Australian Army Discussions and Updates

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
There seems to be a misconception out there that tanks are not needed or suitable for peer conflict in our region. Meanwhile the tank fleets of practically all of our major neighbours outnumber ours several times over.

IMO advocates of a minimum investment in the ADF's MBT fleet miss the fact that, at a mere 59-75 units, we are already at that minimum threshold.
 

ADMk2

Just a bloke
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
There seems to be a misconception out there that tanks are not needed or suitable for peer conflict in our region. Meanwhile the tank fleets of practically all of our major neighbours outnumber ours several times over.

IMO advocates of a minimum investment in the ADF's MBT fleet miss the fact that, at a mere 59-75 units, we are already at that minimum threshold.
Yep, we’ve bought a (bare) Regiment’s worth of new tanks and it’s driving the ‘analysts’ crazy…

They clearly don’t like having to envisage close combat actually occuring in any future ‘conflict’…
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
...and heaven forbid we took significant casualties in the process, because the capacity to absorb them does not seem to exist. Strikes me as incredibly foolhardy to delete (rather than grow) a central capability from the entire ADF (and all the of the hard-won corporate knowledge that goes with it, something that could be incredibly painful and time consuming to reconstitute if it was ever needed) just to save some coin. This wouldn't be robbing Peter to pay Paul, it would be murdering the poor bugger :oops::mad:
 

old faithful

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
Yep, we’ve bought a (bare) Regiment’s worth of new tanks and it’s driving the ‘analysts’ crazy…

They clearly don’t like having to envisage close combat actually occuring in any future ‘conflict’…
I know, instead of putting line units at risk of taking casualties, we will just drive the SASR and Commando units into the ground, using them as infantry and Cav , and then after pushing them as hard as we can in combat, (but not in their proper SF role) we will blame them for any controversy that may arise....
 

Bob53

Active Member
What makes you think that Aussie tanks won't face a top tier tank threat at some stage in the future? You cannot assume that it won't just because Aussie tanks haven't gone into combat since Vietnam 60 years ago. The PLA-GF Type 99-A2 MBT won't be a slouch and with around 5,600 MBT in service quantity has a quality of its own. The National Interest article on the ZTZ-99A is more informative. You do not know where the PLA-GF MBT forces and the Aussies MBT forces will be deployed in the future.
There was some discussion following gulf war 1 that the shattered fragments of deleted uranium ammo used was causing health issues with tank crews. Not sure if the armour was involved but that possibly factored in. https://royalsociety.org/~/media/royal_society_content/policy/publications/2001/10023.pdf
 

Redrighthand

New Member
What makes you think that Aussie tanks won't face a top tier tank threat at some stage in the future?
I always figured that our MBT's were essentially training tools for our troops to be able to "hotseat" in US tanks in a major engagement. And by major, I mean anything that requires an MBT. :) I find it unlikely that we'll deploy our M1's overseas - I think it's too much money invested to be politically expedient enough to do that, short of China invading Thailand, perhaps? And no one but (possibly) China or the USA have the logistical capability to maintain an invasion of the Australian mainland. Not to mention that our new IFV's will be pretty capable for dealing with most armour, one way or another (30mm if little, missiles if not). I'm not convinced we needed to buy more at this stage.
 

Gryphinator

Active Member
I always figured that our MBT's were essentially training tools for our troops to be able to "hotseat" in US tanks in a major engagement. And by major, I mean anything that requires an MBT. :) I find it unlikely that we'll deploy our M1's overseas - I think it's too much money invested to be politically expedient enough to do that, short of China invading Thailand, perhaps? And no one but (possibly) China or the USA have the logistical capability to maintain an invasion of the Australian mainland. Not to mention that our new IFV's will be pretty capable for dealing with most armour, one way or another (30mm if little, missiles if not). I'm not convinced we needed to buy more at this stage.
I'm of the same opinion. I feel that they'll never be deployed. I'd go as far to say that I'd rather see the money spent on platforms that prevent the need for them, as in let's not let the enemy land here in the 1st place. How many LRASM armed P-8's could we afford with that cash?
 

buffy9

Active Member
I always figured that our MBT's were essentially training tools for our troops to be able to "hotseat" in US tanks in a major engagement. And by major, I mean anything that requires an MBT. :) I find it unlikely that we'll deploy our M1's overseas - I think it's too much money invested to be politically expedient enough to do that, short of China invading Thailand, perhaps? And no one but (possibly) China or the USA have the logistical capability to maintain an invasion of the Australian mainland. Not to mention that our new IFV's will be pretty capable for dealing with most armour, one way or another (30mm if little, missiles if not). I'm not convinced we needed to buy more at this stage.
I'm of the same opinion. I feel that they'll never be deployed. I'd go as far to say that I'd rather see the money spent on platforms that prevent the need for them, as in let's not let the enemy land here in the 1st place. How many LRASM armed P-8's could we afford with that cash?
I believe they could still be deployed, as they have in the past. If there is an intent to deploy a combined-arms force to achieve any particular objective or objectives, then tanks will likely be a part of it. I recall CDF or COA talking about it a while ago, stating something along the lines of infantry never deploying into a modern conflict scenario without tanks in tandem. I'll see if I can find the quote.

