Maintaining Army's Capability Edge

An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during Exercise Gold Eagle 2013.
An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during Exercise Gold Eagle 2013.

For the last seven years the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank and the M88 Hercules Armoured Recovery Vehicle have provided Army with unrivalled protection and lethality support. Just as these vehicles have looked after our troops, the DMO is looking after them, and investing millions of dollars into what’s called the Tank Refresh Program.

This $58 million initiative will upgrade the Army’s fleet of 59 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and seven Hercules Armoured Recovery Vehicles. A further $6 million will also be spent on refreshing Army’s six Tank Advanced Gunnery Training Systems and its Tank Driver Trainer, to ensure they maintain their capability edge.

The DMO Bulletin recently caught up with the DMO’s National Fleet Manager Tank, Major Ash Graham, to learn more about this program and why it’s a good investment.

“The Tank Technical Refresh targets a series of maintenance activities aimed at maintaining a baseline build-state configuration, which will ensure the tanks can continue to be available for Army as Plan Beersheba gets underway,” he said.

“We know that there is a direct correlation between the age of this tank and increased mission critical failures. Given the frequency of use that these vehicles have endured, there are a couple of known and anticipated fatigue issues that we want to rectify, and now is the time do it. This is prudent life of type management and ensures that the high operational availability we are currently experiencing continues into the future.”

“We started establishing the program throughout 2013 and it will be conducted through to 2018.”

Major Graham said the Tank Refresh Program has a number of benefits.


The Tank Technical Refresh includes:
• Making selected engineering changes
• Refreshing engine and transmission
• Replacing flexible hydraulic hose systems
• Inspecting electrical cabling systems
• Replacing unserviceable line replacement units
• Applying a heavy suspension kit.


“For starters, the refresh program will provide increased tank support to Army,” he said.

“It will also ensure that the tanks maintain a capability edge over our adversaries. Similarly, it will ensure that Australian tank platforms remain relevant to those of our allies in terms of both commonality and interoperability.”

Major Graham explained that this is a significant lifecycle activity for the tank capability.

“For the next five years, this represents around a two-third increase in the average annual tank sustainment budget,” he said.

“The refresh program also substantially increases the Australian industry content in the platform sustainment. TAE Gas Turbines will take a leading role in engine repair and management and is already dramatically reducing the cost of maintaining engines.”

“General Dynamics Land Systems - Australia continues to facilitate repair of other sub-components, while Joint Logistics Unit (Victoria), in partnership with Transfield, will undertake the platform refresh maintenance activity at Bandiana.”

Major Graham explained that the Tank Refresh Program would also enhance Army’s current simulators.

“The simulator aspect of the refresh program will extend the life of existing equipment and provide users with access to current simulation technologies within existing training platforms,” he said.

“It’s worth $6 million and will be delivered by Rheinmetall Simulation Australia in February 2015 to allow this training capability to remain a force multiplier, in lockstep with the M1A1 lifecycle.”

“This is a very important aspect of the program as simulation reduces the cost and safety risks of training tank operators, while still allowing soldiers to fire rounds and maintain driving hours and currency.”