F-35 grounded after engine blade crack discovery

written by australianaviation.com.au | February 23, 2013
A file image of JSF development aircraft F-35A AF-6 over Edwards AFB.

The discovery of a crack on an engine blade has led the US Department of Defense to ground its fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The “cautionary suspension of flight” follows the discovery of the crack on an F135 engine installed in an F-35A test aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base during a routine engine inspection.

“The F-35 Joint Program Office is working closely with Pratt & Whitney and Lockheed Martin at all F-35 locations to ensure the integrity of the engine, and to return the fleet safely to flight as soon as possible,” the Defense Department said in a statement. The statement notes that it is “too early to know the fleetwide impact” of the grounding.

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The affected engine is being sent to manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s facilities in Connecticut for a “more thorough evaluation and root cause analysis”.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement: “Safety is always our first consideration, and the joint inspection team is focused on ensuring the integrity of the engines across the entire fleet so the F-35s can safely return to flight as soon as possible.”

The grounding comes at the end of a week of bad publicity for the F-35 program in Australia, after the ABC’s Four Corners program aired a highly critical report on the aircraft.

Senior F-35 officials will be attending next week’s Avalon Airshow near Melbourne, including F-35 Joint Program Office chief Lt Gen Chris Bogdan and Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of F-35 business development.

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55 Comments

  • RonnyRAAF

    says:

    We really need to look at the SAAB Gripen E/F or the more stealthy version the Swedes are working on.
    Not knocking the F35 but we can get a more cost effective platform with only slightly less stealth and situational awareness capabilities.
    The Canadians are seriously now reviewing the capabilities of this marvellous aircraft against the F35.

  • Dan

    says:

    Time for more Super Hornets.

  • Jumbo

    says:

    Fairly standard for a precautionary grounding in these circumstances. No need to jump so quickly onto the ‘Lets get Gripen/We should have restarted the F-111 production line’ garbage.

  • RonnyRAAF

    says:

    No seriously. Look at the Gripen Mr Smith. Same engine as the Super Hornet, carries all the weapons that RAAF currently has in inventory and future. Similar price, cheaper to maintain, more reliable, desert tested in Libya, has better range, manoeuvrability and stealth. With the way the Swedes know how to run a project as history proves, their successor to this NG Gripen E/F, the FS2020 stealth Gripen, will be ready some time in mid 2020’s if not earlier. F35 can still be acquired in smaller numbers to facilitate other gaps in strategic planning. Stealth UAV’s even.

  • John N

    says:

    So the F35 has been grounded due to an engine issue.

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling, its the end of the world too! NOT!

    This isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last grounding, but how is that different to any other aircraft, military or commercial in development or in service?

    If there was enough time and space I could make a very very long list.

    In fact the RAAF’s Hawk 127 fast jet trainers were grounded for a period of time earlier this month, does that mean we should be running out and buying a replacement?

    Bad news is always THE news, good news rarely makes the news.

    In regard to more Super Hornets, the thing we don’t know yet is availability, eg, if we do order them, how long before we get them all 24 service?

    It’s not like going down the road to the Holden dealer and picking out 24 that are sitting on the lot and having them delivered the next day.

    The announcement to purchase the current in service batch of 24 F/A18F’s was made in March 2007 and the last of the 24 was delivered late October 2011, that’s three and a half years, which was pretty quick for such a purchase.

    The reason it was so “quick” was due to a number of factors, Boeing was well ahead of schedule in its delivery to the USN, and most importantly, the USN was prepared to “give up” production slots to accommodate the RAAF.

    The question this time around, if we do order an additional 24 Super Hornets some time this year, will the USN be prepared or in fact be “able” to give up some of its remaining production slots? Or will we have to wait till the end of the USN production run? The last USN Shornet/Growler is due off the Boeing production line sometime in 2015.

    If that’s the case, eg, 2015, we may not see all 24 in service till sometime in 2018 or so anyway, which is only a couple of years before the planned in service date of the F35 for the RAAF anyway!