I honestly think the issue is that there just hasn't been a scenario where tanks have been necessary. Going back to the Gulf War and Iraq War, the two big conflicts since Vietnam, Australia's land force components were SF-based. Looking at INTERFET as it occurred between the two conflicts, tanks (and artillery) were put on standby, though neither deployed as the situation didn't really need them. In terms of Afghanistan and the approach to that conflict, I can't say for sure but I imagine sustainment and the intimidation factor on locals may have had something to do with it.

If INTERFET had gone hot, or if we had more interest in the Middle East, then we may have seen the Leopards deployed as the Centurions were many decades prior. I've often heard a statement that Australia can't deploy its tanks or artillery for anything short of war - though I don't recall any "official" war (as in formally declared) existing between North Vietnam and Australia when our artillery and tanks were deployed.

If there is truly a desire to be capable of pursuing our own interests and operating, to some extent, on our own, then tanks will be a key component of any combined-arms fight.

Enhancing ADF's armoured combat capability | Defence News

Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr said 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.”
 
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Goknub

Active Member
Tanks are a vital component within the ADF. The commentary surrounding them is dominated by tunnel vision focused solely on China. They are a major challenge but there are a multitude of other scenarios that are of vital national importance the ADF must be able to achieve success in.

The "enforcement" part of peace enforcement operations requires firepower overmatch or the situation can descend into a bloodbath as seen in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. One of the most effective tools to achieve this are a few MBTs.

Had the bullet fired by Reindao killed Gusmao, East Timor may well have descended into civil war. The sort a few tanks would have been very much needed. That they haven't deployed is a matter of good fortune and a few millimetres. Watch any footage on Marawi and it's pretty clear a few tanks would have saved many lives.

There are many more close calls and potential scenarios were a combined arms force including tanks would be vital both for success and getting people home alive. It's a good thing the govt is listening to the professionals.
 

Stampede

Well-Known Member
I don't know what the future of the MBT is or for that matter any other heavy armored vehicle be it on tracks or wheels.
What I do know is we once had the heaviest brigade in SE Asia back in the 80's. ( lite by euro standards )
The Brigade was our point of difference to our neighbors
Now Singapore,Malaysia and Indonesia all have MBT's
They like us have recognized what most modern Armys acknowledge and that is tanks still have a place on the modern battle field.
That's today's script.
Use very heavy stuff to close in on that last KM
Yes MBT's cost money.

Maybe the question is how do we fight a near peer adversary without MBT's as they are closing in on us with all the heavy stuff including MBT's in that last KM.

Is that an unlikely scenario?
Maybe.

None the less we would always want to over match against the other side.
There will be a place for the Boxer, our new IFV's and MBT's.

Regards S


PS -then again UAV's , hypersonic missiles and cyber may make all the heavy stuff redundant and turn current global practice on its head
Who knows!
 

vonnoobie

Well-Known Member
Sure the money could potentially have been spent on other assets that may have kept the fighting further froim our shores hypothetically but at the end of the day the view that MBT's aren't needed on a modern battlefield are entirely hypothetical. There is zero proof that MBT's aren't needed at all, It is all based on conjecture and for a small capital outlay on an asset we will have for decades if it turns out they aren't needed the cost of them in the grand scheme of things is almost non existant where as if they are needed and we didnt have them the losses we could sustain will be well known.

No one knows one way or another, Everything for the modern battlefield is based upon either past lessons or future speculation nothing more nothing less. No one has truly thought a peer on peer conflict of any real scale since WWII realistically so things today could go many different ways. All we can do is prepar for multiple different scenario's with the resources at our disposal.
 

MickB

Active Member
Sure the money could potentially have been spent on other assets that may have kept the fighting further froim our shores hypothetically but at the end of the day the view that MBT's aren't needed on a modern battlefield are entirely hypothetical. There is zero proof that MBT's aren't needed at all, It is all based on conjecture and for a small capital outlay on an asset we will have for decades if it turns out they aren't needed the cost of them in the grand scheme of things is almost non existant where as if they are needed and we didnt have them the losses we could sustain will be well known.

