Australia seeks pricing info on extra Super Hornets

written by australianaviation.com.au | December 13, 2012
A file image of a RAAF Super Hornet. Are more to come?

Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare have announced that Australia has sent a letter of request (LOR) to the US government for the possible purchase of 24 more Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets for the RAAF.

The announcement coincided with a declaration of final operational capability (FOC) for the RAAF’s extent Super Hornet fleet based at Amberley with 1SQN and 6SQN.

A comprehensive Cabinet Submission detailing multiple air combat capability options was reportedly handed to government in September, but was only presented to the National Security Committee (NSC) – comprising the Prime Minister, Defence Minister, Treasurer, Foreign Minister and others as required – in early December.

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The options laid out in the cabinet submission included staying with the currently planned AIR 6000 Phase 2A/2B plan to buy up to 72 F-35As from 2014 and declare an initial operating capability (IOC) in 2020, or buying additional Super Hornets to mitigate the risk of a capability gap should the current ‘classic’ Hornets not be able to reach their revised life of type (LOT) in 2022. Despite RAAF and ANAO investigations which show the classic Hornets should be able to fulfil their revised LOT, this would require substantial investment in fatigue management in the near to medium term, and reduced flying hours and combat effectiveness in the out years.

A December 13 ministerial release points out that the LOR does not automatically mean a follow up order will be forthcoming. “The sending of this LOR does not commit Australia to purchase more Super Hornets. It is being sent so that the Government can further consider all options in 2013 with the latest and best cost and availability information. This has been made clear to both US officials and to the Defence industry.”

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45 Comments

  • Ron

    says:

    The more Supers, the less F-35s we “need”, & the Super still has its foot in the door…

    Good luck to it I say.

  • Dane

    says:

    Looks like the capability gap is slowly but surely growing. The current Classic Hornets won’t last beyond 2020 without substantial work, more than the cost of new Supers anyway.

  • Steve

    says:

    We had originally intended to have single type force with all the logistic advantages that woulod give. Now rhat we have elected to keep EF-18Gs for along time, the single type argument no longer applies.

    It may even make sense to keep F-18Fs until l2030 then replace them with the more advanced F-35s with the advanced engines being developed under the USAF Adaptive Engine Technology Development program. This promises to boost range by up to 25%.

  • Dan

    says:

    Silent Eagle anyone?

  • Josh

    says:

    Great to see us Aussies are interested in more Rhinos…
    Just seems the F-35 is taking forever to get here, so the Superhornet will be a good GAP jet.

    Silent eagle would be awesome to see Dan.

    Beside the Super hornet, are there any other multi-role fighters that Australia could invest in?

    Ashame the U.S won’t release their F22 or build them anymore

  • Anon

    says:

    Umm, no thanks! Silent Eagle has more risk and higher cost than F-35

  • pez

    says:

    My ideal plan would be to transition 75sqn to the Supers, while 3, 77 and 2OCU spread the ‘spare’ Classic amongst themselves to spread out hours to extend their operating life.

    3, 77 and 2OCU – Classics
    1, 6 and 75 – Supers

  • John N

    says:

    My ideal plan would be for the Goverment to stop screwing around the RAAF’s plans and get on with managing the Classic fleet through to retirement and order the 100 F35A’s!!!

    John

    PS, Dear Australian Aviation, can we please merge the comments from this and Kristian’s comment piece??

    They are basically about the same subject?

    Thanks.

  • Sam

    says:

    I agree with you John. This buy (if it goes ahead) coupled with the budget cuts makes it seem like they’re trying to cripple defence going forward

  • SJ

    says:

    So much for the plan to have 100 F-35A’s and 12 EA-18 G’s… This is little more than cost cutting. Someone in accounts must have figured out that you can buy almost 5 Supers for the cost of 2 JSF’s The only question is going to be how obsolete will these extra Hornets be in 15 years? My guess… Very! They were only envisaged to be stopgaps… Not a long term addition

  • John N

    says:

    Thanks Sam,

    Fortunately we live in a Democracy, the Government sets Defence and Foreign policy, White Papers, Defence budgets, etc.

