Most opponents of the troubled Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) pay scant regard to the unique element that only so-called “fifth generation” fighter jets bring to the air power table - stealth.

Look… you can't even see it.

The simple proposition about stealth is that if an enemy can’t see you he can’t kill you, but you can kill him.

Vocal opponents of the JSF, such as Liberal MP Dennis Jensen and Peter Goon from Air Power Australia (APA), base their arguments on the performance of the jet inside the flight envelope. They point out correctly that the “developmental” JSF performs below other “seasoned” jets in the air combat space, including the Sukhoi Flanker and even the F-15 and F-16. Few of the critics mention the Super Hornet - the government’s and the RAAF’s aircraft of choice as a capability gap filler for Australia. Presumably that jet would stand up to opposing fighters better than the “lumbering” JSF.

Much of the capability of the JSF is, for obvious reasons, classified top-secret. As well as stealth other advanced radar and weapons technologies place it far ahead of other aircraft in service or even in development.

Of course the Russians and the Chinese have stealth fighters coming down the pipeline and naturally enough their performance data is a closely guarded national secret as well.

What we do know is that so-called “fourth generation” jets such as the Flanker, F-15 and F-16 offer little or no stealth characteristics so regardless of how well they can turn or climb or accelerate they are highly visible to modern radars and missile guidance systems and would be “dead” before they even had a chance to engage a JSF that gets within its weapons release envelope without being detected.

As one insider put it “the enemy is eliminated before he even knows a JSF is in the vicinity”.

Where JSF critics can mount a strong case against the jet concerns its cost and delivery schedule.

No aircraft in history has been developed within the cost or schedule envelopes that corporate sales teams spruik to potential customers and the JSF is no different.

Ever since the Howard Government signed up to the JSF’s development (Australia has not signed up to buy large numbers yet) Lockheed Martin has been reluctant to put an exact figure on the unit through-life cost of the plane. Numerous attempts by News Limited to pin-down a figure have been batted away by the corporation’s PR battalions.

Howard’s defence minister Robert Hill told us it would be about $US40 million. That was a misleading and ludicrous figure, but Howard and Hill are long gone.

Critics say the cost is now $US130 million per plane. The reality is that we don’t know what the precise cost will be because nobody knows how many will be built. Obviously the more that are produced the lower the cost.

Either way they will be expensive but national security is a costly business. They will also be late but world leading technology is usually worth the wait.

What is clear is that the US military has too much invested in the project for it to stop now.

Critics here are demanding that Australia opts out now before it commits to big numbers of the new jet. Unfortnately none has offered a credible alternative when it comes to a fifth generation stealth capability.

Time will tell where the JSF will finish on the fighter jet league table, but as of early 2013 it is the right choice, in fact the only choice, for the nation’s air power future.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEDT.

Most commented


Show oldest | newest first

    • TChong says:

      04:49am | 20/02/13

      “What is clear is that the US military has too much invested….”
      An ex military man ,US prez, Eisenhower warned against the self perpetuating rise, and overlordship of the military / industrial complex.

    • acotrel says:

      08:22am | 20/02/13

      Military manufacturing is is not all bad. In the past it has provided the technology seed for Australian industry, we should be looking for offset agreements, to see if we can resurrect a smidgin of high tech production in Australia. We could do it standing beside our ailing car industry ?

    • Hartz says:

      09:06am | 20/02/13

      WTF - did I really just find some common ground with Acotrel… I need to go and lay down wink

    • Adam R says:

      11:09am | 20/02/13

      Yeah I’ll second that Hartz. This is the first time I’ve read acotrel’s comments and agreed with him, and as far as I can see hell is indeed freezing over at this moment.

    • Fiddler says:

      06:05am | 20/02/13

      Thankyou, a much better written article than yesterdays.

      While yesterdays did bring up some important points it failed utterly to provide an alternative (which doesn’t exist) and did not explain what a game changer having a low radar cross section is

    • McDonnell Douglas says:

      07:26am | 20/02/13

      “No aircraft in history has been developed within the cost or schedule envelopes that corporate sales teams spruik to potential customers and the JSF is no different.”

      The McDonnell Douglas Corporation would like to have a word with you, the F-15 which you’ve mentioned was developed well within cost and on schedule, and is usually cited as one of the most successful procurement programs ever ran by the US military. The follow-on program to develop the Strike Eagle was also noted to have been quite a successful program.