    Whilst I agreed with the first 24, as it was to fill a gap of at least “10 years” between the retirement of the F111’s and the F35’s, and I’m sure other’s here agreed with that too.

    Its easy for everyone here (and elsewhere) to be saying today, 2013, yes we should be buying more Super Hornets because of the problems with the F35.

    But how many will be saying the same thing in 5-7 years time from now when a lot of the F35’s development issues should and probably will be well and truly behind it?

    Anyway, time will tell!

    Cheers,

    John

  • John N

    says:

    Dear “Guest”,

    Gee, let me make a wild stab in the dark, you wouldn’t happen to be “Peter” of APA fame by any chance would you?

  • John N

    says:

    Guest,

    Not Peter? Ok, fine you sure sound exactly like him, anyway… so you totally agree with Peter, of course you are welcome to your opinion as we all are, but a bit of a reality check please.

    It’s totally pointless for you or anyone else to keep going on and on about Su-35’s, Gripen NG’s or “fictional” F15AU’s and the even more fictional Gripen FS2020.

    It’s NEVER going to happen, never ever!

    The choice(s) moving forward for the RAAF has been set in stone, the RAAF will have either:
    * Growlers and F35’s, or
    * Super Hornets, Growlers and F35’s.

    The only thing we don’t know is the final numbers and mix, true?

    Regardless of Labor or the Coalition being in Government, the above selection is the ONLY aircraft that we will see in service with the RAAF, neither party has walked away from having the F35 in RAAF service, It’s just that we don’t know the final numbers or mix yet.

    So it doesn’t matter what you or I think, doesn’t matter if the decision that is finally made is right or wrong, or stupid or not, true?

    Cheers,

    John

  • Dan

    says:

    Guest or Peter and all the F-35s, SU-35s, F-22s, and F-15s fans out there. The RAAF will purchase more Super Hornets due to the failures and the fake promises of the F-35.

    The End.

  • Tomcat Terry

    says:

    Like the stealthy Gripen’s that are coming myself. Read that the new NG Gripen E’s will have the upgraded F414 engines and even longer range than current model. Read also the SAAB team are working on twin engine super stealth version of the Gripen. Not sure on F15 as it sounds like we will have to rely on the Yanks to come up with spares going forward. F35 still worth keeping an eye on though.

  • John N

    says:

    Guest,

    Well I knew it wouldn’t take you long to start with the personal insults, which is pathetic and true to form.

    Pointless trying to have any sort of rational discussion with you, isn’t it?

    I point out that regardless of what you or I think, or anyone else here thinks, that the choices have been made and of course you can’t even acknowledge that simple fact.

  • Steve

    says:

    Remember the Gripen crashed twice due to faulty fly-by-wire early in development – and even the F-22 had a near crash early on as it almost belly landed.

    The F-35 has yet to crash once yet since flying first in 2000.

  • Alex Lim

    says:

    Hey I’m from Singapore. Our F15’s are great but have heard whispers that Gripen is very good despite only one engine. Our air force interested in F35 too but will not be surprised if a cheaper European is sort, like this NG Gripen. Whith Australian Super Hornet, F35’s and our F15’s and maybe Gripen, will make quite a problem for any agressor in our region. What is with the people being aggressive on this forum?

  • John N

    says:

    It appears the comments and personal insults made by “Guest” have been deleted (Thanks AA for moderating this one, appreciated.)

    Anyway, back to the point of this article……

    Steve,

    Exactly right, not one F35 has been lost in testing, not to say it may not happen as more and more tests and the production aircraft come into service, but still a good record to date.

    I think the point that gets lost in articles about the grounding of the F35 is that reasons for the groundings are not necessarily to do with some major “fundamental” short comming in the actual F35 design.

    This latest grounding is the result of a “crack” in a fan blade in an engine made by Pratt & Whitney.

