Hyundai Rotem and Hanwha Defense are competing for a 500 billion won ($425 million) contract to supply self-propelled amphibious bridge laying equipment to the Korean military.
The bidding is being closely watched, as defense tenders have been few and far between following a series of corruption scandals.
According to the JoongAng Ilbo, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration is planning to open public bidding on the supply of armored amphibious bridge vehicles at the end of this month.
The clash of the two companies is peaking interest as they are iconic Korean defense contractors. Hyundai Rotem is known for developing and supplying the Korean military with K2 tanks, while Hanwha Defense is known for its K9 self-propelled howitzers.
The amphibious assault bridge vehicles are essential for the Korean military, as they enable tanks and armored vehicles, as well as foot soldiers, to cross rivers and streams.
The Korean military current utilizes a ribbon bridge system.
There has been growing interest in replacing the ribbon bridge systems with the amphibious bridge vehicles, as the current systems take too much time to form a bridge, and many are outdated.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration in the third quarter of last year announced plans to localize amphibious bridge vehicles.
The pick isn’t going to be easy, as the amphibious bridge vehicles developed by both companies share common traits and utilize a single vehicle to carry all the necessary equipment to construct a bridge.
But they also have their own unique qualities that set them apart.
Hyundai Rotem’s is the Korean version of the Otter Armored Amphibious Assault Bridge vehicle manufactured by Turkey’s FNSS. The vehicle is a 16-wheeler equipped with run-flat tires that allow it to travel even when the tires are punctured. The vehicle can adjust its height depending on the terrain and water pump jets help it rotate.
“There’s similarity between Korea and Turkey in terms of geological features, such as streams and mountainous range, and the four seasons,” said a Hyundai Rotem official. “The fact that Turkey is currently using [the armored amphibious assault bridge vehicle in its own country] strategically is also a strong point.”
Hanwha Defense is bidding with its M3 amphibious rig, which was developed by Germany’s General Dynamics European Land Combat Systems (Gdels).
The M3 amphibious rig is proven equipment, as it was deployed during the war in Iraq and is currently in use by the militaries of Britain, Germany, Taiwan and Singapore.
It also holds the record for building the world’s longest amphibious bridge, which stretched 350 meters (1148 feet), during NATO’s 2016 Anaconda exercise.
“The strength of M3 is that it is already proven equipment that is in use strategically in more than 10 countries,” said an official with Hanwha Defense. “It could be used in various weather and terrain conditions, and we have also increased the mobility by making it lightweight.”
The Korean military plans to determine the final winner by judging 80 percent on technology and 20 percent on price. The evaluation will be completed in October, and the winner will be chosen early next year.