|AUTHOR||Michael K. Cecil|
|NO OF PAGES||244|
|ILLUSTRATIONS||Photos & Illustrations|
The Australian Cruiser tank project was an audacious venture for a country with
limited heavy industrial capacity – and no experience in the design or manufacture of
a modern cruiser tank.
The genesis of the project was a technical intelligence report prepared in mid-1939 by
Major Ronald Hopkins about the strength of the Imperial Japanese Army’s tank force.
The report was so alarming that the Chief of the General Staff called for the design
and construction of a light cruiser tank to combat a possible Japanese invasion of the
Australian mainland. Initial design work was commenced by Army design staff in late
1939, but with the creation of the Department of Munitions in mid-1940, the
responsibility for tank manufacture passed to that department. From there, the project
brought together a consortium of Munitions, Army and private industry which
together developed the Australian Cruiser tank, with the Mark 1 version called the
It was not without its problems, a project hampered by constant changes in
specification and fraught with overly optimistic delivery estimates, rivalries that were
both inter-departmental and personal, questionable management decisions, and a total
dependence on the supply of vital components from the USA.
Conversely, there was also remarkable innovation and ingenuity. An unconventional
formula for Nickel-free cast armour and the hull cast as a single piece were worldfirsts, as was the mounting of a 25-pdr main armament, followed soon after by the
formidable 17-pdr tank gun.
However, by July 1943, with more tanks having arrived from overseas than the Army
needed, and with little prospect of the delivery of combat-ready tanks from local
production any time soon, the Australian Government decided in principle to the
cessation of the Australian tank programme, making the final decision to terminate in
February 1944. Despite the enormous resources devoted to the project, only 65 AC1
Sentinel tanks were ever manufactured.
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