    How many different types of aircraft and how many 1000’s of P&W engines are in service? Is this all the fault of the F35 design itself? I’d say not.

    The most recent grounding prior to this (specifically the F35B), was to do with a problem with a “fueldraulic” line that was made incorrectly manufactured by the supplier of that part.

    Let’s not forget the problem caused by an incorrectly made oil pipe on the Rolls Royce engine that self destructed on the Qantas A380 flying from Singapore a few years ago, was that a specific A380 design fault? No it wasn’t.

    Regardless of an aircraft being Military or Commercial, many 100’s of suppliers produce parts, even Australian companies too, sometimes someone gets it wrong and there is a problem or a failure specifically with that part, true?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggest for one minute that the F35 hasn’t had a troubled introduction to date, but I think each problem needs to be looked at in the context of the problem.

    Cheers,

    John

  • Brian

    says:

    Gripen not a good choice nor the F15.
    But if had to choose between them, then the Gripen would run rings around it.
    F35 is and will prove without a doubt that it’s the best aircraft for Australia. Way better than a Gripen.

  • Sven C Y

    says:

    Ahhh… Not do sure about that. Better choices will present themselves in time. Australia should make do with S Hornet until then.

  • Dane

    says:

    To Andrew and all the other JSF critics, what is a viable alternative that is a available in a similar time frame (IOC by 2020)

  • Outbackdrone22

    says:

    Our association with the americans is stronger than ever and everything is indicating that that will continue and get even bigger. We should stick to american made planes for strategic reasons.
    In case of a conflict in the region the first ones to be around with all their capabilities will be the Yanks.
    The Swedish will be on their homes watching developments from their TVs and wishing us good luck with the Gripens.

  • Aido

    says:

    Why don’t we just design our own aircraft from scratch. We could make it like super stealthy, have 10 engines for superior power, carry nukes, have a range of 10,000 miles and only cost $1 mil each.

    That’s about as plausible as getting flankers or our own modified eagle….

  • Dane

    says:

    Thanks to the moderators for removing some derogatory and completely unnecessary comments by certain individuals.

  • Michael

    says:

    Yeah, the F35 has never crashed as it’s never in the air long enough. Reckon go the EF2000 or the upgraded Gripen. Prime minister has committed to the F35 anyway so it’s too late. Oh well, hope all F35 advocates are right and we’re getting our hard earnt dollars worth!

  • Chris

    says:

    Thanks to AA for moderating. Whilst the JSF F-35 debate obviously stirs some peoples passions, if they are not prepared to be honest about who they are and civilised in expressing their opinions perhaps they should just not post in the first place or find somewhere else to express their anger and frustration?!

    A cracked fan blade can happen to any engine on any a/c and until the report is made public doesn’t say anything negative about the F-35 whatsoever.

  • Crawford P

    says:

    What about a dozen B1 bombers from the Yanks? They’ll be a good replacement tithe F111 and integrate well with the F35’s and Super Hornets / Growlers. Does anyone know if Australian military ever looked into that option or still could?

  • Dave

    says:

    I can’t imagine why the US Navy wouldn’t give up production slots again if we were to order more super hornets. They also did the same for the MH-60R order and production of the super hornet is still ahead of schedule.

    The US Air Force also gave up production slots for the C-17 so it is not exactly unprecedented.

  • Joel

    says:

    About Gripen, I am sure that the idea would be to have them license built in Australia, not imported from Sweden. Just like Saab has offered Bombardier to build them in Canada.

  • NGF

    says:

    It is time that Australia followed Canada’s lead and started a rigorous tender process to replace the RAAF’s Classic Hornets. Here are the Canadian Terms of Reference:

    http://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/app-acq/stamgp-lamsmp/torcc-torcf-eng.html

    Invite all manufacturers to present aircraft and make a selection based on: strategic need, performance, delivery and price.

    All contenders could bid: eg Typhoon, Rafale, Gripen, F-15E, SF-15SE, Super Hornet – and F-35.

