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More Super Hornets “obvious option” – Smith

written by australianaviation.com.au | July 27, 2011

A RAAF Super Hornet

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.”

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Comments (29)

  • Steve


    A couple of metrics as recall:

    1. In 1966 we were producing Mirage III-Os for about AUD2.5 each
    +20 years later we purchased F-18As for about USD25M = AUD30M an escallation of about 10x
    +30 years later F-35As arevprojected to cost about USD105M = AUD100M each
    ONLY an escalation of x 3.5!!

    2. When we selected the JSF in2003 it was projected to cost USD65M but AUD1 = USD 0.65 then
    Now F-35 @ USD105M is almost the same price as today AUD1 = USD 1.05

  • Ron


    The Super was always the “obvious option”. Get 100 of them now at a saving of a couple of billion dollars, & maybe 2 squadrons of a more mature & combat-ready F-35 sometime before 2025. It might be ready by then.

  • Alex


    What about 50 super hornet and 50 silent eagle for the air force???

  • Andrew McLaughlin


    Silent Eagle will never happen – it would mean a whole new supply chain and training regimen would be required. It’s JSF and/or Super Hornet.

    A mix of 40-48 Super Hornets (incl 6-12 Growlers) and ~64 F-35s is a possible outcome.

  • craig simpson


    why not trade our original 18’s back to boeing for new 18 f’s. I here that either the us marines or canadian air force want more f18a’s. this would reduce servicing costs would it not.

  • Peter


    Andrew McLaughlin and JSF advocates

    I’m glad there’s alternative to this (JSF) turkey. To me if I was a Minister of Defence with the Defence Acquistion program, I’ll consider F-15E variants instead of just narrow path Super Hornets and JSFs as an replacement for the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets. With two engines for safety, survivability, faster throttle response and overwater operations which is certainly needed. To me it doesn’t matter, I’d much rather start a clean sheet of paper and create a whole new supply chain and training regimen as required.

    In my observation, the F-15E variants has all these characteristics and the Strike Eagle has proven them in combat. In Kosovo, Persian Gulf, Iraq and recently in Afghanistan, the F-15E showed its ability to actually do what the others can promise. The aircraft provides all that needs, even though that isn’t in the 5th Generation class.

    Not only is the F-15E is better able to evade detection than any other fighter, but its combat record proves that the F-15E is more survivable than any other fighter. Advanced radar, electronic warfare and self-protection systems, along with extreme manoeuvrability, long range endurance, ability to exceed the twice the speed its sound and excellent weapons provide the F-15E with first-look, first-shoot and first-hit capability. Despite the airframe design which was traced back in 1968. The Strike Eagle is extremely capable in this area to meet the requirements for Australia’s needs. Its a crown jewel.

    Even though the two contenders were the F-16 and F/A-18 for the Mirage replacement in 1979 while the other aircraft were illuminated during the competition and chose the Hornet in October 1981, we should’ve retired the Classic Hornets early on instead of upgrading them and should’ve replaced them with F-15Es, Australia should be the Eagle Country instead of just Super Hornets/JSF’s.

    If it was up to me with the acquisition process, I’ll completely scrap the entire JSF program altogether and remove the bridging capability gap. Remember single engine is extremely dangerous, too vulnerable and its terrible, its a huge risk for land and overwater operations. I don’t care how reliable this P&W F135 turbofan engine is, it’ll fail anytime on my watch when it becomes operational soon, when the engine fails anywhere behind the enemey lines or over the ocean the JSF will drop like a stone, it’ll certainly horrify the aircrews and putting their lives and missions in serious jeapordy. Remember 41 Mirages were lost of the engine failure which made the fleet shrink to 75 aircraft and most pilots got killed in them.

    The JSF’s fuselage is too thinned skinned, which means that the .22 Rifle or any gunfire can very easily penetrate the airframe. With fuel circulating around the engine and it’ll catch on fire like a blow torch. With the safety precautions been dropped claimed that is not needed, I find that a big disaster.

    The JSF is copping so many difficulties in performance, weight and cooling capacity, plus significantly software and system integration problems and major cost overruns and its getting out of hands too much. Its the first time I’ve ever seen the JSF project been 8 years behind schedule, compare to the F-111s had 4 years behind schedule in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the wing box area, the JSF will never fulfill its mission requirements as aspected etc. The JSF is 50 times worse, its because it’s so much easier to shoot down, its so much flammable etc, and it doesn’t have an ability to stay and wait over the battlefield until the situation develops when its needed with huge fuel flow very inefficient with no loiter time, its hopeless.

