US Approves Sale Of Abrams Tanks To Australia As Tensions Escalate With China

Amid China-Australia tensions, the US State Department has given its approval to a proposed plan to sell approximately $1.685 billion worth of heavy armored combat systems, including Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles, to the Australian military.

“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Australia of Heavy Armored Combat Systems and related equipment for an estimated cost of $1.685 billion,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.

The proposed sale, which has been sent to Congress for further approval, includes 160 M1A1 Tank structures that will be used to produce 75 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, in addition to 29 M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles, 18 M1074 Joint Assault Bridges, six M88A2 Hercules Combat Recovery Vehicles, and 122 AGT1500 gas turbine engines.

The equipment is intended to help Australia meet current and future threats by enhancing the lethality, survivability, and interoperability of their forces, as well as helping the US support its own foreign policy and national security objectives in the region, the agency said.

Furthermore, the State Department also approved a proposed sale of $259 million worth of Chinook helicopters and related equipment on Thursday.

Whereas the heavy armored combat systems will be provided by US contractors, the helicopters will be taken from US Army stock. At the same time, the DSCA statement emphasized that the sales would in no way impact US defense readiness.

Australia Getting Battle-Ready

Earlier, Australia said it will invest around 747 million Australian dollars ($578.6 million) into the modernization of four military bases in its Northern Territory, the prime minister’s office said on Wednesday.

“The Morrison Government will invest $747 million to upgrade four key training areas and ranges in the Northern Territory to enable the Australian Defence Force to conduct simulated training exercises and remain battle-ready,” the statement said.

Improving the ranges includes conducting military exercises in accordance with different scenarios as well as close cooperation with the United States and neighboring Indo-Pacific countries, the statement explained.

Australian PM Scott Morrison said in the statement that the investments are only a part of the ten-year project on modernizing and developing defense infrastructure in the region, which costs about 8 billion Australian dollars.

According to him, the investments will increase the number of workplaces at the local level by signing contracts with local enterprises. The statement said that construction works would start in the second half of 2021 and finish by mid-2026 if approved by the parliament.