Can someone in government explain why we are buying tanks?

Feb 24, 2022
Army Tank
It hard to imagine the Australian need. Does the ADF envisage a grand battle across the wide expanses of Northern Australia? (Image: Flickr / albertwmui)

When did US generals become arbiters of Australia’s strategic policy like it’s some banana republic.

The grand theatre of the second world war, featuring the stunning blitzkrieg, the decisive role of tanks on the Eastern front, and General Patton’s legendary Normandy breakout, has generated a persistent mystique around tanks. Many generals would see a tankless Army as incomplete.

The European Plain, which runs along northern Europe, stretching from the Bay of Biscay to the Ural Mountains, and from the Black Sea to the Arctic Basin, was made for tank operations. There were vast spaces for manoeuvre, and military theatres were contiguous so that tanks could be deployed with relative ease by road and rail. In the twentieth century, and in the European environment, tanks were formidable weapon systems.

Not so much in the twenty-first century. This is despite US General Charles Flynn’s argument that “in the future for a peer, or near-peer fight, that the impact of combined arms manoeuvre, particularly in dense urban areas, you’re gonna want armour forces, you’re gonna need tanks”. Maybe the Americans have a military requirement for tanks. It hard to imagine the Australian need.

Does the ADF envisage a grand battle across the wide expanses of Northern Australia? It seems self-evident that any force capable of invading Australia is likely to be well-equipped with drones and stand-off weapons. Even if Australia’s tanks could get to where an invasion occurred in time, they would be subject to being outflanked by modern forces, or destroyed with precision missiles. Sitting ducks!

Surely the ADF is not planning on deploying tanks beyond Australia, which is the implication in General Flynn’s comments that tanks are required for “combined arms manoeuvre” in a land war against China or Russia in Eurasia. Because that’s what the Americans mean when they say a “a peer, or near-peer fight”.

And where would Australia need tanks for manoeuvre combat in “dense urban areas”; Sydney, Brisbane, or Darwin? Surely that’s not the justification for buying tanks.

If not in Australia, where would Australia deploy tanks; Guangzhou, Shanghai, or maybe, even more ridiculously, repelling the advancing peer powers on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, or Surabaya? Or Kyiv? Or Bucharest? Or Tbilisi? Urban warfare is just not a reasonable argument for an Australian tank acquisition.

When did US generals become arbiters of Australia’s strategic policy like it’s some banana republic? Does the Army need the endorsement of the Pentagon? Why does the media simply uncritically report the nonsensical utterances of foreign military officers as though they are authoritative and objective?

And can someone in government explain why we are buying tanks.

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