How to destroy the Australian Defence Force:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. "How to destroy the Australian Defence Force" (yesterday, item 4). In 1941 we fought the Japanese with thoroughly obsolete Wirraway and Buffalo aeroplanes, as related yesterday. We didn't even send tanks to Malaya, because as every good politician and senior army officer knew, they couldn't operate in the jungle. Nobody told the Japanese, and their little tanks drove through successive defence lines creating chaos and defeat. Subsequently, the Australian army operated obsolete but appropriate tanks in the Pacific- British Matildas and American Stuarts- and in Vietnam the superb, venerable Centurion was deployed to great effect. The greatest post-war practitioners of armoured warfare, the Israelis, only withdrew their last Centurions recently. The just-replaced Leopards fitted well with the historical use of armoured vehicles by Australia- compromising heavy armour to gain mobility, but with a reliable diesel engine, and the 105mm gun that has won Israel all its wars and which can be seen on tanks from the USA to China. While they were cheap, the M1 Abrams, designed for a confrontation with the Warsaw Pact in central Europe and thus heavily armoured, will crush most of the bridges in the region. Indeed, the army is struggling to obtain trucks to haul them across Australian roads. It's noisy, thirsty engine is designed for acceleration -- as so often with recent arms purchases, a large compromise for an esoteric benefit. Labor and the Coalition are squaring off on the choice of regional defence versus joint operations, but Howard-era arms purchases have reduced the ability of the ADF to fight a regional conflict.

Cameron Sharrock writes: In the 1930s Australia's Air Force was stymied in its quest for top-notch equipment by a Canberra insistence on British gear as opposed to the far superior American planes that Sir Lawrence Wackett wanted to buy. I think our current masters' refusal to get good stuff can boil down to a similar kow-towing albeit to a different King. King Surplus delivers elections, or at least he has done until this year, but nasty little inconveniences like national infrastructure and defence modernisation deliver nothing but non-election-friendly long term prosperity and stability. No contest really.