The Australian Debate: Abandon F-35, Buy F-22s?
In their October 2006 article, “Rapped in the Raptor: why Australia must have the best,” Australian newspaper The Age reported that:
“[Recently] Retired RAAF air vice-marshal Peter Criss has put aside usual conventions to openly question the wisdom of Canberra spending about $16 billion for the F-35 Lightning, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter. The Government committed an initial $300 million to become an early partner in the JSF program, with a final decision to be made by 2008. But Mr Criss says the RAAF should, in fact, consider buying the F-22 Raptor…”
Criss’ disquiet was the first significant breaking of ranks by top military brass over this issue, but Australia’s opposition Labor Party soon stepped into the fray with a formal statement, discussing the fighter gap that will exist between the F-111’s planned retirement early in 2010 and the proposed F-35A LRIP(Low Rate Initial Production – a more expensive phase) purchase in 2013 or later.
A subsequent purchase announcement and follow-on contracts for 24 F/A-18F Block II Super Hornets have only intensified the discussion. While that F/A-18F purchase is very close to a fait accompli, Australia’s F-35 purchase has moved from an assumed conclusion to a very serious debate. DID’s Spotlight article chronicles those positions, while offering links and background materials from both sides of the Australian debate. In the end, however, the F-22’s production line shutdown by the USA made the issue moot.
Retired Air Vice Marshal Peter Criss’ full statement, forwarded to DID via email, reads as follows:
“Air Vice-Marshal Criss has called for an open debate between all interested Australian parties at a neutral location on all aspects associated with the selection of a replacement aircraft or aircrafts for the existing F/A-18 and the F-111 fleets. He said he had heard the Minister recently quoted as saying that the JSF may not be the aircraft for Australia but the F22 would not be a contender.
The basis of this position must be divulged to the Australian public in open forum and be subjected to critical evaluation by interested Australians – not interested foreign contractors and Defence Department bureaucrats advising the Minister.” From Air Vice-Marshal Criss’s perspective, the decision to join the collaborative development team working on the JSF in the late nineties wascommendable; however, unfortunately some appear to have allowed this investment to incorrectly influence the potential procurement advice going to the Minster he said.
Air Vice Marshal Criss was present at discussions between the Chief of both the United States and Australian air forces in the late nineties when the F-22 was offered to the RAAF and it was dismissed out of hand by the Australian delegate. ‘At the time very little was known about either aircraft and the F-22 was being quoted as approximately four times more expensive than the JSF so I thought the Australian position was understandable at that time’.
Today, and especially by the expected delivery time for the JSF in 2012 (or perhaps later), there appears to be very little if any difference in price between the two contenders and yet there is no comparison in capability, with the F-22 demonstrating proven performance well beyond anything the JSF is likely to deliver when it eventually comes off paper and into production.
Criss remembers well what Secretary of Defence McNamara sought in the early sixties with the intended multi-role F-111 – “we got an excellent bomber but a worthless fighter – the two roles are too incompatible for a common platform and I don’t care how far technology has moved since the McNamara days.
What concerns me is that if the Minister is now saying that the JSF may not be the aircraft for Australia, and I think he is right, and if the Minister is dismissing the F-22 out of hand without disclosing the basis for this decision, then the only other possible contender that could remotely fit the Australian requirement would be the Boeing Super Hornet, a slightly more advanced version of the aircraft currently in service with the RAAF, employing technology far inferior to any potential adversary in our region and incorporating technology far inferior to anything the JSF or F-22 has to offer.
Air Vice-Marshal Criss said that those advising the Minister must be prepared to have their advice examined and challenged in an open forum on neutral ground by appropriately cleared impartial Australian specialists:
‘Frankly, it is not good enough to hide under the security classification bubble to protect the Minister and the Government from very close scrutiny of this critical national defence issue – the future generations of all Australians depends on getting the F/A-18 and F-111 replacement decision right, and up to now what I am reading is exactly that – a claim that one aircraft is better than another but I can’t tell you why.
What I am seeing is a classic ‘Yes Minister’, and Sir Humphrey would be proud but I am not’, the retired Air Commander Australia said.”
Air Vice-Marshal Criss (ret.) has now penned a guest author article here at Defense Industry Daily, explaining his views in slightly more detail.