    Let the best aircraft win.

  • Andrew McLaughlin

    says:

    Folks

    Just FYI, our ‘friend’ Peter has been using my name to post crap. I guess the guy in the hobby shop forgot to remind him his IP address shows up in AA’s system when he posts…

    For the record, my views on the F-35 HAVE NOT changed.

    Cheers

    Andrew McLaughlin

  • Harvie

    says:

    It is extremely unfortunate that moderation appears to be always required in respect to comments offered after articles appear regarding the F35. Having said this it will be most interesting to see what comes out of the Canadian assessment. We still have time to undertake a similar due diligence which surely is essential for an investment of the magnitude of the F35 acquisition project. This would provide some structure to the decision for acquisition including some analysis of the numbers required. Is anyone aware of any objective reasoning as to why we always buy approx 100 fighters, including the Sabre, Mirage, combined F/A 18/F111 and potential F35 purchases?

  • Tomcat Terry

    says:

    Believe it has something to do with teh number of squadrons we have and planes per squadron. Apparently this 100 figure fits it nicely. i.e. after the retirement of the F111 that is where the extra aircraft are needed to maintain those two squadrons utilising the 2 seat Super Hornet. The Growlers may well be a whole new squadron with this unique capability.

  • Red Barron

    says:

    Beauty AM share peters IP address and we will attack him for once. Just jokes…..

  • Tom Herring

    says:

    Well chaps I agree that this most recent issue with the F35 is not that big of a deal. Concurrency and the mile long list of greivences and compromises relating to performance, system development and cost spikes is depressing and people should rightly feel concerned. What grates is that in following this program for years there has been a huge amount of forcasting and as with the weather it is oft not what we were expecting. Is there going to be a point in proceedings where total system cost is put out to the public before we sign onto the financial merrigoround? With all of the differing points of debate the nation needs to be aware of the facts in pure terms of cost and capability. I do hope that it works out as our chequing account aint that great these days.

  • John N

    says:

    Andrew,

    Great to hear from the “real” Andrew McL! I wasn’t going to fall for that pathetic trap that peter tried to lay yesterday.

    I noticed that the fool posted another nasty post this afternoon, fortunately that has been deleted too.

    I’m loathed to say this but maybe, if we have to put up with more crap from that fool, its time for all of us to register our “log in” to post a comment.

    I do like the lack of moderation, most of us are mature enough to be fair and reasonable to each others points of view, but if this crap continues maybe AA will have no choice but to do what I’m suggesting.

    Maybe the system could be set up to reject the crap that comes from his IP address?

    I’m not asking for debate to be censored, nothing wrong with different points of view, but this endless steam of bile, personal insults and crap from that fool is going to screw it up for the rest of us.

    Cheers,

    John

  • Crawford P

    says:

    Is this Peter G that was on 4 Corners? Mmmmm…what was the ABC thinking.
    I like the concept of the F35 but agree with NGF, Harvie and others above that we should be taking a leaf out of the Canadian’s book and have more public scrutiny on the final decision. After all, it is the extremely high cost and very long lead in times that makes this decision very very crucial. Better to opt out now and start evaluations again rather than trying to “close the gate after the horse has bolted” with enhancements and costly modification fixes. Agree with John N with registering on AA.

  • John N

    says:

    Crawford P,

    Is it the same person? Well …… I think it’s pretty easy to join the dots to get the answer on that one!

    Lets all take a deep breath and stand back for a minute or two.

    Do you really think that for the last 10 years all the professionals in the RAAF, defence and Government (despite the fact we have a dysfunctional Government at present), all the partners airforces, defence departments and Governments, plus Japan and Israel are all totally stupid?

    Certain “nameless” people would like to convince us they all are.

    You, me (and dare I say all here) only access to information that is available in the “public domain” all the others above that I’ve mentioned have access to a whole bunch of highly classified information that we don’t.

