The editorial of the Canberra Times today thunders that reputations of the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Hill, the Chief of Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove, and the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, will turn on this week's decision to purchase 59 American made M1A1 tanks, at a cost of USD $400M.
Finschhafen, New Guinea, November 1943
Waltzing Matilda, Army style. A Matilda tank of the 1st Tank Battalion arrives to join in the attack on Sattelberg, with help from the Americans of the US 2nd Engineer Special Brigade.
Unfortunately, the article goes downhill from there, to the point of questioning their competence. This military historian questions the editor's. The points in brief:
Tanks are unmaneuverable except in the desert.
Tanks were our most important and effective fighting arm in New Guinea in WWII and later in Vietnam, neither of which is exactly desert. (Actually, in Vietnam, the helicopter/SAS team came first, followed by armour; then artillery infantry came last, taking more casualties and inflicting less.) The biggest lesson of Vietnam was the value of armour.
The Army lacks platforms to transport tanks over long distances and there is not a wharf in South East Asia where they could be landed.
The Army doesn't have the ships because they are operated by the Navy, the landing ships Tobruk, Kanimbla and Manoora. Tanks can be landed from them over most beaches.
Light armoured vehicles are just as good against missiles and shells.
Honestly now, which one would you rather take your chances with?
The road infrastructure in the Middle East and South East Asia aren't capable of carrying them.
We better tell the Americans in Iraq about this.
Australian soldiers of other arms can assist the US Army in other ways, such as the Special Air Service.
We just went through this one; the embarrassment of not being able to contribute armour or artillery to the coalition, followed by sending the SAS, although it was required at home.
"It is a fundamental mistake... to speak loosely in terms of sending an "infantry attalion" overseas: it must be a combined arms team, complete with two types of armour, up to three types of artillery if necessary, combat engineers and its own slice of aviation support."
Lieutenant General John Coates
Chief of Army 1990-1992