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Fighter capability gap decision next year – Smith

written by australianaviation.com.au | August 19, 2011

A file image of a RAAF Super Hornet. (Dept of Defence)

Defence Minister Stephen Smith has said that he is committed to “an exhaustive risk assessment on schedule” of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter by the end of this year, saying that any decision to acquire additional Super Hornets to fill a potential capability gap should the JSF be further delayed would be taken next year.

While reiterating that additional Super Hornets for the RAAF would be the “obvious option” if an air combat capability gap emerged, Smith told the Australia Network’s Newsline program on August 18 that he was “confident that the Joint Strike Fighter project will get up”, particularly given Australia’s selection of the F-35A CTOL variant.

“Our pre-planning had a lot of …padding in for cost and for schedule. We’re now starting to run up against schedule. We’re still expecting to receive our first two planes in the United States in 2014-15 for training purposes. We’ve committed ourselves to 14. Our Defence White Paper and our Defence Capability Plan talks in terms of around or up to 100 but beyond 14 the government will make a judgment and a decision as time and as events unfold,” Smith said.

Consequently, Smith did not rule out a further Super Hornet purchase, if his planned risk assessment of the F-35’s schedule justifies such action to be taken by next year. “I’ll make a judgment and recommend to government as to whether we need to exercise any other options to ensure there’s no gap in our air combat capability, moving as we have historically from F-111s to classic Hornets, to Super Hornets and to Joint Strike Fighters,” Smith said

“What I can guarantee is I will ensure that there is no gap in our air combat capability and I’ve made it clear both in the United States when I was there recently, on my return here and in the Parliament this week, that the obvious option to ensure there’s no gap in capability is further Super Hornets,” he added.


“Now, we haven’t had to make that decision yet, we haven’t concluded a view on that, but I’m not going to leave it to the last minute to ensure there’s no gap in capability and that’s why we’ll make the decision next year.”

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Comments (34)

  • jimmy latsos


    Seriously ,what is the problem with this cursed plane (f35),it is not a revolution but an evolution,built by a company(s) with many years of aviation experience,but yet this plane that has been in development for well over a decade and still seems to be having trouble getting into service and within a reasonable budget!.Buy more super hornets and the goverment should consider the next generation of the f15 eagle that may not be as steathly but packs more punch,better range and a hell of a lot faster!,the eagle and super hornet would be the dynamic duo of the raaf for at least the next 10 to 15 years (with weapons and systems upgrades over the years) and hopefully by then all the bugs will be ioned out of the f35 !!!????.

  • Peter


    Jimmy Latsos – I absolutely agree with you, that the Government and the RAAF should consider the F-15E variants or the Silent Eagle for the F/A-18A/B Hornet replacement. Indeed large airframes pack more punch, much better endurance and much better acceleration etc than the Super Hornet/JSF. You can send an email to the Defence Minister about considering the F-15s and make a complaint to Stephen Smith that the JSF has been in development for well over a decade, the JSF has trouble getting into service with serious delays and cost overruns and cancel the (JSF) turkey program altogether.

    Also Jimmy, the Boeing could be extending the F-15 production line well into the 2020s to attract and satisfy new and existing customers. I’m concerned about the Super Hornets characteristics that will not be able to compete very well up against the Sukhoi Su-27/30 Flanker variants, you can read about what I’ve mentioned about its effectiveness on More Super Hornets “obvious option” – Smith

  • Dane


    possibly the smartest decision made by the government in the recent future, still no Battlefield Airlifter though

  • Dane


    *recent past

  • Steve


    Just a reminder to everyone that the F-22, Eurofighter and Rafael have taken just as long to develop and are significantly more expensive. A UK audit report early yhis year stated Typhoon’s cost about USD160M each, without including develpment costs.
    Devlopment of fhe Typhoon started in late 80’s about the same time as the F-22 and Rafael and none of fhem were in full service until about 2005.

  • Vince


    Steve, I agree with your comment. But the problem here in Australia is that we cannot afford to wait that long to implement the JSF (an unproven platform) when we already have other countries in our region operating later model Sukhoi which outclass the classic Hornet fleet in every manner. Implement the F-15E. It is a proven platform with exceptional performance. Yes it is an expensive aircraft compared to the S/H, but a mixed force of S/Hornets and Eagles will be a potent force way into the mid to late 2020’s. When the JSF has matured, than the government or air force heads can make a decision on the aircraft.

  • kikl


    Get a Typhoon or Rafale. Both are significantly better than the F-35 and a lot cheaper.

