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Last Updated: Mon Jan 27 11:18:09 UTC 2014

Frequently Asked Questions
Air Power Australia
(Under Construction)

©  2005 Carlo Kopp, Peter Goon

How can the RAAF leadership and the Department of Defence get it so wrong when it is their job to plan and manage Australia's air power?

The Australian Defence Organisation (ADO) has suffered an unprecedented loss of talented personnel over the last decade. This is partly the result of poorly managed outsourcing, indiscriminate downsizing, the migration of skilled capabilities following the outsourced work into the private sector, the forced early retirement of much of a generation of exceptionally talented air force senior officers and airmen, but also the result of the stifling bureaucratic culture within the Russell Offices apparatus in Canberra. As a result, the pool of talent within the Defence planning and management system is very shallow, and what talent is available is overcommitted, and often crippled by internal politics and institutionalised groupthink.

Why are the APA website contributors more knowledgeable than the Air Force and the Department of Defence?
APA contributors are not constrained by the internal politics and culture of Defence and can tackle issues without prejudice or preconceived bias. The APA contributor team also includes some very unique talent, most of whom must, at present, stay behind the scenes for reasons of survival in the institutionalised groupthink environment of the Australian defence community. Some have been told their career prospects would be jeopardised or they may have their employment terminated if they contribute to and engage in discussions with APA or its founders.

As to the current face of APA, its founders - Dr Carlo Kopp has 25 years of experience as a defence analyst, 20 years of experience as an engineer in industry, and two hard sciences postgraduate degrees - he is the only academic in Australia today with concurrent academic appointments in hard sciences and military strategy -  the APA website alone hosts over 250 of his publications; Peter Goon served as an engineer in the RAAF for 14 years, underwent Flight Test Engineer training at the US Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River followed by two back-to-back tours at the RAAF's Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU),  is a founding member of Australian Flight Test Services in Adelaide, a founding member of the Defence Teaming Centre (DTC), which he served as a Director/Deputy Chairman for many years, while becoming a leading contributor to the defence industry reform process. Other APA contributors and reviewers include retired parliamentarians, retired ADF generals, academics in strategic studies, and other former ADF, DoD and defence contractor personnel. 

Why is it that so few people in Australia know about this issue?
While Australians have historically displayed tremendous support for their fighting men and women,  few Australians take an active interest in ADF military capabilities and Defence management and planning. Much of the public debate on the future of the RAAF has played out to date in the professional and industry journals, and in parliament. While there has been some excellent coverage in the broadsheets (newspapers), the electronic media such as television and radio have displayed little interest in issues which are seen to be complex and technical, and this one is no exception. Editorial choices are typically driven by what editors perceive to be consumer demand, and the future of Australia's strategic position in the Asia-Pacific cannot compete with political scandals, Tsunamis, terrorist bombings, foreign wars and other gory attention grabbers. While there are many former ADF personnel who are deeply concerned about these matters, tradition and convention is that former ADF officers do not engage in vocal public debates - unlike in the United States - as a result of which the Australian public does not gain the benefit of their tremendous experience and insight.

Why are the Australian media not doing something about this issue?
The media provide materials which reflect perceived demand by the consumers of the product and usually complex long term defence force planning issues will not receive space or broadcast time when other material which is more sensational appears, as it does with monotonous regularity. With the exception of a small handful of journalists who appreciate the gravity of these issues, and have the background to appreciate the problems involved, much of the press corps and broadcast media community is confronted with an issue of considerable technical complexity, while having to deal with frequently unsympathetic editors focussed on short term ratings and quarterly revenue.

Will purchasing more modern aircraft make Australia look like a regional aggressor?
The simple answer: most of our neighbours will see such a move by Australia as ensuring our ability to make a valuable contribution to the maintenance of stability in the region. For those few who may use the 'regional aggressor' label, such a move is intended to quell the intent behind the use of such inflammatory diplomacy. A more detailed answer follows.