    This is the reason why the JSF is a wrong warplane. Its going to ruin the RAAF fighter/strike force, which by all means the aircraft will not be able to compete with the Russian/Chinese fighters proliferating in the region. The pilots will fly worse, they’ll get less training, which certainly the most important aspect to train, they’ll be far less pilots is because the whole force will have to shrink, and you’re just having a show piece Air Force that they can’t do anything.

    Why should Australia deserve to be partners with Lockheed Martin to join up the turkey program that is not capable of doing the job to fulfill the defence needs???

    Well I much rather prefer the larger airframes to perform the missions much better in many ways.


  • Milton


    I was one of the first hornet engineers. We had a lot of single engine failures back then. Some due maintainence, some due bird strike. Even a near miss can starve an engine and stall it. Binskin is smart and he has flown the flower of Utah, so he knows better than me. Even so, the single engine worries me. We are going to lose some good people to that engine.

  • craig simpson


    Well then maybe we should be looking at f15 silents instead of E’s.

  • Ron


    Absolutely agree that the F-35 appears to be a turkey. I’m sure the manufacturers will find &/or create a war to use it in some time in the future, & it will no doubt shoot a few bad guys down (the ones defending their homeland) & drop a few bombs; some will even hit their targets, & they’ll praise their new creation & the Williams Foundation will tell all the doubters “told you so!”

    But considering the F-35 was designed as an F-16 replacement (& A-10 & Harrier), & the F-16 was originally designed as an F-15 supplement, you can hardly say that the F-35 is an adequate “Jack of all trades” in it’s own right.

    But I’m not an F-15 advocate either. The official (public) reason for not selecting the 15 to replace the Mirages was cost. The private reason was force-projection. Wise heads at the time realised that 100 or so F-15 in the region, in conjunction with the existing F-111’s, would only antagonise our neighbours, escalate tension & just encourage them to try & out-do us. With wisdom & humilty, they opted for a compromise, which would show that we were serious about defending our interests, but not belligerant in pushing our weight around further. Somebody was thinking.

    I agree with Andrew in that the F-15 just isn’t going to happen. Even the lastest “silent” incarnation is a bit of the “teaching an old dog new tricks” scenario. It might work, & any version of the 15 will still be a potent weopon platform for years to come, but with the budget on a knife-edge, introducing a whole new type is just out of the question. Team Romeo confirmed that (although why they bought the NH-90 to replace the blackhawks but wouldn’t do it for the seahawks is just strange on so many levels).

    And I agree that the F-35 has one engine too few. Back to the Mirage replacement, the reason the 18 was chosen over the 16 came down to the number 2. Engines that is. I too remember all the mirages falling out of the sky. Sure, times have changed, technology has changed, but for a $100m plane that you cant insure, why go there?

    I think the super ticks all the boxes.

  • Ron


    P.S. Hi Andrew! Good to see you read your own website!

  • Peter


    Ron – I didn’t agree with Andrews opinion about the F-15 “just isn’t going to happen”. He has to think about the losses of our 116 Mirage fleet and he has to take safety precautions very seriously about the JSF, as I mentioned earlier, the JSF will be a “dead duck” on my watch, with serious failures or losses in action or accidents will occur. As you know I’m not a JSF advocate, not a fan of the turkey and certainly not a JSF supporter at all. I never liked the aircraft from the very beginning when it became in development in the early 1990s and later on the Howard Government participated the JSF program in June 2002.

    The JSF = F-105 Thunderchief II

    Well the latest F-15E or SE variant will definately work for our Air Force needs etc. The reason why I said about instead of just Super Hornets/JSF, is that I’m a bit concerned about the Super Hornets characteristics that will not be able to compete very well against the Su-27/Su-30 Flanker variants. The Super Hornet can compete with the Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, JF-17 Thunder and MiG-29/35 Fulcrum.

    Why I’m concerned?

