Johnston raises possibility of acquiring F-35Bs

The possibility of Australia acquiring a number of F-35B STOVL versions of the JSF has again been raised by Defence Minister Sen David Johnston. (Lockheed Martin)
The possibility of Australia acquiring a number of F-35B STOVL versions of the JSF has again been raised by Defence Minister Sen David Johnston. (Lockheed Martin)

Defence Minister Senator David Johnston has again raised the possibility of Australia acquiring a number of Lockheed Martin F-35B short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) versions of the Joint Strike Fighter for operation from the RAN’s new Canberra class LHD vessels.

Speaking to The Weekend West on May 17, Senator Johnston said the acquisition of the F-35B was “an option which has been considered from day one.” His comments echo those he made to an ASPI dinner in October 2012 where he described the LHDs as “…STOVL capable.”

Defence officials have consistently tried to pour cold water on the possibility of Australia buying F-35Bs over the years, despite its commonality with the conventional takeoff F-35A version of which the RAAF is acquiring 72 examples.

The Canberra class LHDs are being built optimised for amphibious operations using water craft and helicopters, and do not have sufficient fuel and weapons bunkerage to operate F-35Bs without a considerable upgrade in the RAN’s support ship fleet. Further, and while the possibility of cross-decking with F-35Bs of the USMC, the UK and other partner nations exists and will likely be encouraged, the LHDs do not have the thermion heat-resistant deck coating required to accommodate the F-35B’s exhaust for extended operations.

The F-35A and B models share about 60 per cent of their structure and a much higher percentage of their key systems and have similar handling characteristics in conventional flight regimes, meaning the logistics and initial training requirements would be broadly similar. But the F-35B is projected to cost about 20 per cent more than the F-35A, will be operationally limited to 7.5g and has about 30 per cent less range due to the need to accommodate the large lift fan, and will require a specialist flight training regime for deck operations and specialist maintenance training for under-way sustainment and support.

The LHD NUSHIP Canberra. (Defence)
The LHD NUSHIP Canberra. (Defence)


  1. bill says

    No, don’t do it. If you do, at least one more Canberra class is needed, and more Hobart’s to cover the damned thing. Let the navy spend its cash on submarines IMHO, it makes far more sense for the Air Force to operate the fighters, and the Navy to operate the boats.

  2. JSFWatcher says

    I agree, Bill. I spoke to someone close to the LHD and there’s NO WAY they could see how Navy was going to support another capability on the deck when they were already stretched with what’s planned.

  3. Blind Monkey says

    It’s a good idea to acquire them, but I agree with Bill. The RAAF should operate them. While I appreciate the RAN may wish to, it will be cost infective.

  4. Stuart says

    I think there is an error in this statement “But the F-35B is projected to cost about 20 per cent more than the F-35A, will be operationally limited to 7.5g ….”7.5g???? Is that All!!!
    Do you mean 750g or 750kg??

    Please confirm and correct article

  5. Raymond says

    Okay, what’s the verdict readers? Assuming Australia ends up getting around 100 F-35’s, would they all be better off as ‘A’ models in RAAF service, or do you think a mixed fleet of RAAF ‘A’ and RAN ‘B’ variants is a good idea?

    Personally, I would LOVE to see an RAN FAA with fixed-wing ‘teeth’ again, however having said that, I’m not completely sure about it if that comes at the expense of other capability… Maybe with the promise of defence spending being increased to 2% of GDP over the next decade, additional capability such as this may become affordable? But can we afford the premium for ‘B’ models, plus an extra LHD and an extra AWD, which is really what we’d need as minimum to consider this seriously?

    I’m actually feeling the same sentiments as Bill. That’s a lot of extra outlay and ongoing costs, as well as all the additional crewing requirements. As great as this would be, I’m unfortunately finding it hard to see it as realistic. One thing that does come to mind is the way the previous Coalition government provided $6 billion over 10 years for the Super Hornet fleet as extra, separate funding. But that was when the budget was in far, far better shape than it is now.

    All very interesting and exciting anyway, especially that the MINDEF is scoping out the possibilities! I was very surprised to learn that it’s “an option which has been considered from day one”, as I was under the impression that the official line was not to operate anything of the sort from the RAN’s LHD’s. Oh well, goes to show that these things do and are getting looked at behind the scenes!

    Comments please!