No one knows one way or another, Everything for the modern battlefield is based upon either past lessons or future speculation nothing more nothing less. No one has truly thought a peer on peer conflict of any real scale since WWII realistically so things today could go many different ways. All we can do is prepar for multiple different scenario's with the resources at our disposal.
For a visual reminder of the difference armor support can make go and re watch Blackhawk Down.
 

STURM

Well-Known Member
For a visual reminder of the difference armor support can make go and re watch Blackhawk Down.
Previous rescue attempts carried out by troops in HUMVEEs and lorries failed; it took Malaysian Condor 4x4 APCs to achieve the link up. The Condors were thinly armoured, had no night vision gear and were vulnerable to RPGs but they made the difference. Accurate fire support provided by Little Birds also helped.
 

Takao

The Bunker Group
I'm of the same opinion. I feel that they'll never be deployed. I'd go as far to say that I'd rather see the money spent on platforms that prevent the need for them, as in let's not let the enemy land here in the 1st place. How many LRASM armed P-8's could we afford with that cash?
Here's a better idea - fight the enemy away from our shores. Why wait for them to land?

MBT discussions are so stupid, and I put a large chunk of blame on AHQ. But, quickly - MBTs are essential. They are used for everything above a minor peacekeeping operation. They save lives. They form part of the only reliable non-nuclear deterrent, in fact they are essential to it. They can operate across our likely areas of operation and they are needed from a blue point of view, not a red one. They form an integral part of a modern army. They provide a unique form of shock and awe that is essential to the break-in.

Are they vulnerable? Yes. Do you know when they first demonstrated their vulnerability? 15 Sep 1916, when Daredevil was hit by artillery fire. Literally hours after they were first committed to battle. Which is why tanks don't fight alone. It's a team effort - tanks, infantry, artillery, engineers. People look at tanks and moan, it's a myopic and immature focus on kit, not the fighting system. Hence the importance of IFV, CRV, K-9 and the under armour breeching. Are they big and heavy? Yup. Hence buying the connectors we need.

Could we do 'stuff' to them to make them better? Yes - My favourite is an autoloader that drops in and frees up the loader to become, anything. FO, EW, UAV opreator...name it. UAV operator in the hardest target on the battlefield? Will we take losses? Probably. As will the F-35 fleet, the P-8 fleet, the DDG fleet, the IFV fleet, the.. the... the... . Will there be an anti-tank weapon coming? Yes. Just like the arty and anti-tank rifles of 1916-1918, the anti tank cannon and ground attack aircraft of 1939-1945, the ATGM of 1973. Every time, tank designers come up with a counter. That gets countered. That gets countered. That gets counted....

If you want the ADF view, the FSP made it clear. Tanks are vital.
 

Takao

The Bunker Group
@ngatimozart brought out a point of mine, but just to back it up, this is from a RAND report:

Heavy ground forces are the most likely to enhance deterrence, and crisis deployments may prevent escalation but do not improve partners' leverage


And, for no other reason of course, "when U.S. forces, particularly light ground forces, are stationed inside the borders of the ally or partner to be defended rather than in nearby states in the broader theatre, they are associated with an increased likelihood of militarized disputes". Could be worth a ponder...
 

Redrighthand

New Member
If you want the ADF view, the FSP made it clear. Tanks are vital.
I didn't mean my post to come across as "we don't need MBT's". I'm questioning that we need more MBT's, right now. Given that we have some other practical defence issues that could be addressed right now in other ways, and given that we have, arguably, enough MBT's to equip our "active" brigade at any time (correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's how we're re-organising?). Absolutely, however I agree - MBT's are a necessary part of the Army. But to be fair, the ADF's view is skewed - they want tanks, cool. But they also want budget maintenance, which means buying stuff. As soon as you don't need to spend money this year, you'll lose it next year - I know that's not quite how things work, but you get the idea. Point being, ADF will have a wish list - and we don't want to get political on this forum, so I won't - but it doesn't mean they can't do an excellent job without having everything they want. When you look at the numbers of enemy armour destroyed in Iraq by Bradleys vs. M1's, and you look at what the Boxer brings to the table in terms of protection and firepower, I'm not convinced that there's a need to up the numbers of MBT's, currently. I remain, however, a dilletante in this stuff.
 