    I would think its fair to say, “they” know a hell of a lot more than we and the “press” know, true?

    So while I don’t “blindly” follow everything the Government says or does, I think its a reasonable bet to assume that all the people in the “know”, know that the Billions of Dollars that is being invested by all the partner nations into this program will be worth it in the end.

    Of course the F35 has problems, but I think its also fair to say that no other aircraft program has had as much spot light put on it as this one, including the F111.

    It will be a bumpy road, but I think that by the end of this decade I’d rather see a new 5th Fighter entering service with the RAAF, that is designed to do the job for the following 30 years, than putting into service a tried and proven 4th Gen fighter than will be out of date sooner rather than later.

    Anyway, just my opinion.

    Cheers,

    John

  • Crawford P

    says:

    Agree totally John with all your comments.
    I’m a hedger and like my own money think it prudent that the RAAF hedges by keeping the S Hornets (especially the Growlers) as additional squadrons for as long as possible with the F35’s. Replace them with another platform later. Can’t see the problem with multiple platforms when there is obvious advantages despite many in the RAAF and Gov’t that keep pushing the “one platform efficiency” line. Hey, like you John I’m just here to have a civil discussion with my respected peers like yourself.

  • Crawford P

    says:

    Agree totally John with all your comments.
    I’m a hedger and like my own money think it prudent that the RAAF hedges by keeping the S Hornets (especially the Growlers) as additional squadrons for as long as possible with the F35’s. Replace them with another platform later. Can’t see the problem with multiple platforms when there is obvious advantages despite many in the RAAF and Gov’t that keep pushing the “one platform efficiency” line. Hey, like you,I’m just here to have a civil discussion with my respected peers like yourself.

  • Dane

    says:

    I think there is a lack of understanding of the role of the F-35. It is not designed to get in a dog fight, it is designed to terminate a threat before that target knows he is even being watched. It is not designed for strafing runs at 200 feet AGL using a cannon, it is able to release precision guided munitions from beyond stand off distances. It is a completely new way of the use of aviation combat aircraft. People who don’t understand this attack its development and are stuck in the old ways where you have to point the aircraft at the ground or target to destroy it. It’s old hat and the doubters are only against because they are scared of change.

  • Andrew McLaughlin

    says:

    It’s NOT Peter from 4Corners/APA…

  • Dave

    says:

    If nothing else, I think this strengthens the argument for a mixed fleet… and twin engined aircraft. 😉

  • Tomcat Terry

    says:

    Totally agree Dave. You’ll still need aircraft to do those “old ways staffing runs” 😉

  • Chris

    says:

    I for one appreciate to read and partake in a robust civilised discussion on this subject and thank AA for the opportunity to do so. AA could so easily close off comments about the JSF altogether which is what the behaviour of “Peter” risks for everyone. Thankfully that has not occurred.

    One comment which I’d like to throw into the debate:

    John N, you commented about the rational of getting a second batch of Rhinos so close to the delivery of the first F-35s. Fair comment, however, how sure are we, that our F-35s will be ready around 2020? If we don’t order the additional batch now and take delivery asap what will we do if the F-35 delivery slips again?

    I think the 4 Corners Report highlighted one specific aspect of the F-35 decision quite well and that is Oz bought the sales pitch hook, line and sinker. Indeed we almost certainly committed ourselves to the a/c unnecessarily early. From a fleet planning perspective the JSF was always going to be a complex project facing huge technical hurdles, risking cost blowouts and delivery delays and the prudent decision would have been to have waited. Oz could have gone with a planned and budget 4th Gen fleet 2000-2025 and then the F-35 from 2025 onwards when the a/c is mature, delivery schedule is confirmed and the cost is known. Agreed, there is no alternative to the F-35. Either the US gets it right or builds another one, but until it’s ready for service we could have gone with a planned new build 4th Gen a/c rather than doing the “Band-Aid” Rhino orders which ultimately cut the 5th Gen buy.

