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RAAF wants 100 F35s


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I take it the RAN wants them as well for the two new CANBERRA Class assault carriers currently building? Or the F35 version they want to get is not the VTOL capable one?

Aussie AF Wants 100 F-35s
Aviation Week's DTI | Bradley Perrett | December 04, 2008
This story first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is stepping up its lobbying efforts for a full order of 100 F-35 Lightning IIs, a number that has been officially endorsed but could easily be trimmed in a defense white paper due next year.

The chief of the air force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, strongly defends the choice of Lockheed Martin's F-35 as its next fighter, arguing that it will be part of an integrated airpower system and the country could not hope to find better.

He also endorses the Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning & Control Wedgetail and Airbus A330 tankers -- both on order for Australia but running late -- as the best equipment available.

The F-35 will be the best multirole fighter in the world, Binskin says, and will be able to beat advanced Russian fighters because it will be backed by other superior equipment and superior personnel.

"It will have the best radar, the best defensive system of any of those aircraft in the world," Binskin said in a speech reported by the Australian Associated Press.

"It will be supported by the best airborne early warning and control aircraft and the best tanker in the world and flown, maintained and supported by the best people in the world," he reportedly said. "I've got to tell you: the system ain't going to get any better than that."

The air force regards the Wedgetails as critical. As Boeing has suffered delays in developing the electronics, including an e-scan radar and advanced passive radio detection equipment, the service has said that it cannot afford to get less capability from them than it has specified – a clear sign that the six aircraft on order are at the center of its planning.

While holding F-35s in high esteem, the air force also says its studies show a need for a large quantity of them. "No matter how you model it, the modeling keeps coming back to 100," Binskin said.

The Australian government has previously said that 100 F-35s could be needed, even though that would imply a rare case of one-for-one replacement or even expansion of the combat aircraft fleet.

For the past decade or so, the high-speed Australian jet force has consisted of about 70 F/A-18A and B Hornets and about 35 General Dynamics F-111 strike bombers. But the true total is fewer than 100 because the operational F-111 force has been kept at only about 24, with airframes and engines cycled in and out of storage to prolong the type's service life.

The process of retiring the F-111 has now begun, and even before that some of the airframes were regarded as too worn out to return to service.

The government ordered 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets last year to replace the F-111s from 2010 (Aerospace DAILY, March 7, 2007). Due to a strong budget surplus and no net debt, the government could afford to boost the defense budget to pay for that order so it would not affect other programs.

But the budget is not so strong now, so Binskin's call for 100 F-35s may imply sacrifices elsewhere, especially if the air force also hopes to retain the Super Hornets for a combined force of 124 jets – more than it has had since the early 1980s.

While the Super Hornets could serve for decades alongside F-35s, they could also be sold when the last of the 100 F-35s arrive. That was the suggestion of the defense minister who ordered the Super Hornets, Brendan Nelson.



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Another update: a delay?


THE RAAF faces at least a two-year delay in acquiring its planned F-35 joint strike fighter force as the Rudd government moves to exert tighter control on the defence budget.
The pressure on defence spending, beginning next year, means the air force will not receive its initial squadron of F-35s until 2017, at the earliest.
The fighter will be Australia's biggest defence purchase and will only be exceeded by a $25billion-plus planned investment later next decade in 12 new-generation submarines.
With the retirement of the F-111 strike force next year, the air combat force will consist of 25-year-old upgraded F/A 18 Hornet fighters supplemented by a single squadron of 24 F/A 18 Super Hornets due to go into service from late next year.
The government has already delayed "second pass" approval for a final go-ahead for the $16bn F-35 purchase until the end of this year.
Under the new funding schedule the RAAF will get two F-35 fighters for test and evaluation purposes from 2014.


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An update: the RAAF confirms the order for its 1st batch of F35s/JSFs.

The question now is whether Lockheed Martin can deliver on what the RAAF has been hoping for.


25 Nov 2009


The Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner, today announced that the Australian Government had approved acquisition of the first batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft as foreshadowed in the 2009 Defence White Paper.

There has been considerable public interest in the potential acquisition of the F-35 JSF. The Government examined the JSF’s capabilities very carefully in the context of the Air Combat Capability Review and 2009 Defence White Paper deliberations, and remains confident that the JSF’s combination of stealth, advanced sensors, networking and data fusion capabilities, when integrated into the networked Australian Defence Force (ADF), will ensure Australia maintains its strategic capability advantage out to 2030.

The Government has approved acquisition of the first 14 Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) Joint Strike Fighters and infrastructure and support required for initial training and testing, at an estimated cost of $3.2 billion.

“Approval of this first batch of JSF aircraft is evidence of the Rudd Government’s strong commitment to defence and our commitment to implementing the Defence White Paper,” Senator Faulkner said.

Approval of the next batch of 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.  This will fulfil our White Paper commitment to acquire three operational squadrons comprising not fewer than 72 aircraft.

“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,” Senator Faulkner said.

Acquisition of an additional operational squadron – bringing the total number of JSF aircraft to around 100 – will be considered at a later date in conjunction with a decision on the withdrawal of the F/A-18F Super Hornet.

Australia’s first JSF aircraft will be delivered in the United States in 2014 to commence initial training and test activities. Australia’s first operational squadron will be based at Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown, and is planned to be ready for operations in 2018.  All three operational squadrons are planned to be in service in 2021.