    • Fiddler says:

      08:14am | 20/02/13

      except the McDonnell Douglas corportation no longer exists, merging with Boeing in 1997, but yes, you are correct.

      The biggest problem with the JSF project was the insistence of the STOVL B model.

      They could have easily made once for the USAF and USN (think how successful the F-4 Phantom was) and had a top notch aircraft that would already be operational

    • jtz says:

      12:20pm | 20/02/13

      Actually the F18 super hornet is the only aircraft built on ti.e and on budget. Also note the gap filler is the super hornet not the standard hornet.

    • Tex Ranger says:

      07:37am | 20/02/13

      I have appreciated both this article and that of Mr Jensen. They both make good points. It all depends on what is the criteria for assessing the F-35 I suppose. One thing is for sure, we have no chance of getting the F-22, so opponents of the F-35 (e.g. APA) cannot say that the F-35 should be dumped unless they can offer a realistic alternative at the same time.

    • Bomb78 says:

      08:55am | 20/02/13

      Correct Tex Ranger. The F35 is the best available option. The only other fifth generation fighters are either unavailable to us or exist only in research programs.

    • Peter says:

      11:33am | 20/02/13

      “It all depends on what is the criteria for assessing the F-35 I suppose.”

      Well, according to the Four Corners programme on the other night, there wasn’t any real criteria for assessing the F-35.  Howard signed the country up to the programme without having gone to tender and without having any formal assessment process done at all.  It’s an absolute disgrace.

    • Sam says:

      11:45am | 20/02/13

      It would make infinite more sence to buy the SU-37 over the F-35. The aircraft is very capable, has a decent range and weapon array and you can buy many more for the same dollars as on F-35.

    • jtz says:

      12:23pm | 20/02/13

      Actaulyy the F22 is a 4.5 generatiom fighter.

      The issue with the su is servicing. Russian aircraft habe always neen and will always have a higher cost to maintain. Also compared to the Russians, the weopons and radar on US systems are superior. Have a read of the AA120C missile. Russia still has not developed an alternative.

    • Tator says:

      12:26pm | 20/02/13

      the Su37 never made it into production and has only ever had a couple of prototypes built.  The Su35 has made it into production but is not as technologically advanced as the Su37.  Even then, this brings about the issues of munitions compatibility with our allies as no NATO or ANZUS nation has ever used Warsaw Pact equipment and switching over would complicate logistics as NATO and Warsaw Pact equipment are not interchangable.  On top of that, the RAAF would have to change over its entire ordnance stockpile.  In addition, having equipment similar to our Allies such as the US would allow cross training of the services with USAF/USMC/USN pilots swapping with ours allowing cross pollenation of tactics and flight operations and during operational use, scrounging of spare parts and munitions is commonplace.  In the first Gulf War, the saying in the US forces was “the Marines steal from the Army who steal from the Airforce but everyone steals from the Navy” 
      On top of that, flying similar aircraft to our possible enemies in conflict would lead to more friendly fire situations, even with modern IFF technologies.

    • Colin says:

      07:38am | 20/02/13

      “The invisible but crucial element our Air Force needs” ?

      Less warmongers.

    • acotrel says:

      08:24am | 20/02/13

      What else are you suggesting which provides so much motivation to excel in technology ?

    • Colin says:

      10:45am | 20/02/13

      @  acotrel

      “What else are you suggesting which provides so much motivation to excel in technology ?”

      Stop going to war and develop technology for peaceful purposes..?

    • PsychoHyena says:

      11:06am | 20/02/13

      @Colin, while not a huge fan of war and conflict, unfortunately human nature is such that without war humans would be a content species without a need to develop technologies.

      War reflects humanity’s will to survive and dominate, all humans have this trait (as much as they try to deny it), if we didn’t have this particular trait then we would let cancer do what it does.

    • Steve of QBN says:

      01:27pm | 20/02/13

      As sad as it is, war has always driven technological advances.  Even during the last Great Unpleasantness, advances in RADAR, SONAR, jet propulsion, nuclear fission, medicine, surgery, plastic surgery were achieved that quite frankly, would not have happened without the impetus of war.

