Jan 09

At Defense Industry Daily’sRapid Fire“; I doubt either will fly:

  • Bell and Boeing to Canada: why don’t you have a look at the V-22? But then they started making that pitch more than a year ago.
  • Dassault is interested in Canada too… with the Rafale, according to Les Echos [in French]. Scoring that would look something like this
  • More on fixed-wing SAR, and on fighters.

    Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute

    Jan 08

    Lots from Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs:


    International News

    The Washington Post
    Obama picks Hagel for defense, Brennan for CIA - More - More
    The Washington Post
    Hill prepares for Hagel fight
    The Associated Press
    Hagel’s own words are fodder for critics
    The Washington Times
    Bipartisan blows stand between Brennan and post at helm of CIA

    International Commentary

    Editorial — International Herald Tribune
    Nominations for Defense and the C.I.A.
    M.J.S. — The Economist
    Barack Obama, Chuck Hagel and John Brennan: Similar visions
    Jonathan Bernstein — The Washington Post
    The Hagel nomination and Senate reform
    David Brooks — International Herald Tribune
    Why Hagel Was Picked
    Max Fisher — The Washington Post
    Chuck Hagel looks a lot like Robert Gates
    Richard Cohen — The Washington Post
    The tarring of Chuck Hagel
    Dana Milbank — The Washington Post
    Fighting the chicken hawks

    Also:

    Schnurman: Fort Worth-built Joint Strike Fighter is likely target for cuts

    Sec. Donley On The [US] Air Force’s Budgetary Balancing Act: EXCLUSIVE

    Earlier:

    US: Soldiers or Spooks?

    Whither the CIA?

    The Meaner, If Not Leaner, Kinetic CIA

    Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute

    Jan 04

    Further to this post,

    F-35: US LRIP 5,6 Costs

    I’d like to know how Lockheed Martin can give any firm price estimates for possible Canadian F-35As and I’d like to know how far to the right any Canadian acquisition might have to be pushed to get a price we can (supposedly) afford–especially as there is that pesky problem of keeping our CF-18s operational longer. At MILNEWS.ca:

    • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)The call is out for five American and European fighter jet manufacturers to polish up their sales pitches and give the Canadian government a ring. Following the mid-December update of F-35 cost estimates and re-setting of the process to replace the old CF-18 fleet, Public Works Department officials have written to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, EADS Eurofighter and Saab Group to say that the government will soon ask them what they could offer as the new mainstay for Canada’s air force. “A key component of this undertaking is a market analysis of fighter aircraft currently in production or scheduled to be in production,” said Deputy Minister Michelle d’Auray in the letter sent with little fanfare on Dec. 27. “Your company’s participation in this endeavour will greatly assist the Government of Canada in its assessment of options for a fighter replacement capability well into the 21st Century.” ….”
    • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) The Defence Minister in a year-end interview ” …. Right now, before we have spent a dime on the acquisition of F-35, because we have not, over 70 companies have won nearly $450 million in contracts to build this leading aircraft. The issue around the cost, I want to be very clear, the cost to buy this aircraft is $9 billion. I would suggest to you that any new fighter aircraft is going to be in that ball park. That’s the price we have set aside to buy a replacement for the CF-18s …. I’ll say it again, we have not spent a dime on the acquisition cost. We will not spend more than $9 billion on the acquisition cost ….We’ve looked at other aircraft before, let’s be clear about that, but we’re going to do it again. To increase confidence for both the Auditor General but most importantly the Canadian public, we’ve asked that it be done independently. So we have people with technical experience and auditing experience; people who are arms length from the government itself to look at what are the other available aircraft on the market. What are the other planes that would suit Canada’s needs and still be in this price envelope ….”
    • F-35 Tug o’ War (3b) Ooopsie…. “U.S. builders of America’s most advanced combat aircraft, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are still frantically rushing to put in place cutting edge technology that would secure the aircraft’s avionics from Chinese hacker attacks, U.S. intelligence sources told ISSSource ….”

    More on costs at a post from February 2012:

    Current US Procurement Costs for F-35A and Super Hornet

    here are some real numbers, via “U.S. Weapon Systems 2013 Budget Summaryprocurement costs only:

    1) F-35A, FY 2013 (p. 13): $3565.7M for 19 aircraft, or $187.7M each.