Takao

The Bunker Group
I didn't mean my post to come across as "we don't need MBT's". I'm questioning that we need more MBT's, right now. Given that we have some other practical defence issues that could be addressed right now in other ways, and given that we have, arguably, enough MBT's to equip our "active" brigade at any time (correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's how we're re-organising?). Absolutely, however I agree - MBT's are a necessary part of the Army. But to be fair, the ADF's view is skewed - they want tanks, cool. But they also want budget maintenance, which means buying stuff. As soon as you don't need to spend money this year, you'll lose it next year - I know that's not quite how things work, but you get the idea. Point being, ADF will have a wish list - and we don't want to get political on this forum, so I won't - but it doesn't mean they can't do an excellent job without having everything they want. When you look at the numbers of enemy armour destroyed in Iraq by Bradleys vs. M1's, and you look at what the Boxer brings to the table in terms of protection and firepower, I'm not convinced that there's a need to up the numbers of MBT's, currently. I remain, however, a dilletante in this stuff.
Going back to basics, and using Australian doctrine.

First up, tanks don't fight alone. They fight in pairs; although for command and control reasons they won't break down beyond a Tp (4x Tk)

The primary unit of deployment preferred by Army to meet its obligations is a Bde (commanded by BRIG). It's the smallest self-contained element that has a decent duration. Now, the make up of a Bde is task dependent, but you can expect there will be five manoeuvre battlegroups (commanded by LTCOL). That gives you:

1. a screen or guard (two different missions, but the bits out front)
2. three main BG that will provide the bulk of the combat power for defending or attacking
3. a security or reserve BG (two different missions) that provide depth to the Bde holding.

The screen/guard has to be mobile, traditionally the role of the old cavalry Regt. It's going to be heavy on recce, light on infantry. If a screen it'll try and avoid decisive contact, if a guard it'll take a fight or two. Either way, expect at least a Sqn of tanks is needed.

The main BG will probably be infantry triangles (3x sub-units, 2 inf and 1 tk) although they could be square BG (2x inf and 2x tk). Let's reduce flexibility and assume triangles. That's three Sqn of tank.

The final BG will 'generally' have less combat power, but will still need lots of mobility. Traditionally called rear-area security operations, it's also seen as a cavalry / infantry role. Likely also to feature the Bde Comd's reserve. There will be another Sqn of Tk here.

Straight up that's 5 Sqn of tank - at least. It would probably be better to have at least two of those main BG square, so it's more like 7. But.....lets go 5.

14 tanks to a Sqn (three Tp's of 4 + a Sqn HQ) means 70 tanks. This is just the fighting force.

Now, lets assume the Bde has some spares to account for attrition. Rule of thumb is about 10% for the combat vehicles, but lets cut that a bit - tanks are pretty tough. So 5.

You aren't deploying this Bde for 6 months and nothing else. There is a second Bde in Australia spooling up to take over. Now, they don't need a whole bunch of tanks, thanks to simulation and the progressive need to increase training you can get away with less. Let's assume that the Bde HQ can do CPX's or use simulated forces to do their training, and lets assume we don't need more than two BG in the field at any one time. Their tanks can rotate around and we can lean on simulators for individual training. So, 2 Sqn, another 28 tanks.

On top of all this is the need to be generating RAAC forces from scratch, as well as continue soldier and officer training. So the School of Armour needs tanks. Now, they can use simulators a lot, so at any one point they need 2x Tp of tk. That means the LT's can continue ROBC simultaneous with a Subject course for an NCO rank. 8 tanks.

For those keeping track...that's 111 tanks.

A bunch of tanks are going to be in maintenance, upgrades and the whole bunch. Treating the tank like the sophisticated platform it is (something we need to get better at), lets steal a helo base. Tiger plans on about 4 airframes in the Regt being in deeper maintenance or modifications at any one time....so 25% of the fleet. I'm happy to fudge the numbers a little....so lets say 19 - it keeps the maths simple.

So for what we need to do, we need 130 tanks.

"But Takao" I hear you say, "that's a big Bde. Maybe we can go smaller, you know, for political reasons". Removing 2 BG (shudder...) takes 28 tanks away. So we only need 102 now.....

We currently have 59 tanks.

So right now, if the PM orders an effect that comes with the need for a Bde, the Army cannot deliver. We can't meet a specified mission. We can if you cut the two BG (shudder...) and run no reserves (shuddddder.... #PrincipleOfWar) and run no training (*twitching uncontrollably*) and assume at least 95% serviceability (*bzzzrtsatrb*). Want to guess how long that lasts? Want to know how many lives that costs?

