First the good news: the long-awaited Defence strategic Review has recommended that spending be increased – but not by how much, or over what timeframe.  It has also come out in favour of a radical overhaul of the acquisition process to reflect a more rapid, top down approach to purchases.

More long-range missiles will also be acquired – for example the 500km PrSM that can be fired from HIMARS launchers.  However, it should be noted that many of these things – such as HIMARS themselves – will be acquired through the U.S. FMS system, so Australia can make requests regarding numbers and timing but the ultimate decisions on those will be made in Washington.

The document also confirms the importance of the cyber and space domains.  It stresses a sense of urgency, but no clarity seems to exist between the relative importance of defending Australia or supporting U.S. operations.  The government says it is a major restructure of Australia’s priorities but it actually looks a lot like previous White Papers, which are a mixture of the defence of Australia, regional engagement and coalition operations.

Strangely, the future structure of the RAN surface fleet addressing questions such as should the Arafura OPVs be more heavily armed; do we really need nine Hunter class frigates; and should we buy a new class of corvettes is now going to be the subject of a separate review, reporting back by the end of the year.  This delay is a worry for local industry, which had been hoping for rapid decisions on the types and numbers of ships to be acquired.

This additional review is connected with the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines because – for example –they are effective ASW platforms and that might influence the overall balance of the fleet.  As Defence Minister Richard Marles explained, there is also a global trend to navies moving to larger numbers of small platforms and that should be taken into account.

The big loser is the Army, which is now in real danger of being totally unbalanced.  The decision to reduce the number of Infantry Fighting Vehicles under Land 400 Phase 3 to a mere 129 out of an earlier total of 450 has been confirmed.  Extraordinarily, the purchase of additional 155mm Self Propelled Howitzers has been ruled out, supposedly because they are too short range.

This flies in the face of the reality that current ammunition allows ranges in excess of 60 kilometres and in future this will go out to 100 kilometres.  It is also the opposite of what current experience is demonstrating following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  The ground based air defence systems of both countries – including small shoulder-launched MANPADS – have proven very effective against both aircraft and helicopters, meaning they have been largely absent from the battlefield.

This has meant that the armies of both sides have become almost completely reliant on indirect artillery fire – in the case of Ukraine increasingly on western-supplied 155mm self propelled systems.  It is precisely this sort of equipment that the review has cancelled and that an additional 30 Hanwha 155mm self-propelled howitzers and associated resupply vehicles will not be procured.  This will be for an insignificant saving of around $400 million later this decade.

The reduction in IFVs also destroys – or drastically minimises – the Army’s ability to carry out combined arms operations.  This doctrine has been in place for around 30 years and argues that for high intensity land combat, forces need to be a balanced blend of main battle tanks, self-propelled artillery, IFVs, plus armoured reconnaissance and support vehicles.

At the same time, Army is going ahead with the purchase of 72 refurbished M1A2 MBTs and more than 50 heavily armoured support vehicles based on the same chassis.  The Abrams in particular at 62 tonnes is awkward to deploy because of its mass – though comes with huge direct firepower.  The cost of this acquisition is about $4 billion.

Its effectiveness is however greatly curtailed until Army manages to acquire a Battle Management System that allows data to be transmitted between platforms.  A contract with Israeli supplier Elbit was suspended two years ago and hasn’t been replaced.

It is also worth emphasising that the IFVs are to be built in Australia – either near Ipswich or Geelong, depending on who is selected – but now in drastically reduced numbers and with a further delay as Hanwha and Rheinmetall reprice their offers.  Similarly, the first 30 SPHs and 15 resupply vehicles will be constructed by Hanwha at their Avalon airport precinct – but not the second batch, since they have just been scrapped.

All the 72 Abrams tanks and their 50 support vehicles will be refurbished in the U.S. with zero Australian content.  They can be supported, to an extent, locally – for example overhauling their gas turbine engines – but we will still be massively dependant on American supply chains.