If the Australian government is approaching the F-35 decision as an internal debate, however, the deal’s opponents are laying out their own thinking in very clear and detailed terms. For instance, we have a detailed analysis that argues for Criss’ preference within a larger strategic framework [PDF format, 6.7 MB]. It connects Australia’s strategic imperatives to regional developments and threats, before looking at aircraft capabilities and costs; all to make the case that RAAF F-35As are a mistake, and the F-22 a better option given Australia’s needs. See also Australia’s Joint Standing Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s “Inquiry into Australian Defence Force Regional Air Superiority” for shorter and less in-depth submissions from many other sources, as well as several from Australia’s Department of Defence (which supports the F-35A).
Criss’ remarks have also energized Australia’s Labor Party opposition, which openly backed Criss’ call for a re-examination of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter purchase.
Robert McClelland MP, the opposition Shadow Minister for Defence and the Federal Member for Barton, New South Wales, has advocated an initial buy of F-22s instead of the initial F-35 tier for some time now – most notably in his address to the ANU Strategic & Defence Studies Centre on April 6/06 [PDF format]. He contends that this 2012 buy would fill the gap left by the F-111s, maintain Australia’s regional air superiority over local SU-27/30 Flanker variants, and allow Australia to reduce both cost per aircraft and risk by buying later (and hence cheaper and more proven) production examples of the F-35 Lightning II. His most recent public statement, “Minding the gap – the Joint Strike Fighter and Australia’s air capability,” lays out his criticism of the current approach:
“…it was Hughes in 1925 who said:
“The aeroplane comes to us in Australia as a gift from the gods, for it places in our hands and within our resources an agency so exactly suited to our circumstances that we might well regard it as designed for our special benefit and protection.”
And he was right… Our neighbours are buying ever more advanced aircraft – this was no doubt one of the reasons the Howard Government signed up for the JSF project in 2003.
What the Howard Government failed to do – at the time or since – is have a plan B whereby an alternative aircraft would be available if the JSF was delayed. Singapore, involved in the same JSF project, has a plan B.
In fact so great is the Howard Government’s faith in the JSF that the usual tendering processes for very large projects were thrown out the window. The JSF was taken on faith without having taken to the air.
There is another aircraft available, the F/A-22 Raptor. It costs more than the JSF on current indications although that price gap appears to be closing [DID: for early production F-35s, est. about $100-120 million vs. about $140 million for additional F-22As]. But this aircraft is a proven performer and its strike capability is being enhanced.
The worry is that the Howard Government and a goodly proportion of the defence establishment refuse to look seriously at the Raptor, and keep staring intently, perhaps wishfully, at the JSF. There is still no plan B to maintain our air superiority until delivery of the JSF.
Also there is simply no way the JSF will be introduced for service in Australia in 2012 – final testing is programmed to continue to 2013. Some pundits are betting this country will not receive its allocation of JSFs until 2020!
So with the F-111s to be rolled out of their hangars for the last time in 2010, Australia will face a big capability gap, the duration of which no one can be sure.
… Australia’s regional standing and influence has a direct relationship to our air combat capability…”
Other Australian Labor Party figures have tended to echo these sentiments.
The debate in Australia promises to become more and more interesting, not least given the existing US prohibitions on export of the F-22 Raptor. But what happens if two key US allies, Australia and a suddenly more prominent Japan, are both asking and both very serious? DID has updated our F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II/ JSF [2006 chronicle | current] FOCUS Articles accordingly.
The Australian Debate: Reports, Testimony & Key Coverage
- DID (Feb 18/08) – “Australia Unveils Comprehensive Airpower Review.” Australia’s new government formally announces its Air Combat Capability Review. Extension of the F-111s’ lives, re-evaluation of the F-35 and F-18F buys, and the desirability of the F-22 Raptor will be evaluated in light of regional air power trends to 2045.
- Australia DoD – “Our Future Defence Force” 2000 White Paper. The main site uses frames, and includes the 2003 and 2005 updates. It may be found here. It will be replaced by a 2008 White Paper from the Labor government and Department of Defence.
