The Australian defense ministry announced it has entered into an agreement with the United States for the acquisition of the newest variant of the Abrams tanks, as well as new combat engineering vehicles.
The agreement, worth A$3.5 billion (approx. US$ 2.5B), will boost the Australian Army’s combat capability as part of projects “Main Battle Tank Upgrade” LAND 907 Phase 2, and “Combat Engineering Vehicle” LAND 8160 Phase 1.
The Australian 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 armored recovery vehicles.
The contract signing follows the US State Department’s approval for Australia’s purchase of additional Chinook helicopters and Abrams tanks from April 2021.
M1A2 SEPv3, the latest variant of the combat-proven Abrams tank, features multiple upgrades to improve power generation, network compatibility, survivability and other vulnerability reduction measures to reduce the tank’s vulnerability to IEDs.
Australian defense minister Peter Dutton said the new tanks 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 defense capabilities, including command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems, and benefit from the intended manufacture of tank ammunition in Australia.”
Australia already operates the M88A2 Hercules, but the M1150 (ABVs) and M1074 JABs will be a new capability for the Australian armed forces, bringing under-armor bridging and breaching capability.
“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 AO, DSC, MVO 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.”
The first vehicles will be delivered to Australia in 2024, with the projects expected to achieve initial operating capability in 2025.