    For example the F/A-18E/F Block II, with its much vaunted APG-79 AESA radar. The Su-35BM/Su-35-1 outperforms it on all cardinal parameters, including radar range, but excluding the somewhat academic measure of clean radar signature – academic since in combat external stores must be carried by both fighters. Mostly variants of the SPO-32 / L150 Pastel digital receiver carried, newer Flankers however carry the podded wingtip mounted KNIRTI SPS-171 / L005S Sorbtsiya-S mid/high band defensive jammer developed for the Tu-22M Backfire-C. The Sorbtsiya-S, unlike most western jamming pods, is designed to operate in pairs and uses forward and aft looking steerable wideband phased arrays to maximise jamming effect. It’s worth observing that the Sorbtsiya is clearly built to provide cross-eye jamming modes against monopulse threats and the wideband mainlobe steering capability provided by the phased array permits best possible utilisation of available jamming power. A graded dielectric lens is employed. Russian contractors have been using Digital RF Memory (DRFM) technology, which is of the same generation as Super Hornets EWSP. The Super Hornet does not have any compelling advantage in EWSP capability.

    The supercruising Al-41F engine will further widen the performance gap in favour of the Flanker. What this means is that the post 2010 the Super Hornet is uncompetitive against the advanced Flankers, which will be running its rings around the Super Hornet in BVR combat, as it is now uncompetitive in WVR close combat. With inferior acceleration, lack of extreme manoeuvrability (at heavy weight of 66,000 lb) and lack of long range/payload performance. Two or more aircraft required to match range/payload of single F-15E/SE variants or F-111 vs Sukhoi Su-27/30/33/34 and 35; significantly dependency on AEW&C, AWACS and tankers. Aerodynamically uncompetitive aircraft provided little useful capability in primary roles.

    In Air Superiority role the Su-27/30 can carry 10 A/A missiles and the Su-35BM/Su-35-1 can carry 12 A/A missiles, especially the Novator R-172/K-100 “AWACS killer” missiles, AA-11 Archer (R-74), AA-12 Adder (R-77) and AA-10 Alamo (R-27) family AAMs.

    The Super Hornet does have some both positive and negative feedbacks about its performance and some fancy features.


  • Jim


    Hey Andrew, do you think a f 18 super hornet can defeat a SU 35.??

  • Darren


    There are some very valid points raised above. The Flanker represents a very capable aircraft, as will the mature Russian/Chinese 5th Gen in development. The Eagle is a fine aircraft, especially in the ‘E’ version. The JSF is not designed as a top level fighter, and the single engine is a worry.

    It would be nice to have an unlimited budget. But balance in a world of reality is what we need. For obvious reasons the Superhonet is the right choice now. A mature JSF could fill a niche ‘stealthy’ strike role in the future, but this aircraft is yet to realise its full potential, if that full potential will ever meet Australian defence needs. The Super is in service, has a mature support system, and is capable of growth. For Australia it represents an affordable working solution.

    In many ways we are at a technical cross road. There are many interesting developments that will shape future hi and low intensity conflicts. We have limited resources so to field the right hardware is important. Our technical edge across all the services has been lost, matched, or exceeded. A flexible approach, thinking outside the historical context, to the application of effective force to deliver a favourable political/military outcome will require rapid evolution of systems and quickly fielding revolutionary systems to maintain a regionally positive position.

    A small, adaptive, intergrated defence force capable of defending the nation through to providing humanitarian aid and peacekeeping is required. The right fighter aircraft, not neccesaily the best, complimented by excellent training and mutually supportive systems is the correct approach, not deciding if the Eagle can out perform the Flanker or if the Hornet is better than the JSF one on one.

  • Jim


    Lol, Darren and Andrew, if the RAAF said, we are now getting the eurofighter, would you all start talking up the euro fighter as the best choice for Australia?

  • Darren


    In an ideal world I would advocated for the F-22 and mature F-35JSF or F/A-18F or F-15E plus EA-18G for the RAAF. I would prefer the F-15E over the F/A-18E/F given no F-22. I would prefer the F-15E over the F-35. The Typhoon is good too. But what most people expressing an opinion here are missing is that the Minister for Defence, knowing the current economic and budget considerations, expressed a view that it made sense to purchase additional Superhornets that are already in service, with the training and support infrastructure in place, should the JSF not arrive in time. Also the USAF used EA-18G’s to support B-2’s over Libya. This is a capability we may be able to use with the Superhornet fleet with the pre wiring and limited upgrade. No platforms have this growth path already in service. (And I really wanted the RAAF to buy EF-111A’s way back then.)

