April 7th, 2006
Australia Buy Raptor? info
| LABOR wants the Government to review its plan to buy up to 100 joint strike fighters, arguing instead for the purchase of F/A-22 Raptor stealth fighters. |
Labor's defence spokesman, Robert McClelland, says in a speech to be delivered at ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre today that buying a smaller number of the tried and proven F/A-22s would address a possible gap in combat air power after the retirement of the F-111 bombers from 2010.
He says the Government has failed to provide sufficient detailed justification for the $12billion JSF purchase in preference to the more expensive F/A-22, including far more precise costings.
"In so far as cost has been a major issue in the decision to purchase the JSF over the
F/A-22, it appears that the cost differential between the two aircraft is significantly less than anticipated," he says..
Defence has estimated the fly-away cost of the JSF at about $US45million ($63million) while the F/A-22 fighters now in production cost about $US153million each.
But Mr McClelland quotes a recent US government audit report on the JSF project that says initial-production-run aircraft prices could climb as high as $US137million.
"Clearly it is not possible to precisely predict the cost of the JSF, nor does it seem that adequate investigation has occurred as to the cost of the now operational F/A-22," he says.
Mr McClelland claims there is a significant risk that the JSF project will not deliver an aircraft with all desired capabilities and within the anticipated price.
There was little prospect the first JSFs would be delivered in 2012, as envisaged by Defence.
"It is a complete mystery how Australian ADF representatives can continue to assert that we will have the JSF by 2012. Our future air capability modelling should be based on a much stronger foundation than naive optimism.
"The Government's failure to recognise likely delays in the JSF program may unacceptably compromise our regional air superiority," he argues.
If the Howard Government goes ahead with a decision in 2008-09 to buy the JSF it will be by far Australia's biggest ever defence acquisition.
Current planning provides for upgraded F/A-18 fighters to be the RAAF's frontline fighter force until the arrival of the JSF from 2012-13.
Senior Defence sources say what while the unit cost of the JSF may climb above $45million, particularly if the US buys a smaller number of fighters, the price gap with the F/A-22 is still far too big.
They add that the US has never exported the F/A-22 and would be unlikely to do so even to a close ally such as Australia. Mr McClelland says Australia, unlike Singapore, has no second place tenderer on hold should it be established that the JSF project is unable to meet the RAAF's requirements.