Friday, 24 April 2009


We were delighted when the intellectual and gentlemanly Minister of Defence Wayne Mapp launched a defence review. It was way over due. Now one thing we have heard around the corridors of power is the concern abou the under -utilisation of the LAV's - the Light Armoured Vehicles. There are 105 of the buggers bought for $677 million, and its been suggested that the ignition keys on a fair few of them have neve been turned.

So why was that we here at Roarprawn wondered?

BB asked a mate and an ex soldier - the Chilli Prawn, to shed some light on the issue.

We did not need as many as we purchased. The vision for the Army that gave us that number was contentious and predicated on the fact that we needed to become a mobile Army (which we were not) if our traditional friends would ever want to let us play with them again. The problem is that simply buying enough complicated trucks ( that essentially what they are) does not make that vision a reality, it requires a monumental shift in doctrine, training, structure etc .

Meanwhile, post 9/11 the game changed and all our friends went from being involved in big, mobile Army type operations (think the first Gulf war, where everybody swept across the vast open desert in tanks and LAVs) to being involved in places like Afghan on operations of a very different type and scale where big mobile Armies typically don’t add a lot of value because you are not fighting against a big enemy in fixed positions that can be overwhelmed by mass, you need a big Army but the hardware that goes with it does not necessarily add a lot of value.

There is a paradigm in military planning that says military planners are always fighting the last war – it means that they look at what we should have done better in the last war, get themselves ready to that standard then get caught short by the completely different needs of the next war – such is the case of panning to be able to be a big mobile Army and then serving operationally Timor, Solomons, Sinai, Afghanistan etc.

The stupidity of the premise that we could become a mobile Army was that the cash needed to realise the Army vision would have gutted the air force and navy, no surprise that in the last defence review (and Mapp is right again – we do need another one) a lot of senior retired Army officers said that the Skyhawks should be scrapped (That’s a little known fact…) because we would never use them operationally and the cost to maintain and operate a fighter squadron meant that all other purchasing needs of the Army, Navy and Air Force were being impeded because we were kidding ourselves as a nation that we needed fast jets.

The Skyhawks were a political weapon in that we never used them other than to impress our allies by trotting them out on exercises….so when Helen binned them, she had to prove our commitment to international defence with something other than fast jets on exercises
Hence the entry, stage left, of soldiers deployed on real operations to prove our commitment to the UN (Middle East, Sudan), MFO (Sinai), Australia (Solomons and Timor), USA (Afghan), NATO (Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghan) etc etc.

So the long and short of it is that the LAVS are kit that were designed for the wars of the past not the peackeeping we tend to be involved in now and probably in the future. So expect some cheap LAVs to be offered up for sale post the Defence Review. Hopefully they will prove to be a little easier to sell than the Skyhawks.

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