    Add the newest electronics (captor-E) and thrust vectoring to your Typhoons and you get the best fighter aircraft in the world for just around €100 million. Forget this stealth bull, it is extremely overhyped. Finally, you won’t have to wait for years for the first delivery. The typhoon is ready and combat proven.


  • Mark


    Just wondering what exactly the “role” of the F-35 will be for Australia…?
    By name it is a “Strike fighter”…what is it going to “strike”..?
    I thought in todays environment, a “figher” was of no use….ie: how many shots in anger has the “greatest fighter” ever built ie: F-22 so far fired…or likely to fire….assuming it doesn`t fall appart around the pilots..?
    How much did it cost to develop a fighter that cannot be used…?
    How many aircraft are shot down in one to one “fights” any more…compared to how many are taken out by the opposition in “first stikes” before the enemy even gets off the ground…? (seem to recall the F-111 was good at doing that).

    And Australia needs a Joint “Strike Fighter”…?

    Has anyone in the seats of power ever considered why the locals around Australia are all buying existing proven platforms….maybe because they work, they can afford them and they are available NOW…?

    And why does it take the makers of the F-35 product so LOOOOOOOOONNNNNGGGGG to get in the air and bugs sorted so it can be used when Australians northern neighbours can put togehter aircraft of superior tech, stealth, abilities and looks in much shorter time frames, get them flying and sell them etc…? Maybe they don`t last as long before they are superceeded…but isn`t that more efficient that the F-35 idea of taking GIANT leaps from what we have now to what we will have….when other countries keep upgrading existing ideas that work efficiently into better and better platforms….?

    And when the F-35 does finally get operational, how far advanced will its opponants be for it to be fighing against…?
    How long is a piece of string…who really knows…? I do hope that considering the time, effort and money that is being thrown at the F-35 that is does do what it is supposed to do. One only has to think back to the F-111`s trtoubled beginnings and see what a fine aircraft it eventually became after a lot of effort…even today after it has been retired it is still “feared” for what it could do…? Hey, why not build “new” F-111`s using current tech and materials etc….?

  • ron


    The Silent Eagle would be an excellent substitute for the F-35, at least until the U.S.permits foreign sales of the F-22. Forget the F-35

  • pez


    Err…Ron, the US will NOT permit foreign sales of the F-22, it’s been ‘looked at’ by Japan, Israel and Aus (to varying degress of seriousness), all 3 got a firm ‘no’. With just a few left in the production run, even with a repeal of the law that forbids its export, the cost to restart production (by the time it got to production stage, that’s what would be needed) would be monumental.

    Also, the Silent Eagle is a publicity machine. Not flown, not tested, not delivered. The F-35 has done all those things. Classic Hornets and Supers until the F-35 is ready, more Supers if it’s not ready in time for the Classics to go. Why on Earth would be want to introduce a third Air Combat type? Honestly, it just boggles my mind when I read comments like that.

  • Allan


    Hey guys, All this talk about buying F-15s is great in theory, However the government wil never buy the Eagle or they would have bought them to replace the F-111, Keeping the speed/range capability, And given that that both the Strike Eagle and Super Hornet both have seperate missionised cockpits and are both made by Boeing, It could have been the right option had the government wished to retain the aforementioned capabilty.

    You have to complement the Boeing sales team for the great job of getting the Super Hornet into the Airforce. Using the commonality of systems in the classic Hornet and ease of transitioning from classic to super models, And lets face it, the previous government took the easy and cheap option.

    Our Airforce crews are world class and deserve the best aircraft, We, as a nation can give them. Not the second best. Ok, So the government and all the fiscal experts trot out the old budget line when it comes to equipment and we as taxpayers expect our leaders to be responsible with the nations budget, However, in the same vein should they not be looking after our service personnel by equipping them with the best that money can get.

    It seems funny to me that when Australia buys supporting aircraft like transports, AWACS and tankers albiet in limited numbers eg, C-17(5), Wedgetail (6) KC-30(5), money doesn`t seem to be much of an issue. The government can justify the purchase by saying how useful these assets can be to the civilian community, And they are useful beyond all doubt. Just look at QLD in Jan/Feb 2011. When it comes to fighter/strike aircraft the government goes for the cheaper option, Although you could hardly call JSF cheap.