  6. Peter says

    I have to agree with Bill 100%. Read the original story above – ” Defence officials have been consistently trying to poor cold water on it “, this means neither Navy or RAAF want to raise their hand for these , as the $ are well needed elsewhere. Also reading the above, the range of the F-35B is reduced even more than the already complained about range of an F-35A. If there is a perception that LHDs need air cover in any imagined conflict, a better investment is more KC-30s to provide refuelling for Super Hornets (specifically designed for maritime strike for the USN) and also for the F-35As already committed. The cost to train pilots / engineers for LHD operation, the cost to modify the LHDs to suit F-35Bs, the cost to have a shore base for F-35Bs with more engineers / spare parts / simulators etc just is not justifiable. Buy the much needed extra KC-30s for tanking, and buy some extra Tiger choppers if the Navy really feel they need additional top cover until Super Hornets / F-35As arrive on scene. One more thought, what exactly does Defence Minister mean by ” an option that has been considered from day one ” ? Day one from when ? When the Libs came in last Sept or is he privy to prior Labour promises to the USA ? Or does he go back to when the Howard Gov’t first committed to be a development partner in the JSF project ? I’m sure the ADF would like to know how long politicians have had F-35Bs in mind. So when exactly is ” day one ” ??

  7. says

    7.5 x the force of gravity = 7.5g. The F-35C is limited to 7.0, and the F-35A to 9.0.



  8. Damien says

    If the ADF aren’t interested, it looks like another Canberra move to buy capability that would take money away from areas where it’s needed. The LHD’s were not brought to operate V/STOL – otherwise the Howard Government (who signed off on the deal) would have had the capability incorporated when the ships were designed, brought and built. Money would be better spent on other areas – anything but a capability that would be costly, need major work on the ships in question and major training to be done using an aircraft that isn’t all that capable. If the LNP want carriers, buy aircraft carriers.

  9. The Road Runner says

    If we are going to purchase F-35B it would be better to purchase a light carrier.
    I am all for the ADF having a F-35B on station flying off a light carrier and protecting the fleet.
    Adding SH-60R and a form of helicopter AWAC’s( like the Sea King AEW) would compliment the light carrier as a whole.

    I am sure Senator Johnson is being informed that the Canberra LHD is not a dedicated carrier for fast jets.
    The Canberra class have limitations as they have no Air Traffic control radars(or Marshalling Air Traffic control radars)no bunkerage area for weapons or fuel that would be required to arm and fuel hungry fast jets.
    The F-35B would burn a lot more fuel compared to helicopters.

    Look at the Wasp LHD they are 40,000 ton compared to the Canberra at 27,000 ton.
    That extra 13,000 ton covers space for fuel,weapons and the F-35B.

    You never know,in 15(plus) years time ,after the Super hornets are retired we may just purchase F-35B and maybe a light carrier.I am sure Navantia could modify a Canberra class into a dedicated light carrier.Time will tell.

  10. Gaerth says

    Hope they fix problem of landing on beach trucks and tanks before they buy F35B Last Landing barge failed meet what wanted rejected

  11. Ben says

    While I agree that F-35B has an undesirable performance, range and payload decrement compared to the F-35A, and I agree that the modifications required to operate F-35 effectively from the Canberra class would be extensive and carry high risk, here’s some food for thought. Lets take a notional area of operation, 2 hours transit from the nearest jet capable base. Say, with your refuelling, you get 2 hours on task in the area of operations. Then our RAAFies have to fly 2 hours home (These numbers are just for arguments sake here to, I don’t know that much about actual F-35 range capabilities…). So say you want to have 2 jets on station for a six hour period, you need to have 10 jets (ignoring that you can possibly turn jets around at base, rearming and refuelling them) available for that task alone, because for every aircraft on task, you need another two airborne. Plus, because you’ve got a tanker (presumably we’re using our shiny jets rather than Tiger because we’ve had a disagreement with country with a respectable air defence capability), you need more jets to cover the tanker while it’s airborne (another 4 to provide the required coverage? another 6?).

    The LHD on the other hand needs far fewer jets, they are far more reactive to the requirements of battle (maybe they don’t even need to be airborne to have the required reaction time), they are burning far less jet fuel with fewer jets required to be airborne at any given time (fuel being a potentially rare and valuable commodity in battle) and because you are using fewer jets, you have more available for other tasking (Maybe those F-35As could be interdicting enemy infrastructure or lines of communication?)

    What happens now if your area of operation is 4 hours flight time from the nearest air base? In our scenario, you now need another four jets airborne for everyone on task to ensure continuous coverage. You need even more jets to cover the tanker and probably more tankers to make sure there’s enough fuel. That less capable F-35B launching from a ship doesn’t look quite so bad now, in my humble opinion…

    Obviously, the real case is vastly more complicated with many more considerations and variables (apologies for my ham fisted oversimplification!). I don’t think it’s too hard to see though how much of force multiplier having F-35Bs based on an LHD could potentially be in an amphibious operation…

  12. The Road Runner says

    @ Bill a light carrier would do Air Warfare/Air defence better than a Hobart.
    Using missile’s to defend against a jet is a poor man’s weapon.
    Nothing dose Air Defence better than a fast jet.

    We got ripped off on our AWD we paid a premium , 8 billion for 3 AWD.
    We probably could have bought a light carrier and 12-18 F-35 B’s for that.

