ADF gets $500million worth of 2nd hand 68-tonne boat anchors
Saturday September 23rd 2006, 12:28 pm

and if you ACT NOW we'll throw in a Collins class sub!

The ADF purchase of 59 refurbished 1989 model M1A1 Abrams battle tanks signals longer term cooperation with the US military due to insufficient Australian transportation capacities to move the massive tanks.

The ADF lacks any landing craft capable of carrying even one of the 68 tonne jet-engined M1A1 Abrams tanks. Even transporting the tanks from their port of entry at Melbourne to their intended station at Darwin is problematic.

Freightlink requires new rolling stock to handle the tanks by rail. Road transport is out; road bridges in the NT are only rated for 50 tonnes. The only way to move the behemoths is to load them on a freighter and unload them at a port.

There will be no amphibious landings; if ADF needs to use the Abrams outside of Australia, they’ll either have to pay a merchant ship to take them to a port in the war zone… or hitch a ride with Uncle Sam.

Mark Dodd reports in The Australian:

Army mechanics will be kept busy if the US army experience is any guide. It allocates 25 per cent of its maintenance budget for ground combat systems to fixing Abrams gas turbine engines.

Don’t we have quite enough old American junk?

I can’t find any mention of Australian forces using main battle tanks at all since 1945.

At least Australia has a great place to store them.


Ha, this reminds me of an entertaining but probably apocryphal story from college. A friend of a friend had a very wealthy father who purchased 20 decommissioned Centurion tanks as collectors’ pieces.

Ten years later the army decided they needed the old tanks for target practice – and bought them back at five times the original price.

Tidy little earner, that.

Comment by Flashman 09.23.06 @ 2:30 pm

Sweet deal if you can get it, Flash.

The ADF will have about the same level of use for the Abrams… unless of course Howard is re-elected and ADF are ordered to storm Jakarta and perhaps West Papua, as several Indonesian pollies seem to believe will happen.

Imagine how cooperative a couple dozen M1A1s could make Jose Ramos-Horta at the Timor Strait gas deal bargaining table!

Comment by weez 09.23.06 @ 4:50 pm

When I was a nasho serving with an infantry battalion in South Vietnam we were occasionally supported by the Armoured Corp’s Centurion tanks. Awesome machines, but not really suited to the jungle or paddy fields. I don’t think they won many hearts and minds by ploughing through (and getting bogged in) paddies.

I agree that these “new” tanks do seem to be a bit of a white elephant.


Comment by Robert 09.23.06 @ 5:38 pm

Robert, thanks for the detail. I had thought that Aus might have had some tanks in Vietnam, but didn’t turn up much in a quick search.

Seems that most of Australia’s recent military involvements are more like police actions. No real need for a main battle tank in the Solomons, Timor or Fiji, for example.

Comment by weez 09.23.06 @ 6:34 pm

Bah – This is no white elephant. This just we go about paying our tribute these days to our Imperial masters, much like the provinces of the Roman Empire. It’ll just have to be done like this until our status as such is formalised under law. 😛

Comment by Marcus 09.24.06 @ 6:07 pm

Marcus, I’m not as convinced we are slaves to imperial masters as much as I think John Howard’s idea of success is to hitch his wagon to a star.

I don’t see the need for Australia to be a bunch of hangers-on. We’ve been disproportionally represented for many years in innovation and entertainment, despite our small population and other impediments. When the ABC is properly funded, we’re even more disproportionally represented.

I do think we’re nearly at the end of Howard’s run. Unfortunately, that means that Kim Beazley will be the next PM. Beaz’s policies toward the USA are not a lot different than those of Little Johnny of Borg.

Comment by weez 09.25.06 @ 9:56 am

I agree that we’re not slaves as such, and you really can’t call Bush’s haphazard operation an empire. But I do reckon that our ongoing and repeated habit of buying expensive and useless military hardware isn’t just dumb arse governance. Whatever else Howard and Co may be, they are not stupid. That’s why I suspect that this is just our polite way of paying tithes. And you’re right, on the international affairs front, and on probably more domestic issues than I’d care for, a change to a Beazley government would make for bugger all difference when all is said and done.

If only Latham had pulled through, without turning out to be as mad as a cut snake. *sigh*

Comment by Marcus 09.25.06 @ 11:07 am

I see your point, Marcus. ‘Tis a tithe of sorts.

The tanks could again become a political poker chip when they’re either sold at a discount or gifted to some nation with whom Australia finds it convenient to become ingratiated.

Who knows, maybe the US military will someday need them for target practise, as per Robert.

Comment by weez 09.25.06 @ 11:48 am

Cut and run!

The Empire is going down in a burst of sordid emails, the flames of Baghdad, the massive IOU, the economic “hard landing” and the unemployability of our kids graduating from public schools.

As payers of tribute, you could be considered partners in our liability. Be glad if all you are stuck with is the tanks.

Comment by sozzy 10.06.06 @ 4:09 am

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Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 03.05.07 @ 1:10 pm

If a Centurion Mk5/1(Aust) is not a MBT I will go hee(reference Mark Dodd above)They sure made a big difference at Coral and Balmoral in May 1968.A lot of diggers at those FSB’s would have appreciated Colonel(as he was then)Dunstans order to move a troop of Cents up there ASP to blow canister at the NVA.I suggest they may have saved the life of many diggers.They were real buggers to fix though when the “buckets”broke them.Abrams with jet engines,whats the fuel consumption like?Do you go into battle with your own fuel tanker?Wonder what was wrong with The Challenger2?

Comment by Bob KILLORAN 02.13.10 @ 3:19 pm

Do you reckon the esteemed Colonel would move the M1A1s to the scene in his esteemed back pockets? Australia have no landing craft that can carry one. Unless the yanks are involved, these boat anchors will be moved by freighter to the port nearest the battlefield and then roll up roads to get to the fight, presuming all the bridges along the way can carry 68T, a bit of a problem for moving the things around, even within Australia.

They’ll look pretty impressive in the tank museum; maybe a lucky RSL will get one for their front lawn.

Comment by weez 02.13.10 @ 3:29 pm

Silly O.Post !

These are M1A1 ‘Aims’.

Tanks brought back to “as new” spec, only the hull and turret are from the original donor vehicle. These things are as good as the M1 gets (apart from DU armor), the latest and greatest electronics etc, at a third of the price of a Chally 2 or Leo…

The ADF have done well with this deal. Read the Auditor General’s report No.1 2007-08 Performance report on the purchase. Google it !

Comment by PP 03.08.10 @ 12:41 pm

I don’t care if they’ve been polished with Jesus’ own pubic hair, it’s a bad deal if we don’t need them as a matter of Australian defence, outside of military cooperation with the USA- and Australia, 4 years after I posted this (yep, 2006), still don’t have our own landing craft that can carry the 68 tonne beggars. UNLESS Australia are in military cooperation with the USA, these will have to be carried by common freighter and landed at a port then driven on roads to the battle (and you hope all the bridges along the way can carry their incredible 68T mass). This increases response time and eliminates any chance of surprising an enemy.

Lemons, no matter how you slice ’em.

Comment by weez 03.08.10 @ 12:49 pm