The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) is set to enhance the armoured combat capability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The Commonwealth government has officially approved an investment of $2.51bn (A$3.5bn) for the procurement of tanks and combat engineering vehicles.

The vehicles will be acquired under the LAND 907 phase two main battle tank (MBT) and LAND 8160 phase one projects.

The projects are aimed at delivering the future heavy armoured capability systems (HACS), comprising an upgraded Abrams MBT, Abrams-based combat engineering vehicles to provide under-armour bridging and obstacle breaching, as well as a support system which includes the M88A2 armoured recovery vehicle (ARV).

The acquisition includes up to 75 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks, 29 M1150 assault breacher vehicles, 17 M1074 joint assault bridge vehicles, and six M88A2 ARVs.

Australia Defence Minister Peter Dutton said: “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.

“The M1A2 Abrams will incorporate the latest developments in Australian sovereign defence capabilities, including command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems, and benefit from the intended manufacture of tank ammunition in Australia.

“The introduction of the new M1A2 vehicles will take advantage of the existing support infrastructure, with significant investment in Australian industry continuing in the areas of sustainment, simulation and training.”

The ADF will receive the first vehicles in 2024, with the projects expected to reach initial operating capability (IOC) in 2025.

Australia Army chief lieutenant general Rick Burr noted that the tanks and combat engineering vehicles are essential to Australia’s ‘land combat’ capabilities, combined with joint and coalition forces.

Burr said: “The main battle tank is at the core of the ADF’s combined arms fighting system, which includes infantry, artillery, communications, engineers, attack helicopters, and logistics.

“The M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams protection, accurate and lethal fire, mobility, and situational awareness cannot be delivered by any other platform.”

In December 2021, the Australian Army announced that it would be partnering with Microsoft to explore the use of artificial intelligence to transform command and control.