    By comparison the figures for FY 2012 are $3518.6M for 18 aircraft, or $195.5 each. Cost coming down though from a terribly high level.

    2) Super Hornet, FY 2013 (p. 24): $2065.4M for 26 aircraft, or $79.4M each.

    By comparison the figures for FY 2012 are $2303.4M for 28 aircraft, or $82.3M each. Cost still coming down on a long-running program.

    I have no idea how these procurement figures would compare to equivalent Canadian calculations. But it is clear the F-35A has a long way to go before its costs get anywhere near the Super Hornet’s. And, given that cuts in US F-35 buys over the next few years have been confirmed, it is hard to see the F-35A’s costs coming down rapidly

    The RCAF is still supposed to take delivery of its F-35As from 2016 to 2022 [with “Full Operational Capability” in 2025!]; one would love to know the costs during that period…

    One still would.

    Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute

    Jan 04

    A nice compilation of recent low rate initial production figures at Defense Industry Daily–no indication costs are coming down that I can see. The US is actually buying fewer planes in lot 6 than in lot 5, including fewer F-35As (18 vs 21, that’s the version the RCAF wants):

    F-35 Lightning: The Joint Strike Fighter Program, 2012 – 2013

    F-35 Contracts & Decisions

    Dec 28/12: LRIP-6. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a not-to-exceed $3.678 billion unfinalized modification to the low rate initial production lot 6 advance acquisition contract. It covers 29 planes: 18 F-35As, 6 F-35Bs, and 7 USN F-35Cs, plus “all associated ancillary mission equipment.” LRIP-6 contracts to date total $5,536.8 million [emphasis added], and include:

    • Dec 28/12: $3,677.9 (main 29: 18 F-35A, 6 F-35B, 7 F-35C)
    • Dec 28/12: $735.4 (support)
    • Dec 6/12: $386.7 (long-lead)
    • June 15/12: $489.5 (long-lead 35: 18 F-35A, 6 F-35B, 4 F-35C; 3 F-35A Italy, 2 F-35A Turkey, 1 F-35B Britain)
    • March 12/12: $38.6 (F-35A long-lead)
    • Feb 9/12: $14.6 (F-35B long-lead)
    • Jan 6/12: $194.1 (engines)

    Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (35%); El Segundo, CA (25%); Warton, United Kingdom (20%); Orlando, FL (10%); Nashua, NH (5%); and Baltimore, MD (5%), and is expected to be complete in February 2015. $1.839 billion is committed immediately (N00019-11-C-0083)…

    Dec 14/12: LRIP-5. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $127.7 million fixed-price-incentive-fee and cost-plus-incentive-fee modification, finalizing the F-35′s LRIP Lot 5 contract for 32 planes. This contract also includes funds for manufacturing support equipment; 2 program array assemblies; ancillary mission equipment, including pilot flight equipment; preparation for ferrying the aircraft; and redesign to change parts with diminishing manufacturing sources.

    Some news reports place the contract’s figures at $3.8 billion, but a review of past contracts, and conversation with Lockheed Martin, show that the entire LRIP-5 is actually $5.15 billion [emphasis added]. The distribution also differs from Reuters’ report: it’s 21 F-35As, 4 F-35Bs, and 7 F-35Cs. Past awards, in millions, include:

    • Dec 14/12: $127.7 (finalize)
    • Aug 6/12: $209.8 (spares)
    • Apr 13/12: $258.8 (add 1 F-35B, 1 F-35C for USA)
    • March 12/12: $56.4 (support of delivery schedule)
    • Dec 27/11: $485 (production requirements, incl. some tooling)
    • Dec 9/11: $4,011.9 (initial 30: 21 F-35A, 3 F-35B, 6 F-35C)

    So $5.15 billion is the entire contract LRIP-5 so far, including planes, spares/support and tooling/ manufacturing investments (PNR). The support and PNR pieces are still unfinalized and in negotiations, so the figure could climb slightly higher. For the planes themselves, the announced figures add up to about $4.398 billion ($4,011.9 + 258.8 + 127.7), or an average of $137.45 million per plane [engines do not appear included in that unit cost].

    Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (35%); El Segundo, CA (25%); Warton, United Kingdom (20%); Orlando, FL (10%); Nashua, NH (5%); and Baltimore, MD (5%), and is expected to be completed in October 2014. All contract funds were committed on award, and $112.9 million will expire on Sept 30/12 (N00019-10-C-0002)…

    Related:

    F35: Pentagon LRIP 5 “Agreement in Principle”/USAF 6th Gen. Fighter Thinking

    F-35: Meanwhile in the US and Australia

    Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

    Dec 31

    Strange to say this letter of mine sent to the paper was not printed:

    Re: F-35 — a case study in deficient decision-making: Olive, Dec. 28 (online)

    Mr Olive unfortunately has not done his research seriously (an all-too-common fault with our major media). He writes that “Had we selected wisely, we could have used the funds saved from purchasing more modest aircraft [than the F-35] adequate to our needs to replace our antiquated helicopters, and acquire our first troop-transport capability.”

    In fact the current government has purchased 15 CH-47F Chinook medium-to-heavy lift helicopters; the first is scheduled for delivery in 2013. The Cyclone maritime helicopter program to replace our ancient Sea Kings has indeed been repeatedly delayed–but that, probably mistaken, contract was signed by the Liberal government in 2004. Mr Olive, for his part, seems completely unaware that eight of those aircraft are supposed to be delivered in 2013.

    As for fixed-wing transports, Mr Olive could not be more wrong. The air force has had a troop-transport capability for decades. Moreover the current government, in its first term, bought four C-17 heavy jet transports–an aircraft capability Canada did not have–and 17 C-130J Hercules medium turboprops to replace the aging fleet of earlier-model Hercules. And all 21 new transports now are in service.

    Mr Olive got not one fact right in the sentence quoted. Pity. By the way, both the transport contracts, and the Chinook one, were effectively sole-sourced. Sometimes that approach is the best. Especially when there are in reality no viable competitor aircraft–which, however, I would agree is not the case for the RCAF’s new fighter.

    I have myself have hardly been soft on the planned F-35 acquisition, nor on the whole Cyclone program.

    Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

    Dec 21

    Our major media have been looking at these,

    F-35 and New Canadian Government Documents on Fighter Procurement

    and a big problem has been discovered.

    1) Range:

    Military will contract out air-to-air refuelling if Canada goes with F-35

    The Canadian military has decided it will rely on the U.S., other allies and private companies for air-to-air refuelling if the government purchases the F-35 because the stealth fighters aren’t compatible with Canada’s current refuelling aircraft.

    The revelation is buried in an explosive report released last week and means the Canadian military would be reliant on third parties to realize the full benefits of its F-35s…

    Air-to-air refuelling is considered to be of critical importance to Canada’s military aircraft given the country’s massive size, particularly when it comes to conducting sovereignty missions in the North.

    F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin initially said the stealth fighter would be compatible with Canada’s existing refuelling aircraft — a claim repeated by Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

    “Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the plane, has confirmed that the F-35 can handle different types of refuelling systems, including the one currently used by our forces,” MacKay told Parliament on Jan. 31, 2011.

    Numerous defence department documents subsequently showed the F-35 was in fact incompatible with Canada’s existing fleet of refuelling aircraft, but the military said it was examining ways to address the problem.

    Now, according to accounting firm KPMG, National Defence has decided to change that plan and instead outsource air-to-air refuelling if Canada buys the stealth fighters…

    “With respect to air-to-air refuelling requirements, DND will rely on (the U.S.), coalition partners, or commercial refuelling assets to meet operational requirements,” reads KPMG’s final report [scroll down here to Other Potential Acquisition Cost], which was released last week…

    The RCAF has only two jet-engined CC-150 Polaris tankers, their plane best suited to refuel fighters; our older Hercules have a refuelling capability but their slower speed makes them less suitable for refuelling fighters. Those Hercs will be phased out of service over this decade. Meanwhile our 17 new CC-130Js appear to have a similar capability (though the RCAF’s site for the aircraft does not mention it):


    The CC-130J Super Hercules is an advanced tactical airlifter, designed to be flexible and deliver a range of missions including combat delivery, air-to-air refuelling…

    2) But then there’s ice. One finds this in the DND/CF’s “Winter 2012 FAQs” under 3. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF):


    Q3.17 Does the F-35A have an arresting hook like the CF-18?
    A3.17 Although the F-35A has an arresting hook, it is not designed for routine use. The CF-18 was originally designed for use on an aircraft carrier with regular use of the arresting hook.