The detailed answer: Asia is at this time engaged in a creeping arms race of historically unprecedented proportions, as a result of increasing national wealth and per capita income,  itself produced by globalisation driven industrialisation. China and India are purchasing hundreds of advanced Russian Sukhoi fighters, and modern Airborne Early Warning and Control surveillance aircraft, aerial refuelling tankers, modern submarines and warships, and a wide range of missiles, including subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles. Other regional nations, including Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, have purchased advanced Russian Sukhoi fighters and other supporting hardware. In a region arming itself to the teeth, Australia is the 'odd man out' with its current program aimed at actively downsizing the Air Force. Given Australia's small population compared to its Asian neighbours, and the very small size of the ADF, no amount of military investment within Australia's reach would make it a genuine 'aggressor' threat to any Asian nation.

The notion that Australia would appear to be an aggressor by putting more investment and more capability into the Air Force is little more than left wing or foreign political propaganda. The fact is that Australia having a capable air power force structure enables us to provide a valuable contribution along with our neighbouring allies to the maintenance of stability in the region.

How can 30 year old F-111 airframes last another 30 years?
The simple answer: aircraft are machines, not people. The 'age' of an aircraft's airframe structure is primarily measured by the number of hours it has flown compared with the life for which it was designed to operate.  After some 30 years, the F-111 airframe structure is just over half way into its original design life, before any consideration of life extension which is normal for RAAF aircraft. 

The detailed answer: the US Air Force currently plan to fly their forty year old B-52H Stratofortress fleet for another 40 years, and their twenty year old B-1B Lancer bombers for another 40 years. The prospects are very good that the thirty five year old C-5 Galaxy fleet will serve at least another twenty years, and many of the forty year old KC-135 tankers may be flown another thirty years. In military aviation, the calendar age of aircraft means very little - what determines their useful life is their utility in doing the job for which they are tasked, the systems they carry, their accrued flying time and thus fatigue damage to the structure,  and corrosion damage to the airframe.

Australia is very fortunate to have the F-111s, which have an overdesigned airframe, originally stressed for landings and takeoffs on aircraft carriers. The principal fatigue issue with the F-111s lies in the integrity of some parts of the aircraft's 'swing' wing. Fortunately, it takes only about a day to swap the wings on an F-111, which means that a robust stock of refurbished wings could permit the aircraft to be kept in service for decades at a very economical cost. Around 200 F-111s remain mothballed in the US AMARC facility. Most of the avionics and wiring in the F-111 fleet were replaced during a billion dollar avionic upgrade that was completed in 1999, therefore the only long term avionic issues would arise from the need to upgrade systems to remain competitive in combat - an ongoing issue for combat aircraft of any age today. The existing pool of TF30 turbofan engines will last comfortably until 2020, if life extension beyond that date is required new engines could be readily adapted, as the existing engines (and, therefore, the engine bays of the F-111) are larger than their modern replacements.

What is wrong with our F/A-18 Hornets and why can't we keep them?
Australia's fleet of 71 F/A-18A Hornet fighters faces genuine difficulties and upcoming crises in the not too distant future.

The first problem lies in the aircraft's tactical viability since it is being used both as an air superiority fighter and as a strike fighter. Newer Russian Sukhois operated in the region are larger, faster, more agile, longer ranging, and equipped with bigger radars and longer ranging missiles.  Russian industry is introducing a new generation of supersonic cruise engines, compatible with the Sukhoi fighters, and is working on a new generation of electronically steered radars - neither of these  technologies can be retrofitted to the F/A-18A which is at the end of its evolutionary growth path. 

The second problem Australia has with its F/A-18A fleet is the accrued fatigue damage on the airframes - a byproduct of Australia using the F/A-18A in roles for which the US used the higher performance F-15 and F-14 during the Cold War. To maintain the F/A-18A in service until the 2015 period, much of the fleet is expected to require structural rebuilds, specifically centre barrel replacements. Replacing a centre barrel requires the removal of the forward and aft fuselage sections, removal of the wings, and gutting of the centre barrel wiring, plumbing and systems. The result is a very expensive rebuild which takes about 12 months to do, yet delivers little more than additional safe structural life in an aircraft which has already been outclassed by its regional competitors.

Why is Australia the only country in the world to be still flying F-111s?