Combined arms operations are a science with a certain ratios of platforms, depending on the mission.  Typically, a troop of four MBTs would be supported by a full company of infantry carried in 12 IFVs.  This group would be able to call on a battery of six SPHs – possibly more – and additional air and naval support, when available.

This is because, in theory, if tanks are not screened by infantry, enemy soldiers equipped with anti-tank guided weapons could destroy all of them.  The soldiers of Ukraine have repeatedly demonstrated the effectiveness of ambushing unscreened Russian MBTs and other armoured vehicles, destroying thousands of them.

In summary: Defence will scrap more than 300 Australian-built IFVs; 45 Australian-built SPHs and resupply vehicles –  a loss of about $15 billion to local industry – but will go ahead and spend $4 billion on 30 year old U.S. main battle tanks with zero Australian content.

There isn’t much news on the RAAF capability side of things, which is an indication that the current force mix is about right.  There is some sensible news that the F-35s will be upgraded to the new Block 4 configuration with major improvements such as a new radar and improved distributed appeture system, but not on the timing.  According to information previously supplied by prime contractor Lockheed Martin, this work can be performed in Australia.

Slightly surprisingly, given Australia’s gloomy strategic outlook, there seems to be no interest in an extra squadron or two of F-35s.  With their advanced sensors and networking ability, they are huge force multipliers and a squadron of the F-35B STOVL variant deployed on an LHD would have been a significant increase in capability – but the RAN has always resisted that idea.

Another disappointment was nothing about reinstating AIR 7003, the cancelled armed Predator B drone that Labor said would be reexamined if they won government. These aircraft have endurance in excess of 24 hours and can not only be used for dropping weapons such as laser guided bombs but they can also provide persistent targeting for systems such as HIMARS.  This was always a very cost effective purchase – and an initial capability could have been delivered to Australia within months rather than having to wait for years.

Finally, a pet theme of APDR’s: release of information.  Under the section ‘Resilence’ the DSR places “An informed public” at the top of the list.  The public will not be informed if Defence and the Government persist in denying the release of even the most mundane information in response to questions from the media.

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Kym Bergmann
Kym Bergmann is the editor for Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) and Defence Review Asia (DRA). He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and the defence industry. After graduating with honours from the Australian National University, he joined Capital 7 television, holding several positions including foreign news editor and chief political correspondent. During that time he also wrote for Business Review Weekly, undertaking analysis of various defence matters.After two years on the staff of a federal minister, he moved to the defence industry and held senior positions in several companies, including Blohm+Voss, Thales, Celsius and Saab. In 1997 he was one of two Australians selected for the Thomson CSF 'Preparation for Senior Management' MBA course. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of companies including Raytheon, Tenix and others. He has served on the boards of Thomson Sintra Pacific and Saab Pacific.


  1. I’m surprised anyone is surprised that this Review makes any sense. According to the PM, the rationale behind cutting the number of IFVs is “ it’s unlikely we will be fighting in the middle of Nth Queensland “ but the Abrams Tank upgrade (and additional 15 tanks) plus support vehicles is going ahead. We are cancelling the extra Self Propelled Howitzers but committing to a strategy of Coastal Defence ( calling it Land based maritime strike doesn’t change what it is ). Also the “Independence “ of the review heads is questionable, an ex Labour Minister and an ex Head of Defence that tends to follow who’s ever in Office. This review was always going to be what Albanese and Marles wanted it to be, not what was best for Defence. The fact that the only confirmed cuts are all Non US purchases is no surprise to me either. If the Government needs to rearrange some funding , How about canceling the Abrams upgrade ( $4 Billion) , instead of 20 HIMARS Take up the offer Sth Korean offer of Chunmoo system ( which will be build in Australia) and don’t spend around $3 Billion supporting the UK and US ship building industry. This Review (so far) is nothing more than an excuse to tie the ADF to U.S. Supply Lines and Manufacturing Bases at the expense of Australian Industry and Sovereignty.

