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New build Growlers, renewed commitment to F-35 mark new Defence White Paper

written by australianaviation.com.au | May 3, 2013

Minister Smith launches the White Paper.

The Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Defence Stephen Smith today announced the acquisition of 12 new-build Boeing EA-18G Growlers electronic attack aircraft to help cover the transition to a RAAF air combat fleet of at least 72 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The news came at the same time as the government released its 2013 Defence White Paper.

The acquisition would see the current fleet of 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets retained in their current air combat and strike capability configuration, rather than converting 12 of the jets to Growler configuration, as had previously been planned.

Speaking at the announcement, Ms Gillard said the government was committed to the F-35 program and remained confident of the capability and deliverability of the development program.

Mr Smith said there was no current plan by government to further adjust the timetable for the Australian F-35 acquisition, which would see the first two aircraft delivered to the RAAF between 2014 and 2015, and three operational squadrons planned to enter service around 2020.

Mr Smith said a decision could be made by future governments on replacing the Super Hornets with additional JSF aircraft around their expected 2030 withdrawal date.

F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin said it was honoured by the trust and confidence shown by the Australian government.

“Along with the first two Australian jets in production, which will deliver in mid-2014, we will work closely with the government to support their purchase of their remaining 100 F-35 aircraft,” the statement said.


“Additionally, we will work with Australian industry supporting their participation in the production of components and sub-assemblies for the more than 3,000 F-35s to be built during the life of the program. The projected $5.5 billion of industrial participation will bring long term economic benefits to Australia for decades.”

Reaction from ASPI, the Australian Strategic Policy Intitute, has also been positive.

“Simply put, buying more Super Hornets retires much of the risk associated with relying on 1980s jets to form the bulk of our air combat capability. And buying Growlers off the production line rather than taking half of the existing 24 off line for conversion means that the RAAF will have their most capable aircraft continuously available,” blogged ASPI’s Andrew Davies.


“The downside to this decision is that the RAAF will be operating a mixed fleet of Super Hornets and F-35s for the entire 2020s, with the operating cost hit of two sets of fixed costs. That will be offset to some extent by a reduced buy of F-35s—now 72 rather than the 100 that had been pencilled in. The overall capability in the late 2020s will probably be less than might have been the case had we persevered with the full transition to the F-35, but the capability between now and the mid 2020s will be higher. And future governments can always revisit the air combat fleet size and composition if circumstances demand it.”

Comments (21)

  • Raymond


    Excellent! At last, a sensible decision from this Government, even if in its dying days.

  • Dan


    I wish the RAAF would have a 100 strong fleet of Super Hornets rather than having a 100 aircraft of F 35s and use the money they save for the up coming sixth-generation Unmanned aircraft.

    Either way, more Super Hornets the better.

  • Wayne


    Good enough for the US Navy and by the way the Growler performs EW role for USAF then good enough for us. The single type advocates miss the point that we operated two types foe decades and also reduces the risk of a fleet grounding should a problem occur in one type!

  • John


    I think they Russian made su-27or su-35

  • Tim


    WAKE UP!!! This country has over 300 billion in debt AND is taking money away from universities/TAFEs to pay for all this excess. Its a disgusting waste of money when we have so many social problems to adhere to first. Do you think a homeless person cares that his bit of pavepent is protected by 100 fighter jets when he cant feed himself? look at the New Zealand, they survive perfectly well without expensive fighter jets.

  • Jon


    Why does Australia feel a need for advanced fighters and submarines? Who does she feel is her enemy? Does she have an enemy? What is her global and strategic position? What does she think about her neighbors? Just curious…

  • Andrew McLaughlin


    John, huh?

  • Tyler


    Replying to jon
    Yes I agree that new Zealand has done good without jets, as a whole they’re defence force is very mismanaged,
    Australia even without a present enemy needs to be a sustainable force in our region though.

  • Jumbo



    The Australian Government spends a measly 1.7% of GDP on the Defence of the Nation, please take your rubbish comments about homelessness elsewhere, as you’ll find more gross misuse of the Federal budget elsewhere, think illegal arrivals, Gonski and NDIS.

  • Craig


    I think the white paper is a pretty good result overall for the RAAF. We have commited to Growler which is a new capabiltiy, hanging on to the 24 Rhinos and getting 72 JSF. Obviously their was much speculation about a follow on Super Hornet order. But I think this is about right. Just wondering now where will the Growler squadron be based?

  • Gerald Casimatis


    The increasing power vacuum in the Asia Pacific region, the accelerating demise of the US as the supreme world power, the ruthless supression of internal democratic and religious freedoms, the invasion of Tibet and bordering large areas of Indian Territory, the arms build up and aggressive stance China has taken with nearly all its regional neighbours on land and maritime claims should wake up all but the sleepiest of doves. Defence is not an option & we should immediately ensure that our democracy is not compromised in some parallel to lord Chamberlain’s pronouncement of ” no war in our time” or “Churchill’s fortress Singapore”. The presumption that US weapons of mass destruction will preclude us from regional bullying is as quaint as the armies of the world all carrying gas masks in WW2. I do not personally see a war looming in the short term however it seems silly to think that cuddling a potential intolerant aggressor will save us from not being prudent. Democracy will slip away if you follow some throw away left wing political media mantra & not logic on matters which you have little knowledge of.

  • BH


    @ Craig.
    I’d guess they’d base them alongside the other Supers for commonality reasons.
    I’m wondering whether they’ll stand up a new sqn or attach them to the existing 1 or 6 sqns..?