    As such, the more robust arresting hook on the CF-18 requires less maintenance and fatigue monitoring between uses than that of the F-35. This being said, the stopping capability of the F-35 arresting hook is equivalent to the arresting hook on the CF-18 [really? see next sentence]. The difference between the two arresting hooks is the maintenance action required after usage to prepare each arresting hook for the subsequent flight [how easy at a remote northern field?].

    Q3.18 Can the F-35A stop on slippery and short runways like those often experienced at Canada’s northern aerodromes?
    A3.18 The F-35 landing performance studies indicate that the aircraft can be stopped on a snowy runway in less than 6000 feet without the use of additional stopping aids. When runways are contaminated with ice or a mix of slush, snow, and ice, the F-35 will require an additional stopping aid such as a drag chute or the emergency arresting hook to stop in less than 6000 feet [emphasis added]. This is similar to the CF-18, which regularly uses the arresting hook to stop on short runways in icy conditions…

    Well, it does not sound to me as if the F-35A’s hook will be as effective as the CF-18s. And the standard F-35A does not come with a drag chute. Yet we find this at the “Next Generation Fighter Capability Annual Update” site under 5. National Defence Planning Assumptions:


    Canadian Modifications: At this point, no unique Canadian modifications to the aircraft are planned, and there are no provisions in the estimate for costs for such modifications as the F-35A meets all operational requirements…

    And the KPMG report says, again under Other Potential Acquisition Cost:

    …KPMG requested and received a DND letter further summarizing DND’s requirements, assumptions and cost treatment of the drag chute, air-to-air refuelling, weapons and NORAD See footnote 12. With respect to the drag chute and NORAD , KPMG received confirmation from DND that the F-35 meets the mandatory requirements documented within the Statement of Requirement without modification and without additional cost [emphasis added] See footnote 13

    So a likely less effective hook and no drag chute. So how would RCAF F-35As safely “stop on short runways in icy conditions” as its Hornets can do? Perhaps enquiring journalists will pursue the matter further.

    3) Meanwhile Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page raises broader issues:

    …if we would have had just more transparency early on, more debate about, ‘Is this the right plane, is the F-35 the right plane? How does it fit?’ — this is a political discussion, not my discussion, but a political discussion around do we want strike fighters, do we want stealth, how are we going to use these planes in the future, how does it fit with our other capital equipment — I think that trust would have gone up. It just would have been so much better, so that’s where we want to get to…

    Points I’ve been making at this blog for some time, e.g.:

    What is Canada’s New Fighter for?

    Why Militarily Does Canada Need the F-35?

    F-35: Flim-Flammery From a Senior RCAF General

    Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

    Dec 18

    Further to this post, based on DoD Buzz, AOL Defense weighs in, a flavour:

    Where’s The Beef? Krepinevich Slams Vagueness Of US Strategy

    By

    http://o.aolcdn.com/mars/25090/635/357/pacificbasin-map.jpg

    Where’s the strategic beef? That’s what Andrew Krepinevich wants to know.

    “When the administration came out with its strategicguidance [in] January, I thought the guidance made a lot of sense in terms of setting priorities,” the head of the influential Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said this morning [Dec. 18] at the headquarters of the Air Force Association. “Western Pacific No. 1, Persian Gulf region No. 2, that certainly made a lot of sense. But what I haven’t seen since then is the strategy. If these are the objectives, how do we go about meeting those objectives?”

    When we talk about a possible conflict with the Chinese, for example, “what do we want [Pacific Command chief] Adm. Locklear to do?” Krepinevich asked. “Do we want him to defend the first island chain [running from Japan through Taiwan and the Philippines to northern Indonesia], think about blockading any adversary, [or] do we want to practice nuclear brinksmanship, appeasement, accommodation?”

    Krepinevich has been the leading non-government advocate of the Air Force-Navy “AirSea Battle” concept>, seen largely as a war plan against Iran and China. But even that idea, he said, is still vague and underdeveloped compared to its inspiration, the Cold War “AirLand Battle” doctrine for defending Western Europe from the Soviets and South Korea from the North during the Cold War. It’s so inchoate, in fact, that officials from America’s Pacific allies have been showing up at CSBA, wanting more detail that the Pentagon apparently isn’t giving them.

