Defence project suffers further delays

November 21st, 2008  

Topic: Defence project suffers further delays

Defence project suffers further delays

Mark Dodd | November 21, 2008

Article from: The Australian
ONE of the Royal Australian Air Force's most troublesome projects, the $4 billion Wedgetail surveillance aircraft, faces further delays of up to five months.
Already more than 28 months behind schedule, the first training aircraft is now expected to be delivered in late November next year, not by Boeing's revised delivery date of July.
The RAAF is the launch customer for the Wedgetail, a modified Boeing 737 airliner, originally promised for delivery in November 2006.
Delays have cost Boeing an estimated $2billion in a $3.8billion contract that ranks prominently on Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon's watchlist of troublesome military acquisitions.
The Australian understands the Wedgetail program was the main subject during talks in Canberra on Monday attended by Defence Procurement Secretary Greg Combet and senior RAAF, Boeing and Defence Materiel Organisation officials.
Initial problems causing delays were due to integration of the aircraft's Northrop Grumman-designed radar.
The latest delay was not caused by radar problems, a defence official said. Mr Combet was also tight-lipped, preferring to talk about another acquisition, the Super Hornet.
"I'm unable to confirm the outcomes of the meeting but note Boeing have been working hard on its current Australian projects and news on the Super Hornet is very pleasing," Mr Combet said last night.
The first of 24 advanced Super Hornet fighter aircraft ordered for the RAAF is starting to take shape on Boeing's St Louis assembly line in the US.
A larger and more advanced variant of the F/A-18 legacy fighter in current service with the RAAF, the F/A-18F was ordered in a surprise $6 billion deal by the Howard government as an interim replacement for the ageing F-111 bomber.
The order attracted criticism, including from senior retired RAAF officers who warned the Super Hornet was an inferior aircraft to Russian-built Mig-29s and Sukhoi-30s operated or ordered by several Southeast Asian countries.
Unlike the Wedgetail Early Warning and Control Aircraft, the Super Hornets are expected to be delivered on time and within budget.


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