In early June, the Australian government gave the second and final pass approval for the upgrade of the Australian Light Armored Vehicle (ASLAV), opening “Phase IV” of the “Land 112” program. A considerable part of the upgrading procedure has been contracted to General Dynamics Land Systems-Australia, which has previously produced both ASLAVs and M1A1 tanks for the Australian Army.
General Dynamics Land System-Australia will deal with pre-modification and refurbishment work, suspension upgrades, installation of upgrade kits, and will focus especially on the redesign and manufacturing of new mine blast belly plates, a vital part for Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs).
A $ 300 million-worth investment, “Phase IV” is conceived to deliver 113 new ASLAVs by April 2012. Main improvements will include an overall enhancement of ASLAV survivability, with a particular attention to the improvement of fragmentation and blast protection against Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), which caused most of Australian casualties in Afghanistan. It will also include new electric turret drives, improved thermal sights, and integrated laser range finder.
The main challenge for the developers of ASLAV’s new version will be to preserve the lightness and the manoeuvrability of the vehicle, as additional equipment and reinforcement of the armor are going to increase its overall weight, with an obvious relapse on performances: as it is also an amphibious vehicle, its weight is key, as much as its operational range (currently 600 km) and its top speed (100 km/h).
ASLAVs, currently employed in Afghanistan as part of “Operation Slipper”, can perform multiple tasks, depending on the specific setting of the vehicle. The basic required task for ASLAV is carrying personnel (up to 7 soldiers), but with specific equipment, this light armored vehicle can be employed in reconnaissance and surveillance missions, for command functions, and can also provide medical support: an ASLAV adjusted for medical evacuation can carry 3 injured soldiers laid on stretchers, or 6 sitting soldiers.
The “Land 112” program was launched by the Australian Department of Defence in 1990, a project oriented to improve the overall military capability of the Australian Army’s Cavalry Regiments. Conceived as a four-stage program, “Land 112” initially led to the acquisition of 15 Light Armored Vehicles from the U.S. Marine Corps for trial purposes.
As tests proved satisfactory, in 1992 the Department of Defence upgraded the program to “Phase II”, funding the production of 113 ASLAVs. “Phase III”, launched in 2000, brought 144 new ASLAVs and a major upgrade of “Phase II” vehicles to “Phase III” standards, which enhanced crew security and reconnaissance capabilities of the vehicle.
“Land 112” is part of the broader “Land Combat Development” program, which aims at a general substantial upgrade of the Australian Army’s combat means. Main parallel projects include the replacement of night fighting equipment for infantry with a new system, the upgrade of small arms used by infantrymen, a major replacement of artillery batteries, and the development of a system that will reduce the risk of friendly fire.