    The Military, being servants of the people and government goes out, within the framework set, and comes up with options and plans to meet the want of the Government of the day.

    But that’s where it all falls apart, politicians, public servants and bean counters then get in the way.

    We end up in the situation, the old saying, “the tail wags the dog”!

    Just a pity that the Military, on some rare occasions, couldn’t bare its teeth and snarl at the hand on its tail!!

    Oh well, we’ll just have to wait and see!!

    John

  • josh

    says:

    From above… Pez, 75 sqn should still keep the classic hornets and have 2OCU have a squadron of Super hornets, as they train the FCI’s and conversion course. Then let 3, and 77 share the classic at YWLM.

    3, 77 and 75 – Classics
    1, 6 and 2OCU – Supers

    And it seems the F-35 will never get completed. So having super hornets at YAMB and YWLM will widen the multi-role capability and broaden flight capabillity

  • Raymond

    says:

    I don’t seem to have seen anything yet on whether the extra Super’s under consideration would be single- or twin-sticks… wonder if they would be the E model?

  • Dan

    says:

    The Silent Eagle is worth a look at-even if it’s only 24 of them and have F 35s for the rest of the total.

  • Peter

    says:

    I agree Dan the F-15 is far superior to the F/A-18E/F. The F-15E has nearly three times the combat range. This is something that Australia make use of to cover our air space and reduce costs. Also the F-15E can be outfitted with the Raytheon APG-82(V)1 AESA radar, currently in test for the USAF test upgrade program. You probably know but size matters in radar. The radome on the F-15 is bigger than the F/A-18E/F and F-35 and can hold a bigger array. As a result it will be more powerful than the APG-79 AESA from the F/A-18E/F and APG-81 AESA from the F-35A, and the APG-82(V)1 system is much more reliable and cheaper to maintain. On two engines it makes perfect sense for safety,reliability and faster throttle response.

  • Peter

    says:

    Ummm, no thanks! The failed F-35 has more risk and higher cost than the Silent Eagle.

  • Peter

    says:

    Unfortunately guys, the F/A-18 fleet cannot currently meet its peacetime fighter availability requirements, with the remaining fatigue life in Australia’s F/A-18A/B fleet to expire end this decade, further costly structural and enhancement program to replace fuselage centre barrels has been initiated to stretch the life of these aircraft. APG-73 radar, electronic warfare, guided weapon and missile upgrades and software will diminish this availability even further. The acquisition of Russian designed Sukhoi Su-27SK and Su-30MK Flanker series fighters by most regional nations now presents an environment where the F/A-18A/B and F/A-18F Super Hornet is outclassed in all key performance parameters, aerodynamic and radar performance by widely available fighters.

    Again, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block 2 are not very good air combat planes in some respects and if Australia have to use them as a bridging capability gap or kept longer term. This aircraft has similar performance and capability deficiencies to the F-35, and is equally incapable of credibly performing against changed threat environments.

  • Josh

    says:

    Silent eagle would be good as a squadron for 75sqn if the gap was for the silent eagle…..

    The RAAF should invest in single Super hornets aswell

  • Raymond

    says:

    Dan / Josh / Peter,

    Forget it – the F-15SE will not be joining the ranks of the RAAF!

    As much as I like the latest incarnation of the F-15 as well, it’s just not going to happen! Maybe, just maybe had the RAAF purchased the F-15 originally instead of the F/A-18, then BACC may have meant the F-15E.

    Especially now that Super Hornet’s have already been purchased, do you seriously think that F-15’s would be in the running? It’s either transition from the current fleet of Classic and Super Hornets to F-35’s, or order more Super’s which I expect would mean less F-35’s.

    F-15SE? Nice, but sorry guys, not realistic.

  • Peter

    says:

    Raymond

    I do seriously think that the F-15’s should be considered to replace the Classic Hornet to join the ranks of the RAAF. Read what I posted above Raymond about the F/A-18 fleet can’t meet its peace time fighter availability requirements.

