Present and past senior army leaders are pushing hard for the federal government to agree to a $10 billion-plus plan to upgrade some 700 armoured vehicles in one of the most contentious spending proposals to be floated as part of the Defence Force modernisation program.
The proposal – called Land 400 in the Defence Capability Plan – is due for initial first-pass government approval in April, but it is under heavy fire from strategic thinkers and bureaucratic bean counters concerned with the financial difficulties facing defence.
Army chief General David Morrison has argued the army needs the upgraded vehicles to match “a peer competitor or potent irregular enemy”. But, as Professor Paul Dibb and Dr Richard Brabin-Smith ask in a recent paper: which peer competitor – and where? General Morrison has yet to reveal this secret.
Most defence experts acknowledge that advanced warships (especially submarines) and superior fighter jets need to be at the heart of Australia’s maritime defence-of-Australia strategy. They question the wisdom of spending at least $10 billion on 700 heavy armoured and mechanised vehicles – or almost $14.3 million each – when off-the-shelf armoured vehicles are reportedly available for not much more than $1.5 million each from European, North American and possibly Australian makers.
At a recent Senate committee hearing, General Morrison conceded there were off-the-shelf replacements “that would have great utility for the army into the 2030s”. Defence Minister David Johnston said Land 400 was a seriously complicated, complex, expensive program.
The head of the Defence Materiel Organisation, Warren King, said the cost of Land 400 would be more than $10 billion over 18 years, but some observers believe the through-life cost of the program would be about $19 billion.
LAND 400 Phase 2 Land Combat Vehicle System (LCVS) aims to deliver protected survivability and lethality systems to the mounted close combat capability of the Land Force. The project will replace and enhance those mounted close combat capabilities currently enabled by M113, ASLAV and Bushmaster PMV. LAND 400 is the lead project to achieve integration of Army’s future CAFS. Initial Material Release will occur upon the completion and release of the supplies which are required to support the achievement of the Initial Operating Capability.(Information : Army Recognition)