Author Topic: 101 tanks never fired in anger, one owner  (Read 2050 times)

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Online Blackadder1916

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101 tanks never fired in anger, one owner
« on: September 15, 2008, 21:05:12 »
101 tanks never fired in anger, one owner

Mark Dodd The Australian September 16, 2008

FOR sale: 101 used Leopard main battle tanks, in going order, never seen any action except war games, please apply Australian Defence Force, price negotiable.

The army is offering its 1960s vintage Leopard 1 tanks for sale to a foreign buyer and is negotiating with several unnamed countries, a Defence Department spokeswoman said yesterday.

The once formidable German-built Leopards are now surplus to requirements. Much of the ADF's inventory is being upgraded or replaced under a $20 billion-a-year defence acquisition program.

The tanks never saw action, although a squadron was loaded in preparation for deployment to East Timor in 1999 but then unloaded because in the words of one senior armoured corps officer: "It might have sent the wrong message to the Indonesians."

The Howard government bought the army 59 refurbished M1A1 Abrams from the US as it was concerned the Leopards had passed their use-by date and were vulnerable to the latest anti-armour missiles. For $60 million and weighing in at close to 70 tonnes each, the ADF got a much heavier and more capable tank -- powered by a 1500 horsepower jet engine -- but fewer of them, continuing a trend of diminishing armoured support for the army.

Due to its size and weight the Abrams was only recently able to be carted on railway rolling stock.

The 42 tonne Leopards, worth $600,000 each in their day, entered service in 1977 as a replacement for the British-made Centurion. A fuel miser compared with the Abrams, the Leopard was powered by a 37.4 litre V-10 MTU diesel engine and armed with a 105mm cannon.

The tanks were verging on obsolescence in Germany when they were acquired by the ADF.

The pensioned-off Leopards are now under canvas in a field at the army's Bandiana storage facility in Victoria awaiting a foreign military buyer. "The Leopard fleet consists of around 100 vehicles. Discussions are continuing with a number of potential buyers," the Defence spokeswoman said.

"Scrapping is generally the least favoured option such that it is unlikely that the Leopard tanks or Iroquois helicopters will need to be disposed in this way."

Old they may be but the Leopards retain a lethal bite and strict conditions will apply to their sale. Rogue states such as North Korea need not apply.

About two dozen well-used Iroquois choppers -- Bell UH-1H Hueys of Vietnam-era fame are also up for sale.

Other defence equipment recently sold or disposed of includes the navy's Fremantle-class patrol boats, the last of which was unloaded in May.

In service from 1977 and briefly enjoying a starring role in ABC's Patrol Boat series, the hard-working Fremantles were scrapped except for two of the 15, which were donated as civic gifts and are now permanently dry-docked.
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