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


Air Power Australia - Australia's Independent Defence Think Tank

Air Power Australia Media Release

5th February, 2007

Recent and conflicting media reports from Ministerial advisers about the proposed purchase of JSF and Super Hornet 'interim' aircraft raise grave doubts about the quality of advice being tendered to the Minister for Defence by his staff, said a spokesman for Air Power Australia today.

"Comments attributed to the Media Adviser reported in the Daily Telegraph displayed a very poor understanding of the basics in relation to the matters addressed."

"The Media Release made a number of inaccurate claims and allegations about the combat capability and suitability for the RAAF of the JSF, a profound level of ignorance about the F-22, which is already in operational squadron service with the USAF, and the ability of the Super Hornet to fill the looming gap in Australia's fighter force, to refer to only a few points."

"The JSF, primarily designed for provision of close air support and battlefield interdiction for ground troops, has only a secondary capability to perform air combat against other fighters. It cannot prevail against the advanced Russian Sukhoi Flanker fighter variants operated in the region, let alone planned future developments of these aircraft."

"Furthermore, asserting that the JSF will be operational by 2012 is misleading as the proposal is to buy aircraft from the Low Rate Initial Production run. These are early build JSF aircraft delivered at higher cost than mature aircraft late in the production run. More importantly these early production JSF aircraft will lack mature systems, requiring further modification in later years."

"In short, JSF aircraft delivered in the 2012 timeframe will not be fully operational on receipt, and full capability is unlikely before 2018."

"While the Media Release grudgingly concedes that the F-22 Raptor has no peer in air-to-air roles, to assert that the F-22 lacks the ability 'to cover the full range of [air-to-surface] roles required by Australia' is simply false. The F-22 can penetrate to targets through heavy defences which the JSF cannot survive, to deliver an equivalent payload of smart bombs to that of the JSF."

"Gen Moseley, Chief of Staff, US Air Force, describes the F-22 as 'one of the finest bombers we've ever had' because of its ability to penetrate the toughest defences. All of this is on the public record, in fact the US Air Force is currently in the process of replacing the specialised F-117A Nighthawk strike aircraft, based at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, with new F-22As."

"If Defence doubt this, inviting the US Air Force to display F-22A aircraft at the upcoming Avalon Airshow would resolve any uncertainties about the aircraft."

"Premature retirement of the F-111 will leave the RAAF with an unprecedented capability gap in the air strike roles, of the order of 50% against the strike capability planned for in the 2000 White Paper. Assertions that the F-111 aircraft are no longer supportable either economically or technically are simply not true."

"The claim that the proposal to buy 24 Super Hornets is to compensate for the capability gap caused by the retirement of the F-111s misrepresents the actual aim of the buy, which is to cover for the unavailability of existing F/A-18A/B model Hornets being subjected to structural repairs to remain flyable."

"Each Super Hornet only has about one third of the weapon delivery capability of the F-111, and the number of Super Hornets required to properly compensate for the loss of the F-111 would have to be much larger."

"Of no less concern is the fact that the Super Hornet is not aerodynamically competitive against current Russian aircraft in service in the region, let alone supersonic cruise capable variants now in flight test."

"Finally, the economics of the proposed Super Hornet deal do not add up. The 2.5 to 3 billion dollars required to pay for the Super Hornets is several times greater than the cost to operate the F-111s until 2020, or later."

"The Super Hornet purchase will also require a new spare parts supply chain for the RAAF incurring a large ongoing expense. Only a fraction of the spares for the RAAF's existing Hornets are common to the Super Hornet. The most expensive spares are the engines - the Super Hornet has entirely new engines which are unique to that aircraft. The Super Hornet APG-79 radar is also new and, therefore, different, as are much of the airframe, avionics and systems."

"Defence has allowed itself to be painted into a corner - a corner they were warned about repeatedly as early as 2001. Instead of admitting this mistake so that lessons can be learned, Defence is, yet again, expecting the Minister and the Government to bail them out. The Super Hornet is an attempt to hide these mistakes but, in reality, creates even greater problems for the short, medium and longer term."

"The questions that Defence must answer for the Australian public are why is this purchase being made after repeated public denials by senior Air Force officers that such a move was being considered, and what analytical assessment was made of other options, such as acquiring F-22s to replace the worn out RAAF F/A-18A/B model Hornets."

"Buying Super Hornets will take the overall costs of Defence plans for the future fighter fleet to around $22 billion or more. That is over $1,000 from every man, woman and child in Australia."

"Replacing the existing Hornets with the far superior F-22As and keeping the F-111s to 2020+ will cost around $12 billion. This is a saving to the Australian taxpayer of some $10 billion."

"The Australian community is entitled to a coherent and an intellectually rigorous strategy for this most critical of Australia's national security issues- the ability to control our own airspace. We also need to be assured that our tax dollars are spent wisely in the process. Defence is yet to demonstrate an ability to do either of these tasks."

Air Power Australia Website - http://www.ausairpower.net/
Air Power Australia Research and Analysis - http://www.ausairpower.net/research.html

Contacts: Carlo Kopp / Peter Goon

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