The United States Air Force and the RAAF were the only two services to ever operate the F-111, as the UK cancelled its order during the 1960s. The US intended to operate their F-111s past 2015 and to that effect initiated an ambitious series of upgrades during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A project to retrofit the modern GE F110 engine, common to the F-16C and F-14D, was also initiated. The collapse of the Soviet Union however forced the largest downsizing of the US Air Force since the end of WW2, and the F-111 fell victim to this, as only the newest fighter types (F-15/F-16) were retained in service - were the F-111 retained, the production lines for the F-15E and F-16C would have closed early. Unlike Australia the US has an imperative to maintain its industrial base. The US Air Force operated the F-111F until 1996, but intended to retain the EF-111A Raven much longer. The latter was however retired in 1999 after a long running argument over whether its jamming mission should be retained or not. The decision to retire it early and push the role it performed on the Navy EA-6B fleet has simply led to burning out the airframe life of the EA-6Bs. More recently it was decided that B-52H bombers will have to be converted to fill the jamming mission gap arising from EF-111A retirement.  Australia decided to retain the F-111 during the 1990s as the aircraft delivers exceptional range performance and thus each F-111 can typically do the job of two or more smaller fighters and an aerial refuelling tanker. The late 2003 decision to prematurely retire the F-111 was driven by internal competition over funds within the Canberra DoD.

Why is the F-111 so suitable for helping to defend Australia and for helping to keep the peace in our region of the world?

The F-111 is a robust and very fast fighter-bomber which carries typically twice or more the internal fuel of other fighter jets, as a result of which it typically delivers twice the combat radius, usually with twice the payload of weapons. Therefore it provides a lot of punch in a single aircraft, with only a two person crew. Australia's defence environment is driven by the 'tyranny of distance' and a long legged aircraft like the F-111 offers exceptional economies in terms of the dollar cost to deliver a given payload of smart bombs or cruise missiles to a given distance. Since Australia invested during the 1990s hundreds of millions of dollars into an extensive support infrastructure at RAAF Amberley, near Brisbane, the RAAF was provisioned to maintain the F-111 indefinitely - and largely independently.

Why is the F-111 so difficult to properly replace?

The F-111 was designed at the peak of the Cold War to meet an unusually tough performance specification, both in terms of what payload of weapons it could deliver to what distance, and in terms of achieving high speeds in combat. As a result it is one of the largest and highest performing tactical fighters ever built, the nearest equivalent in size being the Russian MiG-31 Foxhound.  No tactical fighter built since the F-111 can match its range and weapon payload. The planned FB-22A, a derivative of the F-22A, may be developed as a direct replacement in the class of the F-111. Until an FB-22A enters production - which may or may not occur - replacing the combat effect of each F-111 will require the operationally much more expensive use of multiple smaller fighters and aerial refuelling tankers.

Can an F-111 escape from a Sukhoi Su-27/30?
The Sukhoi T-10 family of fighters (Su-27, Su-30, Su-35, Su-37) are amongst the highest performing combat aircraft in service today. A modified T-10 protoype beat several performance records set by the equivalent US F-15 fighter during the late Cold War period. The F-111 is however the fastest combat aircraft in squadron service of any Western air force at this time, and carries almost twice the internal fuel of the Sukhoi. In a hypothetical tailchase engagement where a Sukhoi Su-27/30, equipped with current Al-31F series engines, is pursuing an F-111, unless the Sukhoi enters the engagement at a range close enough to take a missile shot, odds are that the F-111 will run the Sukhoi out of gas before it can close to the distance required to take a shot. This hypothetical scenario does not account for the effect of jamming equipment on the F-111 which may successfully defeat the Sukhoi's radar or missile seekers. It is worth observing that good tactics would never see an F-111 flown into close proximity of a Sukhoi, and in comparison, the F/A-18A (or JSF) has no chance of outrunning the much faster Sukhoi fighter in a similar scenario.

Why choose the Joint Strike Fighter as the RAAF's future fighter when it cannot beat Russian designed  Sukhoi fighter being purchased by regional nations?
The simple answer: mistakes were made by some individuals,  no longer in the Department, who laid the foundations of this decision.  The decision has now been inherited by the current leadership, who find themselves in the politically difficult position of how to advise their political masters that mistakes have been made without getting it in the neck. 

The detailed answer: the defacto commitment to purchase the Joint Strike Fighter is predicated on several assumptions, none of which hold up to scrunity.