This is to do the job. Can a Boxer do some of those tasks? Possibly. It doesn't have the firepower, the protection or the mobility, but at a pinch it may. You'll take more losses though. And remember, Boxer is larger than an M1, so its less sneaky. Yeah it could take AGTM - how many? Is it more than 40? Can a Boxer close on a defended position? Wire, bunkers, the lot? Tracks can....wheels....hmmm

TL;DR: We need 130 to do the job. Right now. So the 59 we have isn't enough, and hence we need more. Right now.
 

Takao

The Bunker Group
I didn't mean my post to come across as "we don't need MBT's". I'm questioning that we need more MBT's, right now. Given that we have some other practical defence issues that could be addressed right now in other ways, and given that we have, arguably, enough MBT's to equip our "active" brigade at any time (correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's how we're re-organising?). Absolutely, however I agree - MBT's are a necessary part of the Army. But to be fair, the ADF's view is skewed - they want tanks, cool. But they also want budget maintenance, which means buying stuff. As soon as you don't need to spend money this year, you'll lose it next year - I know that's not quite how things work, but you get the idea. Point being, ADF will have a wish list - and we don't want to get political on this forum, so I won't - but it doesn't mean they can't do an excellent job without having everything they want. When you look at the numbers of enemy armour destroyed in Iraq by Bradleys vs. M1's, and you look at what the Boxer brings to the table in terms of protection and firepower, I'm not convinced that there's a need to up the numbers of MBT's, currently. I remain, however, a dilletante in this stuff.
Talking wider....

The ADF's view isn't as skewed as you think. FSP was a joint effort that included civilians and the wider Groups (CIOG etc). It wasn't an Army 'thing'. The FSP looked at everything; infrastructure, submarines, transport aircraft, computers, dogs, you name it, we looked at it. We didn't run a wish list per se, what we did was prioritise what we need. It might be a little pedantic, but I'm going to use need v wish. The difference is the need has to be justified to VCDF, it needs significant academic work to develop. A wish? That's just a fancy pants idea....I wish I got paid $500k a month...

Now, that needs list doesn't match the budget. We negotiate with Finance and Treasury, and they give us a budget. It used to be based on GDP, but now it's delinked. We have this out 10 years, and a guide out another 10 after that. We also have a set of tasks from Government. Some are specific, some are general, but they are all reasonably known. That task is how we generate the needs list, and then the needs get prioritised for funding. So yes, we sat there and prioritised tanks v building v submarines v dogs v everything....which is a little harder than you'd think...

So what's this mean? Needs are bare minimum. We could have said 2x CVBG - but the bare minimum the RAN needs to do its job doesn't include carriers. It's the difference between wishes and needs here - the need is for the minimum, the wish is for more.

What FSP provides is the minimum force that the ADF (all three Services + Groups) has assessed. It's not enough (see previous post about tank numbers). To do some of the tasks means that a lot of risk is going to be assumed. The days of us having excess capacity are long gone (now, without complicating it too much, this isn't quite true if we are clever with mobilisation and Reserves. But that's a separate topic).
 

ADMk2

Just a bloke
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
I always figured that our MBT's were essentially training tools for our troops to be able to "hotseat" in US tanks in a major engagement. And by major, I mean anything that requires an MBT. :) I find it unlikely that we'll deploy our M1's overseas - I think it's too much money invested to be politically expedient enough to do that, short of China invading Thailand, perhaps? And no one but (possibly) China or the USA have the logistical capability to maintain an invasion of the Australian mainland. Not to mention that our new IFV's will be pretty capable for dealing with most armour, one way or another (30mm if little, missiles if not). I'm not convinced we needed to buy more at this stage.
You seem to be envisaging future scenarios where we continue to have the luxury of preparing boutique forces for deployments that are politically convenient and attractive, with forces only deployed that cost relatively little (steaming around the MEA for a frigate costs little more than steaming around Australia does…) and face minimal overall risk. Under those circumstances, many of our capabilities will not be deploying anywhere. Bear in mind that besides tanks, we have not deployed artillery, surface to air missiles (apart from a brief stint on-board a RAN vessel for our RBS-70’S, because goodness knows why a RAN vessel would require an indigenous SAM system, integrated into it’s combat system, right?) JASSM standoff missiles, attack helicopters and so on, ie: the majority of our higher end combat capabilities…

But Army has to prepare for the gammut of warfighting roles, until directed otherwise by Government. The day ADF has to conduct a genuine warfighting role, is when we will need that heavy armour (and much else besides) and we really haven’t done that since Vietnam, which not at all ironically, was the last time we deployed heavy armour into ’our’ region…
 
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