- DID Spotlight (updated) – Australia Unveils Airpower Doctrine. Underneath procurement decisions, however, lie the more fundamental issues of doctrine and threat assessments. The one cannot be understood without the other, and so DID also excerpts the Australian DoD/ governing Liberal party offering their projections and doctrines.
- Air Power Australia – Sukhoi Flankers: The Shifting Balance of Regional Air Power. Excellent program history, details, regional procurement notes, and analysis of the SU-30 family’s current capabilities and likely future upgrades. It concludes with a look at how the F-35 will stack up. They are not optimistic.
- Australia’s Parliamentary Library (June 9/06) – “The F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) Project: progress and issues for Australia” [PDF format, 91k].
- Australian Department of Defence – Joint Strike Fighter F-35 Lightning II.
- Australia DoD submissions to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (July 2006) – Submission #15: authorized response from Minister of Defence Brendan Nelson; and Submission #33: Department of Defence Response to Mr. Hatton’s Questions. Note that F-35 average cost is not the same thing as what Australia will pay for a particular aircraft bought at a particular point in the production cycle (early = more expensive), a point the paper acknowledges.
- Air Power Australia’s strategic procurement analysis of the F-35A [PDF, 6.7 MB], which places it within the context of regional air trends and a set of submitted strategic requirements, was submitted to this same committee (submission #20). On May 13/08, they released a follow-on presentation: “Ministerial Submission: Strategic Needs and Force Structure Analysis: The Thinking Behind the F-22A and Evolved F-111 Force Mix Option [PDF, 6.88 MB]”
- DID Spotlight – Australia to Buy 24 Super Hornets As Interim Gap-Filler to JSF? Yes, for a total program cost of A$ 6+ billion. Full coverage of the Super Hornets and contracts. See also: DID’s updated Australian Air Power Controversy: F-35 and Super Hornets Under Fire. Now that purchase has become controversial as well. DID links to both criticisms and government defenses of the purchase – and also highlights and explains some key misconceptions concerning both procurement cost mechanics and US force mix policy.
- Australia Security Policy Institute (Feb 13/07) – The generation gap: Australia and the Super Hornet. The report is not supportive of the interim F/A-18F Block II buy, and recommends that Australia rethink the F-35A decision entirely if delays are expected. See also the ASPI news page, which contains other relevant releases and reports.
- Air Power Australia – Media Page re: F-35 and F/A-18F purchases
- Defender magazine (Summer 2006/07) – Are the F-111s really stuffed? [PDF format] Defender is a publication of the conservative Australia Defence Association.
- Australian Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee On Foreign Affairs, Australian Defence Force Regional Air Superiority panel Q&A (July 5/06) – Ipswich session, near RAAF Amberly: Group Capt. Morrison; Group Capt. Davies; Mr Webb; Mr Harling; Mr Duff; Mr Sanderson; Mr Macklin. RAAF Amberley is the F-111s’ base. A very interesting look at the elements required to maintain aging aircraft whose original suppliers are no longer making those parts – an issue that’s highly relevant around the world as global military aircraft fleets age.
May 3/10: At the JSF Advanced Technology & Innovation Conference in Melbourne, Australia’s Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet, delivers a speech defending Australia’s participation in the F-35 program, and its industrial benefits. See “The Joint Strike Fighter Program and Australia: Staying Innovative To Remain Relevant” for the full transcript. Excerpts:
“This is the fourth Australian JSF Advanced Technology and Innovation Conference, and its sub-title is “Advanced Technology for a Future JSF: From Ore in the Ground to Parts on the Aeroplane”. The sub-title reflects an opportunity for Australia to make use of its valuable natural resources. For example, Australia possesses around 40% of the world’s titanium yet we are doing little with it despite its use increasing rapidly in both civil and military aerospace… It is important to taken an historical view of these opportunities, just as the use of aluminium in aircraft revolutionised transport in the 20th century, the use of composites and titanium will characterise 21st century aviation. Mastery of these materials by Australian companies will be an essential precursor to winning work on aviation projects… As an example, one of the innovations Defence is already supporting relates to laser-assisted machining of titanium. The Government is working with Ferra Engineering, CAST CRC and Lockheed Martin on the controlled transition of technology in this area from the laboratory environment to the workshop. If successful, this work could lead to a 40 per cent or more reduction in the time to machine complex titanium parts. I would like to congratulate all those involved for their work in pioneering this approach. A similar approach is being examined on direct manufacturing of titanium and other alloys to near net shape where there are savings of up to 60 per cent in machining time considered achievable.”
