Austria Table of Contents
Over rugged, snowy terrain, horses still provide mobility.
An officer briefs two noncommissioned officers on the
next phase of a tactical field problem.
Courtesy United States Department of Defense
The principal armored weapons in 1993 were 169 M-60 main battle tanks of United States manufacture in service with the tank battalions of the three readiness brigades. Beginning in 1986, the M-60s were upgraded to A3 standard by the installation of new engines, fire-control systems with laser-range finders, and a stabilization system. The modernization was carried out by the Austrian firm of Steyr-Daimler-Puch, often referred to as Steyr. A light tank, Kürassier SK-105, was developed by Steyr in the late 1960s. It carries a French-made 105mm gun that has been modified to fire more powerful fin-stabilized ammunition. The SK105 serves in effect as an armored tank destroyer. The army's armored personnel carrier (APC) is the Saurer 4K-4E/F, an early version of a Steyr design that has been exported to a number of countries. Considered obsolete, the Saurer is expected to be replaced by a newly developed Steyr APC in the late 1990s.
The most modern artillery weapons are fifty-four 155mm selfpropelled howitzers purchased from the United States in 1988. The army is planning to upgrade all fifty-four to A5 standards, and it has placed an order to purchase twenty-four additional howitzers. The remaining guns in the artillery inventory are forty-year-old towed 105mm and 155mm howitzers, considered to be obsolete in terms of range and accuracy. A 130mm truck-mounted rocket launcher of Czechoslovakian manufacture, in the inventory since the 1960s, is of limited range and rate of fire.
Austria relies heavily on fixed artillery installations for defense of key points. In addition to twenty-four SFK 155mm guns in "fortress" configuration, Austria purchased 200 obsolete Centurion tanks from the Netherlands and converted their turrets into fixed-gun emplacements.
The army's most serious shortcomings are in air defense and antitank weaponry. Without improved protection against enemy tactical aircraft and attack helicopters, Austrian armored units are highly vulnerable. The primary air defense weapon is the 40mm self-propelled antiaircraft gun. A radar-directed 35mm system, with limited mobility and range, is used principally for static defense. Optically sighted 20mm guns, some mounted on all-terrain vehicles, are the only form of air defense for infantry forces but give little protection against modern combat aircraft. Austria is evaluating various low-level air defense missile systems with the intention of purchasing one battery of twelve launchers for each brigade beginning about 1994.
The announcement in 1989 that Austria considered the State Treaty limitation on short-range defensive missiles outdated and void has cleared the way for the army to acquire its first antitank missile system to replace obsolete guns, recoilless rifles, and rocket launchers. After trials of several weapons, Austria purchased the Bofors RBS-56 BILL, a man-portable system, from Sweden. The army is reportedly also considering purchase of either the United States TOW (tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided) or the French HOT (high-subsonic, optically guided, tube-launched) system as longer-range antitank missiles to be mounted on a wheeled armored vehicle. As many as 200 systems are expected to be purchased initially, enough for twelve launchers for each mechanized or infantry brigade.
Data as of December 1993