The independent Australian airpower thinktank the Williams Foundation has called for Australia’s acquisition of the F-35 JSF to be delayed to allow the aircraft to mature, in light of recent news that IOC (initial operating capability) for the US Air Force may now be as late as 2018.
“In the Williams Foundation’s judgment, it would be sensible to wait and see what happens with the F-35, while simultaneously investigating the cost of capability issues involved in maintaining the classic Hornet beyond 2020,” the organisation says in a statement. “An interim force structure based on Vigilair, JORN, Wedgetail, MRTT, AP-3C, C-17, 24 Super Hornets, and up to 71 classic Hornets would still be world-class for the next decade.”
The foundation cites Australia’s experience with the F-111, delivery of which was delayed five years due to technical problems, as showing why the JSF acquisition should be delayed.
“This experience suggests that there could be very good reasons for Australia to delay delivery of the F-35 until the production line is mature,” the Foundation notes in its media statement, which is titled “Holding our Nerve, Hedging our Bets”.
“The issue is: what action is required to ensure that any further delays in an F-35 IOC do not result in a capability gap? The question is too important to be left unanswered.”
Still, the Williams Foundation continues to strongly endorse the F-35 as Australia’s future air combat capability.
“A fleet of F-35s would give Australia an unsurpassed ability to shape and control events in our region.”
The Williams Foundation is chaired by former Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Errol McCormack, while its members include several high profile retired senior Air Force officers.