Home » Air » Australia Buys 58 More F-35s

Australia Buys 58 More F-35s

by Mike Hoffman on April 23, 2014

f-35b-invertedAustralia announced Tuesday it will buy 58 more F-35s at a cost of $12.4 billion to build their fleet of fifth generation fighters to 72.

The purchase agreement offered a boost to the Joint Strike Fighter program a week after it was announced the costs increased by $7.4 billion at a time the U.S. expect costs to drop.

Australia’s decision to stick to the plan and increase their planned buy beyond the 14 F-35s the Australians agreed to buy in 2009 offers hope to the Joint Strike Fighter. Earlier this year and in 2013, rumors have circled that countries like Denmark and Canada are looking at other options and possibly leaving the F-35 program.

If allies pull out of the program, the costs sky rocket as the Joint Strike Fighter program was always justified as a program that will benefit from the efficiency of scale. Without the scale of multiple countries buying the aircraft, the costs go up and more countries leave the program.

This summer should prove to be an important time for the F-35’s international portion of the program with the plan to fly the F-35 at the Farnborough Air Show outside London in July. This will be the first time the F-35 has flown outside the U.S.

Many assume the U.S. chose to show off the F-35 at Farnborough in order to boost confidence in the program and keep allies like Australia on board.

Of course there are others that say the U.S. got tired of watching Russian fighters last year at the Paris Air Show and plan to one up Vladimir Putin with the F-35.

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{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy April 23, 2014 at 6:04 pm

How can it be stealth if you mount the missile under the wing ?

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jack April 23, 2014 at 6:08 pm

You only really need stealth until the SAM threat is significantly degraded. After that the F-35 becomes a bomb truck.

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Hunter76 April 23, 2014 at 8:41 pm

At which point you no longer need the expensive F-35.

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peters April 24, 2014 at 12:33 am

20 years ago.

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OTTO April 27, 2014 at 8:49 pm

LOL
The Aussie GovCo has been stooged by USA…….again
The future based on the last few years is drones
Jet fighters are like horse/carriage is now to a car, obsolete
USA just wants to *share* the billions cost with some other fool, thats us in Australia

Ziv April 24, 2014 at 8:05 am

Yeah, because the first week of the war isn't that important and having the F35 being adaptable should be a negative somehow.
Or, conversely, you could order two complete airfleets of aircraft, the F35 and the non-stealth F16 follow on. At a total price even higher than the F35 alone.
The F35 is far from perfect, but when it goes into full production it will be considerably cheaper than it has been, and it will get the job done better than any of the Gen 4 aircraft could.

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peters April 24, 2014 at 12:32 am

Sorry to disappoint you Jack, but the reality today is this: against countries that the US can afford to fight, no stealth technology is necessary. Why do you need stealth fighter jets or bombers against Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya? As for countries that the US cannot afford to fight, there will be no war so why do you need stealth fighter jets or bombers? Worse still, the current so-called stealth technology being deployed in the US simply doesn't work as advertized.

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Jack April 24, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Did it ever occur to you that WWIII type war could be just around the corner?

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bn girl April 24, 2014 at 12:43 pm

This is how WWIII is going to be fought: A launches preemptive nuclear strike against B using ICBM's and cruise missiles, and as usual, fails to take out any or all of B's second strike capabilities, so B returns favor and within 24 hours both A, B and their allies become radioactive wasteland. Do you see the fat, dumb, slow and incomplete F-35 playing any role there?

blight_ April 24, 2014 at 12:30 pm

All of the World Wars have been ill-advised confrontations between Great Powers at technological parity with each other. We can even throw in the confrontations between Britain and France during the colonial days.

I don't see world war as being around the corner, at least not until competition for resources becomes more serious.

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Jim April 24, 2014 at 2:55 pm

The USA may not choose to fight Russia or China, but that doesn't mean we won't end up fighting them.

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tiger April 24, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Even 3rd rate air forces are upgrading. The days of The Mig -21 are gone as a threat level.

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Aleksandar 011 April 24, 2014 at 2:14 pm

And what if enemy is not an complete idiot, and he keeps some of his SAM sites off, waiting for the phase B of the attack? Or turns one on as a bait, and couple of others off, than when first one is attacked the others try to locate F-35 from sides and back, where it's less stealthy? And let's not forget that some of the SAM's are designed for ground troops use, they are attached to armor units or combined arms force, and not used unless their unit is under attack. Plus all that anti-stealth tech.
Future wars are not gonna be that easy at all. . .

