Australia’s A$ 10+ billion Super Hornet program began life in a storm. Australia’s involvement in the F-35 Lightning II program have been mired in controversy, amid criticisms that the F-35A will (1) be unable to compete with proliferating SU-30 family fighters in the region, (2) lack the range or response time that Australia requires, and (3) be both late and very expensive during early production years.
The accelerated retirement of Australia’s 22 long-range F-111s in 2010 sharpened the timing debate, by creating a serious gap between the F-111′s retirement and the F-35′s likely arrival. Further delays to the F-35 program have created new worries that even the upgraded F/A-18AM/BM Hornet fleet won’t last long enough to allow smooth replacement.
The Super Hornets survived potential cancellation, and the “surprise” stopgap buy has steadily morphed into a mainstay of the future RAAF, with a new and unique set of electronic warfare capabilities thrown into the mix. This DID Spotlight article describes the models chosen, links to coverage of the key controversies, and offers a history of contracts and key events from the program’s first official requests to the present day.