We will never know the full extent of what our government has signed up to with their AUKUS deal but it is increasingly looking like we are to become the dumping ground for obsolete armaments.
On Monday, Peter Dutton issued a press release announcing that Australia has locked in the purchase of more than 120 tanks and other armoured vehicles from the United States, at a cost of $3.5 billion.
“Army will receive up to 75 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks, 29 M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles, 17 M1074 Joint Assault Bridge Vehicles and an additional six M88A2 Armoured Recovery Vehicles.”
One wonders why Dutton waited till now to make that announcement since the US government let the cat out of the bag last year, as reported on June 1 in The Australian.
“The only reason any of this is known is because major US arms exports have to be notified to Congress – and on April 29 the world learnt of a possible sale to Australia of 160 M1A1 hulls and a great deal of related hardware.”
To give some context, Australia’s last deployment of tanks was in the Vietnam War. In 2007, we bought 59 Abrams M1A1s which have never seen combat. As one commentator quipped, “It is almost as if army buys these things and then doesn’t want to scratch the paint.”
According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the Abrams tanks are too heavy for our amphibious landing boats and for many of the underdeveloped or degraded roads and bridges in our near region, as well as in large parts of northern Australia. Which begs the question, how would these tanks be used? Should there be a major conflict in the Asia–Pacific region, it would likely be fought mainly by air and naval assets.
Marcus Hellyer, a senior analyst with ASPI, said the Australian government had decided that it wants to maintain the ability to engage in “close combat” in urban environments as part of counter-insurgency operations. If they didn’t use them in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria, how likely are we to be doing that in the future?
But the real kicker is that, rather than being new builds, these tanks will be made up of various refurbished and overhauled items in the US inventory.
This is because the production line for the Abrams series ended in 2013, but with 3000 of them in storage since the end of the Cold War, there is plenty of hardware around that can be rebirthed by American companies for customers such as Australia.
Meanwhile, other countries are developing unmanned tanks with drone launching capability and autoloaders, or opting for lighter alternatives, such as the US Army’s light tank ‘mobile protected firepower’ program.
Instead of just upgrading our current fleet, as South Korea is doing, whilst new technology is further developed, we have chosen to buy fully imported refurbished and upgraded platforms that are nearing the end of life-of-type, with billions of dollars heading to the US.
How good is AUKUS.
PS: Just a thought for Peter Dutton. Is there any good reason why we are not using the army to help distribute supplies at the moment? That would be a more welcome announcement.
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