  13. John N says

    And the Def Min’s comments also give some clarity (thought it’s still pretty foggy!) to the PM’s statement at the announcement of the additional 58 F-35A’s, where he said that the choice of ‘what type’ hadn’t been decided on, if and when the last batch of (up to 28) F-35’s is eventually decided, these comments open up way more questions than there are answers for.

    Whilst I certain agree that the debate on ‘if, when and how’ a STOVL capability for the RAN might potentially be raised and reintroduced (that’s all good as a discussion), but there are so many other questions that would need to be answered too.

    * Would it be a part time capability or a full time capability? (with one ship available you have a capability ‘part of the time’, with two, ‘most of the time’ and with three, at least one is available ‘all of the time’)
    * If it’s part time, yes could use the LHD’s (with modifications), but it will also take away from their primary amphibious role, is a compromise a good idea, or not?
    * If it is intended to be a full time capability, then we would also need to invest in ‘purpose’ built carrier(s) too, be that modified Canberra, or for example, something based on the Italian Cavour (purposed designed for the task).
    * Does the RAAF ‘loose’ it’s last Squadron of F-35A’s to achieve this capability and would they be under the control of the RAAF or the RAN, or ‘joint’ control?
    * If we do end up with a full time force and a purpose built ship, should the anti-submarine helicopter capability be increased too? eg, additional MH-60R’s to screen and protect the carrier and possibly a rotary EW capability too?
    * Where would they be based? All the RAN’s aviation assets are at Nowra, but would the B’s also be based there, or in the current SE Queensland location were the Super Hornets are based?
    * Could this be all paid for out of the proposed increased (and sustained) Defence spending, without ‘loosing’ another valuable capability to achieve this?
    * Could we actually get ‘both’ sides of politics to back a change to our Defence and Foreign policies and maintain such a capability?

    I’m not against the RAN getting back into the carrier business, as long as it is properly ‘funded’ and that some other important capability isn’t lost in the process.

    Suppose we will just have to wait till the new DWP, due in around 12 moths to get the answer, or hopefully some of our defence journalists can ask the question of the Def Min before that time too.

    Interesting to say the least!


    John N

  14. David says

    The point is valid, no F35B’s, unless upgrades are made. Still the possibility of F35B should be keep around. Perhaps Navy moving back into fixed wing operations, co operating with the RAAF, is something to be studied. Carrier operations in the future may be necessary. Russia, India and China are building carriers for operations in the Pacific/Indian oceans. Australia should review and look at operations by the Royal Navy and the US Marines, in the future, rather than dismiss it out of hand. If Australia wants to remain a viable power in the region.
    When the Royal navy went to the Falklands, the Sea Harrier was the only thing that made it possible. Without Britain would have sunk into a decline on the World stage.30 plus Harrier’s that’s it
    The UK’s influence on the World stage since then concerning the Cold War, is one to remember. We don’t know what will the future will be like Royal Navy’s example, proves that. Extending our options, helps maintain our future as an independent nation.

    So not now, but not dismiss all together.

  15. Darren says

    I like that there is some factual information both in the article and comments. Essentially this is something I would like to see,but in reality agree with the points made by Raymond, Peter and Bill. I can see that there is a major advantage to having this capability, but I just do not see it as cost effective.

    Just a point not mentioned. Rate of Effort. Tanking a fighter force can be difficult (almost impossible at some distances) for a maneuvering task force of LHD/AWD’s to provide effective 24/7 cover from land bases. It’s an argument for organic naval fighter aircraft. However again you need a lot of aircraft on the deck to generate this over the carrier, a number beyond the capability of a mixed air wing given the size of the LHD’s. There is the need for AEW/AWAC on the ship if a quick reaction launch model is adopted. Here the E-7’s can help, but again will cut into the limited tanking and create a defensive headache for the AWDs as they are high value assets. You don’t need to shoot it down to make it run for home and expose the fleet. And I realise that the USMC operate a handful off LHD’s, but remember that behind them is a CVN Battle group.

  16. Gerald Casimatis says

    Just a few questions and comments Richard.

    Who knows what the fuel carrying capacity of the LHDs really is when carrying a mixed air fleet for operations other than for purely amphibious assault? What fuel carrying modules are available for such ships?
    Why would we presume that the navy would be in control of these aircraft? The minister’s statement as quoted & paraphrased above does not state who will control the use of the F35Bs. [subs and their funding are long way away and I doubt a funding overlap can’t be sorted with a balanced budget ]
    Since the historic introduction of Harrier like aircraft it seemed obvious that Australia more than most western countries needed them not just for obvious naval purposes but also for short term use on remote prepared small fields.This might’,and I could stand corrected allow their limited deployment on suitable landing fields throughout the Pacific, South East Asia and our remote northern coast.
    Perhaps we have a cryptic response to the loss of our F111s and their previous conspicuous, theoretical capacity to respond to an apparent threat.
    Raymond F35Bs might be coming, just wait for UAVs?