    We are told that the Supers are value for money in their sensors and weapons suite. I don`t doubt it. There is an old quote fighter pilots have lived by, ever since the first guys took pot shots at each other over the trenches in the great war. That qoute is “SPEED IS LIFE, LIFE IS SPEED”. So running with that theme, Aren`t our fighter and strike pilots behind the eight ball before they even get into a fight. All of our neighbours have aircraft capable of mach 2 or better and our guy`s are limited to mach1.8 in full `burner. So engaging or disengaging at will is severely limited. If our guys choose to disengage they could be run down by a faster aircraft unless the adversary was desperately short of fuel.

    There are those that will say that speed has been replaced by manouvreability and that is true to a point. It would be interesting to know many F-18 pilots managed to get a good weapons solution on an F-111 in full afterburner at either tree top height or at altitude during the pig`s time in service. We in the general public will never know that and rightly so. What i am trying to get across here is our aircrews need all the advantages that we can give them.

    So i ask this of our leaders:
    Why are our aircrews being put in jeopardy by purchasing aircraft that have
    neither the speed or range to do the job asked of them?

    Why, when Australia has such a large land and maritime area to look after is the government committed to a single engine with limited range type when logically a twin engined long range aircraft is required?

    Who remembers the debate when the F-18 was selected ahead of the F-16 because it had two engines? So obviously what was true back in the early eighties still holds true today 26 yrs later. Australia`s position hasn`t moved and we are still girt by sea. What makes the F-35 engine any less susceptible to failure/birdstrike/fod than an F-16 engine. Reliability is not an issue here. If you only have one engine out over the Pacific or Indian Ocean and it decides not to play anymore it is a long swim home.

    One more thing, Those that say the f-35 is mirroring the troubled entry to service of the pig may be right. Just don`t expect great things from it. We may not be privy to all the classified briefings that government and the RAAF receive, But as a person who has loved aviation for as long as i can remember i think we as a country deserve better for our tax dollars.

    The PIG was, is and always will be a legendary aircraft. No other aircraft will be accorded the same retirement ceremony when their time comes. If bombloads don`t count anymore as we are lead to believe why then does the USAF still have aircraft that carries a decent warload?

    Just a thought.

  • Andrew McLaughlin


    Allan – fair questions re single engine and speed, but what are the alternatives? (Don’t say F-22!)

  • Andrew McLaughlin


    And, re your question asking “why does the USAF still have aircraft that carries a decent warload?”, I’d say it’s because, with a $650bn+ defence budget, they can afford to have multiple types of aircraft. With a budget less than 1/20th that, we can’t. We need a multirole solution. The F-35 and, to a lesser extent, the Super Hornet really are the only games in town.

  • Peter


    Andrew McLaughlin – In my opinion, if we need a multi-role solution, the better alternatives for RAAF’s needs is the F-15E variants instead of just choosing the very narrow path with Super Hornets/JSFs.

    The JSF is not lethal. For Australia, this means that for the outrageous amount of money spent on air-to-air and air-to-ground fighting capability, the JSF brings absolutely nothing on the table that the previous aircraft designs like the A-10, F-111, F-15E variants, F-22 or other aircraft–cannot already do and do better.

    The JSF is absolutely not survivable aeroplane. How can you ever be survivable with one engine? How can you be ever be survivable WITHOUT speed/agility, long range and larger weapons load, by ONLY relying on AESA, sensors, BVR and cruise missiles as standoff while flying straight and level with very gentle manoeuvres? I say its terrible, the JSF can’t escape from the fight, when the pilot has completed the mission to get home safely etc. Its ludicrous.

    The kind of stealth quality the aircraft has is much less than the F-22. The JSF needs the F-22 to survive serious threats. The F-35 JSF is too weak to take on top end threats, it’s way too expensive and its going to be very hard to maintain to do the work that previous aircraft designs would do in lower threat environments. And the aircrews will not be able enough to train properly, because it won’t be affordable.

    So why do we want to pay for an obselete and unaffordable (JSF) turkey that can’t meet Australia’s needs?

    Whever the JSF is cheaper than any other aircraft is irrelevant, the JSF is not capable of doing the job in our nearer and wider regions awash with advanced Russian/Chinese fighters and thus cannot guarantee regional air superiority. The fundamental point must be that no matter how many JSFs are procured, if the aircraft cannot guarantee control of the regional battlespace at a time and place of our choosing, then what utility does it have for this nation’s defence? Can the JSF assert dominance over Su-27/30 variants? Very clear answer is no.

