Page 68 - Australian Defence Magazine September 2018
P. 68

“It is important to remind ourselves that
the enemy has a vote in battle – if the threat warrants it, Australia may be forced to send highly capable combat forces to achieve humanitarian objectives.”
The relevance of the tank to Australia’s strategic context
The 2016 Australian Defence White Pa- per specifies that ‘... the future force will be more agile and potent. The future force will be more capable of conducting in- dependent combat operations to defend Australia and protect our interests in the immediate region. This force will also en- hance Australia’s ability to contribute to global coalition operations.
“Achieving Australia’s Strategic De- fence Objectives requires land forces that have the mobility, firepower, protection and situational awareness to deploy quick- ly to where they are needed, achieve their missions safely and return home. The Gov- ernment will make significant new invest-
the conflicts we may choose to fight. In the strategic context provided by Government on what is required of the ADF in future combat operations, and given the unique capabilities the tank provides, these asser- tions are highly questionable.
An Australian tank capability is criti- cal to deter and defeat armed attacks against Australia and its interests. Tanks are necessary for future independent com- bat operation to defend Australia and as part of combat operations regionally and globally. Tanks and other AFVs are the foundation of credible conventional land deterrence for Australia.
They also provide the bulk of land combat power if deterrence fails. This is recognised regionally and globally. The
In Afghanistan in October 2012 the Australian Special Operations Task Group fought alongside tanks during op- erations in northern Helmand Province. Like their British counterparts who were reliant on a small detachment of Danish tanks, the Australian force in Afghanistan were reliant upon the support provided by a US Marine Corps tank company. These tanks conducted tasks including direct fire support, obstacle breaching, intimate sup- port, information gathering and served as a significant deterrent. The Australian Special Operations Task Group com- mander advised that:
‘The M1 system enabled the Comman- do Company Group to close with an en- emy who was defensively arrayed in a series of positions that were heavily defended with IEDs, anti-personnel mines, snipers and heavy weapons.’
Therefore, while Australian tanks may have last served in South Vietnam, Austra- lia has fought with US tanks and employed its other AFVs in recent operations includ- ing East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. Tanks and armour in general, remain a very important element to future Austra- lian military operations both regionally and globally.
Whether future commitments are re- gional or global, or their nature is humani- tarian, counter-insurgency or major war; the Joint Land Force must be prepared for combat. History has demonstrated that benign situations can, very quickly, turn to open conflict. The 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, popularised by the film Black
ments in our land forces, including new combat vehicles.
“Soldiers in the future Army will be sup- ported by new vehicles and manned and unmanned aircraft with increased fire- power, protection, mobility, situational awareness and logistics support. The Gov- ernment will replace the Army’s current ageing fleet of mobility and reconnaissance vehicles with a new generation of armoured combat reconnaissance and infantry fight- ing vehicles, as well as tank upgrades and new combat engineering equipment.”
As these paragraphs highlight, Aus- tralia requires combat capabilities which deploy quickly with sufficient mobility, firepower and protection to achieve their mission without undue risk. As the pre- ceding paragraphs have illustrated the tank provides the Joint Land Force with such a blend of capabilities.
Yet there remain those unconvinced of the relevance of the tank to this strategic imperative. Some claim that Army bought the M1 to fight a far-fetched Cold War scenario and that tanks are not relevant in our region. Others suggest the tank is an unnecessary capability which we have not deployed in decades and are not needed for
tank is a key element of all major regional armies including those of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea and China. Notably, all of these countries are in the process of replacing or modernising their tank capabilities.
The tank remains and is increasingly rel- evant in our region as modern and highly capable tanks, AFVs and anti-armour weapons proliferate. And while the ADF is a small force by regional standards, im- portantly it retains qualitative technologi- cal advantages in key areas. Thus the no- tion that the tank is a Cold War relic only suited to the Russian steppe is simply not accurate – tanks are in widespread use in our region. A credible M1 tank capability is therefore important to maintaining the ADF’s deterrent value and defeating at- tacks upon Australian interests.
Contrary to the argument that Austra- lians don’t deploy or fight with tanks, his- torically Australian soldiers have fought with tanks in every major conflict land forces have been committed to includ- ing; France, North Africa, the Levant, the South West Pacific, Korea, South Vietnam and most recently in Afghanistan.
68 | September 2018 |
The infantry’s guardian angel.

   66   67   68   69   70