The minister remains an optimist with respect to the program in general:
“It is important to restate that overall, no official review of the JSF program such as the 2009 Joint Estimating Team report have discovered any fundamental technological or manufacturing problems with the JSF program, or any change in the aircraft’s projected military capabilities. But technical challenges do remain, as do affordability challenges…”
In terms of concrete program-related development, Combet cites future upgrade-related engineering for the global F-35 program to be worth $500 million per year, with each block upgrade taking about 10 years from concept to implementation.
“To date, 28 Australian companies have won work on the JSF Program valued at over $200 million. This work has been primarily in the initial design and production of test aircraft… The Industry Participation Plans include approximately 180 individual opportunities for Australian industry based on an investigation of Australian industry capabilities during the initial development phase of the JSF Program… The New Air Combat Capability project also initiated the Australian JSF Industry Technology Facilitation Program around the time of the last of these conferences. The program identified some 300 proposals from Australian universities and publicly-funded research organisations which had the potential to contribute to JSF follow-on development or to improve JSF manufacturing processes.”
Nov 25/09: Australia becomes the 1st country outside the USA to commit to an operational fighter buy. Australian Minister for Defence, Sen. John Faulkner, announces government approval to buy the first 14 F-35As, plus and infrastructure and support required for initial training and testing, at a cost of A$ 3.2 billion (about $2.95 billion). Australia’s first F-35A will be delivered in the United States in 2014 to commence initial training and test activities, and the first squadron is expected to become operational at RAAFB Williamtown in 2018. Sen. Faulkner adds:
“By 2012, Defence will have much firmer cost estimates for the remaining aircraft and necessary support and enabling capabilities as part of the planned first multi-year buy that is expected to comprise over 1000 aircraft for the US, Australia and other partners. This will allow for much more effective planning of the final JSF acquisition in the context of the overall Defence Capability Plan.”
Approval of the next batch of 58 aircraft and all necessary support and enabling capabilities, sufficient to establish three operational squadrons and a training squadron of CTOL JSF, will be considered in 2012. That would provide 72 F-35s in 3 operational squadrons by 2021, fulfilling Australia’s 2009 defense white paper commitment. Another buy of 28 aircraft would be considered as part of the debate over retirement of Australia’s F/A-18F Super Hornets, which have just begun delivery. Australian DoD | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Australian Broadcasting Corp. (N.B: uses F-35C picture) | The Age | The Australian | Radio Australia | Sydney Morning Herald | Aviation Week | Bloomberg | Malaysia Star | Reuters | The Australian op-ed expresses concern about risk.
Feb 24/09: Dr. Dennis Jensen, the Liberal Party MP for Tangney in Perth, publishes a guest article in DID, arguing that refusing to sell the F-22A to allies is an insult that will also harm American interests, by killing production and closing American options. Liberal Party governments originally signed the F-35 SDD phase agreements, and have traditionally supported that aircraft over the Raptor in debates.
The FY 2010 Pentagon budget will later end production of the F-22 for the USA, and maintain the ban on exports. Read: “Australian MP: US Allies Sold Short on New Fighters.”
Jan 9/09: Liberal Party MP and former Defence Research scientist Dr. Dennis Jensen takes issue with the honesty and accuracy of public statements by Australia’s leading air force officer, and challenges him to a public debate concerning Australia’s future fighter purchases:
“He is evasive at times, misrepresents my allegations in some cases, and is simply wrong on other points. I challenge Air Vice-Marshal Harvey to debate this issue with me in public.”
September 2008: A controversy erupts over the F-35’s reported performance in the August 2008 Pacific Vision simulation, where it was reportedly defeated by an enemy force of SU-30s. That wasn’t quite what the simulation was about, but the issue became a political controversy that dragged in both Australian parties, the American CDI think tank, Lockheed Martin, and even RAND Corp.
“The F-35’s Air-to-Air Capability Controversy” offers an in-depth review of the controversy in Australia, the countervailing claims made for the F-35’s air to air performance or lack of same, and the key conundrum facing governments around the world as the F-35 program heads toward a critical inflection point.