    • I agree. Also scrapping around 300 IFVs and Tranche 2 SPH has a combined value of $10-$15 billion that will now no longer be spent in Australia. Part of the logic for doing the work here was to offset the loss of the car industry. That’s all gone down the gurgle.

    • you’re 100% spot on.
      Why do you need so many tanks if your cutting the Armoured infantry to go along with it, makes no sense.
      Also how do you know you don’t need as many IFVs if you haven’t decided on force structure yet? It seems to me like they are going about this backwards and putting the cart before the horse.
      First structure and needs should be decided and then from their you work out how many of what piece of equipment you need.

    • @ Michael Alleyn – Keep in mind that the Abrams tank has been around in the Australian army since 2007 (“the Australian Government replaced the Leopards with a small fleet of American M1A1 Abrams tanks in 2007) . The A$4B upgrade is to extend the life of the Abrams until such time that a suitable replacement can be acquired – much cheaper to upgrade than to buy new ones. The Australian Government with its current expenditure on defense cannot replace all of army’s hardware at once. Your suggestion to the K236 Chunmoo from South Korea is intriguing and certainly should be taken into consideration. Finally, as part of the AUKUS agreement, the A$3B deal with UK and USA is virtually sewn up as this relates to the purchase of the new AUKUS Subs for Australia.

  2. I was also surprised that one of the reasons for gutting the IFV order was to accelerate faster and larger procurement of medium and heavy army landing craft to help bring forces and equipment on shore.
    So we can land a combination of tanks and unprotected/unmounted light infantry?
    So the tanks can only move at the speed of the unmounted Infantry?
    There’s little to no logic to the entire outcome of this review.

    • is there any use for heavy tanks in our region? Wouldn’t tanks be better off at home?

      Maybe those wiesels from Germany could come in handy? Or the G6 Rhino from BAe South Africa. Both Rheinmetall and Bae have a corporate and support presence in Oz

      • There are some MBTs in the region, but not many unless you count China. As it happens the IFVs – either the Hanwha Redback or Rheinmetall Lynx – pack a fair bit of punch themselves with 2 Spike ATGMs and a 30mm cannon. OK they aren’t going to willingly take on an MBT front-on at long range and win, but if they ambush one or get it at an angle the MBT will be in big trouble. Oh but wait – we are reducing the number of IFVs down to a third of the original….

  3. There is absolutely no logic in any of this. We need a balanced ADF – Scrapping or reducing the equipment the Army needs is simply astonishing. If the Government is serious about us being self sufficient in our capacity to build credible military equipment they need to invest heavily and immediately.

    I understand that the Abrahms are 30yo – but in my opinion necessary if we ever actually need to go into combat but they need the backup of a balanced force structure. 129 IFV’s? Have to be kidding. Recent action in the Ukraine has shown how effective long range agile artillery is.

    When it comes to Defence more is always better than less. I believe we do need the 9 Hunter Class – any platform that can either deny air, sea or sub-sea access to any potential foe is worth having. They may not be perfect but no single solution is. Maybe more AWD’s would be a good option – the OPV’s are almost criminally under armed and I am not sure that corvettes are the answer to our needs.

    As far as the RAAF goes – I have watched it evolve over the past 20 years or so and it is a well balanced but far too small organisation. Again – more is better. I have always advocated that perhaps a second tier of 4th generation fighters would be a good thing – maybe the Saab Gripen added to the inventory to support the F35’s.

    Long range missiles are just one tier of our Defence options – we need a well balanced Defence Force capable of being an agile and effective deterrent. I believe in our case it is about deterrence and not aggression – we are a peace loving nation after all.

    Just my thoughts.

    • Thanks Rod – I agree with all of that. I’m not anti-MBT, just the completely unbalanced nature of what is being proposed. Having said that, I really think that the South Korean K2 MBT (recently purchased by Poland) is well worth a look, along with their Chunmoo MLRS – the full tech transfer of which (including guided missiles) has already been offered. It’s extremely unlikely that we will ever get that from the U.S. – AUKUS or no AUKUS.

