Flat White

Did Australia buy tanks to protect Taiwan?

19 January 2022

9:00 AM

19 January 2022

9:00 AM

Australia splashed out $3.5 billion on 120 specially re-enforced US military tanks and armoured vehicles, causing prominent political reporters to immediately groan and call it ‘a waste’.

‘Who uses tanks anymore?’ Went the predictable outrage. ‘We haven’t deployed tanks in anger since Vietnam!’

These are easy things to moan about from the comfort of an armchair, but their assessment of tank warfare is wrong. Australia has spent recent decades embroiled in foreign conflicts and proxy wars as a collection of specialist units. We were fighting terrorists and a hodgepodge of mercenaries in the desert – not a disciplined army intent on capturing home soil.

It has been noted by those on the ground during recent insurgencies that even though Australia did not deploy tanks, we certainly made use of America’s. There have been accusations that lives were lost unnecessarily because of our reluctance to drag existing assets onto the front-line, preferring instead to let them rot in a shed out in Woop Woop.

If the naysayer commentators came nose-to-nose with a shiny new M1A2 Abrams tank they may think differently about their effectiveness in ground warfare. These are one of the hardest things to put out of action, which is why America wants us to have lots of them. Australia is starting from behind, so whatever we buy now has to count.

When a true army sets its sights on Australia and decides to ‘play for keeps’, the first thing to roll out are the tanks. As Senator Jim Molan points out, if you’re fighting with an infantry, you need tanks to protect them. Being an island nation is a speed bump – not a roadblock – to this eventuality. Australia has become lazy, imagining that our glittering oceans serve as an impenetrable moat against all land-based threats. Such dangerous naivety is how peaceful nations end up dead.

‘When I fought with the US military in Iraq, we had hundreds of exactly the same kind of battle tanks that Australia now plans to purchase from the Americans, and we used them every day, notably during my time in the battle of Fallujah,’ said Senator Molan, writing in The Australian. ‘I am an infantryman by trade but if there was the likelihood of a serious fight, I would always take tanks. So I totally agree with the army’s commitment to buying 75 of these tanks because soldiers with real combat experience know their value.’

Different types of warfare require specific equipment, and it would be foolish to imagine that ‘tanks are a thing of the past’ when the world’s most formidable military forces are stockpiling armoured vehicles. Defence Minister Peter Dutton is sensible enough to take the hint from America and accept whatever’s being offered under the AUKUS trilateral agreement.

This purchase includes 75 M1A2 Abrams tanks tricked out to resist improvised explosive devices, 29 assault breacher vehicles, 17 joint assault bridge vehicles, and 6 armoured recovery vehicles – all due for delivery in 2025. This is a lot more practical than the fanciful 2040 delivery date of the now cancelled French submarines. Imagine if we had spent our trillion-dollar Covid debt on something useful, like a few hundred planes for our wilting air force…

For those with half an eye open, it has become obvious that America and the UK are rapidly arming Australia in preparation for conflict with China. We are being given specific, urgent equipment orders. This should worry lingering China-apologists, who continue to see the increasingly hostile developing nation as the ‘victim’ rather than ‘aggressor’ in global unrest.


It cannot be ignored that the world’s communist forces have been inflating army, navy, and air forces with assets and personnel while ‘annexing’ the occasional friend as practice. They have spent the inter-war period ensuring that the balance of power tips during the next geopolitical argument. When superpowers rise, war is inevitable, and the West is very late to the party when it comes to hanging up the decorations.

China has adorned itself with 5,250 tanks and 35,000 armoured vehicles. Compare that to India, China’s nearest and most agitated neighbour, with 4,614 tanks and 12,000 armoured vehicles. Sitting above India, Russia has 12,420 tanks and 30,122 armoured vehicles.

The numbers become all the more worrying with America having only 6,612 tanks and 45,193 armoured vehicles to challenge the combined forces of China and Russia. Even America’s crown as the strongest navy in the world is being reconsidered, with no one quite sure if China has finally usurped them.

China’s problem is not the size of its military, it is the niggling frustration of Taiwan which it must navigate its navy around in order to seize control of the South China Sea.

Taiwan serves as the fortification on a castle wall – except it doesn’t belong to China. The island’s geography acts as protection for the Malacca Strait, giving nations like Japan confidence that it would be difficult for China to take up an authoritative position over the trade route and cut off oil and gas supplies to the region. While Taiwan’s presence hasn’t stopped China pouring concrete over coral reefs and turning pristine islands into military bases, it has stopped China rolling out the full force of their naval fleet without contest.

