Tragedy struck Australia on July 19 as a fiery multi-vehicle crash in Queensland, including a truck transporting US-made Abrams Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), led to several vehicles along with the tanks catching fire and being gutted in the accident.
Soon after the accident was reported at the Bruce Highway near Rockhampton, the Australian Defense Department confirmed that the tanks in question were the Abrams belonging to the Australian Army.
“Defense understands a truck carrying a US Abrams tank was involved in the incident,” the department said. “Defense will provide support as required.” In addition, a B-double truck, a flatbed truck pulling two caravans, three automobiles, and a four-wheel-drive pulling another trailer was also involved in the horrific collision.
According to reports from the accident scene, grassfires were started by the crash, which Queensland Fire and Emergency Services quickly put out. The accident, however, led to at least six people being hospitalized. To control further damage, the police established a sizable exclusion zone on the highway.
Charitha Shivamka, a truck driver, told local media that an automobile cut in front of him, forcing him to apply the brakes. Firefighters were seen dousing the flames, while video from the incident showed a column of dense, black smoke billowing into the sky.
🇦🇺The American Abrams tank was involved in a traffic accident in Australia.
Local media report that a total of six vehicles were involved in the accident. Six people were injured (one critically hospitalized). Three cars were burned.
The incident occurred in the suburb of… pic.twitter.com/ev1Est6Arb
— Zlatti71 (@djuric_zlatko) July 19, 2023
Although it was not established where the Abrams were headed, it comes ahead of the Talisman Sabre military drills slated for later this week.
The drills will see participation by military forces of Australia, the US, and other states like France, Japan, Fiji, and others. It is expected to be the largest-ever edition of these drills and will run from July 22 to August 4.
According to the Australian Defense, the drills will be primarily held in Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and New South Wales. The Abrams may have been on the highway for these drills, which is believed to be the region’s busiest.
Australia’s Abrams has been making headlines for quite some time now, especially with Ukraine’s campaign for US-made MBTs. As reported by EurAsian Times last month, in the run-up to its counteroffensive, Kyiv launched a coordinated campaign to convince Canberra to transfer some of its older US-built M1A1 Abrams.
The campaign video featured popular scenes from the 2015 post-apocalyptic action-thriller Mad Max: Fury Road, modified and armed vehicle-bound gangs and bandits riding across the desert, and footage from the Australian Army’s armored corps maneuvers.
We need Australia in the tank coalition of free nations.
Dear Australians, this message is for you:
Each and every tank we receive from Australia will help us break through the enemy's defenses – and as a result, regain our land and save the lives of our people. pic.twitter.com/AgHKurHdYz
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) June 1, 2023
Although these PR campaigns aimed at securing sophisticated weapon systems have been a defining feature of Ukraine’s propaganda machine, the one for Australian Abrams especially caught an eye.
The promotional video released on the official Defense of Ukraine Twitter handle said, “Aussies know a road warrior when they see one.” Similar online campaigns were launched for the German Leopard-2 MBTs when Ukraine ran a hashtag ‘Free the Leopards.’
While the Germans, Brits, and Americans succumbed to Ukraine’s long-drawn campaign for their respective MBTs, Australia is yet to decide to join the tank coalition. Even the US has not delivered the Abrams pledged by it in January, and the delivery would not take place at least until the fall of this year.
The Abrams Of The Royal Australian Army
In its campaign, Ukraine asked the Royal Australian Army to give up the 59 M1A1 “hand-me-down” MBTs that it received in 2006 from the US Army and US Marine Corps. However, the demand was considered too ambitious for Australia to cater to.
Australia is receiving a brand-new fleet of M1A2 Abrams from the US, as was first reported in January of last year. At the time, the former Australian Minister for Defense Peter Dutton announced that his country was spending $3.6 billion ($2.58 billion) on purchasing Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles from the US.
“Teamed with the infantry fighting vehicle, combat engineering vehicles, and self-propelled howitzers, the new Abrams will give our soldiers the best possibility of success and protection from harm,” Dutton was quoted as saying at the time.
Australia has spare MBTs in the form of a current fleet of 59 M1A1 Abrams tanks. They are presently not deployed and may see only a secondary role in operations. Thus, they will likely be replaced as the country procures the newer M1A2 variant in 2024.
“And we have to wonder, what’s it going to do with the hand-me-downs?” the Ukrainian video campaign said. Ukrainian officials, military watchers, and policy specialists have made a pitch that transferring these tanks to Kyiv would make more sense than just putting them in cold storage.
However, it is currently unclear when the Australian Army will phase its M1A1 Abrams out.
Unfortunately, an unknown number of these tanks were burnt down even before they could be phased out and right before the Australian military began the most awaited edition of its biennial Talisman Sabre military drills.
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