      • Hi Kym – I actually think that the South Koreans have a lot of good kit to offer. Agree completely on the K2 MBT – It is certainly a newer product and they seem open to technology transfer. Given we have already started down the path of building facilities here in Australia to produce the Huntsman it makes sense to work with a country that will allow us to build, under licence, a full spectrum of armoured vehicles for ourselves. With respect to my other statement regarding having a second tier of 4th gen fighter aircraft – again the South Koreans are developing the KF-21 Boromae which would suit the role – would be interesting to know the cost per unit would be.

        The biggest challenge in the whole exercise, as you have alluded to previously, is manpower. It doesn’t matter what equipment we have or how much technology we have – if we can’t crew it or support it then it is a pointless exercise.

  4. This review is a joke and for once we agree on something

    We sacrifice infantry protection and mobility for missiles which at some point in any conflict will run out and then what we throw rocks!

    Spa as shown in the Ukraine war is essential we need a balanced defence for
    Labour again has gutted the army why will anyone want to join a service that will put you in a 70 years old personnel carrier

    The pm get in a new com car just about every other day, but expects service people to run around in model T

    Steve smith worst defence minster ever and Angus Huston should hang his head in same especially on the eve of Anzac Day

  5. I’m not totally against MBTs but I don’t think we need 75 of them especially since the ones we have are so hard to transport. If they want the extra Fire support maybe the Rhinemetal 105mm is worth a look. It also could supply a decent Anti Tank ability as well as being compatible with the Boxer. Bigger isn’t always better .

    • we’ve bought our vehicles from Rheinmetall who have a corporate presence in Australia, so why not buy the new Panther MBT instead of improved Abrams?i

      • I think the Panther is still very much under development. Unlike the South Korean K2 Black Panther – not to be confused – which is in serial production. South Korea is planning to build them in Poland for Poland so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be prepared to do the same here.

  6. Not much in the way of specifics in this, aside from what we’re not getting. Still don’t understand why the think that the IFVs aren’t part of the MBT package. If they’re cutting the IFVs, why still so many tanks? I understand we need to now wait until the third quarter of this year to get specifics on the Navy, but they should be ordering three more AWDs ASAP and getting those in as we retire the older ANZACs. Also, look at adding SM-6 & SPY-6 on the new ones since that gives us some anti ICBM capability. The ANZACs are nearly totally reliant on their helicopters for ASW so their time has passed. The Hunters need way more VLS and they need to urgently upgun and up sensor the OPVs. Starting tenders for new Corvettes will take too long, so better they look at what Brunei did with their version of the OPV and look at adding weapons to those. Those new Strix drones should be a priority for the OPV as well. We need more P8As with LRASMs, along with a few more MQ-4Cs. I recall the whole state of Victoria being without LPG for weeks in the late 90s due to one gas distribution depot blowing up and taking out the other two, so we need to look at protecting civilian infrastructure. We also need SAM capability, something like Spyder or Patriot, particularly to protect the North. Still don’t understand why they took artillery away from the Reserves. How about getting them some MANPADS & more indirect fire capability. They need to be familiar with those things. It’s quite likely the Army reserves will be involved in facility protection, and infrastructure protection domestically, so how about working up training and contingencies for that. We also need to look at fixed wing UAVs for the LHDs.

    • You are correct about the lack of detail. You have also touched on a certain lack of urgency, which is a real puzzle. Maybe too many senior people have convinced themselves that we no longer need to think and that AUKUS will do everything for us.

      • And we’re only one election away from a new POTUS deciding that they need to prioritize submarines for themselves and then we’re standing there saying “what do we do now?” Putting all your eggs in one basket is stupid.

        • Exactly – and you have anticipated a future article. The narrative in Australia is quite different from the U.S. Here, everyone is acting like it is a 100% certainty that we will be sold second-hand Virginia class submarines sometime in the 2030s. Last week appearing before the U.S. Senate Armed Services committee the USN made it clear that they have not yet figured out how the deal with Australia will actually work. Whoopsies!

