Make an offer... the great Aussie military sale

By Greg Ansley

The RAAF's Hornets will be replaced. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The RAAF's Hornets will be replaced. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Need a new guided missile cruiser? Maybe a tank, or a jet fighter, or just a plain old army truck?

Look no further than across the Tasman, where Australia's military chiefs are planning the biggest disposal of defence equipment since World War II.

The sale will be equivalent to 10 per cent of the Government's non-financial assets and will include up to 24 ships, 70 combat and 110 other aircraft, 600 armoured vehicles, 12,000 other vehicles and a range of communications systems, weapons and explosives.

Planners hope the sale will raise hundreds of millions of dollars to offset a massive A$50 billion-plus ($61.3 billion) planned upgrade of the nation's defence force.

In the past, getting rid of old equipment has been costly.

Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare said that while Britain had made about A$1 billion from military disposals since 1997, Australia spent A$20 million getting rid of unwanted equipment over the same period.

"That's why I am reforming Australia's system of military disposals - to reduce costs, generate potential revenue and provide opportunities for defence industry involvement," he said. "By disposing of this equipment in bulk, it will increase the amount of revenue Defence can raise and reinvest in new equipment. It also provides the scale which gives real opportunities for business."

The for-sale sign is going up on much of Australia's present defence inventory to make way for the nation's biggest-ever military shopping list.

Plans include replacing the RAAF's Hornet fighters with up to 100 F035 Lightning II jets, buying the navy new air defence destroyers and huge amphibious ships, and replacing the Orion maritime patrol aircraft. Replacements are also being planned for the navy's six Collins class submarines and eight Anzac frigates, and for the defence force's entire vehicle fleet.

Recent announcements have included the A$100 million purchase of the former Royal Navy amphibious ship Largs Bay as a stopgap until the two new Canberra class vessels now being built arrive, and 24 Seahawk "Romeo" naval combat helicopters to replace the Navy's present Seahawks. The RAAF has also bought 24 Super Hornets to replace the FIII bombers retired last December.

Among the first to go in the coming decade will be 24 vessels, including the amphibious ships Manoora - already decommissioned - Kanimbla and Tobruk, the remaining four Adelaide-class guided missile frigates, and six minehunters.

The Government has also already approved the disposal of up to 12,000 Land Rovers, Unimog and Mack trucks and other vehicles, many of which will return to Australian roads in civilian use. Some of the obsolete equipment will be offered to museums, RSL clubs and other historical organisations - but at their cost.

Almost 40 recently retired, Vietnam-era howitzers offered to similar groups will cost up to A$16,000 each to preserve.

Several of the retired Cairbou transport aircraft will also be preserved and 30 Leopard tanks replaced by new American Abrams have been gifted to RSL clubs.

- NZ Herald

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