Page 55 - Australian Defence Magazine September 2018
P. 55

‘Mobility is crucial – only movement brings victory. However, that mobility must be pro- tected so that the weapons of the weak such as IEDs do not kill unprotected soldiers. Fire- power is critical when you fight. Before you get to work your social magic on ‘the people’ you have to win the fight against an armed opposition. Combat power still counts.’
Major General Craig Orme, Command- er of Australia’s forces Iraq in 2014.
THE tank is a unique contributor to the ADF’s combat power. It provides a matchless combination of firepower, mo- bility, protection and connectivity to the modern Australian soldier. The tank is unique amongst ground combat vehicles; it alone is designed to specifically enter, fight and endure alongside soldiers in close combat. While it was designed in response to the stalemate of trench war- fare in the First World War, it has contin- ued to evolve ever since.
Both guardian angel of the infantry and highly capable tank-killer, the tank is ide- ally suited to aggressive mobile action in concert with other arms and services.
From the battlefields of France through to Afghanistan, Australian soldiers have fought with tanks, be they Australian, British or American. These experiences re- inforce the importance of the tank to the Joint Land Force, from stability operations to conventional war. Elementally, tanks increase the chances of winning in combat and reduce friendly casualties.
However, discussion surrounding the tank in Australian service is often clouded by speculation rather than fact. This is a re- sult of a weak understanding of what they are and do. This is compounded by the time which has elapsed since the ADF has deployed its own tank forces. However, it is unwise to ignore the advantage that this capability provides Australian soldiers be- cause of a short memory or a myopic view
of land warfare. This short paper will ex- plain the importance of the tank to the ADF in the 21st Century.
It will describe why the tank is unique, why a credible tank capability is essential to the Joint Land Force and highlight its relevance within the current strategic en- vironment. It concludes by examining some of the challenges to sustaining the capability and offers some ways to address these. This paper is not a detailed examina- tion of the evolution of tanks or a review of its operational employment, although aspects of each are touched upon. These facets have been examined elsewhere in much greater detail than available here.
What is a tank and why
is it unique?
The tank is the ‘predator supreme’ of land forces. Tanks are armoured fighting vehi- cles (AFV) – machines designed to destroy and protect. Tanks are typically equipped | September 2018 | 55

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