          • I don’t understand why with all of this stuff about long range strike and “impactful projection” (a bit of PR or corporate gimmickry if ever I’ve heard one) the B-21 idea was dismissed with a single sentence. I would have thought “worth studying further”, or a “longer-term option” would have been more appropriate.

  7. And where is my squadron of Australian B-21 long range naval strike and “nuke Beijing” stealth bombers. Being an ex-RAAF chap, Sir Angus should have delivered.

  8. Smith and Houston we given the job as both are noted as a pair of spineless dimwits. The DSR was never going to be good. I’ll bare my ass in Bourke street if the Hunters aren’t cut to six and short ranged, under armed, with minimal sensors corvettes ordered, nice and cheap and looks like your doing something. Otherwise the DSR is a true to form pacifist left wing showcase of incompetence.

  9. Thanks for what seems a very good summary.
    The tank thing worries me. An extremely heavy tank with a bloody huge jet engine which sucks in fuel like you can hardly believe….and how would it go if it was required in our wet season ? All at the expense of the IFV’s etc and Australian industry….in all the long run they may be more useful.

    The Navy seems to be a very confused group…our future very large and possibly very important Nuclear Subs, 2 large LHD’s….3 smallish destroyers, 6 ageing subs, very large frigates to come (?) and the most confused of all the Arafura Class OPV which seems more of a future water taxi than anything else.
    The synergy seems virtually confused .

  10. The abrams are M1A2 not A1s. Completely new animal. Yes need more AIFVs but at least we will have the factory. Remember we have gone from 150 Centurions, down to 90 Leopards and now 75 M1 gun tanks. Fleet rotation needs at least 100 to maintain 3 squadrons. 40 odd M1 funnies going to RAE. We should be thankful they did not cancel the tanks.

    • I agree. Also Australia is the only country swimming against the tide with 155mm SPH. Ukraine can’t get enough of them. Poland has contracted Hanwha for 648. The UK is buying them. The US has a future SPH program. Several NATO countries have bought them and are ordering more. South Korea is getting close to 2,000. This is for many reasons, but sustained rates of fire, mobility, crew protection and advanced ammunition are all important factors. Australia will have 30 + 15 resupply vehicles.

      For Prof Smith and Sir Angus to argue that they are short range is patently ridiculous – they have multiples of the range of the M1A2s.

    • Sorry – you are correct. We currently have 59 M1A1s – I wonder what will happen to those? However, the M1A2 is still Cold War vintage but with several improvements such as longer 120mm main gun and additional sensors in things such as the SEPv3 package.

  11. You may have answered your own question Kym . Why would the ADF cancel a piece of kit everyone wants to get there hands on… “The U.S. has a future SPH program.

  12. I don’t think the DSR is too bad(!) esp wrt Army. There is a new strategy of focussed deterrence and the capability changes reflect that. Long range strike, improved air defence both supported by local missile production via GWEO and hardening of bases sends a better deterrent message to adversaries than additional IFV’s. I suggest those upset to re-read page 54 section 8.8. On the negative though, nothing additional for air force and navy surface fleet restructure kicked down the road.

    • I’ll believe the GWEO when it starts showing some results. It was announced two years ago and nothing has happened – and I really mean nothing. Australia could be building Spike ATGMs but there has been no decision on that, with Rafael and Farley waiting for 18 months for the go ahead. Hanwha offered full tech transfer of their Chunmoo MLRS with missiles in the +200km category and +500km under development that could be manufactured in Australia as a matter of urgency. Level of interest from Army/Defence: zero. For the proposed land-based anti-ship missile capability, Defence could have ordered the Strikemaster – a Kongsberg/Thales co-development putting two NSM canister launched missiles on a Bushmaster ute a year ago. Level of interest to date: zero (or close to it).

