia for an Egyptian armoured vehicle program.

The order comes after Hanwha won a $1.7 billion order from Egypt in February 2022 for a large number of K9 Self-Propelled Howitzers (SPH), K10 Armoured Ammunition Resupply Vehicles (AARV) and K11 Fire Direction Control Vehicles. All three vehicles run on a common chassis but feature different armoured cabins and turrets for their specific missions.

Bisalloy has become a supplier of choice to Hanwha after being selected to provide armour for the Australian Army’s own K9/K10-based AS9/AS10 vehicles being ordered under Project LAND 8116 Phase 1, and Hanwha’s AS21 Redback proposal for the Project LAND 400 Phase 3 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) requirement.

The 45 Australian AS9s and AS10s will be manufactured at a greenfields site currently being built at Avalon Airport near Geelong in Victoria. And while Australia’s IFV requirement was dramatically scaled back from a planned 450 vehicles to just 129 in April’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR), these vehicles will also be built at Avalon if Hanwha Defence Australia’s bid is successful.

Hanwha also plans to establish the Avalon site as a possible second-source production line for export K9/K10s, and perhaps AS21 vehicles if these pick up any export orders. Because of the proximity of South Korean industry to threats from North Korea, the company sees Avalon as a far safer site able to continue production in the event of a conflict on the Korean peninsula.

READ ALSO Defence Strategic Review shifts focus to deterrence

“Bisalloy steel is a world-class product and we are proud to be using their steel for both Australian and international programs,” Hanwha Defence Australia’s managing director Richard Cho said in a 16 May release.

“We see this very productive partnership continuing for many years as we explore further opportunities to use Bisalloy steel in the wider Hanwha product range, building on our strong foundation.

“Strategic supply for Korea, for both local and international programs, is an essential national requirement and Bisalloy is now a part of this solution.”

Bisalloy’s head of armour & international trade Andrew Huckstepp added, “Bisalloy is very pleased to be partnering with Hanwha for their armoured steel requirements”.

“We are manufacturing high hardness armour grades of steel used to protect our defence forces, and Hanwha is an important partner both here in Australia and abroad.”

The Egyptian deal is just the latest of several defence programs Bisalloy has been selected to supply steel for and follows the signing in February 2022 of an MoU between Bisalloy and Hanwha to conduct a technical analysis of Bisalloy’s armour steel to supply into a number of the Hanwha’s global programs.

In January 2023, Israeli company Plasan announced it would partner with Bisalloy to provide armour to BAE Systems Australia for the first three of eight Hunter-class frigates scheduled to commence construction this year at Osborne in Adelaide.

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Bisalloy has also been selected to supply armour plate to Hanwha’s rival, Rheinmetall Defence Australia. In June 2020, the German Government approved Bisalloy’s armour after a two-year research and testing process.

The approval by the BAAINBw (German Government testing authority) qualified Bisalloy to supply steel for German armoured combat vehicles, the first of which was Rheinmetall’s Boxer 8×8 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV), which was selected for the Australian Army under consideration for the German Army, and which are being manufactured at the company’s Military Vehicles Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) at Ipswich in Queensland.

The ‘O Grade’ armour was developed to meet higher protection requirements against mines, improvised explosive devices and small-to-medium calibre ammunition. Rheinmetall subsequently contracted Bisalloy to supply its steel for Australia’s Boxer CRV program in July 2021.

Australia’s third armoured vehicle manufacturer, Thales Australia, builds the Hawkei Protected Military Vehicle – Light (PMV-L) at Bendigo in Victoria and selected Bisalloy in September 2017 to provide armour plate for the Australian Army’s planned fleet of more than 1100 Hawkei vehicles under Project LAND 141 Phase 4.

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