    Imagine the situation if we had 100 Rhinos now, half way through their service life, we’ve done a deal with Boeing for an upgrade which includes increased thrust, infra-red tracker, conformal tanks and their good through till 2020-2025. We could so easily sit out the F-35 development issues and see how delivery slots for 2025 are shaping up. In the meantime how is the “emerging threat” of 2020 developing which justified our early commitment to the JSF?

  • BH

    says:

    @ Chris..
    I’m not 100% sure on this so someone correct me if I’m wrong but by buying into to the F35 as early as we did we became a development partner as opposed to just an end customer. Unlike some countries we have had a say in certain parts of the aircrafts development such as what weapons will be integrated as well allowing Australian companies to bid for work… While is is riskier for us we will potentially get an aircraft better suited to our needs.

  • Tomcat Terry

    says:

    The early commitment was just as much about OZ company’s getting work and political brownie points. Putting aside all experts defence of the F35, the Australian Gov’t should have tendered a competition between all aircraft developers. Too late now I know but shows a clearly ignorant and disrespectful attitude to the people of Australia. So the lesson to be learnt here is to make a lot of noise when obvious disregard to correct acquisition processes are ignored. Why does the media get surprised when there is so much attention to every aspect of the F35 purchase. Australian people are not stupid, it’s their money and their children these aircraft are protecting so it’s healthy to let decision makers know we are watching them. Last word, at least we will know who to blame if it all goes pear shape. Who of you out there defending the F35 will honestly put up your hand and say you defended that disaster if it does. Good luck!

  • Chris

    says:

    Being a development partner is fine. My concern is more the naivety that went into the acquisition planning – that the JSF would be delivered on time. That was never going to happen from day one and Oz should never have been planning for the a/c so early. It carried with it too many risks which are now fact. First batch of Rhinos in service, second batch most likely on it’s way and delivery of the first F-35 squadron still uncertain.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Chris – understand your point, however I would like to clarify that the Gov / DoD did schedule buffers into the timeline from early days… yes, the Rhinos were to cover any capability gap (the Def Min has since said that they will probably end up being more than just a ‘gap filler’), and yes, due to further slippage more Rhinos are now being considered. But they DID anticipate timeframe issues and planned accordingly. The F/A-18F’s now at RAAF Amberley are proof of that.

  • John N

    says:

    Hi guys, it’s great to see some sensible discussion again, we don’t always have to agree with each other, no abuse, it’s very refreshing!

    Obviously a big issue in people’s minds is, will the F35 be ready by 2020?

    Comparisons don’t always mean much, but I’d like to do this one anyway.

    The F111, we signed on in 1963 when it was still a “paper” aeroplane, first flight of a development aircraft was in December 64, we were due to take delivery in 68, then they were put “on ice” for 5 years and delivery started in July 73, roughly a period of 10 years.

    The F35 (not including the X35 demonstrator), manufacture of parts for the F35 started in 2003, first development aircraft flew in 2006, today, 2013, there is a growing number of development and early production aircraft completed, so its still another 7 years before they are expected to start entering service with the RAAF.

    Does this mean anything? Maybe, maybe not, still 7 years is a fair way out from today.

    Yes I’m sure it’s very clear to all that I’m pro F35, but unlike some other ‘nameless’ people, I’m not anti Rhino or Growler, in fact the opposite, they are great aircraft, my concern is that by the mid 2020’s they won’t be at the level we need them to be.

    To put it in simple terms, its like we are currently driving around in our old reliable, but ageing car, we have to make some choices, we can buy the last of the long running cheap “run out” model or we can wait a bit longer for the “new” model with all the new and advanced safety features, etc.

    Unlike a car after a few years of regretting we bought it and then upgrading to the new model, buying a fleet of new fast jets for the RAAF only happens every 25 or 30 years or so.

    If, as it appears this Government is going to do, eg, buy another 24 Rhino’s as insurance for a “possible” capability gap, where does the money come from?