  17. Toby says

    How about they stop wasting money on LHD based fighters that we’ll never ever use and put it back into education so I’ll be able to afford my uni fees for my Ba Aviation so people like me have the opportunity to become a pilot, it’s insanely expensive enough now…

  18. Peter says

    Hey Ben, I like your thoughts on how many fast jets from shore bases are required to protect a LHD in conflict. As an alternative to on-board F-35Bs, and long flight times for shore based jets, why not change our order from Tritons ( unarmed ) to Global Hawks ( armed ) – they can stay on station 24 hours +. The ADF could pre-deploy them “just in case”, and up at 50,000 feet, no ones going to see them unless they’re called in for a lower level employment of weapons. Then the Navy can save all the $$ for modifying the LHDs, the cost of F-35Bs, and use the LHDs as Landing Helicopter Docks. With armed Global Hawks, AWDs loaded with ICBMs, E/A-18G Growlers and Wedgetails co-ordinating the lot, we pose a worthwhile deterrent.
    In the meantime, lets wait until the first 2 RAAF F-35As are actually ready to fly – later this year, then wait until the first 2 RAAFies get to actually fly an F-35A, which won’t be until next year, and see if we actually like them, before we get too excited about more F-35s be they A models or Bs.

  19. robbo says

    The f-35b buy is absolutely essential, and IMO quite clearly the plan from day 1. The issues being raised against the stovl variant of the f-35 are baseless, I.e. Limited to 7.5g – so are all of the raafs hornets/super hornets, range limited – true, but offset by a mobile launching platform able to deploy to strategic areas of interest and it still has a greater range than a classic hornet. With India and China launching aircraft carriers recently, we need to stay relevant, surface shipping is inherently vulnerable to air attack regardless of the sophistication of their air defence systems I.e Aegis on Hobart class, it will never change the fact they cannot see incoming low level missiles or aircraft past the horizon without some form of AWACS support, although I strongly urge the RAN to purchase atleast 1-2 more Hobart class, if not scrap plans for the future frigates and buy 9-10 Hobart class in total
    – would bring the equivalent cost for each ship down significantly while providing Australia with a superior product with far greater firepower, versatility and redundancy

  20. Dane says

    I don’t get why would we want to have a naval attack capability. We are a defence force, we do not need to take a force away from the mainland leaving us vulnerable. Let any nation that wants to attack us do so, they will very quickly learn that Australia is too isolated and large to sustain any large scale offensive.

  21. Charles says

    The real argument is whether we should buy any brand of F35s. I do not consider we are getting value for a colossal amount of money, spending the same amount on more Super Hornets with conformal tanks make much more sense.
    There is no doubt in my mind that the ultimate bill for the F35 will be a lot lot higher – given its track record to date.
    Forget the F35, stealth with poor performance, payload, range is just not worth it.

  22. BH says

    There have been some very good pro’s and cons mentioned here so far. Might as well add a few more.

    The next White Paper could be an interesting read given that SE Asia is continuing to evolve at an increasing pace. If Australia is going to go back into the business of being ‘Big Brother’ in the region like it was back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s it is probably going to need to increase its force projection quite a bit. It should be noted though that Australia wouldn’t be an independent war fighting power but rather part of a larger most likely US led force. So it would continue to be a plug n play force like it was in Iraq and Afghanistan integrating with other Western/NATO allies.

    I think if Australia did return to operating fast jets at sea, it would only be a part time capability. I could only see between 4 or maybe 6 aircraft going to sea at any one time on an LHD. The rest of the time, when not practicing STOVL operations at land bases, the F35Bs could/would integrate with the regular operations of the remainder of the F35A’s albeit with a reduced range and weapons load. I think from memory the Melbourne only operated a handful of Skyhawks (3 or 4) and any one time. That capability back then was only small as the focus of the FAA then was ASW. So 4 to 6 F35B’s would represent quite a sizable capability increase. In any case, that number of aircraft would be sufficient to act as either a deterrent against attack or a modest plug n play capability to a US led expeditionary force.

    An F-35B purchase would be a major part in the increased force projection alongside an increased submarine capability. Running the B models wouldn’t be as hard a task as it would have been operating a Harrier capability or a full traditional Carrier capability. Given that the B model can take off and land in a conventional configuration, there would still be a large amount of commonality with the A model in both training and maintenance activities. The obvious difference of course being the STOVL ops part which would involve an extra syllabus component being added to the flight and maintenance training programs. It would also make most sense to let the RAAF operate the aircraft. This would allow for the most streamlined training and operational employment options. Basing them out of Williamtown would allow for all maintenance and operational conversion training and logistics to be centralised in order to reduce cost. I don’t think the RAN would jump up and down over this as the bulk of the helicopter force for the new LHDs will be provided by the Army as it is.
    The jets would more than likey be brought in to replace the Super Hornets in the late 2020’s as they begin to wind down. By then hopefully any bugs would have been ironed out, and the cost per unit dropped.