  1. The first assumption is that Australia will spend the next four decades in a region which is wholly benign and thus the only use to be found for the RAAF will be in supporting US led coalition bombing campaigns against Third World opponents - this assumption is not supportable as it ignores the enormous changes happening across the region.
  2. The second assumption is that the stealth capability of the JSF will confer complete invisibility to all opposing radars, from all angles. Given that the JSF's stealth capability is narrowly optimised against battlefield air defence radars, and Australia is expected to get only the 'detuned' export quality stealth package, this assumption is also unsupportable.
  3. The third assumption is that Australia will be the only nation in the region operating modern Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) surveillance aircraft, and will thus have a perpetual assymetric advantage in knowing an opponent's disposition, while the opponent knows nothing. Given that India has ordered AEW&C aircraft with a variant of the radar bid to Australia five years ago, and China is developing a similar system, while Malaysia is shopping for an AEW&C system and evaluating the same type Australia has bought, odds are that regional nations without AEW&C aircraft will be the exception. This assumption is also unsupportable.
  4. The fourth assumption is that air combat will be dominated by Beyond Visual Range missile shots, in which it is assumed that the opponent will not try to use an advantage in speed and cooperate in letting himself be shot down. This assumption is also not supportable.
  5. The fifth assumption is that the selection of a second tier capability and the resulting downgrading of the technological advantage Australia has historically had in relation to regional technological capabilities is a safe choice. The view expressed frequently within the Department is that our training is superior and, in itself, a force multiplier of capability not to be trifled with - an argument of immense popularity in 1941 when Australia flew Wirraways and Japan A6M2 Zeroes. When combined with the almost religious fervour with which the 'system of systems' approach is advocated in capability development, it is this superior training that is believed will offset any reductions in Australia's technological capability edge. Since future conflicts will be techologically based, this projection must be tested against the proliferation of advanced military technologies in our region.  This assumption is thus also not supportable.
  6. The sixth assumption is that 'all will be well' because the 'system of systems' approach means the 'capability of the networked system is greater than the sum of its individual parts'.  This flowery hyperbole wilts in the face of the following truisms - 'a chain is only as strong as its weakest link', 'the more complex the system, the more complex the failure', and 'For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost, etc.'.  This assumption is also not supportable.

At the time of the JSF decision, developing regional trends were not considered in detail, and it was assumed that the JSF would be more agile and much faster than it is expected to be now.

There is no rational strategic or  operational reason why the JSF should be chosen over the F-22A as a replacement for the F/A-18A.

JSF Limitations - Click for more ...

Would the acquisition of the JSFs make Australia a more useful ally to the US and enable Australia to support US troops during overseas deployments?

There is no doubt that the JSF will be compatible with US expeditionary forces deployed on the global stage. However, the US will have no shortage of its own JSFs to perform the battlefield strike and close air support roles the JSF is being designed to excel in, so any Australian JSFs so deployed would simply add a burden to US aerial refuelling demands for little additional return in combat effect. Australia would provide a far more valuable contribution to such coalition campaigns were it to deploy types of assets which are in short supply in the US force structure.  The best examples are top tier fighter bombers, which are far more flexible than smaller strike fighters like the JSF, but also require much less aerial refuelling support to be effective. Were Australia to operate the F-22A Raptor and upgraded F-111s, it could offer the US much more punch, without the cost of additional aerial refuelling support, which the JSF (and F/A-18A) demand.

Why has the JSF been fitted with only one engine?  Is this a disadvantage for operations across the wide open spaces of Australasia?

The JSF has defined during the early 1990s with the intention of producing a low cost fighter-bomber suitable for attacking battlefield targets and supporting ground troops in combat. One of the requirements was that the JSF replace the US Marine Corps fleet of Short Take Off / Vertical Landing AV-8B Harriers, deployed on amphibious assault ships to support beachhead landings. As a result, a twin engine design would be too large for this application, and would present difficulties with vertical landings. The use of single engine was considered an acceptable compromise, since the most numerous US Air Force JSF variant would not be required to fly long distance missions, and the Marine Corp variant would also operate at shorter ranges. Australia has entirely different operational needs, as most roles involve long range or long endurance missions over the sea air gap. While modern engines are very reliable, the loss of the engine over water  guarantees the loss of the JSF, and also requires that the Navy commit search and rescue assets to support any operational deployment of JSFs.

Why is it an advantage for the F-111s and F-22s to have twin engines?

