F-22A Raptor, FB-22, F-22E, F-22N and Variants Index Page [Click for more ...] People's Liberation Army Air Power Index Page  [Click for more ...]
Military Ethics, Culture, Education and Training Index Page [Click for more ...]
Russian / Soviet Weapon Systems Index Page [Click for more ...]

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

The Nation's Air Strategy - a 2007 View

Air Power Australia - Australia's Independent Defence Think Tank

Air Power Australia NOTAM

   30th July, 2007

WgCdr Peter Larard, RAAF (Retd)

Contacts: Peter Goon
Carlo Kopp

Mob: 0419-806-476 Mob: 0437-478-224

Apart from “the war on terrorism” Australia’s long term foreign policy is validly centred upon promoting and maintaining stability in our region. Serving this policy, the RAAF's strategic concept has been, and ostensibly is, to field an air force which, through personnel training and skills, and technology, is demonstrably superior to anything in our region. This is incredibly important. I don’t think we believe that “anyone” actually intends to take us on, but we do need the same “anyone” to know, if they do intend to militarily interfere with us in any way, that the RAAF is capable of bloodying their nose. Valid deterrence promotes cooperation and stability, and always will.

The RAAF has been able to achieve this strategic aim so far, but current processes are letting our air force, and the country, down.

Basic to successful military operations of all kinds is what is called air superiority. This means preventing an “enemy” using the relevant air space with any means to effectively interfere. Modern weapons technology, eg, stealth, electronic counter measures, sure fire target acquisition, stand-off guided missiles, smart bombs, have greatly increased the absolute importance of this air superiority because the effectiveness of air weapons has increased so enormously. Much less time, much smaller force numbers, are needed to decisively achieve the purpose. So, maintenance of this air “edge” becomes even more strategically vital in RAAF and defence policy.

Can we afford to risk losing the RAAF’s current advantage, whatever the cost? I don't think so.

With all this in mind, to start with we need to ask what the hell defence Minister Dr Brendan Nelson is doing imposing $6.6 billion plus worth of interim-measure Super Hornets on us. Who advised him? I can't imagine it was the RAAF.

Super Hornets have become known in experienced fighter pilot circles as the Super Dogs. A “dog” is a fighter which does not perform. On top of this, the need for an interim measure is by no means established. The need seems to be based upon a “gut” feeling rather than hard evidence. And in particular, there is no way this Super Dog can be expected to hold it's own with the modern Russian sourced fighters coming into service now in our region. That’s only the first question.

Next, in my assessment, the process of selection of replacement fighters for the RAAF is seriously flawed. Submissions on Regional Air Superiority to the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee have highlighted this. Leading defence analysts in Australia and overseas repeatedly emphasise the clear superiority of the fighting system represented by USAF F-22A fighter. With it's supporting systems, this aircraft is the best in the world in the business of dominating airspace. By now every experienced fighter pilot in the world must know this is so. As their experience with it builds, our friends flying these aircraft keep on telling us, don't they? If only the right people from the Minister for Defence on down would listen.

Why are we still headed down the track away from the F-22? Yes, there is this alleged American announcement to the effect that the F-22 is not for export. This did not come from Congress (which authorises such exports). Anyway, it is very difficult to believe that if we really and seriously tested  US policy on this, that we could not get our hands on the F-22.

The cost argument against the F-22 is also becoming paper thin.

We are now staring down the barrel of future cost parity between the F-22 and the F-35 JSF. The single-engined JSF now weighs almost as much as the two-engined F-22, and history tells us that fighter costs are typically, for similar technologies, proportional to weight. Does it make any sense to buy F-35s for almost the cost of F-22s? Do we end up not buying as many F-35s as planned since it costs as much as an F-22? Looking at it’s likely effect on the credibility of our RAAF, I trust not.

But, add in the cost of the interim-measure Super Dogs to the equation. The USAF is trying to extend it’s buy of the F-22. Ask yourself , why? If they succeed, more airframes produced equals lower per unit cost usually. Why are we not testing US policy on sales to Australia of the F-22, right now, so that we might add our potential buy numbers to the production line, perhaps reducing the per unit cost to both us and the USAF?

But all that makes common sense doesn't it?

If there is any valid analogy to fixing losing football teams, maybe it's time we sacked the coach.


Wing Commander Peter G. Larard  DSO  (Retd) has been an RAAF fighter squadron commander, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his outstanding service as a Forward Air Controller in the Vietnam War.
He resides in Albany, Western Australia.

F-22A Raptors at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska (US Air Force).

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

People's Liberation Army Air Power Index Page [Click for more ...]
Military Ethics, Culture, Education and Training Index Page [Click for more ...]
Russian / Soviet Weapon Systems Index Page [Click for more ...]

Artwork, graphic design, layout and text © 2004 - 2014 Carlo Kopp; Text © 2004 - 2014 Peter Goon; All rights reserved. Recommended browsers. Contact webmaster. Site navigation hints. Current hot topics.

Site Update Status: $Revision: 1.753 $ Site History: Notices and Updates / NLA Pandora Archive