On Monday, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton confirmed a $3.5 billion investment in the Main Battle Tank Upgrade (Land 907 Phase 2) and Combat Engineering Vehicle (Land 8160 Phase 1) projects.
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.
Meanwhile the US Army is now developing a 'far superior' SEPv4 version of the M1A2 to 'fully emerge' by the mid 2020s.
Minister Dutton said the M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams - expected to achieve initial operating capability in 2025 - would provide 'critical protection and firepower' for the ADF in land operations.
“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,” Minister Dutton said.
“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.
“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,” Minister Dutton said.
Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr said that tanks and combat engineering vehicles were essential to Australia’s ability to contribute to a credible land combat capability integrated with joint and coalition forces.
“The main battle tank is at the core of the ADF’s Combined Arms Fighting System, which includes infantry, artillery, communications, engineers, attack helicopters and logistics,” Lieutenant General Burr said.
“Because of their versatility, tanks can be used in a wide range of scenarios, environments and levels of conflict in the region. This system is the only part of the ADF that can successfully operate in medium to high-threat land environments.
“The M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams protection, accurate and lethal fire, mobility and situational awareness cannot be delivered by any other platform. There are no other current or emerging technologies - or combination of technologies - that can yet deliver the capability currently provided by a main battle tank.”
Editor's Note: An in-depth expert debate on the ADF's tank capability is available here for Premium subscribers.