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.