The Australian Army bought 18 Abrams tanks. Trouble is, they are just too large to get them to their base in Australia's interior:
THE army's newest frontline weapon, the Abrams battle tank, arrived in Australia yesterday and immediately encountered problems, with no rail transport available to carry the tank to the Northern Territory.
Its deployment will be further hampered because, at 68 tonnes, the Abrams is too heavy to travel across road bridges in the Northern Territory.
As the first 18 of the tanks were delivered to Port Melbourne, the operators of the Adelaide-to-Darwin railway said they lacked the equipment to carry them. Adelaide-based Freightlink said the tanks were too big.
"Freightlink has participated in a rail study with the implication for new rolling stock to be acquired," the company said.
It did not say when or if it intended to acquire the required rolling stock and suggested it was waiting for contracts to be signed with the Defence Department before going ahead with the purchase. A total of 59 refurbished tanks were bought from the US for $500 million.
Transporting them north by road is likely to be problematic.
A senior Northern Territory shire engineer said road bridges in the Katherine Shire had a maximum capacity of 50 tonnes, 18 tonnes less than the weight of one Abrams tank. Road trains weighing up to 50 tonnes are able to use the bridges by disconnecting a trailer, he said.
The tanks, described by federal Defence Minister Brendan Nelson as the best in the world, have a fuel economy as low as 200m a litre.