    For those who claim the F/A-18 can temporarily fulfil both roles into this uncertain future, then I simply say think again. The F/A-18 fleet cannot currently meet its peacetime fighter availability requirements and further costly structural and enhancement programs will diminish this availability even further.

  • Andrew McLaughlin


    Peter – I have my concerns about the JSF program, particularly in the current US economic climate. But, I’d be very interested in what primary sources you have for your conclusions, e.g. “Can the JSF assert dominance over Su-27/30 variants? Very clear answer is no.”

    If you think the JSF is expensive to run, then wait until you see the costs for an “F-15E variant.” The US hasn’t built an F-15 for itself for over a decade, so there would be no reachback into the USAF for support of this aircraft. And comparatively small Korean and Singaporean fleets will not give the critical mass required to lower support costs. The RAAF Super Hornet operators are raving about the jet, and even though it’s still early days, they are VERY confident in its ability to dominate against any current generation aircraft anywhere in the world.

    And just how is the region “awash with advanced Russian/Chinese fighters”?

  • Peter


    Andrew McLaughlin – Yes, I do strongly believe that the JSF is very expensive to run etc. To me, this nation can’t be waiting and waiting for this aircraft to be delivered later in this decade and we can’t afford more losses with single engine type. Seriously it’ll horrify the aircrews and put their lives in jeapordy, I still don’t find it a valid one.

    If you’re asking this question about, Why is the F-15 being considered for the RAAF’s needs instead of the Super Hornet/JSF?

    Is because the RAAF should have an aircraft with long range and payload capacity to meet its omni directional defence needs. Of the aircraft the RAAF should consider, only the F-15 has all these characteristics, and has proven them in combat. In the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, and recently in Afghanistan, the F-15 showed its ability to actually do what the others can only promise. By considering the F-15, the RAAF should get the aircraft that provides all it needs. F-15 is extremely capable, survivable, and maintainable. It has much better endurance, bigger weapons payload and speed capabilities than its competitors. It’ll get into the fight, strike with a lethal mix of weapons, and return more effectively than any (small airframes) other aircraft.

    Not only is the F-15 better able to evade detection than any other fighter, but its combat record proves that the F-15 is more survivable than any (small airframes) other fighter.

    The combat-proven F-15 boasts an exceptional safety record, thanks to its advanced avionics systems, robust airframe (with the airframe rate of 16,000 hrs). I reckon F-15 is the perfect replacement for the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets.

    Comparatively small Korean and Singaporean fleets will give the critical mass required to lower support costs.

    You could talk to Dr Carlo Kopp, retired RAAF Officers and former Air-Vice Marshal Peter Criss, they’ll tell you how POOR the Super Hornet/JSF will stack up against any current generation aircraft.


  • Andrew McLaughlin


    Sorry, but you lose me and most other readers as soon as you mention Messrs Kopp & Criss et al.

    If you want PRIMARY SOURCE information YOU should talk to AIRMSHL Brown, AIRMSHL Binskin, AVM Osley, GPCAPT Roberton etc etc

  • Allan


    Hey Andrew,

    To be honest i really don`t know what the answer is, Supposedly better heads than ours are working on it. I know that the F-22 is out of the question simply because of the sheer specialty of the jet as well as cost and politics.

    If as suggested here, The government buys the F-15 for the fighter squadrons then what variant do we get. If we get the C model then there is no air to surface mode, and if we purchase the E then the cost to the airforce goes up again because then the extra crew members have to be trained and placed in the squadrons, and airforce history has the current fighter squadrons as always being single seaters, Although that could change if required.

    If the F-35 falls through then maybe the solution would be to go down the Super hornet road at least it has two engines, and back it up with a few more KC-30`s as 5 tankers may not be enough to cover all contingencies that may arise.

    My question about bomb carriage was just put out there to get people thinking and i know that precision is a requirement of all western powers, However some situations on the battlefield would require a sizeable warload overhead and on call, The JSF with just 2 2000lber`s or a load out of SDB`s in the weapons bay may be able to disrupt the bad guy`s effort but not deliver the knockout blow. Even the Hornet family carries more weapons than an F-35. I just fail to see how 2 bombs and two Amraams in the weapons bay is an effective warload, And as for the USAF budget, That is something that the RAAF could only dream about.

    I would just like the powers that be, To think about the mission requirements before committing our dollars to an aircraft that is clearly on powerplant numbers alone not suited to our region. The mirage experience should be enough to convince anyone that single engine fighters aren`t the answer we require. To lose 41 mirages out of a fleet of 116 over 25 odd years should be a lesson for the government. It would interesting to know of the projected losses for the F-35 over the life of the fleet.