      • DSR is about strategy and endorsing GWEO is the right approach over say IFV’s. But yes, I agree it does need to be delivered…

          • I disagree and think Army will benefit greatly from the focus provided. They can’t do it all at once… The “balanced force” idea has led to incomplete and incoherent capabilities that are generally not able to be deployed without the US filling in the gaps. Army has a clear mission now and one that it might possibly achieve! Focusing on long range strike, land based air defence and a coherent amphibious capability directly supports the stated national A2/AD strategy. IFV’s have not been scrapped completely and combined arms is still a part of the Army and could be rapidly ramped up in the future if it is needed at scale. More important now is to focus on coherent deployable capabilities that actually contribute to the now clearer national deterrence by denial strategy.

          • I wonder what role the 72 M1A2s, 59 M1A1s and +50 heavy engineering / breaching vehicles have. I’m also not sure how it will be possible to rapidly ramp up scale.

  13. I know this all about the future and equipment. Having spent 27 years in the Defence Force the one thing not being addressed clearly is man power. Without the right well trained people you can forget about all the other stuff. I have it on good authority that the personnel are leaving in droves. That ships are undermanned, that air force squadrons are not up correct manpower levels. How are they going to reach the levels of personnel required under the present circumstances. You cannot have a Defence Force without people

    • Correct. The ADF has been saying for years that they have to do something about the posting cycle but it never seems to change. Also the DSR has slashed a lot of programs for base refurbishment which isn’t going to help at all if people have to work in old run down buildings with failing air conditioning, leaking taps and toilets that don’t flush.

  14. I don’t believe that is a true statement that rotary and fixed wing aircraft are absent from the Ukrainian conflict.
    BTW, recently leaked US intelligence suggests that Russia has been quite successful at jamming Western smart munitions supplied to the Ukrainians.

    • Let me rephrase: they have been largely absent from the Ukraine conflict. I hadn’t heard that about the jamming of western smart munitions. I’d be cautious about using that material from Thug Shaker Central because it has passed through many hands and some of it has been doctored to reflect a pro-Russian viewpoint.

  15. Mr Taylor true, ww2 the poms said Australia you are on your own, we were given the plans to the bren gun!
    What else has changed back then a voluntary 100%Australian force, now 10%
    Wake up!

  16. you’re 100% spot on.
    Why do you need so many tanks if your cutting the Armoured infantry to go along with it, makes no sense.
    Also how do you know you don’t need as many IFVs if you haven’t decided on force structure yet? It seems to me like they are going about this backwards and putting the cart before the horse.
    First structure and needs should be decided and then from their you work out how many of what piece of equipment you need.

  17. The whole DSR seems to be based on the presumption that the U.S. Congress will actually allow U.S. Technology to be transferred, they have been known to be pretty paranoid about the security of any technology the share. There is also the matter of jobs going over seas ( a problem some Governments take more seriously than others)
    The POTUS can say Australia can have it BUT it’s Congress who has the final say and don’t think for one minute they won’t look after the Jobs and Manufacturing in their own States first. We need to be looking at options that guarantee the opportunity to build here to ensure that we aren’t left in the lurch. Dependence on any one supplier is a sure fire way to leave your self vulnerable to whims of that supplier.

    • Yes – and I’ll have more to say about this shortly. The political narrative in Australia is highly misleading with the media simply repeating the RAN/government talking points that this is a done deal. It is not. The USN has publicly stated that they don’t know if or how the sale of Virginia class submarines can be done.

  18. @ Michael Alleyn – Keep in mind that the Abrams tank has been around in the Australian army since 2007 (“the Australian Government replaced the Leopards with a small fleet of American M1A1 Abrams tanks in 2007) . The A$4B upgrade is to extend the life of the Abrams until such time that a suitable replacement can be acquired – much cheaper to upgrade than to buy new ones. The Australian Government with its current expenditure on defense cannot replace all of army’s hardware at once. Your suggestion to the K236 Chunmoo from South Korea is intriguing and certainly should be taken into consideration. Finally, as part of the AUKUS agreement, the A$3B deal with UK and USA is virtually sewn up as this relates to the purchase of the new AUKUS Subs for Australia.