Twin engines provide superior flight safety in long range or over water operations, as the loss of one engine does not guarantee the loss of the aircraft, although it is apt to cause the mission to be aborted. For Australia's geography this is likely to result in a smaller number of lost aircraft during decades of peacetime training, but also a better ability for these aircraft to survive battle damage over a target and recover to home base to be repaired. It also reduces demands on Navy warships to be available to rescue aircrew in the event of engine failure, and thus become exposed to enemy air attack.

Why is it advantageous during defence missions around Australasia to have two crew sitting side by side as in the F-111s?

Aircraft with two seat cockpits have historically been favoured for long endurance or long range missions, as this allows the crew members to take turns flying the aircraft, reducing the  fatigue experienced by the crew. Fatigue is a major contributor to accidents, and has been implicated in at least one recent friendly fire incident involving a single seat fighter.  In general, a two seat crew provides redundancy, it allows cockpit workload to be shared, and allows crew members to check each others' actions in high pressure situations, thus contributing to flight safety.

Would it be an unusually strenuous task for a single JSF pilot to fly very long distance and then be able to fly the aircraft offensively, as well as navigate and manage the deployment of weapons or surveillance systems?

The JSF has a highly automated single seat cockpit, and sets a benchmark for cockpit design. This reduces the cockpit workload compared to any existing single seat fighter, other than F-22A, which has similar automation. However, automation cannot substitute for human cognitive skills, and fatigue incurred on long endurance missions will degrade pilot performance. Without a second crewmember to share the workload, the single JSF pilot is likely to be more prone to mistakes in such situations.

What kind of aircraft are China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia getting that would threaten Australia or the general peace in our region of the world?
Since the end of the Cold War Russia has been progressively exporting almost every piece of modern technology in its inventory, an unprecedented departure from the Cold War era policy of exporting 'dumbed down' variants of systems to client states. Recent exports or exports under consideration include:

  1. Sukhoi Su-27SK, Su-30MK fighters, and possibly Su-35 derivative fighters.
  2. MiG-29N Fulcrum fighters.
  3. Sukhoi Su-27IB/32/34 Fullback long range strike fighters.
  4. Chinese built Chengdu J-10 delta-canard fighters use key Russian components.
  5. Ilyushin Il-78MK Midas aerial refuelling tankers.
  6. Variants of the Beriev A-50 Mainstay Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.
  7. Tupolev Tu95MS Bear cruise missile carriers, with the range to reach central Australia without aerial refuelling, and likely to be exported to China.
  8. Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers, with the range to reach northen Australia without aerial refuelling, and likely to be exported to China.
  9. In addition, a wide range of air to air missiles, standoff missiles, cruise missiles and smart bombs have been exported.
  10. Raduga Kh-55 Kent cruise missiles (Tomahawk-ski) were also illegally exported to China by the Ukraine in 2001.
While no regional nation has a stated agenda or intent to harm Australia at this time, agendas and intent can change over time, and Australia having a visible disadvantage in military capabilities against the rest of the region could produce irresistable temptation to coerce Australia at a future date.

The greatest issue of concern in this region is the enormous growth under way in China's military capabilities, especially China's active pursuit of strategic bombing and strategic cruise missile delivery capabilities.

Why is the F-22 Raptor the best choice to replace the F/A-18 Hornets?
The Defence 2000 White Paper states the following as to when the Hornets should/need to be replaced:

"8.43     Third, we need to address the future of our air-combat capability after the F/A-18 aircraft reach the end of their service life between 2012 and 2015. It is important to start to address this issue now."  (Page 86)

"8.48     Fourth, the Government will examine options for acquiring new combat aircraft to follow the F/A-18, and potentially also the F-111. Provision has been made in the Defence Capability Plan for a project to acquire up to 100 new combat aircraft to replace both the F/A-18 and F-111 fleets. Acquisition is planned to start in 2006-07, with the first aircraft entering service in 2012. The Government has specifically made financial provision to allow acquisition of high-performance aircraft to provide the basis for the maintenance of Australia's critical air-combat edge well into the twenty-first century. Much work remains to be done over the next few years to define and refine our requirements, and to establish the optimum balance between capability and numbers. That time will also allow better evaluation of a number of competing aircraft types."  (Page 87)

The simple answer is as soon as practicable and preferably before we spend  the billions of dollars that are earmarked for upgrading the Hornet to enable it to fly through to 2015.