    When the Howard Government bought the first 24 Rhino’s, we had plenty of $’s in the bank and they were purchased with supplementary funds that didn’t affect the long term purchase of the F35.

    This time around, we are broke, the Government has cut the guts out of the Defence budget, so any money spent will surely come out money budgeted for the F35 which will probably mean that even if we want to buy more F35’s later there won’t be the money to do it.

    I hope in 7 or so years from now we don’t regret, what I think, is a solution to a short term problem.

    Hope the decision, that I’m sure is coming, doesn’t bite us on the bum in the longer term!

    Cheers,

    John

  • Frank O

    says:

    Agree with your analogy John re purchasing Super Hornets with F35 funds. Probably will be no funds in the kitty thanks to our current political party and will take a lot years to repair the funding damage that has been caused. Agree with T Terry on the point of having a mixed fleet in the future. Why not look at the option of having a reduced number of F35’s and another lot of stealthy alternatives for the Rhino’s replacement in the future mid 20’s? There will be many production stealth platforms available by then from the likes of Europe and possibly our Asian counterparts.

  • John N

    says:

    Frank,

    Do you honestly believe that somewhere out of the blue someone in Europe, or even Asia, is going find and fund the 10’s of Billions of dollars to develop and produce a credible 5th Gen aircraft to be available some where in the mid 2020’s?

    By the time the F35 is entering Sqn service with the various partner nations around the world, the journey from JSF demonstrators, eg X32 and X35, through to an in service F35 will have taken a good 20 years.

    Sorry, but I can’t see what you are suggesting is going to happening.

    And regardless, Australia has tied its wagon to the US, simple as that, so much of our major weapons and weapon systems are and will continue to be of US origin for a lot of very very valid reasons.

    Cheers,

    John

  • Frank O

    says:

    Mmmmm! I’ll agree to disagree only on the basis of a few fellow aeronautical engineers based in Europe for instance that are telling me that a lot of work is rapidly picking up over there to produce NATO ordanance carrying 5th gen + platforms i.e SAAB with a twin engine stealth platform, admitadly this is still a aircraft that will not feasibly ready until the later 20’s, but I’m amazed how many countries are now pouring more and more money into developing these “must have” platforms. So to answer your question John…confidently say yes, I do think there will be many 5th and possibly the beginnings of 6th gen aircraft available come the mid 20’s. Some of these countries have John that we don’t, lit’s of money! Just look at China…wow! What we could do with that defence and R & D budget!

  • John N

    says:

    Guys,

    I’m going to make a prediction, right or wrong, this is what I think is going to happen.

    I’m sure a decision has already been made, just a matter of finding the right moment to announce it.

    Between now and the election, the Government has three opportunities to make the announcement, eg at the Avalon Air Show (unlikely?), the May Budget (probably) and the new Defence White Paper (last chance).

    I can see the Government / Defence Department “Spin Doctors” working on the announcement now, and it probably will read something like this:

    “Today the Government announces the purchase of an additional 12 F35’s, this will complete the purchase of a 14 aircraft ‘training’ Sqn for the RAAF, they will enter service in 2020.”

    “To ensure that a ‘capability gap’ does not occur during the transition to the F35, the Government also announces the purchase of 24 Super Hornets.”

    “The decision to purchase additional F35’s will be made at a later date, blah, blah, blah.”

    This way the Government covers its butt and allows it to keep a foot in both camps.

    The Government has continued to say for a long time that it is still committed to the F35, but since mid last year it has also made a lot of noise about not letting a capability gap to occur, eg, allows it to have an each way bet.

    Maybe I’ll end up with egg on my face, but I’m pretty certain that this is the action this Govenment will take.

    Personally I’d rather see them stick to the original plan on an all F35 force (+ Growlers), but I’m realistic enough to think that what I’m suggesting above will happen.

    Anyway, time will tell……..

    Cheers,

    John

  • John N

    says:

    Frank,

    Yep, happy to agree to disagree.