March 17/08: Australia to keep the Super Hornet. Australia’s new defence minister announces several decisions in the wake of Part A of Australia’s Air Combat Capability Review. One is that the decision to retire the F-111 by 2010 was made in haste, but is now irreversible. Another is that an air capability gap will exist due to the F-111s’ retirement, and the decision to pursue the F-35. As such, “No other suitable aircraft could be produced to meet the 2010 deadline the former Government had set.” The Minister cites classified briefings when he vouches for the planes’ ability to handle any threats in the region. Savings may be possible on support costs, and the analysis took note of options like the EA-18G electronic warfare variant, but no firm decisions have been made on either topic. Australian DoD | Opposition Liberal Party release | ABC news [with video of the announcement and an interview] | The Age | News Australia | Sydney Morning Herald | Aviation Week | Defense News | Flight International.
March 13/08: Air Power Australia makes its air combat capability presentation public: “Ministerial Submission: Strategic Needs and Force Structure Analysis: The Thinking Behind the F-22A and Evolved F-111 Force Mix Option” [PDF, 6.9 MB]
Feb 26/08: Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force Lt. Gen. Ken Gillespie gives a Keynote Speech to ADM Conference entitled “Building the Force in an Uncertain World.” It sketches out his view of Australia’s future strategic challenges and the needs of the defense forces.
Feb 28/08: Defense Daily reports that the US Air Force chief of staff would welcome discussions with the defense secretary about opening the F-22 Raptor to foreign military sales.
Feb 18/08: Australia’s new government formally announces its Air Combat Capability Review. Extension of the F-111s’ lives, the F-35 and F-18F buys, and the desirability of the F-22 Raptor will be evaluated in light of regional air power trends to 2045. See also: Ministerial release | Terms of Reference | ACCR mini-site.
Dec 31/07: The Sydney Morning Herald – Axe set to fall on Nelson’s fighters. Maybe – despite the likely $300 million price tag of canceling the Super Hornet buy:
“The Herald understands that Department of Defence planners have been asked to present an analysis on all the fighter jet options to the Federal Government and how they stack up against likely adversaries, the first time such a study has been done for at least five years. All projects in the $30 billion program will be scrutinized “with fresh eyes”. That includes what aircraft are to be bought, how many, when and at what price. “Absolutely everything is on the table,” a Government source said.”
Dec 28/07: The Australian – Rescind costly defence errors. Op/Ed hints at the possibility of a deeper shift in terms of the government’s relationship to the DoD:
“…may signal that the future development of our defence forces is back in the hands of Australia’s political leadership, not the military… Governments need to listen intently to military advice. But on broad strategic and defence force structure issues, the military should be only one source of advice, and the fact that the military and its various arms have their own agendas and institutional imperatives should be recognised.”
Dec 5/07: The Age newspaper’s “Pentagon to push sale of fighter” says the pressure is on to commit to the F-35A:
“The Howard government’s $15billion plan to place an order for up to 100 F-35s late next year for delivery in 2013 is now on hold, as the [new] Rudd Government conducts a review of options for the air force. The review will examine all alternatives in replacing Australia’s aged F-111 strike bombers and F/A-18 fighters, including the feasibility of the world’s most potent but expensive fighter, the F-22 Raptor.”
The paper also quotes a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article suggesting that high early procurement costs were dissuading allies from placing orders in the F-35 program’s initial stages. What it describes as “pressure” to buy the F-35, however, is an expected part of the current production arrangements phase. The real pressure, if any, will come if and when the Rudd government indicates that it intends to change course on either the F/A-18F or F-35A procurement plans; past Labor party statements have indicated a preference for a squadron of 24 F-22As as a near-term buy instead, followed by options to buy the F-35 later in its procurement cycle when it will be much cheaper.
Nov 24/07 – Dec 3/07: Australian Election results in a change of government. In the aftermath of the Nov 24/07 election, John Howard’s Liberal Party coalition loses its majority in Parliament, and Labor gains one. In a Parliamentary system, this means that Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd automatically becomes Prime Minister, and the Labor party forms a majority government – albeit one that can have legislation blocked by the Liberal Party majority in the Upper House: ABC summary results. Some counting is still ongoing in certain ridings, but the overall margin (80-86 seats, 76 required for a majority) means that Rudd is sworn in as Prime Minister on Dec 3/07. Former defence minister Dr. Brendan Nelson is now serving as leader of Howard’s center-right Liberal Party, in the wake of ex-Prime Minister Howard’s resignation as party leader.
Dec 2/07: Aviation Week – New Australian Government Wants to Consider F-22s. Reports that the new Labor government is pushing ahead with a defense policy that calls for greater readiness for the Australian Defense Force (ADF), and will continue its predecessor’s long-term spending plans – though that spending plan and the previous government’s list of equipment purchases may not match. AW adds that during the election campaign, new minister Joel Fitzgibbon has said that a Labor government would ask Washington to lift the ban on F-22A Raptor sales so Australia could reconsider its options. They will be joined in this effort by Japan, and probably by Israel as well. Note that this does not constitute a commitment to buy the aircraft just yet.
Sept 27/07: Australian DoD – New JSF Work for Australian Industry. Announces a number of additional F-35 subcontracts to Australian firms, to highlight the industrial reach of the program.
July 9/07: The Age newspaper – “Jets dearer than admitted.” Places the total per-aircraft cost at A$ 131 million in order bring each aircraft to full readiness for operational service. Also explains the difference between “flyaway cost” and the “average procurement unit cost.” See also updated DID costing controversy coverage.
July 9/07: Australian DoD – “JSF: Setting the Record Straight.” Places the estimated average flyaway cost for Australia’s F-35As at about $A 80 million, and offers a “total project costs” figure that includes more aspects than “average procurement unit cost” (like facilities and weapons) of “around $A120 million.” Note that A$ 80 million is still significantly higher than the USD $45-55 million (USD$ 55.0M currently = A$ 63.7M) officials had quoted in response to previous questions. See also updated DID costing controversy coverage; Pentagon documents show that the first low-rate initial production (LRIP) F-35As bought in 2013, which is when Australia wants to begin buying aircraft, would cost USD $108.8 million each as the flyaway cost; reductions or delays in American LRIP buys would increase that figure.
April 30/07: Brisbane Times – Japan applies to buy fighter Australia rejects. The USA’s stated willingness to consider Japan’s F-22EX request re-ignites controversy in Australia, in the wake of the government’s attempt to defuse it by maintaining that the USA will not sell the F-22 abroad. The Labor Party shadow cabinet member describes the government’s fighter procurement approach as a “shambles” in the wake of this revelation, as it calls into question government statements that the F-22 is not obtainable.
March 19/07: Australia DoD – The Future of Australian Air & Space Power. Air Marshall Geoff Shepherd launches the revised air power doctrine during the Chief of Air Force Conference in Melbourne, attended by heads of Air Forces from across the world, air power professionals and industry leaders. Related publications are available via the Air Power Development Centre. Notable by their absence: discussions of rival/ regional capabilities and trends… but DID readers pointed to some links that help complete the circle by discussing the military/strategic worldview feeding into the government”s planning.
March 19/07: Defence Minister Dr. Brendan Nelson – Australia’s Future Air Power: Speech To The Chief Of Air Force’s Air Show Conference. Addresses the government’s future air power approach and fighter-related decisions in greater depth.
March 19/07: Federal Australian Labor Party, Joel Fitzgibbon – Minister Nelson Fails To Answer Key Jet Fighter Question. Which is? “Inexplicable was his failure, on three occasions, to say which aircraft the Government compared the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with…”
True, but the figure is not the $FY02 $47 million cited in this release. The actual figure cited in Pentagon budget documents for F-35A fighters bought in 2013, when the Australians wish to begin purchasing them, is a unit procurement cost of $108.3 million each.
March 17/07: Federal Australian Labor Party, Joel Fitzgibbon – Air Defences Plan In Tatters. Includes: “The gravity of the situation now demands an immediate review of the Government’s air capability plan. The Government should also press the US Administration for access to the fifth generation F-22 Raptor to expand our air capability options.” This was followed by a Sky News interview/Q&A later that day.
March 6/07: Federal Australian Labor Party, Joel Fitzgibbon (March 6/07) – Ad Hoc Purchase Does Not Bridge Air Capability Gap. They’re referring to the F/A-18Fs.
March 4/07: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The National Interest – A panel discussion/ debate involving Dr. Carlo Kopp of Air Power Australia and Air Vice-Marshal John Harvey, the DoD Program Manager for the “New Air Combat Capability Project.” Links to audio files in ASX streaming and MP3 format.
Feb 22/07: Australia DoD, Defence Minister – Transcript of speech to Australian Defence Magazine conference. In the course of his speech, the Hon. Dr. Brendan Nelson, MP argues against the F-15 or F-22A as alternatives for Australia.
Feb 22/07: Australia DoD – Director General New Air Combat Capability: Air Vice-Marshal John Harvey. This short speech is dedicated to arguing DoD’s case for the F-35A vs. the F-22A, and briefly addresses criticism of the proposed F/A-18F buy at the end.
Feb 16/07: STRATFOR – Australia’s Elusive Multirole Aircraft. STRATFOR sees the F-22 as Australia’s air superiority solution, but doesn’t think it would be made available. They conclude:
“In 2002, South Korea signed a deal with Boeing to buy 40 F-15Ks (an export variant of the Strike Eagle) for $4.6 billion. The Australian government could buy more Strike Eagles than Super Hornets at the same price. The Strike Eagle would provide the best payload and range available to Australia for strike missions — a capability it desperately needs to maintain if it is to continue to exert more than a passing military influence over its periphery — and one neither the JSF nor Super Hornet can maintain alone.”
Feb 12/07: Sydney Morning Herald – On shopping list: fighter jets with no stealth. By Tom Allard, SMH National Security editor. The headline is not a precisely true claim, as the Super Hornet has significant stealth improvements over the F/A-18A Hornet. Unlike the headline, however, the article does not focus on stealth; rather, it discusses the plane’s overall competitiveness against current and future aircraft the region.
Nov 13/07: DID – Australia to Join JSF Production Phase. The government announces its intent to proceed with the production phase, and plans a formal sign-on in December 2006. Australia plans to finalize an F-35A purchase contract in 2008, and intends to begin buying the F-35A in 2013, when it will still be in its more expensive Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) stage. The MoU is formally signed on Dec 11/06.
Nov 1/06: DID – AVM Criss: Does Groupthink Power Australia’s JSF? Retired Australian Air Vice Marshal Peter Criss pens a guest article, and discusses both the JSF decision and what he contends is a larger problem of groupthink within Australia’s DoD.
An offer was publicly extended to Australia’s DoD to provide a response that would also be run as a guest article. They chose not to take advantage of the opportunity.
October 2006: Australia Defence Association – What is Wrong with the Department of Defence? The ADA is a conservative pro-defense group.
Sept 11/06: DID – Australia Chooses JASSM Missiles on F-18s for Long-Range Strike (updated). The article concludes with an analysis of the proposed F/A-18 + JASSM missile combination vs. the existing option of F-111s + Paveway laser-guided bombs, in order to evaluate claims that buying JASSMs is a threatening move to Australia neighbours. The analysis concludes that the combination is actually less broadly capable, and hence less threatening.
June 24/06: Australian DoD – Joint Strike Fighter is not ‘Flawed.’ DoD press release, responding to controversies ignited by media coverage. Focuses its reponse on an older DSTO analysis from 2005, whose findings were picked up in some of the media reports.
March 31/06: The Australian Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee On Foreign Affairs, Defence And Trade Defence Subcommittee, conducts a panel question and answer re “Australian Defence Force Regional Air Superiority.” Mr Goon; Dr Kopp (Air Power Australia). Some of these questions and responses fed into the next session…
March 31/06: The Australian Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee On Foreign Affairs, Defence And Trade Defence Subcommittee, conducts a panel question and answer re “Australian Defence Force Regional Air Superiority.” DoD Witnesses: Air Marshal Shepherd; Mr Pezzullo; Air Cdre Harvey; Dr Lough; Air Cdre Binskin; Lt Gen. Hurley; Dr Gumley; Air Commodore Harvey.
Sept 23/04: RAAF Air Force newspaper (Sept 23/04) – The case for the JSF: CAF Air Marshal Angus Houston outlines the best choice for our next frontline combat aircraft