The army will buy $550 million worth of new American-made M1A1 Abrams tanks.
The Federal Government will announce its decision today to replace the ageing fleet of Leopard 1 tanks with the huge, high-cost machines.
The half-billion-plus purchase will provide just 59 tanks which will mean about half that number will be operational at any one time. The same money would have bought twice as many of the other favoured contender in the tank contest, the European-built Leopard 2.
The Abrams will be based with the 1st Armoured Regiment in Darwin and at the Armoured Training Corps at Puckapunyal in Victoria.
Federal Cabinet finalised the purchase yesterday.
The 68-tonne Abrams, which dominated the ground war in Iraq, was the preferred choice of Defence Chief General Peter Cosgrove and senior Armoured Corps officers. Others preferred the 40-tonne Leopard 2 which uses far less fuel and is more easily transported.
The Abrams is powered by a gas turbine engine, armed with a 120mm gun and travels at up to 67km/h.
It offers good protection for its crew and unlike the Leopard has an airconditioning system that works.
The tank can be totally sealed to withstand chemical, biological and minor nuclear attack.
Some military analysts believe the Abrams is “overkill”.
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