WASHINGTON — Hanwha, South Korea’s largest defense company, and the U.S. Army have signed an agreement to research and develop defense systems and technologies together, according to a statement from the Asian firm.

The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) was signed Dec. 10 by Hanwha Corporation and Hanwha Defense and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center (DEVCOM AC).

Hanwha is the first Korean company to enter into a CRADA with the U.S. Army, according to the statement.

“This is a historic and exciting opportunity,” Ret. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Bernard Champoux, head of Hanwha’s US defense operations and former 8th Army commander, said in the statement. “It not only acknowledges the quality of the Republic of Korea’s growing defense sector, but also further strengthens the bilateral US-ROK relationship and the Alliance.”

A senior delegation from DEVCOM AC visited South Korea in November 2019 to discuss possible collaboration with Hanwha. “Both parties shared their interest in jointly developing capabilities for the U.S. and other international military markets, with potential commercial spin-off applications,” the statement notes.

The agreement will allow the company and DEVCOM AC to exchange resources, technical expertise and intellectual property.

Efforts may include extensive simulation, modeling and prototyping throughout the design, development and testing of a wide range of defense solutions such as fire armaments systems, ammunition, vehicle and armaments system interfaces, protection systems, propulsion and robotics.

“For Hanwha, this agreement is yet another step in demonstrating its commitment to US defense stakeholders and the US economy by facilitating transfer of technologies that can be incorporated into the American industrial base,” the company states.

Hanwha is hoping to build off the momentum from recent international success including competitive participation in Australia’s LAND 400 and LAND 8116 programs.

Hanwha’s Redback Next-Generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle is a top contender for the LAND 400 competition while its K9 Huntsman Self-Propelled Howitzer has been chosen for Australia’s LAND 8116 program set up to build 30 new howitzers with upgrade plans in the 2030s. Hanwha is teaming up with Kongsberg Defence Australia on the effort.

Australia’s LAND 400 program is an effort to procure a new combat reconnaissance vehicle. Hanwha’s Redback is going head-to-head in trials with Rheinmetall’s KF41 Lynx Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Australia will evaluate the offerings in trials over the next year.

In the U.S., many close to or directly involved in the Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle competition to replace its Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle are keeping an eye on Hanwha as a possible competitor. The Army is expected to release its request for proposals for the competition Dec. 18.

The Army is embarking on its second attempt to hold a competition for the OMFV program after receiving just one bid sample by its deadline. A physical bid sample is not a requirement in the new competitive effort. Sources confirmed to Defense News at the time that Hanwha had seriously considered a bid, but decided against it. BAE Systems also chose not to compete.

Rheinmetall, Hanwha’s LAND 400 direct competitor, is expected to submit a proposal to participate in the OMFV competition with a team of Raytheon and Textron. General Dynamics Land Systems and BAE Systems are also expected to submit proposals.

The Army is also gearing up for a future mobile howitzer shoot-off in 2021. It is unknown whether Hanwha plans to enter the competition, which is expected to have a deep pool of competitors.

The company also demonstrated its BIHO “Flying Tiger” air defense system as a possible Short-Range Air Defense System as the U.S. Army scrambled to develop an interim SHORAD capability in response to an urgent operational need from the European theater just a few years ago.

Hanwha “has its foundation in the development and production of energetics with 68 years of accumulated expertise,” the statement says. “The company is recognized for its modernized production of explosives propellants, and advanced precision guided munitions for the Republic of Korea and numerous allied nations.”

The company is also a “leading combat ground vehicle and weapons systems developer” in South Korea with almost 50 years of technology development and production, according to the statement.

Norway, Finland, Estonia, Poland, India and Turkey have all been customers of Hanwha’s self-propelled howitzer solutions, the statement notes.