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$309 million for soldiers to be equipped

$309 million for soldiers to be equipped with latest weapons, vehicles and communications

Defence Minister Robert Hill today announced three major projects worth $308.83 million to further upgrade the capabilities of the Australian Army.

The first is a $173 million project to equip infantry, special forces and cavalry units with medium range direct fire weapons.

"The new shoulder-fired guided weapons give soldiers the ability to attack armoured vehicles, bunkers and buildings at ranges over 2000 metres," Senator Hill said.

"The project provides enough missile launchers, ammunition, logistics support, simulators and training ammunition to equip high readiness battalions and other units. The weapons are expected to be in service in 2006/07."

The second project will see an extra $38.23 million spent on improving the Army’s vehicle fleet. The money will be used to upgrade heavy recovery vehicles designed to retrieve damaged or bogged heavy vehicles, procure six bulk liquid fuel tankers, address excessive cabin noise and make some of the vehicles safer by fitting protection systems.

The third is a $97.6 million project that will allow soldiers to exchange images, video, text and voice messages in the battlefield. The Army’s current 1970’s analogue-based communications that are largely limited to voice messages in the battlefield will be modernised under the Battlespace Communications Systems (Land) project.

"Modern warfare requires that battlefield commanders get swift access to information to plan and conduct operations," Senator Hill said.

"The Army will get new field equipment that will allow a web-type communication network to be established in the field capable of handling voice, data, images and video.

"As the Air Force and Navy modernise their communications, a Defence-wide network will be established making our defence force more effective on the ground, in the air and at sea."

Under the first phase of this project, a deployable brigade-sized joint task force will be equipped with the new digital communications from 2005.

"These projects deliver on the Government’s White Paper commitments to provide our land forces with sufficient firepower, protection and mobility to provide clear advantage in any likely operations in defence of Australia or in our immediate region," Senator Hill said.

MEDIA NOTE: Images and vision of the new equipment are available at http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/hill/gallery.htm


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