Robert
Hill’s protestations that the ASLAV armoured vehicles Our Boys are
taking to Iraq are all armoured the same, even though they’re
different, made me have quite a grim laugh as I raised my port in the
officers’ mess.

Hilly carried on about “spall liners” and
“spall curtains”, all of which disguises the fact of what “spall”
really is. Spall is the nasty shrapnel stuff that fractures off the
inside of an armoured vehicle when it’s hit by an anti-tank round (your
typical RPG, mine or even a car bomb). It’s not the explosive that does
the damage, it’s the bits of the vehicle itself which break off and
rattle around inside at subsonic speeds, with nothing to slow them down
except warm bodies.

The “improved anti-spall armour” essentially means the shrapnel gets slowed down a little before it eviscerates you.

They’re
not really safe at all – but they will protect diggers from most small
arms fire, which is sort of comforting, unless you’re poor Trooper
Bloggs sitting in the back of a dark ASLAV with a puckered a**e waiting
for the big stuff to hit. One wonders if it Bloggs would not feel
better cowering behind a brick wall, where at least he can see the
insurgents who are trying to slot him.

Labor’s Robert
McClelland also made the valid point that despite al the talk of spall
protection, on most of the ASLAVs – those the Government hasn’t yet
upgraded with electronic turrets – some poor bloke has still got to
stick his head out of the turret to shoot.

Which brings us
to another point – one which Crikey’s own Christian Kerr stuffed up a
few days back and one which the media will undoubtedly continue to
stuff up.

They’re not tanks.

It’s a common mistake – see a big armoured vehicle and assume it’s a tank.

Our
contingent are mounted infantry, in fact the direct descendants of the
World war One Light horse – ride into battle then dismount and proceed
to blow s*** up on foot..
But they don’t use tanks. Tanks are big things with tracks and a huge, f*** off gun on top.

ASLAVS
are wheeled, not tracked, have essentially a popgun for armament
(unless you’re the poor raghead taxi-driver in front of it) and explode
at the merest hint of a high-explosive round. Actually the last bit is
a bit of an exaggeration. But not much.

So, given they’re
not tanks, but Australian-built light armoured vehicles (which is where
the LAV bit in Aslav comes from) it sort of wrecks Christian Kerr’s
conspiracy theory about the M1 Abrams tanks.

So, no,
they’re not using Iraq as “training for M1s”. Different unit
completely. The tankies, mind you, would be really p****ed that they’re
not going, again. I had one of them chew my ear off for an entire night
when East Timor blew up about why having a tank on each street corner
is a much better deterrent than a wimpy little ASLAV.

Again,
M1 tanks are a far better thing to have on the streets of Iraq than an
ASLAV, where an insurgent just has to sneeze to put it out of action.
As a believer in peace through superior firepower, I’d rather have the
big things with big guns.

I wouldn’t be caught dead in an ASLAV. Hopefully no-one else will be.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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