Page 78 - Australian Defence Magazine September 2018
P. 78

risk factors such as fleet age, rate of effort (usage), parts availability, maintenance effort and fleet size are critical.
Complementary studies of the M1 tank in US service by the RAND Institute demon- strate that the combination of age and train- ing tempo result in higher costs as vehicles breakdown more frequently and consume parts quicker.
Further, this maintenance liability in- creases with the age of the vehicle. These factors correlate to the challenges the ADF faces in the generation of a sustain- able tank capability. The small Australian M1 fleet is now 10 years old and endures a rate of effort at least twice that when compared to US Army units. While this maintains a high standard of training and proficiency, this also places significant stress on the vehicle, reducing the mean time between components failing and in- creasing the number of components which fail – more things break more often.
This training is routinely conducted in some of the harshest tank -training envi- ronments in the world ranging from dry desert to wet tropical jungle, further ex- acerbating these factors. Consequently, the M1 tank is wearing out faster than anticipated, which ultimately affects the ADF’s ability to generate the unique ef- fects the tank provides in combat. This is compounded by Australia being at the end of a very long supply chain extending back to the US for items such as track, fire con- trol systems and ammunition.
Fleet size underwrites all of these issues. When balanced against the remit of Army’s training requirements, the small M1 fleet
size results in the vast majority of vehicles committed to training and few held in re- serve to enable rotation for repairs, main- tenance or upgrades. This means vehicles remain in service, or are pressed back into service prematurely, with outstanding re- pairs or maintenance tasks or simply becom- ing unserviceable and therefore unavailable.
This in turn subtracts from the fleet size, leading to an even smaller number of vehi- cles absorbing a greater rate of effort burden to meet the training requirement, and wear- ing out faster or breaking down more often as a result. This cause and effect interplay creates a cycle which leads inexorably to de- terioration of the tank capability. How does the ADF sustain the tank capability into the future when these factors are considered?
There are several measures that the ADF may take to help preserve the M1 fleet un- til it is upgraded in the early part of the next decade under Project Land 907 Phase Two. First, a greater emphasis on simula- tion systems in training would reduce the physical burden on the M1 fleet. The introduction of tactical simulators would enable the judicious replacement of some field training with synthetic surrogates.
This may improve training outcomes through the provision of greater evidence based after action analysis, greater fre- quency of exposure to training serials and enable exposure to complex training seri- als which are difficult to replicate in the field. Simulation also lowers the risk of these difficult training serials and poten- tially affords savings to the ADF.
Second, steps such as the manufacture of spare parts domestically to shorten lines
of supply and fatten stocks will likely im- prove parts availability. Standardising and export of repair procedures and expanding heavy maintenance to regional repair or- ganisations would help increase efficiency. The effects of age however, can only be re- versed through a rebuild process.
This presents an opportunity to in- crease the involvement of the Australian industrial base. Rebuilding tanks requires growth in the capacity, expertise and ca- pability of the industry base. This would require commitment from Government, Defence and industry to deliver. Further- more, a proven rebuild capability may subsequently result in follow on opportu- nities to conduct the upgrade of the tank fleet under Land 907 Phase 2 or assembly of the armoured engineering systems fore- cast under Land 8160 Phase One.
Likewise both of these projects offer significant opportunities for Australian industry to increase its through life sup- port to the M1 tank capability as de- scribed in recent Defence policy.
Ultimately, successful capability manage- ment requires a ‘right sized’ fleet to ensure that adequate vehicles are provided to meet organisational need. Without the right num- ber of vehicles across the fleet, even a greatly expanded maintenance effort supported by domestic parts supply cannot overcome the negative effects that training tempo and fleet age place upon the capability.
Vehicles are not only required in the op- erational tank squadrons and in training schools but are also required to provision a robust repair and sustainment pool.
The size of this base should be suffi- cient to enable a ‘best practice’ mainte- nance regime to be applied, facilitating fleet rotation to reduce the burden per vehicle in regional areas and enabling major servicing, repairs and upgrades on a national level. A regime such as this would yield improved vehicle service- ability and availability rates.
For the present, the small fleet size is and will remain a significant constraint on the ADF unless a cost effective method can be developed to acquire sufficient vehicles to provision the operational and training forces as well as a robust sustainment pool. Without a ‘right sized’ fleet the ADFs tank capability will face even greater challenges as it continues to age.
Note: This article first appeared as an Aus- tralian Army Modernisation Branch discus- sion paper in November 2016.
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