  19. Incredibly disappointing.18 months and these 2 “experts” can only manage this???
    Let me do it for them in a few lines.Without maritime fixed wing air power our surface ships will only be safe and then barely in harbor.24 F35bs ,and/or 2 squadrons of a maritime version of the ghost bat and $1billion upgrading the LHDs would have given the navy that.
    Either replacing the arafura s with light frigates or upgrading them with 16VLS ,a 76mm gun ,and 30mm point defense could quickly give the navy distributed lethality across 12 platforms (which we seem to forget weigh as much as a WW11 destroyer but carry less firepower than the 345 to be Armidale class).
    Either upgrade the hunter so it has 64 VLS or better and faster produce 9 more Hobart class that do.
    Finally buy 6 off the shelf conventional subs or build sons of collins to bridge the sub gap which we know will only getter bigger under the Aukus “solution “.
    Scrap the extra Abrahms which I guarantee are too heavy to be ever transported to where they can see action and reinstate the armed infantry vehicles again boosting local capability.
    Increase personnel numbers over the next 3 years not 17.
    There fixed it.Now trash that waste of taxpayers money.

  20. The thing that I’m trying to get my head around is what we would’ve had if the previous Govt had remained in power and the $42 Billion budget shortfall had come home to bite. I’m taking the review at its word by referring to that figure. Would we have eventually had the full 450 IFVs or 60+ SPHs? Would the 9 strong class of Hunters panned out? Its hard to say.
    Regarding the cancellation of the additional regiment of SPHs, it could also be re-framed to say that instead of getting an additional regiment of SPHs with a fire range of 40ish km’s, the Army is adding further longer range strike capability that it wasn’t going to get in such numbers before this review. While the numerical make up of the capability remains something that still needs to settle, what I am seeing here is a multi-layered strike capability that starts with you soldier carried weaponry, IFV and CRV 30mm and ATGM, the 120mm M1A2, Tiger/AH-64E, 155mm SPH, HIMARS guided rockets, land based ASM, ATACMS, PrSM etc. This is a much deeper range of capability than we currently possess or that I could’ve foreseen us having even 10 years ago. By sacrificing an additional 30 SPHs, there will now be more HIMARS and ASMs than previously planned, with the ability to reach out further and have an effect of an adversary long before we meet tank to tank.

    With the tanks, I’m not sure that we are actually keeping our current M1A1’s that a previous comment noted. I believe the A1s will be traded in on the newer A2 Sepv3 model. Either way, at least if we are going to deploy this Mech battalion, it will have the latest Abrams(and supporting engineering variants) to go with whichever IFV and the Huntsman. With the 70ish Abrams and the 129 IFVs, that’s an IFV to tank ratio of nearly 2:1. Yes, I understand that number includes training and spares.

    As for the overall numbers and the ‘single’ mech battalion, lets take a step back and have a look at where we are more likely to be engaged in the future. The strategic outlook doesn’t see us engaged in they types of conflicts that we have seen in the past 20 to 30 odd years, give or take. It’s supposedly far more likely to be in SE Asia, if anywhere, in a littoral environment. Referring to Poland, the UK, Germany and other European countries and the large focus on tanks and Europe, and not island hopping in the Pacific. The US is a different case as they have a presence everywhere… Heavy armour is not as suited to that type of warfare surely. South Korea for example would likely be playing in their own backyard against the North. We would be packing our bags to travel to a likely conflict, hence different requirements.
    How effective are large heavy armoured combined arms forces for us in the Pacific area? And what size of a force are we even likely to deploy, let alone be capable of deploying given the platforms we have to transport equipment and considering the overall size of the ADF? I wouldn’t think it would be a significant one. Even if we did have 450+ IFVS, 60-80 SPHS, 40+ HIMARS etc. Would we even have the personnel to maintain the capability over the longer term? I would see Australia deploying battle group sized mixed forces that could be made up effectively from the size of the fleets that this review sets out.

