Australia’s risk assessment review of its acquisition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) for the RAAF is underway, Defence has confirmed, after Lockheed Martin revealed last week a team from the Department of Defence was visiting its Fort Worth plant.
“A Scheduled Compliance Risk Assessment Method (SCRAM) team is here in response to the Defence Minister’s undertaking last July to conduct a review of the Australian F-35 program,” Keith Knotts, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 business development manager for Australia and Canada, told Australian media in Fort Worth last week. “They will be here this week to assess the program’s health.”
In July Defence Minister Stephen Smith revealed plans to review the F-35 program schedule ahead of Australia formally committing to buy its first batch of 14 of a required 100 F-35s for the RAAF to ensure there was no capability gap arising from F-35 delivery delays and the retirement of the RAAF’s ageing F/A-18A/B ‘classic’ Hornet fleet.
“In parallel with the US government’s current review of the JSF program’s progress, Defence’s New Air Combat Capability (NACC) project continues to independently monitor the program using a schedule management process known as the Schedule Compliance Risk Assessment Method (SCRAM),” a Defence spokesperson confirmed to Australian Aviation.
“SCRAM is a technique that the Defence Materiel Organisation has used to assess risk in some projects. The NACC project’s risk assessment, and any recommendations, will be part of the overall submission to government in early 2012, and will inform further decisions on JSF in late 2012.”
Minister Smith has said that should there be any risk of a capability gap between the F-35’s introduction into service and the retirement of the classic Hornets that acquiring more Super Hornets for the RAAF is “the obvious option”
“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 told The Australia Network in August.
Current planning sees the first 14 RAAF F-35s come from Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) batches 6 (two jets), LRIP 8 (four) and LRIP 9 (eight). The first two aircraft would be handed over to the RAAF in 2014, with the 14 jets delivered to Australia in 2017 (after a period of training in the US).