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retired462 April 27, 2014 at 6:23 pm

WRONG! The A-10 is a real bomb truck! With the cold war coming back, the pentagon had better hold onto the warthog, as that is what they were built for!

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blight_ April 23, 2014 at 6:48 pm

If you fly upside down the RCS from ground radar is lower than if you fly upright?

Uck, that'll be a long trip.

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Andy April 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm

The other aircraft will detected.

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blight_ April 24, 2014 at 9:22 am

Can't win them all. Ground radars are the largest and most sensitive and are far more likely to detect you from farther out than aircraft mounted radars, except for AEW aircraft. Presumably a F-35 would be able to detect other aircraft, unless they are low RCS as well.

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Ben April 24, 2014 at 12:06 am

Now there's a crazy idea. Mount the pylons on top of the wings and invert to launch, lol.

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blight_ April 24, 2014 at 9:42 am

The other solution is stealth missiles like Have Dash, and reducing the RCS of the mounting hardware. Even a low RCS missile for wingtips like a Sidewinder would give a "clean" aircraft some extra self-defense capability without sacrificing internal stores.

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jongo310 April 24, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Stealth is paint; not money.

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Tad April 23, 2014 at 7:26 pm

It seems surprising that the Aussies would be interested in a strike aircraft with such a limited range.

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William_C1 April 23, 2014 at 11:09 pm

Limited range compared to what? Unfortunately there really isn't a true successor to the F-111 on the market. Even the F-15E which replaced it in USAF service didn't have the same reach.

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java vm April 28, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Compared to the range of your bullsht apparently, which is quite unlimite I must admit.

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blight_ April 24, 2014 at 9:25 am

If they want range, there's always maritime patrol aircraft with anti-ship missiles and tankers to refuel CAP. Not sure what the Australian plan to deploy long range strike aircraft over water is for, outside of sea control.

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tiger April 24, 2014 at 10:31 am

You want range to reach your only local foes in Indonesia. The round distance from
Darwin to Jakarta is 3420 miles by air.

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blight_ April 24, 2014 at 10:53 am

If they wanted to hit Jakarta then use the Canberras and launch JSF-B (which they don't have…yet) or daisy chain a bunch of fuel tankers between Australia and Jakarta for your JSF-A's.

The only other possibility for the -35 buy was interoperability with America. Perhaps plans to fly with us over Syrian airspace?

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tiger April 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

The RAN Fleet Air Arm has been out of carrier ops since 1983 sadly. It does not look like they want to change that idea. So That is why no B model. Smart? Not really, but it is the move they can afford. With all the F-18's they have, A used CV would be nice. But they are anti nuclear & our CV classes are crapped out.

Jim April 24, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Self defense? To be deployed on coalition missions?

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Teacher April 23, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Okay. So what's the amount of kickbacks, subsidies, and closed-door deals?

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Lance Brown April 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Too bad we don't even have a operational JSF yet and so they spend money on nothing for now.

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Virgil Cuttaway April 23, 2014 at 9:23 pm

The F-35 is so vastly overrated.

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peters April 24, 2014 at 12:34 am

That's an understatement.

It's a potent money grabbing tool against the fools though.

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Matt April 23, 2014 at 9:58 pm

A sad day for Australia :(

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Dan April 24, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Being an Australian military enthusiast I am inclined to agree with you

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Otto April 27, 2014 at 8:45 pm

I agree, my tax wasted too, what is Abbott thinking???

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spec April 27, 2014 at 10:44 pm

He's thinking about how to get more money from LM and US govt through well-hidden channels.

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Dan April 28, 2014 at 4:36 am

Prime Minister Howard signed us on for this deal when the plane was just a picture. He was that convinced from thier sales pitch and everyother Prime Minister since wants to be good mates with the yanks.
It could turn out to be good. The F 111 had major problems to begin with but it turned out to be a superb purchase.

If you had a blank cheque book how would you equip the combat arm of the RAAF?
I'll post what I would after that, I'd love to see someone elses idea?

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Chimp April 28, 2014 at 7:01 am

More super hornets, possibly a few squadrons of evolved F-15E's (the F-15SG project seems to be working out for Singapore and offers a useful combat radius improvement over the F-35).

Chuck in some cheap tankers; Darwin to Jakarta is 1,690 miles. Not feasible, I think, for the F-18E/F OR F-35's, but you could manage it with a limited number of F-15E's

jbot May 30, 2014 at 6:19 am

I think we probably got leaned on pretty hard to stay with the program, given the Yanks are all in and have no plan B.