  • Darren


    The reason our government can spend 98.3% on ways to better our society is due to the 1.7% on Defence. The Australian Governments first, and primary responsibility, is to ensure our nation and all its people are secure. Defence is part of that. We can not participate in global discussions and diplomacy without means to back our position. War is a last resort, but woe to the man in the street if that day comes, for we may not have time to arm ourselves, if we are not prepared. A homeless man may not care, but he does care about his next meal, provided by someone who lives in a secure nation, security provided by the brave men and women with tools to do the job. Lastly, those who advocate lower defence spending (or even no defence spending at all) do they lock their house and insure it against a theif in the night?

  • Vu



    Japan wasn’t our enemy in the 1930s and what happened?
    They bombed Darwin.
    if you don’t learn from the past…

  • Jon


    Just asking, I take it Australia views China as a strategic threat…How does China view Australia? Can Australia defend itself against China. Like I said, just asking, not inferring anything.

  • Gerald Casimatis


    Jon, I don’t see China as a short term military threat primarily because it can’t yet easily project a combined force into the South Pacific. The real risk with China is that it appears to be wooing small countries in our region with the aim of dominating trade, perhaps arms and eventually like all colonial capitalist making countries depended on them. In that circumstance in perhaps 10 to 15 years with China’s planned growing number of aircraft carriers including super carriers, subs, strategic and stealth aircraft a cash strapped neighbour might offer them a base on our doorstep.
    Combine our current globally illiterate, financially wasteful, government placing spin doctors in responsible Ministerial & Public Service positions together with an America which might in the future become as it did prior to WW 1 & WW 2 isolationist and we have a situation more awkward than that which Thatcher at the time of the Falklands war or Howard during the East Timor crisis found themselves in after the destruction of their once proud defence forces by previous globally and historically illiterate politicians.
    Getting back to the original topic of The Defence White Papers it is important not just to have a large and imposing defence force but to be perceived by our neighbours as also being strong and resolute. I feel however that most Asian nations look at us with our relatively large squandered defence budget acting as comical wet nurses for economic refugees who use people smuggler provided mobile phones to contact our Navy when they want a lift into our perceived well funded socialist utopia.
    Indonesia with its numerically huge coastal navy and Singapore with its airforce having more operational combat aircraft than ours are classic examples of substance over spin.They both also do not have thousands of economic refugees banging on their doors to stay or eating into their non raw material depended balanced budgets.

  • Jon


    Thanks Gerald, very interesting. As an American I don’t have much of a feel for Australia other than it seems to be a steadfast ally. From our (my) standpoint, China is an enemy. They are currently conducting cyber warfare against the US. Seems like they are flat liers, cheats and thieves. I think this century, China will be on the march. If they can modernize their military, they will use it. If I were Japanese or Korean or any other western Pacific nation, I’d be gearing up to defend myself. I was wondering why Australia thinks it needs advanced expensive fighters. From what I can see, your politicians from your major political parties seem to want them. The only reason seems to be to counter China. The US will certainly (should) contract it’s empire. It will be still a formidable military power based on history, even it cuts military spending. I think the next war will be with Iran, however a war with China is not out of the question in the next 10 to 50 years. As for socialism (progressive-ism) America has been on that path since Teddy Roosevelt without much let up, but we continue to spend huge amounts of money on defense. So socialist’s seem to want empires and big militaries along with the capitalists. Socialists just don’t want to pay as much for their defense as the capitalist do. Anyway, very interesting response. Just to sum up, China is a huge enemy to freedom. They will have to be dealt with. Australia may well be on the front lines in a coming war for dominance in the Pacific.

  • Joe


    As Wanye correctly puts it, there is a problem with single type for the airforce and relying solely on the F35 would be a hugh mistake. Now, take a big picture look. What is the USA, Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Korea going to do if the F35 gets taken out of action?
    How would this be possible? Easy take out the ALIS system, the computer backbone of the F35. All the information is stored for all the Airforces that use it not in their respective home countries but a Lockheed Martin in USA. This is a massive single point of failure for the whole program.

  • Gerald Casimatis


    Cheers Jon

    In response to your comments Jon a war is not the likely conclusion of Chinese imperialism however western nations need to impose strict & fair limits to Chinese expansion and their control of foreign assets. The free trade debate with China is purely the domain of multinational corporations and political spin doctors driving their own agendas considering points such as much of China’s industry is state owned unlike ours [ US, Aust, Uk etc ] the yuan is not subject to market valuation and foreign ownership & a free press is a no no etc etc.
    Itemizing ways of containing Chinese expansion would require a book in its self however it can be achieved when there is a combined will.
    Iran is another issue and to be fair Iran [ Persia ] hasn’t invaded any country since around 500 bc. It appears at the moment only interested in replacing its aged, patched up, mostly Shah era military assets. Probably a wise move considering their neighbourhood’s instability eg Iraq, Afghanistan , Pakistan , the Caucuses and all sorts of Shia mosque blowing up types. As for the nuclear Iran issue I think of Weapons of Mass Destruction crapp that killed perhaps 100000 people and created a breeding ground for religious anti western types in a previously secular Iraq.

  • paul davis


    Tim i agree.we dont need fighter jets or subs,put in a underground nuclear ICBM base up north.

  • Gary


    the reason NZ has no fast jets is because they just hide behind the RAAF and the US Navy … knowing full well they would be protected, that in most people’s books makes them a bit of a parasitic ally if you ask me.
    btw still don’t understand why the RAAF doesn’t go for the F-35C with the bigger wings and longer range … Oz is a big country surrounded by a couple of really big oceans

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