    Figuring out what we want to do is particularly important when we can no longer afford to everything

    …stealth aircraft and submarines, manned or unmanned, are some of the most expensive systems the Pentagon can buy. “How do you reconcile the ends-means disconnect?”…

    Krepinevich did, however, steer clear of mentioning CSBA’s long-time skepticism of the Air Force’s and indeed the whole Defense Department’s largest program, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which the think tank has criticized as too short-ranged to penetrate the deep “anti-access/area denial” defenses of a country like China. In a recent “budget wargame” simulation run by CSBA, six out of seven teams decided to cut the F-35 over the next 10 years — and the seventh cancelled it outright.

    That’s not advice anyone at the Air Force Association wanted to hear. But if you read Krepinevich and company closely, they’ve got plenty of bad news for everyone.

    One wonders to what extent such US thinking–such as it may be–will affect the Canadian Forces’ internal future planning. And if the political level is considering these matters (hah!), potentially of very serious concern to Canada. Might we risk getting drawn into something…? Is DFAIT paying attention? Relevant:

    So What States Might the RCN Fight?

    Eastward Ho! For the CF Too?

    The RCN at the (Chinese) Seaside? And a Canadian Tilt Towards India?

    CF’s Pacific “Surge” at RIMPAC Exercise

    Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

    Dec 18

    It’s here. Note the “Archives” where the RCAF’s case for the F-35 as the only choice is relentlessly preserved, e.g. here (”3. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF”) and here (”Mandatory Capabilities / Requirements”).

    Meanwhile some website, er, scrubbing appears to have been reversed. Plus the latest news:

    F-35 Deal Targets Lower Price, More Shared Risk

    Lockheed Profit on F-35 Jets Will Rise With New Contract

    Latest F-35 Unit Costs Now Exceed $223 million
    [average across all three versions, make of the figuring what you will]

    USAF Finally Begins F-35 Pilot Training [more here]

    And here’s the F-35 saga as chronicled at this blog.

    Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

    Dec 17

    1) Commentary, via SOMNIA:


    Opinion — Maclean’s
    The virtues of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
    John Geddes — Maclean’s
    A grim day for Peter MacKay
    Tim Harper — The Toronto Star
    F-35s mean never having to say you’re sorry
    Michael Harris — iPolitics
    Why is Peter MacKay still in cabinet?
    Michael Den Tandt — National Post
    The F-35 program is a start
    John Ivison — National Post
    There are no cheap alternatives to the F-35
    Colin Horgan — iPolitics
    F-35: Bureaucratic language
    Andrew Coyne — National Post
    The Harper Government’s continuing spin on F-35 costs is inexcusable
    Paul Wells — Maclean’s
    F-35: Hubris is a Greek word that means ‘what just happened’
    Brian Lilley — Toronto Sun
    Opposition really about clipping air force wings
    …[for non-Canadians’ info, the National Post and Toronto Sun are considered small “c”, Maclean’s may trend that way a bit, iPolitics ranges ]

    Plus:

    F-35: So, what about that 30-year timeframe?

    And this lengthy piece by Alec Castonguay in L’actualité.com is excellent–better than anything in the Anglo media, with very good sourcing and analysis. Do read it all:

    F-35: les secrets du retour à la case départ

    2) Scrubbing:

    RIP former National Defence F-35 website
    By [pretty good fellow]

    …the Department of National Defence has scrubbed one of its old F-35 fact pages from the internet. The old page, titled “Arriving at Canada’s Costs for the F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing Variant Joint Strike Fighter”, disappeared sometime since early December. On Thursday, the page showed nothing but a 404 error, stating that the page requested could not be found. Reason given: “Our web site has undergone extensive restructuring.”

    Now, it looks like this.

    The old page explained how the government arrived at its cost estimate for ownership of 65 F-35 fighter jets, based on the Joint Strike Fighter’s (JSF) Joint Program Office (JPO) estimates. The site said Canada’s cost estimates “take into account actual trends in the labour and supplier base including signed contracts and actual costs.” (Emphasis theirs) Those numbers, it said, also factored in “proven savings associated with the commonality of design in the three JSF variants of aircraft.” (Emphasis theirs)

    Canada’s price per plane, it said, “is estimated to be in the mid-$70M due to the delivery times that will be at around the peak of production efficiency [tee hee flipping hee, see here and here].”