    Maybe common sense will prevail in Canberra and someone down there will realise that Australia is being sold a turkey, Cut our losses and go down the Super Hornet road sooner rather than later, And if it is to be that road will it be the E or more F models with the consequent increase in crewing.

    Time wil tell.

  • Andrew McLaughlin


    Hi Allan

    Re your bomb load concerns – these have been raised before and are valid. I’ve had it explained to me that, although the F-35 will be have a relatively small weapons load on the first few days of a war, once (if) air superiority is achieved, it can then carry external stores.

    And don’t forget, were in Vietnam they might need 12+ ‘dumb’ bombs to destroy a building or a bridge, today the same job can be done with a single laser or GPS guided GBU, or a couple of well-placed SDBs, assuming the enviornment is permissive.

    The concern about air-to-air weapons is also valid, particularly as a perceived capability shortfall against emerging threats is the AMRAAM and the lack of a high PK, multiple seeker, BVR successor or adjunct. No doubt something is in development or on the shelf somewhere in the US, but with budgets the way they are, this may take a while.


  • Jim


    I have only seen ADF get only a handful of decision making correct, and whats the bet they dont have this one correct either.

  • Allan


    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for getting back to me. Is it just me or does anybody else have a question mark on why the government (both previous and present) seem so dogmatic about getting the F-35. We are told by the government it will be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I`m not so sure, something just doesn`t seem right.

    I am glad you wrote in your reply (if) air superiority is achieved. So what does that tell us? Is the wonder jet going to be able to perform the air superiority mission with just two Amraams and an internal cannon? I somehow doubt it.

    IFair superiority is achieved, and weapons are hung beneath to enable a larger warload to be carried then doesn`t the much vaunted stealth become compromised or do we not worry about ground based systems that would still be out there and ready to achieve their mission.

    I know the art of aerial warfare has charged ahead in leaps and bounds and anyone who can`t understand the past, present and future of air power is bound to make mistakes. Like your example of comparing Vietnam to today, Especially since the pave tack system was in it`s infancy in that conflict and went on to be the standard precision guidance system for quarter of a century until GPS guided weapons were introduced.

    My concern is, We, As a nation are being led up the garden path by the marketing people from Lockheed and the government. Don`t get me wrong. Lockheed have made some great aircraft and i am well aware of their expertise in the black world.

    Surely those who hold the defence portfolio should at least have the desire and will to find out everything they can about what is out there and what is available. Not just accept some manufacturers claim and be swayed by the word STEALTH. At the very least make an effort to care rather than just look to the next election when they will get another portfolio to look after and not worry about the mess they create and others have to deal with.

    If stealth is the way forward then it might be worth converting those dozen Super Hornets for the electronic mission to give the F-35 a chance. I read a quote from an ex F-117 pilot somewhere recently. Someone asked him about the value of airborne jammers in a world where stealth is seen as the way forward. His answer;

    “Don`t leave home without it”

  • Vince


    Hello Andrew and Allen,

    Not sure if you guys have seen the video posted on youtube re S/Hornet. It is at Aero India and is a walk around the aircraft by Boeing Chief test pilot. He discusses the road show S/Hornet and what additional capabilities it can offer.

    Worth checking it out.

    PS agree with allot of both your comments. Its good to read constructive comments.

  • Dave


    Super Hornet is a dud; little wonder the US Navy is the only other operator.
    Consider Sukhoi SU-35B; sure they may not network centric compatible with US fighters but they’re proven, hugely capable air-dominance fighters, available for immediate delivery and a fraction of the cost.
    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; neither are air-superiority fighters; 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 ‘not’.

  • Andrew McLaughlin


    Dave – if you’re using the 4Corners program as your primary source, then you’re more or less on your own. It was a terrible program which took so many things out of context and had factual faults. For example, GPCAPT Steve Roberton – the Super Hornet program head – had less than 30 seconds of air time in the show despite giving an extensive pre-interview brief with the reporter and producers, and recording nearly an hour to camera!

    The Peter Criss/Chris Mills F-111/Jakarta scenario was…in a word…ridiculous. I’m not sure if that’s the final product they intended to show or if it was just edited that way! Peter Criss has been out of the loop for more than a decade, and as highly as I regard a lot of Carlo Kopp’s work, he never was in the loop. And despite the curious disclaimer on the APA website, Carlo raved about much inferior Block 1 Super Hornet when he had a pax ride c.2001.