This is a real shame for China’s communist regime, which wants to pick up where the colonials left off and go on an empire-building binge through the Pacific. An ideology like this cannot be appeased by trade or grovelling to Beijing. As the world learned the hard way, appeasement never works when the aggressor is powerful enough to take what it wants.

Xi Jinping hasn’t been backward in coming forward regarding his intentions for Taiwan – routinely issuing overtures of impending invasion with a creepy ‘you’re mine’ attitude to Taiwanese sovereignty.

Plenty of commentators love to joke about ‘how easy’ it would be to conquer the ‘tiny island’ of Taiwan. Compared to Australia, Taiwan is a bed of nails. They have 741 aircraft, including 288 fighters, and 91 attack helicopters whereas Australia only has 430 aircraft, 72 fighters, and 22 attack helicopters – many of which are not combat-ready. Taiwan has also bought 108 Abrams tanks from America to add to their exiting 1,200 along with a full shopping list of supporting assets.

Far from a ‘soft target’, Taiwan is riddled with caves and uneven ground with defences that serve to nullify China’s superior numbers. Like Spartans standing on the beach, a war against Taiwan is not a foregone conclusion – which is why China spends most of its time trying to alienate Taiwan from its political allies instead of attacking them. Experts have calculated that it would take the largest naval operation in human history to annex Taiwan. While China is capable of launching it, Xi Jinping and his generals have no idea how much damage would be done in the ensuing battle.

In short, the island of Taiwan is one of the most heavily fortified places on earth – and they are not without dangerous guardian angels.

Since recent tweaks to Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, Japan has wasted no time catching up its naval strength. The Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force has been furnished with superior American weaponry and has permission to act in defence of its allies. In a break from long decades of anti-offensive behaviour, the government of Japan has officially considered acquiring preemptive strike capabilities in response to China and North Korea’s nuclear programs. Meanwhile, America and Japan have a draft contingency plan laid out for the invasion of Taiwan which includes America stationing active bases on Japanese islands.

Australian commentators are kidding themselves if they think our sudden interest in tanks is unrelated.

‘We will use nuclear bombs first. We will use nuclear bombs continuously. We will do this until Japan declares unconditional surrender for the second time. What we want to target is Japan’s ability to endure a war. As long as Japan realises that it cannot afford to pay the price of war, it will not dare to rashly send troops to the Taiwan Strait,’ warned one of the many Chinese propaganda videos aimed at terrifying the region.

While some point to these propaganda videos as nothing more than noise, the Global Times routinely prints state-approved articles containing identical threats. Despite this, Japan will defend Taiwan with the full force of its arsenal – effectively forcing the world to show their cards and pick a side. Those cards are already on their way toward the table, with European nations sending warships to the Pacific where they linger as a warning.

It’s no wonder that America has turned around and decided to equip Australia. We have a measly 59 tanks and 1,765 armoured vehicles, otherwise known as a military disaster in the making. Even our parent nation has been running down its once formidable navy. The UK’s fighting strength has been diluted by successive wet governments determined to disarm themselves to appease woke teenagers who see military assets as an affront to ‘world peace’. Both Labour and the Tories bought those votes with the lives of a future conflict.

Australia has a huge amount of land and water to protect, yet we don’t have sufficient resources to defend a coral atoll – let alone make pledges to protect our Pacific neighbours. If Morrison wants to know why our ‘friends’ take Australian taxpayer money with one hand and let China build military bases with the other, it’s because the Pacific has no confidence that Australia can defend it from China.

Quite right too. The numbers are stacked against Australia, where we act as Lord Protector in name only. It would be more correct to refer to us as a sugar daddy, handing out cash to keep up appearances at the UN.

At this point, the Taliban are better equipped than Australia. This has to change immediately if we wish to remain a democracy on a world map increasingly governed by resource-hungry totalitarian socialist states.

For those who become overwhelmed by the problem, shrug their shoulders and say, ‘why bother?’ That sort of thinking isn’t exactly drenched in military success. The West dominated the political landscape because it never gave up, even when faced with seemingly hopeless odds. It’s time the Australian Defence Force stopped painting its nails and started buying more toys.

As for the government, at least we have Peter Dutton nodding to America’s instructions. Prime Minister Scott Morrison couldn’t navigate a tennis player, let alone China.

Alexandra Marshall is an independent writer. If you would like to support her work, shout her a coffee over at donor-box.

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