    It reiterated the $9 billion acquisition cost, but made no mention of operation and sustainment, or those lifecycle costs that have since become such an issue.

    “The F-35 program is at an advanced stage,” the site read. “Aircraft are flying, the production line is open and, as a result, detailed cost estimates are now available for Canada to gain the required confidence to stand behind its estimates. Significant flexibility exists within contingency funding to deal with cost variations [ho, ho flipping ho].”

    The old site looked like this, and is still available via a Google cached version here

    Thank goodness for that Google, er, transparency.

    Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

    Dec 13

    Further to this post, and the “Comments” where some important points are noted:

    F-35 and New Canadian Government Documents on Fighter Procurement

    1) South of the border costs are not exactly coming down fast, note price is without engine:

    Pentagon Says Will Sign F-35 Deal, Price Emerges

    The U.S. Defense Department said it will sign a contract with Lockheed Martin Corp on Friday [Dec. 14] for a fifth group of 32 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, a long-awaited deal that moves forward the most costly weapons program in U.S. history.

    The Pentagon also expects to reach an agreement soon with Lockheed on early funding for a sixth group of F-35s, a step that could help reduce a potential $1.1 billion liability the weapons maker faced from work it had already done on the jets without a signed contract, a senior defense official said.

    The Pentagon will pay about 4 percent less [emphasis added] for each new Lockheed Martin Corp F-35A fighter jet when it signs a deal worth $3.8 billion with the No. 1 U.S. defense contractor on Friday, according to sources familiar with the deal.

    The cost of each conventional takeoff and landing jet in the fifth production contract will be around $107 million, excluding the engine, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly. That compares to a price of $111.6 million in the fourth contract with Lockheed.

    The Pentagon is negotiating a separate agreement with Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp, for the engines that will power the new warplanes. Pentagon officials hope to conclude that agreement by the end of the year as well…”

    Earlier:

    F35: Pentagon LRIP 5 “Agreement in Principle”/USAF 6th Gen. Fighter Thinking

    As Canadian major media now catch up with 3Ds.

    2) Down Under:

    Australia Considers More F/A-18s If Joint Fighter Delayed

    Australia will look at buying 24 more Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets in the event of any major new setbacks to the controversial Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter project, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said on Thursday [Dec. 13].

    That means Australia could buy fewer stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighters than originally planned and is another sign that development partners are growing frustrated by delays and cost overruns to the $396 billion programme, which is the costliest programme in Pentagon procurement history.

    The announcement comes a day after Canada also said it would look to other options for its jet fighters due to mounting concerns over the development and cost of the F-35s [see first link in this post].

    “Australia’s air combat capability is a vital part of our national security framework. The government will not allow a gap in our air combat capability to occur,” Smith said on Thursday.

    Australia foreshadowed the decision in May, when it delayed orders for its first squadron of F-35s by two years to help with budget savings and to put Australia’s F-35s on the same timetable as those for the United States.

    Australia originally planned to by up to 100 F-35s, for up to $16.4 billion, but has made no commitment beyond its first 14 aircraft. Australia has committed to two joint strike fighters to be delivered in 2014-15, but they will remain in the United States for testing and pilot training.

    It was due to decide by the end of this year on the timing of its next order of 12 F-35s, but that decision has now been pushed back to next year, while the government considers options to replace its Classic F/A-18s…

    Australia also has 24 of the new generation F/A-18F Super Hornets, which entered service in 2010 and 2011, and 12 of those have been upgraded with sophisticated U.S. jamming equipment [Growler equivalent, more at this good webpage–something the RCAF might consider? more here].

    Smith said Australia would write a letter of request to the United Sates, seeking cost and availability information for an extra 24 Super Hornet under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales programme. But he said no decision had been made to buy more Super Hornets…’

    Earlier:

    F-35: Australian National Audit Office Report
    [Aussies will have a hard time keeping their “classic” Hornets flying as they wait for F-35s–a big issue also for the RCAF, see link belown]
    Australia and F-35: Misleading Canadian Story

    Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger