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Australia splashes $3.5b on tanks as China tensions rise

Military secures 120 US military tanks and armoured vehicles

Australia splashes $3.5b on tanks as China tensions rise
China's President Xi Jinping
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The games of geopolitics should be assessed based upon what governments do, not what they say. In this case, the Australian government has splashed $3.5 billion to urgently purchase 120 US military tanks and armoured vehicles in order to boost Australia’s weak defence lineup.

Teamed with the infantry fighting vehicle, combat engineering vehicles, and self-propelled howitzers, the new Abrams will give our soldiers the best possibility of success and protection from harm,” said Defence Minister Peter Dutton.

Since signing the trilateral AUKUS agreement in September 2021, the US has taken an active interest in Australia’s defence capabilities. While Australia has been primarily used as an expert force in foreign wars, the current military spend is directed toward fighting a broad-based war, possibly in defence of home soil.

This particular upgrade is likely to see the army increase its ranks with 75 Abrams tanks (one of the three best tanks on earth), 29 assault breacher vehicles, 17 joint assault bridge vehicles and 6 armoured recovery vehicles. They are due for delivery in 2025. Although this is a lot more practical than the previous date of the French submarines, three years is still a long time in a geopolitical crucible.

The M1A2 Abrams will incorporate the latest developments in Australian sovereign defence capabilities, including command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence systems, and benefit from the intended manufacture of tank ammunition in Australia,” added Dutton.

The introduction of the new M1A2 vehicles will take advantage of the existing support infrastructure, with significant investment in Australian industry continuing in the areas of sustainment, simulation, and training.”

This particular order of military equipment is specifically for ground-based defence. They also serve as an upgrade to the 59 M1A1 Abrams tanks, bought in 2007. Australia’s order includes special upgrades to their armour, increasing the resistance of our tanks to improvised explosive devices.

Their existence will create the need to purchase other upgrades, including landing craft capable of carrying the heavy vehicles. Of course, if these transport vessels are not purchased, we can assume the new tanks are to be deployed on Australian soil.

Its arrival is unsurprising, given that Australia holds the most important strategic position in the Pacific when it comes to policing China’s expansionism and hostile activities toward its neighbours.

No doubt, the speed at which the US is showing Australia in military assets is related to the escalating situation in Taiwan, with China threatening to take the island nation by force as part of its ‘One China’ policy.

Political commentators have previously criticised the acquisition of tanks, complaining that ‘Australians have not used a ‘tank in anger’ since the Vietnam War. In contradiction, Senator Jim Molan criticised Australia for not deploying tanks in Afghanistan, when Canada and others had success with theirs. It stands to reason that if Australia used tanks in the last Pacific conflict, they will do so again.

That situation of ‘ordinary’ combat for Australia could easily change when the centre of global conflict shifts from the Middle East to the Pacific. Then, as with previous Pacific Wars, Australia will once again require ground-based resources to defend its friends and itself. The last time the West got into a serious war, tanks were essential to success. It is unlikely to be any different this time around – something which the Defence Minister appears to know.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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