JSF "Death rattles".
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The sound of a JSF death rattleRobert Gottliebsen
Last update 10:15 AM, 4 Oct 2011
While all attention is on tax and falling markets, an even more important event for Australia and our region is unfolding: the trillion-dollar Joint Strike Fighter project has begun the early stages of a painful and extended death rattle. This threatens to inflict major harm on our defence partner, the United States, and the JSF is by far the largest military obligation in Australia’s history.
Even worse, we convinced our defence manufacturing industry to tool up to be major JSF contractors. As a result, a huge chunk of our defence manufacturing support capacity faces a financial disaster. Three companies have already failed. The long-term air defence planning of the US and Australia is now in tatters.
These are extreme statements which will, as always, be denied by the top brass in the Australian Defence Department. I have been warning about the dangers of the JSF for close to a decade and the defence officials, whose reputations are at risk, have always thrown cold water on my comments. Now, at last, the US marines have decided to tell the truth about the JSF in the American national interest. And the truth confirms all our worst fears.
But it is not all bad news because the US marines are also offering a solution. And better still, if Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Defence Minister Stephen Smith are courageous enough to bypass our reputation-preserving defence chiefs, and back the US marines’ solution, Australia can play a big role in overcoming the JSF problem. We would also maintain the significant US role in the air defence of our region and ensure survival for the large areas of Australia’s defence manufacturing that is hitched to the doomed JSF.
Few Australians will have heard of Major Christopher J Cannon, an operations analyst with the US Marines. Major Cannon did not tell the truth about the JSF by talking to the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Rather he did something far more powerful – he told the truth in the Marine Corps Gazette under the heading “F-35B (JSF) needs a Plan B”. There has been silence from the US Marine chiefs. Clearly Major Cannon had their blessing and the blessings of many in the US defence hierarchy. When the truth is out it can be a great relief to those who are hiding it.
Major Cannon and the marines first describe the long JSF delays. Then he explains how the original cost estimate for JSF procurement of $US233 billion has blown out to $466 billion and is still rising.
“But procurement costs are less than half the problem,” he says. Total JSF costs are now estimated at $1,198 billion – almost three times the original estimate of $344 million. Given the looming US and global budgetary cuts, this makes the JSF impossibly expensive for both America and its partners.
Then Major Cannon and the marines explain the reluctance of the American global partners to commit to the JSF given the cost. Australia’s defence think tank, AirPower Australia, has calculated the JSF ordering disaster from US reports. Back in February 2007 (only four years ago), the US planned to produce 1,535 JSF aircraft to 2019, of which 1,077 would be taken by the US. America’s partners, including Australia, would buy the rest.
The current official figures show that US 2019 production has been cut to 622 aircraft but it is almost certain to go down to 522 – a fall of 66 per cent. These enormous falls mean most of the contracts that were given to Australian suppliers by the developer, Lockheed Martin, are useless. Lockheed will look after its American contractors first but the production numbers are now so low that they too will be hit. The JSF optimists say that after 2020 it will change but that’s unlikely because we also know that the JSF is no match for the Russian/Indian equivalent aircraft, although Major Cannon did not mention this.
What’s the answer? The US marines via Major Cannon have come up a very good solution. The US had a brilliant aircraft called the F-22 but in a self-serving lobbying exercise Lockheed Martin convinced the US Congress to stop F-22 production because Lockheed Martin make far greater profits out of the JSF.
The marines say that not only is the F-22 a better aircraft than the JSF, but measured over the life of each aircraft the F-22 will be $100 million per aircraft cheaper than the JSF.
This is where Australia comes in. When President Obama comes to Australia we should ask him if we can switch to the cheaper and better F22. But we should also offer to help with upgrades of the F-22.
Australia, the US and other countries have developed some magnificent systems innovation for the JSF which can inexpensively be converted for use in the F-22, which will make it an even better aircraft.
Australia should commit to the F-22 which will help President Obama back the marines against his defence hierarchy and manage the US switch to the F-22 in a way that incorporates the best of the JSF into the F-22. That way ‘face’ can be saved.
We need the US to be a strong air power in our region and with the upgraded F-22, it will retain its current power with an aircraft that is far cheaper to buy and operate than the JSF. And we will retain a defence component industry.
The worst thing that could happen for Australia is for the JSF project to go through its death rattle and die. We need to help the US merge it with a restored F-22. Julia Gillard and Stephen Smith can not only help our nation but also the western world.
IS THE JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER
RIGHT FOR AUSTRALIA?
PART 2 – JSF V RISK FACTORS
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is one of the most
technologically ambitious aircraft development programs
ever seen, in many respects more ambitious
than the TFX program which realised the F-111.
This ambition offers the promise of a battlefield interdiction
and close air support optimised fighter with
survivability and lethality well beyond that of the F-16C,
A-10A, F/A-18A-D, AV-8B and UK Harriers it is designed
to replace. The flipside of this payoff is that a considerable
number of risk factors come into play, potentially affecting
costs, timelines and the ultimate capabilities of the
Oh dear! I forgot to post this AWST report (they must be liars!) about the US losing JSF orders from Oz.Issue,Aug 29-Sep 5,2011.
"F-35 delays are increasingly likely to deprive Lockheed martin of some Australian orders".
AWST also says in the same report that the poor Israeli's ,pledged by LM to deliver the JSF to them (first exports) "early", have also been told that their " first squadron will not be completed until 2019".It also says that the IAF want their pilots to be trained from as early as 2015,but "it is unclear whether there will be USAF F-35s available that early"! Tch,tch!