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.
A series of contracts have been issued over the last week or so that involve maintenance and related activities for the USA and UK’s nuclear submarine fleets. The 3 contracts total $168.7 million between them, and were issued to General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman.
Northrop Grumman Mission Systems in Clearfield, UT received a $225.2 million cost-plus-fixed fee, cost-plus-incentive fee contract modification to remanufacture Stage 1, 2, and 3 rockets motors and offer product quality assurance test support. The contractor shall provide 75 complete booster components sets (one each Stage 1, 2 and 3 motors and an ordnance kit) and 2 product quality assurance test motors. A similar contract was issued in January 2006.
This contract action by the Headquarters 526th ICBM Systems Wing at Hill Air Force Base, UT exercises the Propulsion Replacement Program Full Rate Production year 6 options. Which means the engines are destined for LGM-30G Minuteman III nuclear ICBMs. At this time, $220.9 million has been obligated, and work will be complete January 2009 (F42610-98-C-0001/will advise modification number).
Back in 2002, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) selected the F-15K advanced derivative of the F-15E Strike Eagle for its Next Generation Fighter Program. Under that $3.6 billion contract, Boeing will deliver 40 aircraft to the ROKAF beginning this year and ending in August 2008. South Korea’s 2-seat F-15K Strike Eagles will be the first F-15s produced with the GE F110 engine common on many US F-16C/D aircraft, and will also carry the SLAM-ER missile as their medium-range precision strike weapon. They will not be equipped with the AESA radars found on some US F-15Cs and Singapore’s forthcoming F-15SGs, however, relying instead on the standard AN/APG-63(v1) radars that equip most Strike Eagles in service around the world. See this RealVideo clip of the first F-15K in flight.
In May 2006, the Korean Overseas Information Service said that the ROKAF would purchase another 20 F-15K multi-role aircraft beginning in 2009 – but that report has since been qualified, and a subsequent report says that South Korea may be examining the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter instead.
These contracts are from Special Operations Command’s Psychological Operations Program Office (PMP). That branch of the United States Special Operations Command (US SOCOM) Intelligence and Information Systems (IIS) Program Executive Office requires engineering and technical support services to build, field and sustain Psychological Operations systems and other designated IIS-PMP projects and programs in accordance with USSOCOM requirements. The 5-year ordering periods will be complete October 2011.
As for the rest… we’ll just have to leave you guessing. There is one major item worth noting, however – both of these war-critical, 5-year, $260 million contracts have been issued to registered Alaska Native Corporations under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA).
General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc. in San Diego, CA received a $7.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to investigate, develop and demonstrate “high payoff thermal management approaches to the removal of heat from multi-megawatt electric power system and the subsequent elimination of this heat from airborne technologies and components.” The deliverable is intended to quantify technical risk versus potential benefit to the thermal management system.
At this time, $1.25 million has been obligated. Solicitations began July 2006, negotiations were complete October 2006, and work will be complete February 2012. The Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (F33615-01-D-2109, task order 0009).