    Vince – I have seen that video. But don’t forget that’s the International Roadmap version of the Rhino, most of which is unlikely to find its way to the RAAF’s jets unless the US Navy incorporates it into their upgrade ‘Flightplan.’

    Allan – Remember how critical the then Labor opposition was about the JSF and Super Hornet decisions, and they promised to conduct an air power review and reconsider the F-22 when they took government? They were subsequently briefed extensively, not just by the RAAF and Lockheed, but also by the USAF/Pentagon, by the UK’s RAF, and by independant experts, and they quietly but quickly ratified the JSF and Super Hornet decisions. Sure, there are some in the RAAF who would like F-15s and/or F-22s, but the financial and political realities are that neither of these aircraft are suitable.


    Andrew McLaughlin

  • Allan


    Hey Andrew,

    I remember well enough the scathing attacks brought about the then opposition. As i said previously better heads than ours are working on this.

    I really would love to see some of the classified documents that is around, Although i know that will never happen. If all the independent authorities that matter have ratified the aircraft, Then Australia will just have to live with their decision.

    Maybe i`m just used to all the great aircraft that have gone before. I understand that times change and for me a photo of an aircraft sitting on the ramp fully armed with nothing under the wings just doesn`t seem right. I like looking at aircraft with things under wings.

    My son intends to join the Airforce and yes he wants to fly Supers. Good luck to him, however i might just be advising him to stay away from single engined fighters operating out over the deep blue sea. If hornets aren`t an option maybe C-17s or something with more than one engine.

    Who knows maybe the future battlefield airlifter might just be the go.


  • Peter


    Andrew McLaughlin – No, the F-15s and / or F-22s are suitable for RAAFs needs. Again the Super Hornets / JSFs are turkeys, they are wrong types and totally unsuitable, they’ll be inferior to the Su-27/30 Flanker family, upcoming T-50 PAK-FA and J-20 Mighty Dragon. They’ll degrade and shrink the size the air force further.

    I strongly agree with Daves opinion about the Super Hornet / JSF are a dud, remember these aeroplanes are extremely vulnerable designs. As with the JSF, Lockheed Martin has done very little with major safety precautions on the F-35 to protect against fire. The aircraft will be a very easy target to shoot down, because its such a delicate aeroplane which means the fuselage is too thinned skinned with huge internal fuel wrapped around inside the airframe and the engine, because the .22 Rifle or any form of gunfire can very easily penetrate the skin on the fuselage and causes it to catch on fire. The JSF will generate more heat (in full afterburner), this will make the enemy to detect the F-35 at BVR, using short to medium range BVR and WVR heat seeking missiles (which the Russian/Chinese fighters are equipped). With safety precautions being dropped claimed that is not needed. I find that a big disaster, certainly not a very survivable aircraft.

    Again why don’t you talk to Dr Carlo Kopp and retired RAAF officers and explain to them how inferior and useless the Super Hornets / JSFs are. Because I have friends, colleagues and several of my predecessors from aviation claims either the F-15 or F-22 are far better to fill the RAAFs requirements and to have a very potent firepower for the countries needs. If anyone finds that the Super Hornet / JSF is shot down by the Russian/Chinese fighters. Who to blame? I’ll blame the Defence Minister and the RAAF with all the mess they’ve created and waste billions of dollars from the taxpayer money on joining the JSF program for the RAAFs future fighter and buying Super Hornets for bridging capability gap that are totally useless and incapable aircraft that have no practical use against any modern new generation fighter coming to our arc interests to our north.

    Again the right aircraft and the right choice to fulfill the RAAFs needs is to look for other options on the table to buy an existing 4.5 or 4++ generation aircraft a larger airframe with high capability aircraft (F-15E+ Strike Eagle or Silent Eagle) to perform much better in many other ways, not the small airframes to replace 71 Classic Hornets. Again the air force still needs a twin engine to provide superior flight safety in long range and overwater operations, as a loss of one engine does not guarantee the loss of the aircraft, although it is apt to cause the mission to be aborted. For Australia’s geography this is likely to result in a smaller number of lost aircraft during decades of peace time training, but also a better ability for these aircraft to survive battle damage over a target and recover to home base to be repaired. It also reduces the Navy warships to be available to rescue aircrew in the event of engine failure, and thus become exposed to enemy air attack, plus twin engine aircraft feature faster throttle response and earlier availability.