    Further to this it is clear our airforce is at best on parity or behind when it comes to direct comparisons between platforms. The Su-35 series is excellent. So my point here is that we need to constantly evolve against this. Superior training does count. Always has. An integrated system will also provide a measured enhancement against a platform. Numbers count too. How many aircraft with how many weapons we can bring to the fight matters. This relates to how many we can afford. Two Superhornets versus one F-35 on the flight line. As a nation we need to know our weakness and enhance it, while at the same time exploiting the enemies weak point.

    The best place to defeat an aircraft is on the ground. A Submarine launched Tomahawk that disables the runways and support infrastructure will degrade an enemy’s ability. EA-18G’s will degrade radar performance. It’s not just about the aircraft’s specifications on paper.

  • pez


    Anyone else think Peter sounds like Carlo Kopp? Trying to get back in the Aus Aviation ring? 🙂

  • Ron


    Darren, you speak with a fair dose of wisdom. I like your style. If this was facebook I’d send you a friend request.

    Peter, you obviously know your technical data, can’t argue with you there. But I refer back to your opening sentence, “If I was Defence Minister…” When you are, we’ll talk about the F-15 then.

    Appreciated the chat guys. Cheers

  • australianaviation.com.au


    Hi guys

    The single engine issue is a valid one, and one which some RAAF pilots have concern about.

    Peter – you shot down your own argument when you said the F-15 was designed in 1968. Times have changed, and we need low observability in the future. The F-15, no matter how many treatments and conformal weapons bays you add to it will never be low observable!

    Ron – I don’t believe the F-35 from a capability standpoint is a turkey. What concerns me is the program structure, the US budget process, and the schedule.

    Peter again – I believe the F-105 analogy is a malicious one. Weight and speed are not the only metrics – why not compare the F-35’s sensors, SA and low observability it brings to the fight?

    Jim – too many variables to give a definitive yes or no answer re the Su-35 comparison. That said, I believe a Super Hornet with AESA, Link 16, AIM-120C-7/D, AIM-9X, an Australian crew, and supported by Wedgetail and an EA-18G capability will beat just about anything it’s likely to face in our region for the next 20 years.

    Re Eurofighter, no I wouldn’t agree, but it won’t happen. I know what the RAAF leadership thinks of the Eurofighter.

    Cheers and keep the comments coming.

    Andrew McLaughlin

  • Peter


    Andrew McLaughlin – I certainly didn’t shoot down my own argument about the Eagles design was in 1968, well despite that age, my friends and several of my predecessors from aviation claims the Strike Eagle/Silent Eagle is still the worlds potent multi-role fighter, even though times have changed. Well to me its not relevant, you can still put new technology into the F-15, even though it won’t get you much, but I reckon its better to recommend it that way even though its not in the 5th Gen class. Actually the F-15 production line is going to be extended all the way into the 2020s to attract and satisfy new and existing customers.

    I still find speed and weight is still survivable today and well into the future.

    To me you can’t just rely only EWSP jammer, short to medium range AESA radar and sensors, BVR and cruise missiles as stand off while flying at straight and level, again you’ll be a dead duck. I do believe the JSF from a capability standpoint is a turkey, as well as the US budget process is going higher, and of course the schedule too. Again single engine is still not a valid one, its too vulnerable for land and overwater operations etc. I don’t trust the JSF and Super Hornet at all with its effectiveness. And I still don’t believe they will beat the Russian/Chinese (Sukhoi and Chengdu J-20) fighters, likely to face in our region for the next 20 years.

    The JSF’s fuselage is too thinned skinned, as I mentioned earlier the .22 rifle or any gunfire can very easily penetrate it, and got fuel wrapped around the engine which can create like an blow torch. It will be attracted by long-medium and short range heat seeking AAMs by the opponents.

    It does sound pretty fancy and exciting with the AESA, Link 16, AIM-120C-7/D, and AIM-9X missiles and sensors. But again how’s the Super Hornet/JSF going to survive without speed, lack of extreme manoeuvrability (to defeat the missiles and tracking system), lack of long range endurance to get out of the fight safely, and very limited weapons load, and an aircraft that has a small RCS with short to medium range AESA’s to defeat the Sukhois and J-20 well into the future?

