Part one in a new series of musings by Australian tank expert Bruce Cameron
Let’s look at the situation – we have 59 Abrams tanks. Less than a regiment’s worth.
FILE PHOTO: An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires on Exercise Diamond Run 2017. Photo by Captain Anna-Lise Brink.
We might have been able to get away with this while 1 Armd Regt was located in Darwin (i.e. concentrated in the same location) – but now we have tank squadrons located in Adelaide, Townsville and Brisbane (Plan Beersheba).
Some years ago, the Army assessed that the tank fleet needed to be increased to 90 to provide for the new force structure, repair pools etc.
One might think this would be a priority, but…
In the Australian Army, tanks exist to support infantry – but Inf now operate their own APCs; AFVs which are to be replaced by Infantry Fighting Vehicles. The project cost is around $15 billion for 450 IFVs.
It might seem expensive in the context of an APC replacement.
The IFV is a very different beast however – along the lines of 1000hp, 40 tonnes, two-man 40mm turret, .50cal RWS, 7.62mm; two-pod ATGM launcher and eight pax.
The expenditure on IFVs is three times that of the ASLAV replacement (211 Boxers at $5.2billion).
How are the IFVs to be crewed? They’re equivalent to a light tank in every respect.
Will infantry simply move from tactical dismounted field skills to crew duties in a 40mm turret/driver of a 40tonne AFV?
It would seem that not all infantry will be trained to operate IFVs.
So there is a core group who are trained at some greatly expanded School of Infantry – they will have a new employment code: IFV Crewman.
Do they have a career path?
Maybe – but how do you compare someone with six years as a field infantryman and someone with six years as an IFV crewman?
May I be excused for suggesting that the (40-tonne, 40mm cannon, ATGW, .50cal RWS) IFVs should be operated by the RAAC.
Meanwhile, we have an urgent need for 31 more Abrams. Should we be placing greater priority on three independent mechanised infantry battalions, over and above independent three-tank squadrons?
READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC: HERE
Bruce Cameron served in the Australian Army for 19 years, commanded the last troop of tanks in action in Vietnam and attend the UK’s Long Armour Infantry Course and Royal Military College of Science, as well as the Australian Command and Staff College. In his last appointment, Bruce contributed to developing the Army’s future ground mobility requirements. He left the Army in 1987 for the Office of Defence Production. Now retired, Bruce lives in Canberra with wife Jasmine. He published a book – Canister! On! Fire! Australian tank operations in Vietnam – in 2012.
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