    The decision to go ahead with the single engine (JSF) turkey is the most terrible and crazy solution. Seriously its going to horrify the aircrew as being explained earlier. Again YOU’LL BE A DEAD DUCK with any single engine jet with very limited range. They are certainly not designed for over water operations, single engine are designed for land operations which are only suitable for smaller NATO countries e.g. Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway etc, Middle East and South American nations to operate single engine planes. Although Australia is a small nation, but this country is surrounded by the vast oceans which means two engines are suitable to cement Australia’s regional air power lead.

    How is that the much touted tyranny of distance that help drive the two engined F-111 and F/A-18 procurement decisions all those years ago can now be swept aside and suddenly Australia is comfortable with single engine jet with very limited range, when we still live on the same island surrounded by the vast oceans and with the same limited internal operational basing infrastructure?

    I’m very confident Andrew that the F-35 JSF is a failed project and its a wrong aircraft for the RAAFs needs, it should be scrapped altogether, with 14 aircraft ordered it must be cancelled and sell them back to the USA. Remove the bridging capability gap. If Australia does go ahead with the JSF purchase the RAAF will be totally ineffective for the next 30 to 40 years.

    Its the most laughable thing I ever heard that this nation is settling with the single engine decision. Certainly not wise thing to do and will jeapordise the pilots lives. According to Allan when he is going to advise his son to stay well away from single engine. He’s absolutely right what he said there I don’t blame him.

    The JSF is a lemon.

  • Peter


    Andrew McLaughlin – In strategic terms that the Su-35S/BM Flanker-E is a game changer as it robustly outclasses all competing western fighter aircraft other than the F-22 Raptor and F-15E/SE Silent Eagle. Deploying in significant numbers it is capable of changing the balance of power in any region where this occurs. This reality does not appear to be widely understood in most Western air forces (including the Government and the RAAF doesn’t realise how inferior the Super Hornet / JSF are), or DoD bureaucracies.

    Remember the Su-27/30 Flanker family are very potent and very powerful bare knuckle fighters. No matter what upgrade to this very remarkable aircraft, its still a very tough beast and hard to kill that NO small airframes can compete with this killer that faces biggest threat to all western air forces.

  • jack


    some more reading would broaded this debate

    The evolution of the F-35 as a platform is best understood not simply as an evolution from F-18s, and F-16s in terms of the physical characteristics of the airframe and the ability of the aircraft to operate more effectively, but laying the foundation for an entirely new way to do air combat. This new way is something we referred to as the “re-norming of airpower.”



    Lieutenant-Colonel Berke: People throw out those terms all the time, “the paradigm shift”, “a game changer”, “an evolutionary leap”, all those things, but it’s all true. It’s all accurate. And I can tell you from the perspective of a guy who has flown over 2,000 hours in a Hornet. I was a TOPGUN instructor. I was really at the top of my game. I was as competent as the Marine Corps could’ve taught me to be.

    In spite of this background, it was a challenge and a major mental leap for me to go to the F-22. It takes time to turn the corner with 5th Gen thinking. But once you do, there’s no going back. Your SA and your ability increase dramatically. Truth be told, you’re always going to have limits in any legacy platform, for many reasons. There’s not a pilot in the Air Force that’s flying Raptors right now that will not tell you the exact same thing.

    But what they’ll also tell you is that the first class that flew the Raptor straight from flight school was exceptional. They were surprised at how good they were at optimizing the airplane as a sensor. The guys with no experience did extremely well; and I think a huge part of that has to do with them not bringing old habits or a lifetime of thinking a certain way.

    Changing the way you physically move is one thing, but changing the way you mentally think is very difficult to do and it takes time. When the concepts just don’t apply anymore and you’ve leveraged those concepts for 15 years, it’s not an easy thing. This will be a challenge for all pilots transitioning to the JSF because it’s going to force them to think differently than they ever thought before. But doing so is crucial to the shift in air operations. Once the mindset shift occurs, the true capability will be understood.

    As I said before, once that happens the results are exponential. In just a few years, we’re going to have STOVL JSF operating from forward bases. Aside from all the operational and strategic implications, the tactical significance is huge. A single F-35B pilot will have more SA than anyone flying a Marine aircraft ever has. And he’s going to be directly connected to the entire supported force.

    When you consider the fused cockpit of a JSF, you begin to understand just why all those descriptors are really accurate. It’s an evolutionary leap. It’s a paradigm shift. It’s a game changer!