The following are the top ten reasons why the Raptor is the best choice to replace the Hornets in 2010

    The F-22A is over twice as capable compared to what is being planned as the JSF.
    Buying the F-22 and upgrading the F-111s will be a cheaper yet more capable solution to the current plans.
    Buying the F-22 at the end of the currently approved full rate production would put the buy before 2010.
    The F-22 is a known commodity that is flying today.  The JSF has yet to fly let alone complete development and demonstrate its capability.
    The survivability of the JSF against post 2010 Sukhoi Su-30 derivative aircraft is highly problematic.
    By targeting return on investment already made in F-111 support capabilities.
    Fewer tax payer dollars have to be spent off shore.
    The F-22A and F-111 are larger aircraft with greater system growth potential.
    The F-22A and F-111 are more robust airframe designs that have not been subject to the 'Cost As an Independent Variable' (CAIV) driven cost and capability reductions as is the case with the JSF.
    The 'Evolved F-111 Option' ensures Australia maintains air superiority and the resulting valuable contribution to stability in the region.

Some people say that the F-111 crew module is unsafe when ejecting - is this true?
No, in fact the exact opposite since if ejecting at high speed, the crew are protected from the air blast by remaining in what is effectively the aircraft cockpit.  The safety statistics speak for themselves.  Of the RAAF F-111 crashes where ejection had been initiated, only one resulted in fatalities which was due to the initiation being outside the ejection envelope.  The crew module ejected correctly but there was insufficient time for the parachutes to open.

How do we know that the authors of the APA website are not Commos or have a vested financial interest on the outcome of this issue?
As industry professionals and expert analysts who pride themselves on their independence, one's work is and must be, by definition, apolitical.  By reading the material on the web site, including our Biographies, you will see that our focus is on the national interest. 

We do have vested interests in the outcome of this issue, both from a national interest perspective since we are dealing with the legacy that we all leave future generations of Australians (aka 'our children') as well as from a financial perspective since we have invested heavily in the proposals provided to Defence and the Government in response to their various requests of Industry to come up with innovative, cost effective solutions to Australia's defence capability needs. 

As to whether we see any return (financial or otherwise) on these investments will depend greatly on whether Defence and the Government honour their representations to Industry to recognise and reward innovation, expert assistance and hard work as well as follow their stated policy for the handling of proprietary information in proposals from Industry - both requested and unsolicited. 

Can an F-22A  Raptor defeat other aircraft including the Sukhoi?
The F-22A has an unassailable advantage over all current combat aircraft by virtue of having  high performance all aspect stealth capability, supersonic cruise capability, and the longest ranging radar in any current air combat fighter. Should Russian Sukhois be retrofitted with supersonic cruise engines, the F-22A will still maintain its advantage as the Sukhoi has no stealth, a less capable radar, and its supercruise persistence will be inferior to the F-22A. The only aircraft which could challenge an F-22A is a supercruising fighter with similar stealth and radar capabilities. Russia no longer has the capability for the required investment to develop such a fighter and the supporting stealth technology. The F-22A will be unbeatable for decades.

Why is the combination of the F-111 and the F-22 Raptor so well suited to Australia's needs?

The F-22A and F-111 are mutually complementary in their capabilities.

The F-22A provides top tier air dominance capability against high performance combat aircraft, and the ability to penetrate deep into heavily defended airspace to kill high value aerial and ground targets, including AEW&C aircraft, command bunkers, radars and missile sites.

The F-111 on the other hand provides enormous punch, as it can typically carry twice the weapon load of smaller fighters to around twice the distance. As the F-22A is the most effective aircraft in existence for sanitising hostile airspace of fighters and defending missile systems, it can rapidly degrade opposing defences to allow the F-111 to deliver its superlative punch without hindrance against ground targets.

The F-22A is thus an 'enabler' for the F-111, yet it also fills the specialised deep strike role, and can perform reconnaissance as well.

If the F-111 is equipped with a suitable modern radar and missiles, it also provides a very economical capability for cruise missile and bomber intercept tasks, which were part of the original design requirement for the F-111 airframe during the 1960s.

How long would Australia operate the F-22 Raptor?

The Raptor is likely to remain in US operational service past 2045. Therefore it is reasonable to expect that any Australian operated F-22As would remain in service until that date, unless some unanticipated and dramatic development in technology forces earlier replacement with an even more capable aircraft.