  • Peter

    says:

    Raymond

    Forget it – the Super Hornet/Growler/failed lemon F-35 are not realistic. The RAAF should’ve purchased the F-15 instead of upgrading the F/A-18A/B models and acquiring F models to replace the F-111s for BACC.

  • Peter

    says:

    The F-15 is much more capable than the overweight and underpowered stingless F/A-18E/F Super Dog. The combat range of the F-15E is almost three times as much as the F/A-18E/F. Yes the F-15E is a better more powerful plane so you will pay more. However Australia is in a good bargaining position and should be able to get it for a fly away cost of around $100 million each.

    However, at $100M (est) per plane, it may seem expensive but when all costs vs performance are reviewed, X vs Y vs Z are not the same. As stated by those in this discussion thread the F-15 provides, longer range, bigger weapons load and speed benefits that other small fighters a.k.a Typhoon, Rafale, Gripen and Super Hornet albeit less expensive cannot match. In turn, many of the new enhancements such as the fly by wire flight controls, and the availability of F110-GE-132 engines should keep operating costs at or below the known costs

    The F-15E has a current unit cost of around 30 million dollars and has been in production since 1988. Now it looks like you are looking at the F-15K; which has been around since 2006 and matches your 100 million/unit cost.

  • josh

    says:

    I know that the F-15 would never be chosen for the RAAF but would be a great choice I believe as a gap jet.

    So beside the idea of the F-15 that would be a great choice I think, would the RAAF ever consider broadening their choice of a GAP jet instead of a Super hornet? The eurofighter typhoon would be a good choice I believe to fill the GAP, as they are getting upgrades and are more manoeuvrable then the super hornet.

    http://www.aviatia.net/versus/eurofighter-vs-super-hornet/

  • Peter

    says:

    Hello Josh

    Have you seen this publication about “5th generation” fighters?

    http://www.eurofighter.com/fileadmin/web_data/dow… you’ll find this interesting

    I took a look at the aviatia website what you posted earlier on, it is quite interesting to compare the other aircraft’s characteristics, performance and weaponry etc.

    The Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale would be a good choice to counter the Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon threat.

  • Sam

    says:

    Come on guys, the F-15 will never ever be chosen, for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that it would add ANOTHER type to our force which would be fiscally untenable, so please give it a rest. It is a completely pointless discussion and I’m sure everyone here is tired of hearing it, especially from you Peter.

  • josh

    says:

    Peter, link didn’t work….

    And I reckon the government would choose the eurofighter over the F-15, much better jet and clearly why countries have chosen it.
    http://www.aviatia.net/versus/eurofighter-vs-f-15/

    I think the eurofighter would be a great choice for us aussies

  • Peter

    says:

    Hello Josh

    The link didn’t work, it use to work I don’t know what happened. You can try searching it on Google and hopefully it’ll be around. I hope you like it.

  • Peter

    says:

    Sam – Come on mate, you should realise that the fleet of Super Hornets/Growlers/Classic Hornets and upcoming F-35As are not up to the job to counter the emerging Pacific Rim threats. Again Sam the least of which is that the F-15 would add ANOTHER type to our force which would NOT be fiscally untenable.

    I mean what is so special about the F/A-18E/F, there’s absolutely nothing special about this Hornet.

    I don’t think you realise that there was a damning report of the Super Hornet in areas of critical operational requirements. Well I’m explaining these numerous reasons about why the Super Hornet is not up to the job, so hopefully you will now know in the future.

    Three sentences on page eight of the report say it all: “The consequences of low specific excess power in comparison to the threat are poor climb rates, poor sustained turn capability, and a low maximum speed. Of greatest tactical significance is the lower maximum speed of the F/A-18E/F since this precludes the ability to avoid or disengage from aerial combat. In this regard, the F/A-18E/F is only marginally inferior to the F/A-18C/D, whose specific excess power is also considerably inferior to that of the primary threat, the MiG-29.”

    The F/A-18E/F has a similar performance deficiences to the F-35 which the aircraft has a short range and does not have the performance envelope of a true air superiority fighter compared to the large fighters (with high capability). They will be outclassed by the Su-27/30 Flanker family of fighters by most regional nations in all key performance parameters, aerodynamic, bigger weapons payload, radar / sensor performance by widely available fighters.