The decision follows many years of unprecedented evaluation and planning by all nine countries involved in the JSF’s development.

“Defence has done more analysis on this platform than any other platform in the acquisition history of the ADF,” Senator Faulkner said.

Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin said: “The JSF acquisition will allow Australia to maintain its regional air combat superiority.  It will also enable Australia to effectively contribute to regional security and enhances opportunities for interoperability and commonality to support future coalition operations.”

To date, 25 Australian companies have won approximately US$200 million in the development and early production phase of the JSF.  As Australia and other countries commit to JSF acquisition, significantly increased opportunities for Australian industry will open up, as agreed in the Industry Participation Plan with Lockheed Martin and its JSF industry partners.

Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet said:  “Government and Industry will need to continue to work together as JSF Team Australia to maximise benefits for Australian industry in the JSF Program in the face of stiff international competition. Consideration of acquisition of the next batch of aircraft in 2012 will provide Government the opportunity to review Lockheed Martin’s progress on implementing the Industry Participation Plan.

“It is important that where Australian companies offer value for money, Lockheed Martin and its JSF industry partners give fair consideration to Australian industry,” Minister Combet said.

The Government’s acquisition decision will also allow Lockheed Martin and its JSF industry partners to establish formal relationships with Australian industry to meet Australia’s defence self reliance requirements in supporting the JSF.

“Our commitment to the JSF will allow Australian industry to become integrated into the global JSF support system, ensuring our aircraft are supported in the most cost effective way. Commitment to the JSF also opens up opportunities for Australian industry to contribute to regional and global support of the JSF,” Minister Combet said.

The Program Manager, Air Vice-Marshal John Harvey said: “This acquisition decision cements our commitment to the JSF Program and our commitment to the US and other international partners to make the JSF Program a great success.”

Media contacts:

Colin Campbell (John Faulkner):          02 6277 7800 or 0407 787 181

Defence Media Liaison:                        02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664


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An update: Australia warned against JSF by an internal defence study.

From the Australian

Scientists warned defence department against Joint Strike Fighter

    *  Cameron Stewart
    * From: The Australian
    * February 25, 2010 12:00AM

AN internal Defence study warned that the new Joint Strike Fighter would be a high-risk venture for Australia, admitting that the plane had weaknesses, including poor engine thrust that made it difficult to dodge missiles. The blunt criticisms of the warplane contained in the study by Defence scientists in 2000 have never been aired publicly by the government.

But the Defence Science and Technology Organisation study, obtained by The Australian, was far more critical of the other fighter jet options available to Australia if it did not choose the JSF.

The document uses highly undiplomatic language to trash the performance of the warplanes used by Australia's closest allies.

The DSTO study, described as a "first-cut analysis" of Australia's future fighter needs, was written two years before the Howard government signed up to the US-led JSF program in 2002, abandoning the tender process and stunning aircraft manufacturers.

Titled "A Preliminary Assessment of Inhabited Platforms for AIR6000" and written by the DSTO's Graeme Murray and David Carr, the study is significant because it is one of only a handful of studies that looked at alternatives to the JSF.

The government plans to buy 100 JSFs for $16 billion in what will be the largest Australian defence purchase in history.

The DSTO report, written at a time when the JSF existed only on paper, said that if Australia signed on to the JSF program, it would be doing so without knowing the plane's final capability and costs.

"JSF has present serious shortfalls in engine performance and incomplete sensor-fusion capability," the DSTO said.

"The aircraft lacks engine thrust in the baseline configuration due to the high weight, affecting the use of manoeuvrability to defeat missile attack."

It also warned of hi-tech risks in the program because of tight schedule and cost targets, but it gave the plane strong marks for its stealth, range, payload and its "all weather, 24-hour lethality".

It said the JSF would not be cheaper to acquire than other fighters, but would be cheaper to maintain and service.
The study favours the JSF over other options and is blunt about the shortcomings of Australia's other fighter options.
It describes the US F-16 used by the US Air Force as having a weak airframe and poor stealth.

"Old airframe lacks agility to outmanoeuvre missiles and has a small internal fuel capacity," the DSTO said of the F-16.

It said Europe's Typhoon fighter had limited strike capability and was unreliable.

"Present (strike) capability is lacking due to limited sensors and weapons carrying capability," it said of the Typhoon.

"Low reliability will mean high costs to operate."

It said Sweden's Gripen fighter had poor stealth, an underdeveloped electronic warfare system and payload and range limitations.

The DSTO found that the earlier version of the F/A-18E Super Hornet -- not the Block II version that has since been purchased by Australia -- was underpowered, lacked endurance and "risks being shot from behind with a radar-guided missile".

The US F-15E lacked stealth while France's Rafale had an unreliable and weak engine.

"The F-15E is good now, but not likely to be defensible in the expected electronic warfare environment in the 2010 timeframe," the DSTO said. "Rafale has short-term shortfalls in engine and radar performance."

The DSTO said the F-22 fighter -- the production of which was recently cancelled by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates -- had limited strike capability and was very expensive.

Despite these criticisms, the study recommended narrowing Australia's choice of a new fighter jet to only three: the JSF, the American F-15E and the French Rafale.