The Williams Foundation think tank has questioned the government’s decision to further delay a decision on Australia’s air combat capability transition plan and to submit an LOR to the US government for 24 more Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets. In a December 17 release, the foundation laid out the four options which government considered before announcing the LOR, including a previously unreported option to accelerate the F-35A acquisition under Project AIR 6000 Phase 2A/2B and return it to the original schedule before it was delayed by two years in May’s federal budget.
“There are two very important points that highlight government inconsistency in defence acquisition policy by the Minister’s recent announcement,” the release reads. “The first relates to tolerance for risk, and the second relates to attitude towards Australian industry. In terms of risk the government appears to be willing to accept an extreme level of risk with the Future Submarine Project, a program where Australia would be taking the lead and be the sole customer for a small fleet of conventional submarines, that are yet to be designed, that are pushing the edge of technology… This is in stark contrast to the JSF Program where the US has the lead of a nine-nation partnership, development and testing is now largely complete, production is ramping up such that by the end of 2018 over 400 F-35 aircraft will have been delivered and there is a clear upgrade path well into the future.”
The release also compared “the treatment of the Australian aerospace sector versus the land and maritime sectors”, describing it as “stark,” and claiming that, “Ongoing lack of support for Australian aerospace industry and ongoing questions about Australia’s commitment to the F-35 program will further undermine Australia’s aerospace industry sector.”