    Apart from the new Sukhoi Su-27/30 Flanker family proliferating across the regions: the F/A-18E/F is acknowledged in the report as being no match for even the older and newer MiG-29 family. Space precludes quoting the report’s comments on the multitude of other areas where the Super Hornet is inferior to the 1970s-designed and 1980s-built original F/A-18 aircraft. Admittedly the Block II Super Hornet has a new APG-79 AESA radar and some electronic components not in the version Coyle gave evidence on, but the fundamental airframe and performance remain unaltered: it is heavier, slower, larger and uglier (its radar signature did not measure up to expectations) than the normal Hornet.

    Evidently the underwing aero-acoustic environment and resulting vibrations are so violent that some weapons are being damaged in transit to the target on a single flight – dumb bombs are fine in that environment but not long-range missiles containing sophisticated and relatively delicate components.

    This is not completely pointless discussion, yeah I’m sure everyone here is tired of hearing it, well serve you right because you need to understand why the F-15 is the better choice for Australia’s requirements than acquiring these useless dogs.

  • josh

    says:

    Hi peter, yeah i found it great info and stuff on it.

    Yeah we need to find a jet to fill the gap and the super hornet would be good, but like there are better jets out there and the rhinos wont stand a chance with the new jets coming out across the world.

    We could possibly write a LOR for the F-22 ? I know that they don’t build the F22 anymore, before people start writing stuff like that, but it could be a good idea considering we have RAAF pilots on F22’s over in the states so…? And possibly buy 2-3 squadrons and free up 1 and 6 sqn. Have 6sqn as a growler squadron?

    1SQN – FA-18 Super Hornet (12)
    6SQN – Growlers (12)
    2OCU – F22
    77SQN – F22 or F15
    3, 75 – Classic Hornets then the F-35

    I am just brainstorming here, but it would be a good idea.

  • Peter

    says:

    Hello Josh

    Thank you for letting me know that you found the article. I’m glad that you like it.

    That’s very good that you are brainstorming here, I totally agree it would be a good idea. Its all about alternatives, discussing suggestions/ideas to work around and making decisions.

    If you like to keep the article Josh, what you should do is, keep it in your documents file – or you can create military aircraft profile so you won’t lose it.

    I’ve just did some brainstorming myself. “What is on your list Pete?”

    76SQN – A-10C Thunderbolt or other turboprop aircraft with hefty 30mm cannon for CAS duties (Close Air Support)

    3SQN – Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale

    77SQN – F-15AU Strike Eagle

    2OCU, 75SQN – F-22 Raptor

    Regards Peter

  • Josh

    says:

    Nice list you got there.
    Yeah my list and yours would make a big difference if we were leading the government on these choices. For sure we need a 5th gen fighter or close to it, seeing that China and Russia have them…..

    To fill the gap, some choices the government could choose from:
    – Super hornet (single seaters)
    – F22 raptor
    – F15 Silent Eagle
    – Eurofighter typhoon
    – A10 (if utilizing in bombing squadron)

    But I think if anything, get the F22 cause that’s the top of the range jet I reckon. And start flying them out of 2OCU and possibly 77SQN and get a stronger fighter detachment at Williamtown, and keep the super hornets up at Amberley

  • pez

    says:

    WTF are you guys smoking??! A-10s? F-15s, F-35s, F-18s AND F-22s?? Seriously you guys, this is just embarrasing. Please, stop talking such utter, utter drivel. I remember when I was 12 years old and played “arm-chair admiral”, but c’mon, enough already. People like you and the APA ranting on like that about such ludicrous fantasy fleets is just stupid.

    How much does anyone wanna bet that these two are the same person…..and that it’s Carlo Kopp! lol

  • John N

    says:

    Pez,

    Very funny! Mate, you forget to mention Typhoon, Rafale or that “turbo prop” with hefty 20mm cannon too!

    Anyway …… back to reality……

    Below is an example of where the RAAF is planning to be and where it might end up if the additional Super Hornets are purchased:

    * Currently the RAAF operates six Sqns, 4 Classic Hornet (inc No 2 OCU) and 2 Shornet (6 Sqn being the training Sqn for 1 Sqn).

    * If all 100 F35A’s are purchased it was to reduce to five Sqns, four operational and one OCU, (maybe 6 Sqn would have disappeared).

    * Now add the recent decision to convert 12 Shornets to Growlers, to be operated by 6 Sqn.

    * We are now back up to six Sqns, 4 operational F35A, plus an OCU, plus the Growler Sqn.

    (Recently the RAAF announced, when the Growler conversion starts, SHornet training was to go back to the USA and aircrew training to be undertaking by the US Navy).

    So then we would have six Sqns here, plus SHornet/Growler aircrew training in the USA too.

    So what happens if the order for 24 Super Hornets goes ahead, what does the structure look like then? (assume the purchase is 18E’s and 6 F’s, even if its 24 F’s, the outcome is the same):

    * Three Sqns of somewhere between 36-48 F35A’s, two operational, an OCU, plus some attrition aircraft.

    * One Sqn of 12 Growlers (6 Sqn)

    * One Sqn of 12 F Shornet (currently 1 Sqn)

    * One Sqn of 12 E Shornets (replaces one of the Classic Sqns)

    * That leaves 6 E’s and 6 F’s for training and attrition for the Shornets and Growlers, perhaps it makes up another training Sqn (No ? OCU), don’t have to train aircrews for Shornets/Growlers by the USN.

    * That now brings it up to 7 Sqns. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

    If we do end up with a “mixed” force of fighter aircraft, there is also the need for an extensive range of spares for both aircraft, two different OCU’s, two different sets of simulators, different training and tactics, etc, the list goes on.

    If you need to move some pilots from one type to the other (whose roles are supposed to be the same/similar) they would have to go through an extensive, and expensive, conversion process.

    There is also the issue of weapons, even as it stands now, what is carried and used by the Classic differs from the Shornets, ASRAAM vs AIM9X, JASSM vs JSOW.

    The F35A’s are to be integrated with a different range of weapons to that of the Super Hornet, if we want commonality across the fleet, we have to pay for the integration.

    If not, we have to have two different stocks of weapons, if you all think what I’ve said is complicated, well, yes it is!!

    And let’s not forget the cost, yes it might be cheaper to obtain additional Shornets in the first place, but what is the cost of ownership and operation over the next 20 odd years if this goes ahead?

    I just hope this speculation all goes away, and next year the Government confirms its commitment to the F35A’s.

    Cheers,

    John

  • Josh

    says:

    Its called brainstorming and talking your mind……
    Clearly the RAAF won’t ever get those jets, but it’s a change of the conversation, instead of seeing people post the same thing about how we will only get Super Hornets as the GAP?…. They only put in a LOR, doesn’t mean anything…….

    HA! And thanks for already writing what’s been said before where the Hornet’s are already….
    The government has no money, so before anyone starts talking about more squadrons and all these fast jets, think reality?… Like the F-35’s I bet will be back on track soon and the LOR was a waste of time

  • Josh

    says:

    But putting all of that aside, and forgetting about it all before there’s massive arguments…….

    What is honestly that wrong with the F-35? I have never heard of a jet to have so many problems and stop-start production process ever. ?

  • Peter

    says:

    John N, Pez, Sam, Air Observer, Anon, Steve, Dane, Gerard Frawley (australianaviation.com.au) and other pro-F-35 advocates

    Well Josh and I agree that discussing suggestions/ideas to work around and making decisions is the way we should be doing.

  • John N

    says:

    Josh,

    Are you serious? Never heard of a jet to have so many problems?

    Mate, this is not meant to be rude or smart, but how old are you? It is a genunine and serious question, ok?

    Maybe your are in your teens, 20’s, etc, and don’t know this bit of history.

    The very first, and obvious aircraft, especially from an Australian point of view, is the F111.

    We ordered it in 1963, it was still a “paper” aircraft at that stage, we didn’t receive it till 1973, that’s 10 years.

    The similarities are almost the same, a major advance in technology, untested systems, wings falling off, significant increases in price, the USN and the UK cancelling their orders, it went on and on, we were to receive them in 1968 but they were put into mothballs in the US for another 5 years before delivery.

    We also obtained F4E’s as in “interim” solution, the similarities go on and on.

    And when we finally received the F111, it went on to provide 37 years of outstanding service to the RAAF and Australia.

    Serious, and again I’m not being rude, but please do some research, there are a lot of books and info out there on the F111.

    And there are more examples too, but if anything, the F111 is certainly something that is “comparable” to the debate now.

    Cheers,

    John

  • Sam

    says:

    @Josh: All aircraft have delays and problems with development and production. The difference here is that because the F-35 is one of the largest jet programs ever, with an unparalleled level of international cooperation, it has become highly politicised and thus publicised. The F-35 and F-22 represent a quantum leap in the capability of military aircraft to work as part of a combat system as opposed to a number of individual platforms. The F-35 will bring enormous capability to Australia to operate effectively both individually and in partnership with the partner nations. A quick google search will yield results as to the theory behind the international cooperation and the design strategy.. I suggest you do some research as you will find it quite interesting. Avoid the airpoweraustralia website though; the founders have political and personal motives in the downfall of the F-35. They spread propaganda, most of which has been debunked comprehensively by defence professionals and rejected by AusGovt. This is why nobody is taking Peters views seriously and getting frustrated with his narrow minded dogma.

  • Josh

    says:

    I think I may have written my response the wrong way…. Straight to the point I meant, the F-35 clearly is in testing an production stage (things will happen and go wrong)… But like it is annoying though, but for sure it will get sorted eventually….

    Clearly we will be getting 24 more super hornets, hopefully some single seaters, and later on our F-35’s…..

    I can’t wait to see them up in the sky the F-35’s…

    And to expand on that, where would they put the next 24 super hornets? Possibly 2OCU?

  • Sam

    says:

    Josh: 2OCU is No 2. Operational Conversion Unit. It is a training squadron to introduce pilots to an operational aircraft type. I would say that *if* the purchase goes ahead (its by no means certain; this move smells of politics and trying to represent the image of *doing* something) It’s more than likely that they will form a new squadron or reactivate an old one. I would assume they would be based at Amberley, however.

  • Josh

    says:

    Yeah i know what 2OCU do, just had a thought they may give them some, but then again could be waste of time… I only ask about 2OCU, as training our classic hornet guys and getting them trained for super hornets….
    But yes like you said, most likely amberley or reactivating and old squadron

  • Sam

    says:

    IIRC hornet and growler training is going to be contracted to the US when the classics are phased out

  • John N

    says:

    Hi Sam,

    Yes, as you said, and as I also pointed out above too, Shornet training is to return to the US Navy when the Growler conversion starts, but “if” this purchase of an additional 24 Shornets goes ahead, I’m sure that will change.

    While it might make sense to have the USN undertake training for a small fleet, eg 12 Shornets, I’m sure that will have to change if we end up with approx half of the RAAF fast jets being Shornets.

    As to their basing, I really can’t see it being Amberley, again “if” this purchase goes ahead, its for the replacement of some of the Classic Fleet, logically that means one of the two operational Williamstown Sqns or the Tindal Sqn, and not forgetting that an additional OCU would have to be raised too.

    Amberley is getting pretty full as it its, 2 Sqns of Shornets, KC30A’s and C17A’s too, I don’t know that the base has that much space left for growth without significant extra expensure on basing upgrades.

    Anyway, I as you do, suspect that this “exercise” of obtaining pricing and availability of more Shornets, is more to do with the Government appearing to be doing something, rather than what it has actually been doing, which is nothing.

    Time will tell.

    Cheers,

    John

  • Ben

    says:

    Great decision to start thinking of an F35 & Super Hornet fleet. It lowers the risk when technical issues arise, and they do, and ground an entire fleet. Not good for an ARH, dangerous for strike aircraft.

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