A war of words has broken out between Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet, and the Liberal member for Paterson, Bob Baldwin, over the potential noise impact the F-35 JSF will have on communities surrounding RAAF Base Williamtown when the aircraft enters service from 2018.
Baldwin says communities in the area haven’t had sufficient time to respond to a draft Public Environment Report (PER) about the aircraft’s potential noise impact. His comments come in the wake of amended flight profiles for the RAAF’s new Super Hornet fleet around RAAF Amberley west of Brisbane, and he has called for similar consideration around Williamtown. “Significant questions remain over whether or not the Minister will listen to the communities surrounding RAAF Base Williamtown and the Salt Ash Air Weapons Range regarding their concerns about the introduction of the JSF, particularly with regard to increased noise effects on residential areas,” he said in a December 15 media release.
Combet countered the claims, saying they are “completely unfounded” and that the JSF was still nearly a decade away from entering service at Williamtown. “Defence is a decade out from introducing the JSF to RAAF Williamtown and is already considering additional measures to minimise the environmental impact of the aircraft,” he said. “These measures include minimising the use of afterburner takeoff, greater use of simulation for training, and reduced air weapons range use. Defence is also already looking into options for JSF flightpaths, and how it can revise flight profiles such as track changes, noise abatement profiles, limiting late night flying or flying during sensitive periods, and minimising over-flying of heavily populated areas.”
Baldwin claimed that residents around Williamtown were facing reduced property prices and development problems due to a higher noise forecast associated with the F-35 compared to the current F/A-18s and Hawk jet trainers. Reports form the US indicate the F-35 is noisier than current generation aircraft due to its much larger single 42,000 lb (191kN) thrust engine, and that communities around its planned initial base at Eglin AFB in Florida have expressed similar concerns.