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hibeam April 23, 2014 at 10:14 pm

We are lucky to have allies like the Aussies. I hope we don't let them down.

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peters April 24, 2014 at 12:38 am

There is no way we can let them down.

The F-35 will be as crappy and useless as knowledgeable Aussies have suspected and openly criticized all along.

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Big-Dean April 24, 2014 at 12:47 am

the Aussies must've been "down under' the table when they thought this up

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MacPaul April 24, 2014 at 4:45 am

Wrong plane (not only for Australia) at a forbiddingly high cost (good for the industry, though. Well, that’s what this is about, of course).

Instead, it would have been better to develop a A-22 – maybe two seater like F-15E – for deep strike mission and the like and then build the same amount of aircrafts as the F-35 for a fraction of the costs.

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Dr. Horrible April 24, 2014 at 8:18 am

I don't take too much issue with your first point, though I'm certainly armchair generaling in doing so.

But to argue that a derivative (read: new development) of one of the most expensive aircraft ever procured might be a fraction of the costs of the F-35 seems extraordinarily optimistic.

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Dfens April 24, 2014 at 9:28 am

The F-22 will hold 2200 lbs of bombs. Where are you going to put more? The whole interior of the airplane is taken up by those huge intakes. Even if you stretch the fuselage, all you do is make the intakes longer. If that turd could be polished, don't you think Lockheed would have done it before now?

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tiger April 24, 2014 at 10:38 am

Enough with the crying over the F-22. The plane was not intended for the role & has mixed record so far in service. It's not coming back.

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Ziv April 24, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Mac, had to laugh at your comment. I liked the idea of the FA-22, but it was never going to be as inexpensive at the F-35 will be when it is in full production. Just couldn't happen in the real world.

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Rob C. April 24, 2014 at 9:39 am

Which model are they ordering? They just recently started deliveries of their new LHDs.

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blight_ April 24, 2014 at 9:45 am

Australia is procuring F-35A's. I wonder what they are going to put on their Juan Carlos' especially since it has a ski jump! Helicopters don't need no stinkin' ski jump.

Perhaps if the -B cost comes down the RAN may reconsider and buy some -B's. I suppose the ski jump doesn't penalize the Juan Carlos (excuse me, Canberra-class) in helicopter-carrying.

Designing and producing a STOL version of the F-35 would probably be more expensive than simply buying STOVL F-35B's. Sigh.

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Dan April 24, 2014 at 9:04 pm

We are buying the Navy version so we can opporate on US carriers I believe. We are not ordering the VTOL version, our 2 carriers will be an all helicopter force

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tiger April 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

The RAN is not looking to get into carrier air again. The LHD's are chopper only , yet retain a 13 degree bow ski ramp. The only real down side, is you give up parking area forward.

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blight_ April 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

It probably would've cost too much to simply delete the ramp, vs ordering a production-ready Juan Carlos.

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Donald Bacon April 24, 2014 at 10:54 am

"Australia Buys 58 More F-35s" is incorrect.

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PolicyWonk April 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm

If true, this might be an indication that there is something potentially useful in the F-35. The Aussies tend to be pretty careful with their money, and have a reputation for doing their homework – so it is possible they are getting access to information regarding the F-35 that is well beyond that that has been published publicly.

Or, they're being given a far better deal than the ones reported to US taxpayers.

The costs of the program are still prohibitive, and I've seen nothing that indicates that the F-35's performance is any better than generation sub-4th-generation fighter, but still has a cost profile of a 6th generation aircraft.

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bn girl April 24, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Which Aussies? The knowledgeable and conscientious PhDs in Sci & Eng, or the dirty politicians?

look here:
http://www.ausairpower.net/jsf.html

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Lewis Smart April 25, 2014 at 8:23 pm

It may not be wise to assume that reputation extends to the current government.

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cafed April 24, 2014 at 11:58 pm

The Australian buy is exactly what they've planned for a the last decade. The price they're paying is about the same as the Super Hornet they recently bought..

What else would people want to be flying in 2030–2050.

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tiger April 25, 2014 at 4:03 pm

They want a gen 5 aircraft. Not a updated 1970's design.

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frisky April 25, 2014 at 7:36 am

The comments section on this website is possibly the worst I have ever come across. Full of “f-u, and ” this is the worst idea ever” comments without offering one iota of an alternative. You people should honestly get a life. Bn girl, tiger and dfens I’m talking about you.