    As far as the LHDs are concerned, the Spanish only have one and now that their carrier has been retired it will take up the fast jet capability. Modifications would obviously have to be made to the ships but I’m sure this would all be covered within the larger scheme of any potential plan. The LHDs will have reached major refit stage by the time any B models enter service, meaning that any provision of extra modifications or electronics/Radar upgrades would be due in a similar time frame.

  23. says


    Just to clarify, no models of the Global Hawk or the Triton are armed – all they carry are sensors and comms.



  24. Neil P says

    Historically, the RAN operated carriers of various types very successfully for many years. Remember that our last carrier option was taken away from us because of a scuffle half a world away. (for those of you too young to remember google the faulklands war). Each of the problems others have listed are not insurmaountable. When you look at the flexibility of the LHD, tinkering to upgrade to jet ops is not that difficult, the capacity is there. As an aside, the elevator diagrams all have sillouhettes of F35s on them! (Apparaently!) As a power projection option and a fast reaction for regional operations, this would be a very successful and effective strategy.
    The RN and RAF have, with a reasonable amount of success, played nicely together with the Harrier GR9 when the others were either upgraded to this or scrapped. It’s certainly a model we can consider as a basis for our own operations.
    When you consider the capabilities of our major assets working together its actually quite an impressive collection. And quite deadly. E7, AWD, FFH, JORN, LHD, F35A, F/A18E/G, ARH, MH60R and not forgetting the troops on the ground, all of these create an unprecedented battle picture for the ADF. If you then place the B model in the mix, it fills gaps left by the other air assets.
    One last point I would like to make is that, you can have all the toys in the world but they are absolutely useless if they don’t work properly. Again, this is an area that we as a nation have an advantage. Our personnel are well trained, we enjoy significantly more up time than other forces and we have sound logisitc support. We might have a small fleet, we may not have that many members in uniform but what we do have works, and works very well.

    Raymond, I have absolutely no doubt that there is plenty of horse trading going on, and has been for quite some time, by the three service chiefs for this very predicament!

  25. Peter says

    sorry for my mistake, however the armed option still exists with UAVs like the MQ-9 Reaper Block 1- Plus, or the Marina naval version, with endurance claimed at up to 49 hours. Where the ADF has to play “catch up” for the funds lost during the previous governments reign, the list for hardware is long, and cost effective and capable alternatives should be considered.

  26. Adam C says

    The idea of having a half dozen F-35B’s that could be deployed on the Caberra’s makes since. They could be permanently based in the NT with the rest of the 35’s and deployed either to the LHD’s or short runways in SE Asia as required.

  27. random says

    In all of this we should not forget some often ignored but enormously important rules regarding equipment and capability procurement.

    1. The rule of 3 – it’s relatively useless buying less than 3 equipment blocks. For several years it has been acknowledged that military forces need to be postured through 3 stages – raise, train, and sustain (in modern parlance). You can’t achieve sustainable use of personnel and equipment without these steps, so buying less than 3 (or 3 groups) is a major handicap.
    2. 66% on line – you can rarely if ever get more than 66% of your fleet on line, so you either need to buy more or expect less.
    3. Never buy Gen 1…..

    So if you want to go down this path we need 1 more LHD, 2 more Bay Class HMAS Choules, another 1-2 supply ships, plus 3 F35Bs for every 2 on line (28 total = 18 on decks).

  28. says

    Random – some good points.

    If you take the new MH-60R Romeos coming online as an example, the RAN has bought 24 helos in order to be able to support eight aircraft at sea at any one time, so I would suggest you 66% rule is in fact reversed.

    I agree that the ADF would need another LHD with properly configured aviation spaces to support an F-35B capability, as well as additional replenishment ships, and probably another AWD.

    But we’re putting the cart before the horse – unless the force posture review and the coming defence white paper have reversed course entirely, there is currently no requirement for the ADF to project forward an amphibious/naval air combat capability.

    Not to mention the supposed “budget emergency” we’re currently experiencing!



  29. Mark says

    I just love it when people start guessing what the Navy needs. Two LHD’s is just fine, though a real aircraft carrier is really needed.

    Supply ships hold the fuel and supply it at sea. It’s called RAS (pronounced RAZ) for Replenishment At Sea.The aircraft are shifted around deck to make room for flight operations. There is plenty of room on that deck. You only take the aircraft you need. At times we had no Harriers on board the Ark, but usually six. Though more AWD’s are a no brainer and glad others realise that the RAAF can’t provide the air protection that they suppose. Hopefully at least another AWD will be in the coming white paper.

    Heat resistant paint covering is really not an issue.

    The Fleet Air Arm is the best spot for these aircraft if they ever do get them. Bottom line. It would cost the same whomever takes it. Obviously they would be based at a RAAF base such as Williamtown for ease of supply.

