Australia has made a deal with the United States to buy more than 120 tanks and other armoured vehicles at a cost of $3.5 billion, as part of a major upgrade of the army’s fleet, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald. Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton will reportedly confirm the upgrade on Monday (10 January). The commitment to buy 75 M1A2 main battle tanks indicates the government is committed to an advanced fleet of armoured vehicles despite the focus in recent years being on other major acquisitions such as submarines, jet fighters and long-range missiles amid the rise of China, according to the newspaper report.
The tanks will replace the army’s 59 Abrams M1A1s, which were bought in 2007 but have not seen combat. Australia will also commit to 29 assault breacher vehicles, which are used to clear mines and explosives, as well as 17 joint assault bridge vehicles and an additional six armoured recovery vehicles, the report said. The purchase has ignited debate in defence circles about the utility of tanks, with some national security experts arguing that heavy armoured vehicles would not be needed in a maritime and air conflict with a major power such as China. Australia has not deployed a tank in combat since the Vietnam War.
Over the coming years, Australia will spend somewhere between $30 billion and $42 billion on armoured vehicles. This will include a fleet of infantry fighting vehicles which will likely be announced later this year at a cost of between $18 billion and $27 billion, the Morning Herald reported.