Why wouldn't Australia acquire Russian Sukhoi's?

Would you purchase your most critical weapons system from a nation which is supplying much larger numbers of the same product to your potential opponents? In any regional crisis, there would be a genuine risk that Russia would be forced to make a commercial decision and favour the larger client in the supply of spare parts and materiel, and Australia would be one of the smaller Asia-Pacific buyers of the Sukhoi. Accepting such an implicit conflict of interest is not a sound strategy. Other more pragmatic problems also arise. Operating the same system as an opponent means that you can compete only in pilot skills and numbers, with numbers being more important in long range missile combat. Australia is not in the position to compete in numbers long term against any regional nation. Another problem is compatibility with US datalinks, electronic warfare equipment, and weapons, required for coalition operations. Integrating such equipment with the systems and software in the Sukhois would present genuine difficulties as neither the US or Russia would be happy for each others' defence contractors to gain intimate access to such key technologies.

Could the more efficient F119 engines used in the F-22A be fitted to the F-111 and would it be more agile and more economical to run with these engines?

Retrofitting the F119/F135 family of engines in the F-111 does not present unusual difficulties since the existing TF30 engine in the F-111 is much larger. These engines are much cheaper to run than the TF30, and deliver almost twice the available thrust. With and F119 or F135 engine installed, the F-111 would acquire significantly better acceleration, climb and speed performance, and much better sustained turn performance. While this would not turn the F-111 into a nimble dogfighter, it would provide a sustained supersonic capability making the F-111 exceptionally difficult to intercept by any fighter aircraft when performing strike roles, and make it very usable as an interceptor to kill strategic bombers and cruise missiles.

Why did we choose the JSF in the first place? Why and when did it become wrong to uphold the decision to acquire the JSFs?
See above. Arguably the decision to downselect to the JSF was wrong in the first place, but there was some margin of uncertainty in this judgement in 2002, a margin which has well and truly evaporated over the last three years.

What is the best solution for Australia's air force?
The best solution for Australia would be a mix of F-22A Raptor multirole fighters and FB-22A strike fighters, supported by proportionate aerial refuelling capabilities. Unfortunately the FB-22A remains a paper aircraft, and even if available it may not be feasible to take delivery until 2020 or later. As a result, APA advocates a compromise solution, in which  55 F-22A Raptor aircraft would replace 71 F/A-18A Hornets, and the F-111 would be upgraded and retained until the FB-22A becomes available, or retained longer term if the FB-22A does not materialise. The compromise model, termed the 'Evolved F-111' plan, is designed to be cheaper than the current plan for the JSF, yet delivers far more capability with far less risk and incurs lesser impact on the balance of payments and annual defence budgets.

Why are we spending so much taxpayer's money on maintaining the F/A-18 Hornets?
The simple answer:  because the F/A-18 Hornets will not last the distance (out to 2015) without having a lot of money spent on them.

The more complete answer is because internal competition for funding within the Defence apparatus was won by F/A-18A advocates, rather than F-111 advocates with no proper consideration being given, let alone rigorous analysis being done, at the time to the viability of either airframe longer term, or the long term return on investment already made in upgrading and supporting the F-111s.

Are we going to need to replace the centre body of our F/A-18 Hornets as the Americans and Canadians have had to do?

Is it treason to worry about and talk about these issues?
Treason is typically defined as the conscious and deliberate pursuit of activities intended to damage or harm one's community, and favour an opponent.  APA's interest in strengthening Australia's strategic position in the region, and effecting reforms in the dysfunctional Defence Department bureaucracy cannot qualify as treason.

The question one needs to ask is this: "Does the unquestioning acceptance of self destructive and counter to the national interest behaviours and decisions on the part of the Defence bureaucratic machine amount to patriotism?"

We might observe that the last two regimes which formally declared patriotism to be equivalent to obedient compliance with bureaucratic directives were the Third Reich (RIP 1945) and the Soviet Union (RIP 1991). Both of these regimes were characterised by institutionalised groupthink and deep organisational dysfunction. Both ended badly at enormous cost to their respective communities and the world community.

Is it treason or are we being traitors to our country by putting the knowledge contained in the APA website and these questions in the public domain?

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Indian AF Su-30K during Cope India Exercise

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