    I still find the Super Hornet/JSF a big disaster and very disappointing way to consider for RAAF’s needs and its wasting taxpayers money on inferior turkeys that is not capable of doing the job and not seeking other and better alternatives. I have compared the F-35’s sensors, SA and low observability to other aircraft while I was researching the answers. From what I’ve seen and heard the results from my friends of mine, several predecessors etc from aviation its still not great for the JSF/Super Hornet.

    Thats why it concerns me for their suitability for Australia’s needs.

  • Boneyard Wrangler


    Great discussion here guys, I,m sure you,ll all still be discussing the pro n cons for years after the JSF,s introduction into service.lol. (read F111 turkey…not ! )
    However as a pilot (purely recreational) I see the obvious merits of a twin engined ship, and as a possible Catergory B contributor, I would just like to say, What RAAF pilot / WNGC would endorse the purchase of a weapons system that would potentially endanger the lives of his very limited number of pilots in an actual war ?

    Not to mention, as was stated earlier in the discussion, that the JSF is an extremely expensive piece of kit and would not be insured and would not likely be replaced in a hurry after any loss.

    So “why” has a single engined system been chosen ? Andrew I understand all of the low observability and AESA bit, but if RAAF pilots are concerned then why isn,t the top brass ? They are ex-pilots making these descisions are they not?

    What I,m really trying to say here guys, is that “surely” the RAAF know what they,re doing.
    It cant be like they,re being persuaded to buy them because of the chicks in the showroom or in the adds.
    And I hope that I,m right in saying that they didnt get any free seat covers or rust treatment not to mention extended warranty.
    And I,ll not even go down the path of brown paper bags left on the sales desk.

    These guys are the at the top of their game, and sure, they have “wish lists” but I,m sure that they are lot more informed than us and we have to trust that they know what they,re doing.

    The “Pig” is a classic example of how a system was tagged a “turkey” by all who could bash a typewriter or yell from the opposistions benches. Sure there were some teething problems and lives were lost, and this I state with the utmost of respect.

    The RAAF Command must have certain rules and requirments for the procurement of weapons systems, and these rules and requirments would have to be based upon past experiences with types both here and around the world etc.
    Therefore these rules and requirements have been written in blood, and it would indeed be a tradgedy if nothing had been learned from the past actions and used in “hindsight”.

    So in closing, I “hope” and “believe” that that the 35 will be a good ship and that all of the other support systems that RAAF Command has purchased to bolster the Force Structure that will be needed for the 35 to be an effective system will show us all that they “Do really know what they,re doing”
    Thanks Andrew for a great publication. Your team are awesome. Respect !

  • Dave


    Super Hornet is a liability; sure they may be network centric, but they’re carrier-based (short range). Any adversary we go against will know this and target the tankers (down the tankers and fighters cannot return home). And remember, those Russian fighters (which also possess AESA radar, same as Super Hornet) can out-range Super Hornet, out-run Super Hornet and out-turn Super Hornet. As for JSF; its shortcomings are well-known to both the Russians and Chinese; lacks all-aspect stealth, slow (Mach 1.6), rate-of-climb is ordinary, short range and has small wing area (cannot turn quickly). Both Super Hornet and JSF are vulnernable designs; the US know this. Check out the ‘Flying Blind’ story http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2007/s2070484.htm. You could talk with Dr Carlo Kopp and retired Air-Vice Marshall Peter Criss, they’ll tell you just how ‘good’ they are.

  • Peter


    Dave – You’re right that the Super Hornet is a liability. Thats why the APA think tank, retired RAAF officers and other predecessors are a sources of truth to believe what aircraft is the best for the defence needs. Generals and bureaucracts are just creating more and more nasty mistakes on purchasing inferior types like the Super Hornet/JSF that has no practical use against any modern new generation fighter coming to arc interest to our north such as the Sukhoi Flankers, upcoming T-50 PAK-FA and Chengdu J-20 fighters.

  • Jim


    America is 14 trillion $s in debt, how dose this effect the F 35 program?, and is the RAAF f 35 going to be the same as the USAF f 35?, or are they going to hold technology transfer on us?, if they do hold technology transfer with the F 35, then theres no point getting the f 35 is there?