  • Allan


    Hi Jack,

    Great to read someone with experience thoughts on this subject. The capabilty of the systems have never been in question. My concern is that for a nation like Australia, Surrounded by ocean the wisdom of operating a single engined aircraft over large expanses of water.

    Up until Australia purchased the Hornet, We had always operated single engined fighters with consequent attrition derived from single engine operations. In the last twenty five years of F-18 ops we have only lost 4 Hornets compared with 41 mirages over a similair length of service.

    As a pilot familiar with long range overwater operations, Would you be comfortable enough to put your butt into a F-35 on similair missions you`ve flown with the F-18.

    Would like your thoughts on the single vs twin engine debate.

    Cheers, Allan.

  • Doug


    There is zero chance of the RAAF getting F-15s.

    It would be enough of a logistical nightmare for the RAAF to operate Super Hornets, Classic Hornets and F-35s without throwing some f-15s into the mix.

    I would imagine that the only consideration would be how many extra super hornets, if any, will be required.

    I also find all of the negativity concerning the F-35 surprising.

    Why do people assume that the most experienced builders and operators of combat aircraft in the world are incapable of making an aircraft that couldn’t match a 30 year old Russian design?

    The F-35 will dominate the skies over the next few decades in the exact same way as the F-15, F-16 and other US designed aircraft have done in years past.

  • Peter


    Hello Doug

    With your comment re “The F-35 JSF will dominate the skies over the next few decades in the exact same way as the F-15, F-16 and other US designed aircraft have done in the years past”.

    The upcoming T-50 PAK-FA and J-20 Mighty Dragon will outperform the JSF in all cardinal performance parameters and they will, in a mature design produce similar stealth performance. These aircraft will be more agile, manoeuvrable and will have better range and persistence by virtue fuel of greater fuel fraction and large weapons load.

    The same goes to the Su-27/30 Flanker family they’ll outclass the Super Hornet, JSF and other small airframes with short range. In terms of raw kinematic performance, agility, radar range, sensors and large weapons load.

    Don’t forget these jets are armed with better air-to-air missiles with heat seeking heads especially the long range AA-12 Adder family (RVV-MD), AA-10 Alamo family (R-27), AA-11 Archer (R-73/74) and a 215 nm (350 km) Novator AA-14 (R-172/K-100) which they are intended to kill the AWACS, AEW&C and tankers from stand-off ranges.

    Yes I know that the RAAF has zero chance of getting F-15s, which is in fact a terrible and very shameful to go for more Super Dogs which has no sting in its tail. In my own position the F-15E+ or the Silent Eagle is a right aircraft to fulfill the RAAF’s requirements.

    The F-35 JSF program is a sheer nonscense and the technical problems will take years to fix. Remember its still the world’s most expensive weapons program, currently estimated to cost $385 billion for development and production, and will cost $1 trillion to maintain, to fly and to operate over decades.

    Its a failed project and it must be cancelled altogether.

  • John


    What surprises me after reading the above is that no one acknowledges that the F-22 was scrapped because it is a lemon and a fraud. The F-35 probably will be, but what are the alternatives? None of the West European alternatives will ever match it against fifth generation Russian and Chinese jets. The same goes for any of the fourth generation US jets. The simple fact is that the US does not manufacture competitive jets anymore. There isn’t any point in arguing over which US jet is better, because over the next 30 years none of the jets will achieve air supremacy. I think what the Russians and Chinese are doing is building jets that focus on doing the simple things really well. I think the US needs to build a simpler version of the F22 that is more reliable, survivable and cheaper (and with waterproof paint, which the F22 doesn’t have). Even if it isn’t as stealthy.

  • Peter


    Hello John

    I agree with you that none of the 4th Generation fighters will compete with the PAK-FA and J-20.

    The Typhoon, Rafale and F-16 will compete with the J-10 Vigorous Dragon, MiG-29/35 Fulcrum aircraft.

    The export variants of the F-15E variants will feature the IRST sensor pod which will allow it to compete with the Su-27/30 Flanker family and hopfully low-observable jets.

    The F/A-18 family will have no hope of competing the Su-27/30 family of aircraft

    You’re right that the Russians and Chinese are building jets that are focusing and doing things simple things really well. Lockheed hopes that in the future the F-22 program might be reinstated and the production can start again, its unclear when it’ll start.

    Take a look on http://www.newaustralia.net website John. Since the Raptor is not for sale and the production line is closed, APA has mentioned about Australia should buy the Russian types either the Su-35S Super Flanker-E or the PAK-FA for RAAF’s requirements as an alternative options.

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