Australia has agreed on a $2.5 billion deal with the US to upgrade its army’s armored vehicle fleet. The news comes months after the country signed a security pact with the US and UK amid heightened tensions with China.
Canberra agreed to buy 75 M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks to replace the 59 M1A1 tanks it purchased in 2007.
“Teamed with the infantry fighting vehicles, combat engineering vehicles, and self-propelled howitzers, the new Abrams will give our soldiers the best possibility of success and protection from harm,” Defense Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement, as quoted by Australian media.
“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.”
Lieutenant General Rick Burr, the chief of army, said the tanks will play a crucial role in Australia’s participation with allied forces. “Because of their versatility, tanks can be used in a wide range of scenarios, environments and levels of conflict in the region,” he said.
Under the agreement, Australia will also receive 29 assault breacher vehicles, 17 joint assault bridge vehicles, and six armored recovery vehicles. The first vehicles are due to arrive in 2024 and could be deployed from 2025.
The news comes amid heightened tensions between Australia and China. Last year, Dutton accused Beijing of making aggressive moves in the Indo-Pacific region, suggesting that China sees Australia and other nations as “tributary states.”
In September, Australia signed a defense and security pact with the US and UK. The pact, known as AUKUS, provides a path for the Royal Australian Navy to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
In December, Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed that Australia agreed to buy K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers from South Korea.
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