At a dusty military training ground in Queensland’s Shoalwater Bay, Australia, military personnel from Germany and South Korea train side by side as part of multinational exercises.

Far from the realistic war scenarios they are rehearsing, a much fiercer battle is unfolding inside the corporate boardrooms of their respective countries as a decision looms in a five-year bidding process for one of the contracts most lucrative on record for the Australian Army.

Earlier this week, the government is expected to decide on whether to choose German company Rheinmetall or its South Korean rival Hanwha to build new, state-of-the-art infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) at a defense prize worth around 10 billion Australian dollars.

Rheinmetall offers an existing vehicle known as the Lynx, built in Queensland. At the same time, Hanwha has developed an entirely new product for Australia known as the Redback, which it proposes to build at a Geelong facility in the constituency of Defense Minister Richard Marles.

Earlier this year, Labor’s Defense Strategic Review slashed the scope of the LAND 400 Phase 3 project, which aims to replace the Australian Army’s Vietnam War-era M113 armored personnel carriers from the original 450 IFVs. to 129.

With the Albanian government now looking for more defense savings to cover the huge cost of acquiring nuclear-powered submarines, the Labor Party is even exploring the possibility of building the IFVs abroad. 

In recent weeks, the German government has ramped up its sales pitch with a promise to buy more than 100 Australian-made Rheinmetall Boxer heavy-duty weapons carriers, which company insiders acknowledge depends on winning the deal a lot. larger LAND400.

With a decision looming within days, Berlin has continued its skillful public relations offensive backed by diplomats and the military to improve Rheinmetall’s chances of winning the multibillion-dollar IFV program.

The head of the German Army, Lieutenant General Alfons Mais, traveled to Australia to meet his troops taking part in exercise Talisman Saber for the first time and visited the Rheinmetall factory in Queensland known as MILVEHCOE in Redbank. 

Pressed on whether Boxer’s deal would actually go ahead if Germany doesn’t win the IFV contract, the army chief told reporters in Canberra he was still “waiting for the first vehicle in 2025”.

South Korea, whose Redback vehicle was determined to be superior to the Lynx during the Army’s rigorous 2021 “risk mitigation activity,” is now also offering an incentive to bolster its chances in the $10 billion contest.

Australian Broadcasting Corp.