    While we may not be getting the number of IFVs that so many seem to want, we will be getting more longer range strike capability, more amphibious capability, medium and longer range Anti-air and missile defence (that we have never really had), and a host of other things. Its not like this review is a budget cutting exercise and we loose overall capability, its shifting the focus of an increased capability. While I’m still getting my head around it, the review is high level, still has a lot of detail to be worked out, and we have to see how it plays out before we jump to conclusions. I’m optimistic that we are trying something new and that it works out.

    • Thanks – you make a number of fair points. However, I repeat from an Australian industry perspective, it’s a disaster. You can’t rip $15 billion out of armoured vehicle production and pretend the DSR is soon sort of bonanza for local industry – especially when you have announced simultaneously a review of the surface fleet. By the way, in 2012 or thereabouts Stephen Smith said “I’m the Minister for Defence, not the Minister for Australian Defence Industry” when justifying an overseas purchase. He does have a point to an extent – it’s not the purpose of the Defence budget to prop up industry – but self-reliance is vital and if we go back to being totally dependent on supply lines from the U.S. we are in big trouble.

      Also it’s laughable to read stuff about accelerated acquisition of HIMARS. That’s not going to happen. HIMARS systems are produced by Lockheed Martin at 96 units per year under a contract with the U.S. government – and it is the State Department that decided who gets what. The highest priorities at the moment are the needs of the U.S., followed by eastern Europe, followed by western Europe, followed by the rest of the world. Guess which category we are in?

  21. This review is terrible. While I am critical of some of your past comments Mr Bergmann, I believe you are correct and I simply wonder what the hell the architects of the report have been doing, in my opinion the whole review doesn’t make sense. To rely virtually on a missile defence system(s) and some nuke subs borders on recklessness. Not to give the army the necessary vehicles to perform nor additional offensive aircraft has resulted in a disjointed and lacklustre report.
    Now there is going to be another review after this review, to determine the type of naval vessels Australia is to require. Does that mean the Hunter Class will be put on hold? As for the armoured vehicles, the opportunity to have an integrated and reasonable number of vehicles is now lost with the potential manufacturers having to quote for a third time. The Labor government, via Stephen Smith and his cohorts have ruined any opportunity that Defence had in having a substantial and robust plan for the future. Without carrying on about it too much, I cannot believe the architects of this report have made such a dogs breakfast of our future defence needs. It looks like a bunch of armchair generals and amateurs have put this sop together. What a disaster.

    • Stephen Smith almost single handedly destroyed the naval shipbuilding sector in 2012 when he was the Minister – and now he’s done the same thing to the nascent armoured vehicles industry. Scrapping the second batch of SPH is ridiculous – the rest of the world cannot get enough of them. Richard Marles defends this huge mess as the Army becoming more nimble – with extra 75 MBTs at the expense of IFVs He’s just repeating whatever rubbish the Department tells him. A nimble force is the USMC and they scrapped their MBT fleet entirely.

  22. Many great points here.
    I would like to focus one one idea, if we wanted 450 IFV’s but now are only going to get 120 IFV’s or so, what are the infantry who don’t get a new vehicle going to battle in?
    Or would we be unable/unwilling to send them into battle at all?
    Numbers matter (as noted by other commentators) and the vehicle loss rates in the Ukraine confirm this.
    If we needed 450 vehicles but cant afford them, then get 450 of a far less expensive type.
    The infantry MUST have protection and a 70 year old M113 variant is not the answer.
    Either budget for more Bushmasters (or their replacements) to cover the lost IFV numbers or my suggestion contract Hanwa to supply 330 of their Tigon 6×6 vehicles with a basic APC configuration (RWS and APS and that’s it) or a similar vehicle from Rheinmetall group.
    This gives more work to our Australian industry and gives our infantry a modern vehicle which they desperately need and deserve.
    (I would argue that a wheeled vehicle with a max weight of 23 tonnes is a better fit strategically in any case)
    Much more can be said about this horribly ill thought out report but I expected very little from the authors given their past histories.


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