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tiger April 25, 2014 at 9:17 am

Not sure about the others, but I find your slander to be baseless.

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Rob April 25, 2014 at 9:27 am

They may want to expedite. Russia's Navy is mysteriously on the move globally

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blight_ April 25, 2014 at 10:22 am

Land-based F-35's will make the Russian Navy quake in their boots, yeah…

As noted by someone else, RAN has problems keeping its subs fully manned, and that might be a bigger problem when it comes to the Russian Navy.

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HeavyArrow April 25, 2014 at 1:58 pm

>come to read an interesting article
>come for interesting feedback by users
>instead feedback is
>F-35 sucks
>Overpriced piece of junk
>HOW IS THIS HELPFUL.
I came for insightful comments, not your two cents if you like the airplane or not.

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tiger April 25, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Ok….. The plane costs more than it should. Is late getting into service. Has less performance than rivals or planes it is replacing. It does not outrun, out turn, climb, or out range anything. Those are not cheerleading calls, those are reported facts.

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HeavyArrow April 27, 2014 at 12:30 am

Which people have beaten to death just repeating those same facts over and over again.
I rarely see anyone commenting on it's current capabilities. Always on the negative aspect.
It's just like the Tomcat Community on the Hornet. They always bash the plane because it replaced their 'cat. Gotta move on sometime.

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SJE April 25, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Part of me thinks that Australia sees the F35 as dead, but can (1) gets quick and cheap points with the USA by promising to come to the party that it knows will never be held (2) gets to look tough with a promise to have the most advanced technology
(3) gets to deflect attention from the problems with the search for MH370. Yes, the fault was with Malaysia, but China came in and threatened to steal the show for a while. Too many Australian military assets are based on the East Coast.

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matheusdiasuk April 29, 2014 at 11:39 am

F35, the anglosphere fighter.

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peters April 29, 2014 at 1:08 pm

fighter? really? LOL. With no proper targeting and fire control software, the fat dumb turkey is more like a practice target for foreign pilots and their missiles. Of course I might be complimenting the F-35 with my statement, coz right now the fat bird doesn't seem to be able to fly far enough without running into some technical problems.

F35, the anglosphere failure

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Fluoro Ninja May 10, 2014 at 7:54 am

A sad day for Australia.

We should be buying the Gripen NG. For less than the reported purchase price of an F-35 we could buy and fly a Gripen for 30 years. To put it another way, the 75 F-35s we're looking to procure could fund a fleet of 175 Gripens… with the Gripen fleet costing about $4.5 billion dollars less over an estimated 30 year service life.

I haven't forgotten about strike capability. The RAAF would have to give up thoughts of fulfilling the long range strike role. That would transfer to Navy via the use of submarine launched cruise missiles. AFAIK the Collins class can't launch Tommahawks… but the US Virginia class can. To my way of thinking a fleet of 8 Virginia class boats would more than meet the requirements of Australia's next generation submarine project.

Then we'd have a very credible mix of capabilities: submarine strike to remind people to behave themselves, and a large force of potent air to air fighters if they choose not to behave.

Firmly into the realms of fantasy here… but would it be inconceivable to fit out one of our new Canberra class LHDs with recovery cables to allow a squadron of Sea Gripens? As much as I like the idea of the F-35B, it's just too expensive for us ever to purchase it on the back of 70 conventional JSFs. The Gripen is cheap enough to buy and run that these options are a possibility.

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blight_ April 24, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Maybe one day they can buy a CV from India, or the People's Republic. It'll be a hoot.

Kitty Hawk is decommissioned and in reserve, and after the Ford commissions it'll probably get scrapped or SINKEX. Not fit for sale.

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CHOPS April 24, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I think the Kittyhawk could be refurbished,but the manning power would be a problem.

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Lightingguy April 24, 2014 at 12:29 pm

The Aussies have trouble enough keeping crews for their 6 diesel subs. How in the world would they be able to crew up a carrier ?, not to mention maintenance and upkeep ?.

Ludicrous concept.

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Shawn April 25, 2014 at 12:55 am

then don't do it to the Hawk, and sell her to the RAN.

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CHOPS April 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm

The Aussies could probably work a deal with the Brits and New Zealand and possibly even Japan for joint ops on the Kittyhawk–they even have some Hornets to equip it with.

