Defence Minister Stephen Smith has told ABC Radio’s AM program that acquiring extra Super Hornets for the RAAF was a likely option should the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter be further delayed.
When asked if acquiring more Super Hornets was an option, Smith answered, “Well, that’s an obvious option, but we need to take this step by step.”
However, the Defence Minister warned, “It’s early days. I don’t want people to run or leap to a conclusion that that is the path we’ll go down.”
Smith is currently in Washington for a series of meetings, and has met with Vice Admiral David Venlet, head of the JSF Program Office.
“I’ve already expressed my concerns publicly and privately that whilst in our own planning we made a number of sensible decisions, we chose the conventional variant. We’ve also made sure that in our own schedule for time, for delivery and for cost that there was plenty of padding for what you always have to expect in a high technology, complicated new development, which is slippage.
“But we’re now running close up to those schedules, particularly on delivery.
“So I’ve made the point very clear that we’re now monitoring very closely the delivery timetable. We’re also monitoring very closely the cost.”
Smith told the ABC “an exhaustive risk assessment done of the current schedule” currently underway will give the US and JSF partner nations better clarity on the program by year’s end or early in the new year.
“That will then enable us to start making some judgements about whether we need to make any other plans or take any other action so far as a potential gap in capability is concerned.”