    But I’m sure you will have to agree (assuming we don’t have some massive split with the US) that we are committed to US aircraft and systems, and there is a very long list of practical reasons why that will continue to happen.

    Not to say other countries won’t eventually develop 5th Gen aircraft, (and I’m putting aside Russia and China, because we are never going to go down that path), I still can’t see that we will unhitch our wagon from the US.

    As for the SAAB, it’s still a paper plane and Europe has run out of money too, maybe they can borrow some from the Chinese!

    Cheers,

    John

  • Chris

    says:

    If you think the F-35 debate in Oz is controversial I can assure that the Gripen purchase in Switerzland is no different. The Fighter Pilot lobby group believe it’s not good enough for the Air Force (sound familiar?) whilst the Socialist Left don’t support the purchase at all and want to scrap the deal. The Defence Minister is in the middle and argues it’s all the country can afford and it needs an F-5 replacement to supplement the small Hornet force. My understanding is that Sweden will only build the NG if Switzerland goes through with the deal and any future Gripen variant hangs on the NG going ahead for starters. SAAB are however being shrewd in proposing an alternative to the F-35 which may be of interest to countries which abandon it on cost/delivery/political grounds. Could this a/c be a viable alternative for Oz? I don’t believe so. Oz will always have a frontline US fighter due to interoperability and *supportability* considerations. I understand there was a particular reason that Sabres were sent to Ubon during the Vietnam War and not Mirages!

  • Terry

    says:

    Part of what Australia needs is value for money currently; the F35 is not value for money at $130m plus per plane that is crazy money. F/A18 will be much better value for money at least they have two engines and actually can fly operationally.
    Do not buy the first duds off the F35 production line. Wait for the production process to settle down and for the price to stabilise. Then consider buying what is needed then, maybe the Fleet Air Arm might need 30 VSTOL planes by then, hopefully not at $130m plus per plane.
    We need to consider filling an Australian capability gap this cannot be done by providing our military people with an overpriced day 2 or day 3 fat slow aircraft that is not yet past the development phase and will take years to be operational.

  • Dane

    says:

    I think that lines have been blurred when it comes to purchase price of the JSF. Is the $130 million each jet just for the aircraft itself or does that incude the cost of through-life-support? Critics of the JSF have been using the ~$130 miilion price tag and comparing it to the F/A-18E/F price tag of around ~$35 million each, which is for the jet only. LM and the government need to make it clear what the estimated cost includes.

  • Terry

    says:

    F35 aircraft $130m each plus through life cost. F/A 18 a lot less plus through life cost. about $100m saving per plane upfront. Also $130m plus per F35 is not yet fixed it is most likely going to rise before delivery. Also F35 does not come with software source code which of course will increase through life cost as lockheed rip us off for updates and software maintenance. F35 is very expensive upfront and to keep flying the most expensive plane we have ever considered buying.

  • Raymond

    says:

    John N – yes, I think any additional Super Hornet airframes will come at the expense of final F-35 numbers.

    As you know, unfortunately the current Government is fiscally incompetent and doesn’t even have the option to fund any extra ‘gap fillers’ separately as the Howard Government did, when the then-anticipated 10 year life cost of $6 billion (including initial purchase price of $2.9 billion) was fully supplemented.

    Therefore, the predicament for the Government now is to strike a balance without taking any risks with the RAAF’s air combat capability. They need to get it right for the long term and I suppose they will err on the side of caution. Somehow they need to weigh up whether we can afford to wait out the F-35 or be safe rather than sorry and order another 24 Super’s.

    I don’t exactly envy them, as the F-35 will be a much more capable airframe and well worth the wait, but there’s always that nagging doubt ‘what if’. I trust that they make the best decision.

    “I have had the misfortune to fly a fourth generation fighter against a fifth generation fighter and there was an extreme capability gap…”
    Air Marshal Geoff Brown, AO
    Chief of Air Force, RAAF

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