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Riceball April 25, 2014 at 11:54 am

Not to mention that having only 1 carrier doesn't do much good since that means it will probably be actually only a few months out of the year with the rest being spent at home resupplying, refitting, undergoing maintenance, as well as to give their crew some time at home. For carriers to be of any real use to them, or anybody else for that matter, they'd need at least another 1 or 2 so that they can have at least one at sea at all times.

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Ziv April 24, 2014 at 9:02 pm

A Commonwealth carrier crewed by the UK, Canada, Australia and maybe even New Zealand and India would be very interesting. Retired US CVN's would be a nice match.

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blight_ April 25, 2014 at 10:25 am

Carriers are so expensive it's not even funny. The better alternative I can think of is the second QE, which the UK can ill afford to keep going.

An alternative may be to provide manpower and funds to help operate the second QE, and base it out of Australia. I suppose an arrangement might be to put it under Australian command or to rotate crews in order to placate the UK, which put in extraordinary fixed costs to build it, and Australia, which can't afford to build, crew, and maintain six submarines, let alone a brand new carrier all by itself.

Right now, it looks like Australia wants a short-range Navy, which gives it a similar maritime policy to nations like Japan, Taiwan and the People's Republic. The Juan Carlos will let them land marines in East Timor if nobody's shooting at them, but please tell me why you are spending taxpayer dollars on a ship solely to unload Marines somewhere without serious air cover? PLAN is putting carriers before acquiring new amphibious assault capability, though they may be doing that to avoid delicate sensitivities in the US and the Republic of China.

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CHOPS April 25, 2014 at 11:39 am

I think the problem with the second QE is the fact that there are no cats,in order to have air wings on board the Aussies either buy used Harriers or new F35 B models which I doubt they would do. Face it, the F35 does not exactly have a sterling reputation and the way it sits right now Australia may not get the new F35s till 2019. It would probably be more cost effective to refit the Kittyhawk and put their Hornets on it.

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Chimp April 28, 2014 at 6:51 am

Sounds a bit like the Commonwealth Singapore plan. AUS and NZL poured a large chunk of their 1930's defence budgets into Singapore, which the Brits then failed to adequately defend.
Not going to happen, I think.

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blight_ April 25, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Nobody's in the CATOBAR business anymore…which means the USN is the only -C customer. The fact that people aren't flocking to replace their ancient, presumably costly Harriers is a sign of no-confidence in JSF-B.

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tiger April 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Nobody wants the "Shitty Kitty" for service anymore.

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blight_ April 25, 2014 at 12:34 pm

That's true of pretty much any ship. That's also the bind the UK is in when it comes to the QE, since they're pretty sure they can only maintain and operate one QE.

The Australians will buy two Canberras, I think…

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CHOPS April 25, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Agree 100%, but they still have the problem of putting planes on any future carrier which leaves few alternatives other than a full sized carrier.As a side note–has the tailhook on the C model been reworked and tested yet,I havn't been following the F35 follies recently.

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tiger April 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Uh, France & Brazil still do……..
The issue with replacing Harriers is the users are broke. Spain, Thailand, Italy, & the UK. Less than a debate over model choice.

India & China prefer the non cat approach.

Japan like Australia are staying rotor only.

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jbot May 30, 2014 at 6:33 am

Given the cost and the fact it's essentially a new tech, everybody's waiting to see if the USMC can make the B work and whether it's any good before they think about buying it.

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OTTO April 27, 2014 at 8:50 pm

No, they will not, the ONLY flying machine will be the drones, it is what we in Australia should be investing in, or will we be late to the party again

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Dan April 28, 2014 at 7:20 am

Wise descisions. I understand your logic.

Australia has already order the EA 18 'Growler' the electronic warefare version of the Super Hornet (18 I think).
There is a new stealthier version of the FA 18 in development, I think scrap F 35 program and put that money into the further advance of that version of the FA 18. We could afford more of them ('Quantity has a quality all of its own'- The Russian airforce).
I would Like to see the addition 8-12 B 1's. The 'proposed' B 1R,.

If I had a magic cheque book.

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figspk April 28, 2014 at 3:08 pm

While the legacy Teen-series jets are better choices than the useless F-35, they no longer match up against the Sukhois 30s, or China's Teen-series. Might as well import Sukhois from Russia, or the latest models from China.

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Chimp April 29, 2014 at 3:17 am

Not sure that's true. Western AESA, evolved AIM-120 versions, good AWACS: Indonesian airforce cannot cope with that. China has no significant force projection capability now or in the foreseeable future.

Good enough.

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