April 28, 2008 (by Eric L. Palmer) - A review of Australia's air combat capability, due out this week, will confirm the F-35 for RAAF service.
F-35 will be confirmed for the RAAF
At the end of last year, Australia voted in a new government leadership. This came with a new Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, who questioned the air combat capability road map of Defence and directed a review.
At odds are the price Defence will pay for the F-35. Some in Defence have recommended that a delay in the purchase could yield as much as $750 million in savings.
Lockheed Martin of course is stating that the original purchase plan must stay in order to avoid cost problems for the whole F-35 program.
In the area of air combat capability, Fitzgibbon has gone with just about every recommendation given to him. This being the retirement of the F-111 by 2010, agreement with the stop-gap purchase of 24 Boeing F-18F Block II Super Hornets to cover any late arrival of the F-35 and going forward with the F-35 as the best solution for long term air combat capability for the RAAF.
Based on that, there will most certainly be no more effort by Fitzgibbon to consider getting the F-22 for Australia as the RAAF has stated that they don't require it.
There is still the possibility of more Super Hornet buys for Defence. Back in the middle of 2007, Defence signed up for a center barrel rebuild (CBR) of up to 49 of it's older classic Hornets to extend their service life at a cost of around $982 million. This effort hasn't gone too well because of poor estimates of manpower skills and material needed to do the job.
Should the F-35 see further delays, the CBR effort won't be able to provide enough airframes to keep the RAAF healthy. In that event, Australia will buy more Super Hornets as needed.