  30. William Reid says

    I think a mix of F-35 A/B models for the adf will be great. What’s the point of a LHD if it’s only going to carrand y MRH-90 and MH-60R. It will help the ADF almost on par if not with other countries e.g. Italian Navy, UK Navy and Spanish Navy all have got LHD and used the harrier.

  31. Toaster says

    Interesting thoughts by all. Interesting to speculate that if the coalition were in power just 18 months earlier, they would have purchased the Ark Royal and her harrier compliment, in all likelyhood for a bargain $200 million including spares. Problem solved, very cheaply. Very good chance the crews to fly and maintain would take a transfer at the time also. Opportunity missed?

  32. Dee says

    Interesting to note the number of replies that favour the F-35B as an asset on the new LHD’s, my one question is WHY?
    A full complement of Tiger attack Helo’s serve the purpose that the LHD was originally purchased, namely an amphibious landing of troops in/on enemy territory, the Tigers firepower for this task is far superior to say a section of F-35’s on low level attack. The Tigers are also able refuel and rearm in close proximity to the action, thanks to Ship, Helo resuply.
    As to our Northern neighbours who posses “Real” carriers, the LHD’s and their six or so F-35B cover flight would not last one sorty from even a single small carrier. Answer, the new Hunter Attack subs, which all surface ships take as an extremely serious threat..
    F-35B acquisition, total waste! Purchase two more A-330 tankers, and another Wedgetail, which will increase the F-35A’s ability to fly cover for the Navy when needed.

  33. michael9 says

    my views on the F-35 have been noted previously, a slug , and now a slower slug, people should take a breath and think about the support structure required for one ship and 6 operational aircraft , and for what strategic benefit?
    we would need a force of at least 6 ships with a full compliment, to be anyway effective in a hostile situation . those ships require protection and on it goes.
    This reeks of justifying a new toy and to show what we have or can deploy to our neighbours.
    the numbers are so small to almost useless in a warlike situation.
    history repeats itself , I see echo of old generals who called heroic men cowards for not charging across open ground in the face of withering machine gun fire , the technology had moved on , the foot soldier and the charge was being replaced on the battlefield by tanks and protective cover provided by those vehicles.
    here we have a situation where manned aircraft , very expensive manned aircraft are being used to perform what are battle field support operations that could be as one writer noted our tiger helos,
    these aircraft have neither the range or capability to engage with any fighter in the Sulkoi class .
    The age of the drone is coming , maybe not autonomous , but certainly guided from a secure remote location. look at the effectiveness of the drone in Afghanistan ,or Yemen ,
    old military thinking has to change , the romantic image of the fighter jock is coming to an end , there will always be a place for manned military aircraft , but the new aircraft will be, evasive , stealthy, and survivable . robotics is coming ,like it or not.
    Leave these ships to the purpose they were originally designed for and forget this massive waste of money.

  34. Paul Johnstone says

    There was a clear decision not to operate fixed winged aircraft from the Canberra Class from the beginning. I for one thought was very much the Leftists that remain in the Defence Beacuracy who see Carriers or any platform that can launch fixed winged aircraft as Weapons Proliferation issues. This is why the hospital, surgical ward and dental capabilities were made such a big thing off and the ability to provide aid to the region in the case of a natural disaster. However, regionally India, China, Thailand and Japan more or less have this capability in some form or another. Defence was so set on not having this capability that they even examined removing the ski jump ramp but found that removal produced some other issues and that it actually provided a lot of storage space. Questions I asked of DMO stated that about $15 million would be required for the installation of just one radar to support fixed wing aircraft on a Canberra, let alone acquire the skills so that we could have allied aircraft cross deck and operate from our ships. Thought was given to installing the radars for UCAVs but nothing serious. I secretly thought that there were those whom within Defence thought that retro fitting in the future could support F-35Bs, however deliberate modifications eroded this option with how changes were made to fuel storage, refuelling, weapons storage etc.

    Spain has retired its Aircraft Carrier Príncipe de Asturias and adopted the Juan Carlos I upon which the Canberra Class are based as their aircraft carrier. They are operating their Matador AV-8B IIs off the deck with the intention of using the F-35B in the future. The Juan Carlos I has eight landing spots for its AV-8BII on the deck and it would be assumed that more of this aircraft type may be carried below the deck with a mixture of helo types.

    The statement in one posting about using Tigers to provide support for Amphioxus operations is missing the point. The Tigers biggest weapons is the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a bunker buster, anti-armour weapon with a range of 8 kms, it is not even a ship killer which is another issue of concern. The Tiger/Hellfire is a little different to the long range, mixed variety of hard hitting ordnance types that be carried by a JSF which can provide standoff range, Combat Air Patrol and loiter. Whilst it is unlikely that the Canberra Class will go anywhere without the protective bubble of the Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers (just 3 being built is a little concerning) modern amphibious operations and cheap anti shipping missiles and sea mines require standing off over the horizon to be safe. This erodes the capabilities of the Tiger somewhat which should be focused on escorting the MRH-90 TTH and CH-47D/F Chinooks and on the prowl for Boaghammer type small and fast attack boats.

    Realistically were are not going invade China or Indonesia for that matter, but MANPAD missiles are cheap as chips and instability and radicalism is on the rise regionally. A fixed wing capability is a great deterrent; a sonic boom overhead provides a wonderful non kinetic impact at the very least. The ability to stay on station and cover territory very quickly with a range of ordnance types at the flick of a wrist is able to be achieved. Lockheed Martin tells us the EW spectrum of the JSF is very much like that of a Growler therefore it provides another capability not going to be achieved by a MRH-90, Seahawk, Tiger or even a V-22 Osprey

  35. John A gates says

    I have always sadly wondered, how many in defence really hate the Military, but still being somewhat a fifth column, still fight for their salaries and that other word, benefits. There has been comment also on how many in defence had a mindset that no way would the R.A. N. portray any offensive projection, even though the reality is we live and operate in an zone that seems within a few quick seemingly moments, can become very hostile and have our people on the line have been again placed in peril by their, really, political hatreds. To deliberately not include adequate fuel reserves for fixed or STOL aircraft is really questioning the whole hierarchy of the big gorilla, defence, and most likely, bureaucrats that wish to devalue our international obligations .Paul Johnstone has hit it on the head and those that really give their limited ideas on these subjects in this forum, about what should be done or not, are spitting into the wind. The RAF and indeed the RAAF, and even the USAF, in it’s history, are very serious that the Navy be not allowed to take any part in what they consider their air role. It explodes like a bunger when we realise it happens and the carrier has been sent there and well the Air Force is a thousand miles away and the tankers are being used elsewhere. A good argument by Paul Johnstone

  36. Gerald Casimatis says

    Hi Michael

    I read your your comments with interest and share a few of your views particularly on wasting peoples lives in mindless wartime operations. Some of your points however are debatable and may be looked at from several other more informed points of view as can be seen above.
    During WW 2 when Japan invaded what is now Indonesia there was not one Australian operational fighter aircraft in Northern Australia or New Guinea. Luckily by the time they reached our doorsteps they were over extended and their ability to wage a land war had diminished. We should also mention by then the previously neutral USA was arming itself , the UK and us to fight an offensive war in the pacific.
    To assume we are not vulnerable to aggression or at least intimidation by regional powers is simplistic and that relatively untried, advanced, unmanned aerial vehicles with a limited operational spectrum are the only bow in our quiver is dangerous.
    If only to support the escape of our citizens from a war zone or tell a regional bully to stop killing its own people we might need to project the few affordable assets we have and not sit Idle. To do this we need real versatile aircraft not just spin telling us how useless F 35s are. This comment is regularly trotted out to baffle the uninformed and support in our case the underfunded malaise that occurs in western countries whenever an overtly left wing government leaves power. It is in all our interests to ensure the ADF is well prepared and that the lives of our and other peaceful people are not subjected to the type of inhumanity we saw in WW 2, Libya, East Timor, Cambodia etc.

    Cheers Gerald

  37. Mark B says

    Oh please.

    It was quietly known from the start (the Land Warfare Centre get-together of 2002 which selected this ship over Mistral) that no additional money would be voted to remove the full light carrier capability designed into these ships by the Spanish from the start. Treasury was there and made that very plain. They retain all the missile and bomb lifts, fuel capacity, ramp and workshop/accom space for a fixed wing CAG. The Treasury bloke scotched any idea of providing more money to remove that stuff, and did so strongly and on the record.

    Navy knew what it meant and the looks on their faces when the Treasury rep said that were simply priceless as they knew they were back in the carrier game. I know this as I was there in the second row. They just never mention it because it rakes up too much old baggage and scares certain people. It also makes common sense and strategic sense to maximise the potential of such a long term asset – who can predict the strategic environment 40 years out? Let me tell you, Army was extremely supportive of the idea of having a light long range mudbashing and excellent anti-attack-helo capability on these ships, and still is.

  38. Glenn says

    We should pursue the F35B option in the name of flexibility. 8-12 fighters at sea as required would provide enormous flexibility. They should be operated by the RAN bearing in mind the complexities of operating fix wing aircraft at sea.A purpose built carrier would be ideal but unlikely,.Therefore Upgrade both LHD to accomodate NAVY f35Bs as required. A No brainer!. An Additional AWD would also make the ADF a very potent force for its size.

  39. Ben says

    A thought for consideration is the purchase of the Prince of Wales for the RAN. The fate of the ship is currently unknown, however there is speculation that the POW will be mothballed or put up for sale. If the British choose to sell her off, the RAN would be in a position akin to that of early eighties and the wbole Invincible affair. Furthermore if the POW was purchase it would occur within the same timeframe as the hypertetical F-35B purchase/ delevery. Such a purchase would provide the navy with tremendous flexibility to project power within the region. However the points mentioned by others highlight the expense of such a move and demonstrate the current limits of the RAN.

  40. William Reid says

    Someone mention about the Tigers, the only this is, to my knowledge the Tigers are in service but are not combat operational qualified, so at this time they are useless

  41. steve says

    Should have gotten the greater part of the order as F35B even if it meant getting less aircraft overall – 24 of the F35A and 30 of the F35B would provide far more flexibility than the A model only strategy.

    Australia is a continent with thousands of KM coastline, surrounded by ocean and long distances – VTOL or carrier based aircraft are very sensible.
    Consider the recent MH370 search the F35B with it’s sensors and speed operating from ship would have a massive advantage over other aircraft that have to spend most of their fuel just to get to the search area and return before thy run out or rely on costly in air refuelling.
    F35B could operate from a helicopter landing dock right in the search area.

    Protecting interests like on the coast and remote islands like cocos or search and rescue operations in ocean could be done by a landing dock or any helicopter sized platform as would any offshore operations or offshore deployment around new guinea , Indonesia etc

  42. michael9 says

    Gerald ,
    thanks for your thoughts, I think you miss my point regarding my views on this, I totally agree we need to project ourselves a strong viable military power, my point is that we should use and operate aircraft and systems that are effective , capable and will do the job that is required.
    I strongly feel this is not the way to go . We are looking at a massive expenditure and support structure for what is realistically ,a small limited weapons system . we at the moment are not in any way threatened by any regional power, that as we all know too well change in months with the political climates in some countries.
    I have seen the Russian Sulkoi aircraft fly first hand , and believe me , with a well trained pilot it would be difficult to engage them with anything less than a F22. The range alone would be a huge deficit for these aircraft to overcome .and wargame after wargame shows this to be the case, it doesn’t matter how good our boys are , if you can’t stick around to secure an area , and have to head home it doesn’t matter what super computer you have installed.,
    The problem we face is too many unknowns in our region and the northwest pacific in particular. personally I don’t think China will be aggressive in the future. they have too much to lose financially
    But they also will not be pigeon holed by the Americans and made to only operate as a regional player , they will project force in the Pacific Basin and we have to show that while we are small , we can still punch above our weight. I read extensively on remote systems , small stealthy high flying drones would be very very difficult to monitor or defeat , and they would provide an effective weapons platform for stand off weapons, the American s know this that is why they are already testing Carrier based drones. the costs to our country would be better spent on the future not something that was designed in the 90’s and is not up to the challenge.

  43. Gerald Casimatis says

    Thanks Michael9

    I appreciate your points and agree in the main with all of them however it seems to me that F35s, F35Bs, LHDs and later armed and stealthy drones will be purchased not to control a large airspace or win an all out war but to be quickly projected into troubled areas, leave their desired mark and go.
    Eventually together with our future submarine fleet our varied ability to unsettle an aggressor will make them think carefully before they chance coming south. Just hope our government wakes up in time to stop small local developing countries from offering bases to potential aggressors.
    Finally I agree we appear to need to play catch up on advanced UAVs and spend more on obtaining, operating and even making our own. Even so after reading of the way Iran captured at least one US, stealth, spy drone a few year ago and not knowing the developmental time frames for the varieties of UAVs we need it seems prudent to have an apparent, manned, stealth response. Every weapon including advanced UAVs have a weakness and very few people seem to mention theirs.

    Cheers Gerald

  44. rovalencia says

    @ Dee

    Did you forget Falklands War when Argentina has faster Mirage jets vs British has subsonic Harrier jets?

    On A2A, F35 combines F18’s high attack angle and F16’s high speed.

    “Lockheed Martin wrote: One of the challenges we had was to make an airplane that had the low speed characteristics of the Hornet and the high speed of an F-16. The Hornet can fly slow extremely well and get to high angles of attack and point the nose all around. The F-16 can’t do that as well, but the F-16 can fly extremely fast and can recover energy quickly. The Hornet does not do that very well. Once they get into an energy deficit, it’s hard for them to recover because of the low thrust to weight ratio and the aerodynamic penalty of sensors and weapons in the airstream. The F-35 incorporates the best of both in flying qualities: it will fly slowly at high angles of attack; it can fly supersonic for extended periods of time; and it regains energy quickly because of its large engine.”

    The frontal cross section of the F-35 isn’t much bigger than most 4/4.5 Generation Fighter.

    F35’s front profile is similar to F18E.

    Rafale’s front profile is similar to F35.

  45. BH says

    I’m not so sure that the F35 actually combines the best of both the F18 and F16. From what I’ve read the F35s top speed is not even up to the F18’s speed let alone the F16…
    As far as agility is concerned I think the super hornet would be able to out turn the F35. Where the F35 should excel is it’s sensor package and situational awareness but the raw performance I think will lack.