Australia has agreed to a $3.5 billion deal with the U.S. to acquire more than 120 tanks and other armored vehicles to upgrade its military fleet, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton will confirm the new deal Monday after the U.S. initially approved the purchase last year.
Australia will commit to buying 75 new M1A2 abrams tanks, 29 explosive-clearing assault breacher vehicles, 17 assault bridge vehicles, and six additional armored recovery vehicles.
In a statement, Dutton said the vehicles will give its soldiers the best possibility for success and protection from future harm, according to the Morning Herald.
“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,” Dutton said in a statement.
“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.”
Australia is expected to spend somewhere between $30 billion and $42 billion on armored vehicles over the next couple years.
The agreement has ignited a debate over Australia’s military needs, with some national security experts arguing that heavily armored vehicles will not be necessary in maritime and air conflict with another world power like China, the Morning Herald reported.
The first vehicles from the Australia-U.S. deal will be delivered in 2024 and are expected to be in service the year after, the Morning Herald noted.
The deal is the latest sign of the U.S. and Australia’s strengthening military alliance to counter China’s expanding power in the Indo-Pacific region.
President Biden, along with leaders of Australia and the United Kingdom, announced the “AUKUS” alliance in September, initially focused on helping Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.