DID recently covered the statements of retired Australian Air Vice Marshal Peter Criss, who believes that Australia’s participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is a mistake given Australia’s strategic and operational needs; he favours the F-22A Raptor as part of an alternative force structure. That DID article also links to the wider Australian debate, including statements from the opposition Labor Party, Air Power Australia’s in-depth strategic report, and official statements and responses from Australia’s government and Department of Defense. The article below, which originally appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Defender, the national journal of the Australia Defence Association, is reprinted here by author’s permission. If Australian government or DoD representatives wish to respond, DID will be happy to run those articles as well and host a serious debate.
Guest Author Air Vice-Marshal Peter Criss, ret.
(Posted with permission)
The imminent acquisition of a replacement fighter and strike aircraft comes at a time when many changes in global politics are occurring and when attempted reforms within our Defence organisation have been deliberately circumvented.
Several developments triggered this article: one in the recent past and two currently. The first influence comes from the deliberate circumvention of a damning Senate report into military justice and the latter two triggers are the nuclear test by North Korea, and the RAAF declaring they “won’t need [an] interim jet”, and announcing that the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will be purchased. A broad canvas of issues, some may say; however, they are interlinked, which is perturbing. They involve:
- Australia’s small national defence force struggling to sustain itself through conventional recruiting and retention techniques;
- The degrading North-Asian strategic environment with its potential to destabilise the wider region and promote an arms race;
- Already prolific numbers of late-generation Russian fighter aircraft in the near and wider regions; and
- A declared decision to purchase the JSF regardless of risk.