  • jack


    australianaviation.com.au says:
    “too many variables to give a definitive yes or no answer re the Su-35 comparison. That said, I believe a Super Hornet with AESA, Link 16, AIM-120C-7/D, AIM-9X, an Australian crew, and supported by Wedgetail and an EA-18G capability will beat just about anything it’s likely to face in our region for the next 20 years. ”

    the su-35 is still going to have no blockers to the fan and no gun, it has lost in 2 comps that I know of to western fighters, brazil, india
    russia is getting a few as a stop gap till the pak comes on line.
    AA as well as what you said the f-35 with the growler etc will be world class

  • Peter


    Jack and Andrew McLaughlin – I don’t believe the Super Hornet and the Growler will beat just about anything its likely to face in our region for the next 20 years. You can’t just rely only with APG-79 AESA, Link 16, AIM-120C-7/D, AIM-9X, without speed, long range and manoeuvring its a “dead duck” its as simple as that.

    “You got to understand that every fighter aircraft still needs extreme manoeuvrability (2D or 3D thrust vectoring nozzles), speed (at Mach 2+ with supercrusing mode which enhances both engagements of, escape from known threats and saving lot of fuel), long range (without refuelling with a range of over 3,000 nm), two-engines for over-water operations and safety reasons, larger weapons payload, weight measure, AESA radar, Link 16, AIM-120C-7/D, AIM-9X, sensor fusion, networking and data fusion capabilities are all valid ones, it still exists today and well into the future. Thats called survivability and this is the reason why high capability category aircraft are suitable and right warplanes for the RAAFs needs”.

    Please note: Australia is about 2,222 nm (4,000 km) wide which means that range is so much important and it must not be ignored. Aircraft designed for European use such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, SAAB JAS-39 Gripen and MiG-35 Fulcrum and American F-16 Fighting Falcon or F/A-18E/F Super Hornet have too short a range for use by a such a large country as Australia. Those aircraft are unsuitable to cement Australia’s regional air power lead, the RAAF really needs a high capability category aircraft to fulfill the requirements. Small fighters with short range are only ideal for smaller NATO countries for e.g. Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Finland etc, Middle East, South American and some small Asian country nations to operate them. The reason why the small fighters are only ideal for those countries is because they are surrounded by the small vast land areas which are ideal for short range fighters with either single or two engines. (Actual range varies with mission)

    For Australia with the Super Hornet/Growler and later JSF means the aircraft would have to be refuelled to fly from Perth to Brisbane and would require significant air-tanker support to operate outside of Australia’s maritime boundary. This also means the Super Hornet/Growler and JSF have to be refuelled several times to fly across Australia or anywhere, thats the reason why they are wrong aircraft and can’t meet the requirements its wasting billions of dollars down the drain that have no practical use.

    With the F-35 with the Growler etc will be very low class.

  • Peter


    Jack – Actually that was the early model Su-27M (Su-35) that was lost in 2 competitions with South Korea and Brazil for there FX programs, so don’t confuse the early model with the latest Su-35BM. The Su-35BM is a completely different variant with new technology and other improved features etc.

  • Tom


    When people keep talking about the need for long range and Australia being 2222nm wide which means aircraft a,b,c, and d aren’t suitable can they please bother looking at the actual specifications. Those ranges are “ferry range” and not “combat range” i.e. how far it can go with external tanks and minimal kit. The F-15 so beloved of commenters on many forums only has a 1,000nm combat range and a Eurofighter 750nm. So, as you can see, you are still going to need plenty of air bases to protect such a large island no matter what modern fighter you choose. However, the F/A-18 only has a 450nm air-air combat range which is particularly crap for the job at hand. Also the avionics of the aircraft are of major importance. It’s the avionics package that enables the pilot to track, engage or evade multiple targets. The yanks are well known for not selling you the avionics that they are using.

    Back to basics – what does Australia want the planes for, defence or attack? Once you make your choice here it should be easier to justify the outcome. With no carrier capability and a frigate fleet, surely the RAAF’s role is air defence so choose suitably there. Attack can be better carried out for the given budget by drones and cruise missiles, or the Americans.

  • Peter


    Oh Thats right Tom, I forgot to put down “ferry range” as a start of the first sentence. Which I should’ve put down instead “For ferry range Australia is about 2,222 nm (4,000 km) wide”).

    Thanks for pointing that out.

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