      Go back far enough and you will find that bronze was first used not as a better sickle than one made of copper but, being harder than copper, it made for much better swords, cutting through copper swords.  And then the iron age for the same reason.

      Yes, peaceful technology have been turned to being a weapon but more often that not, the research, creation and use of weapons has advanced the peaceful use of the same technology.

    • iansand says:

      08:13am | 20/02/13

      Until technology is developed to detect stealth aircraft.

    • acotrel says:

      09:03am | 20/02/13

      We could use more drones - the LNP has got plenty.

    • Tator says:

      09:21am | 20/02/13

      Stealth aircraft are still detectable by radars as all stealth does is reduce the radar signatureso that it is less detectable at longer ranges, the radar signature of a F117 Stealth Fighter is the equivilent to a small bird, it is just that they need to be at much closer ranges which leaves gaps in most air defence radar set ups that they fly through undetected.  The F35 is designed with what is called first day stealth, which is designed so it can run in a stealth mode only using internal payloads until the opposition air defence radars are neutralised and then it can run in full noise mode with a full payload of external stores.

    • iansand says:

      12:57pm | 20/02/13

      Tator - I am sure of one thing.  Smarter people than me are working out out how to circumvent stealth technology, and they will succeed.

    • Steve of QBN says:

      01:32pm | 20/02/13


      annnnnnd he’s back.

    • Steve of QBN says:

      01:43pm | 20/02/13


      “Smarter people than me are working out out how to circumvent stealth technology, and they will succeed.” which is why it is called an arms race.

      Technology hides it, technology will find it.

    • iansand says:

      02:00pm | 20/02/13

      PsychoHyena - Does the JSF have that technology?  I didn’t think so.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      02:58pm | 20/02/13

      @iansand, did you deliberately miss my point? At no point did I say that technology was being used on the aircraft, my point was that as people develop counters for one or more forms of stealth technology other forms of stealth technology will be developed.

      This has always been the way with any technology, especially when used for military purposes.

    • Tator says:

      03:53pm | 20/02/13

      To be honest.  Stealth is rarely used on its own to defeat radar based sir defences.  A joint attack using stealth, ecm aircraft such as the F/A 18 Growler and non-covert wild weasel tactics whe dedicated air defence supression aircraft will generally deal with most ground based defences.  As C&C facilities and air defences are the first high priority targets on the first day of any conflict especially if you need air superiority to succeed.

    • Meph says:

      04:23pm | 20/02/13


      I was always partial to the HARM. Launch it and it loiters until a ground based radar lights up. The missile rides the radar signal back to the dish and proceeds to messily spread it over a few hundred meters.

    • iansand says:

      04:57pm | 20/02/13

      PsychoHyena - I thought you missed mine.  Any aircraft that relies on stealth for its advantage immediately loses that advantage when stealth is countered.  The author’s point (or one of them) is that, in spite of inferior performance, stealth technology still gives an advantage.  That advantage will possibly dissipate very quickly leaving you with an aircraft of inferior performance and nothing else.  To my mind, that is a dumb decision.

    • Tator says:

      06:54pm | 20/02/13

      anecdotes from wild Weasel squadrons in the first Gulf war stated that HARM launches had a tendency to startle friendly pilots as they made a big flash, so the pilots would call “HOWDY HOWDY HOWDY” when they launched one, this was so effective that the Iraqi Air Defence Radars would shut down immediately on that call and some wags amongst the pilots would just transmit “HOWDY HOWDY HOWDY”  to get the radar to shut down which it would, saving a missile, heard about in a book called “It’s not hell, but you can see it from here” by Barry McWilliams

    • gobsmack says:

      08:30am | 20/02/13

      The emperor’s new clothes.

    • Hartz says:

      08:57am | 20/02/13

      Both this piece and yesterdays are well written in support of their own agenda. I support our military and I want them to have the best tools available - I just hate the political bumbling that surrounds each and every procurement. It’s like DMO and the political class take every opportunity to prove how idiotic and incompetent they are, they needn’t bother - we already know.

    • Hartz says:

      09:04am | 20/02/13

      In reality it will be UAVs that control the skies. A stealth UAV with no weak human body to restrict the G forces will surely be on the drawing board - if not already doing secret laps of the dust bowl as we speak…

    • Felix says:

      09:14am | 20/02/13

      The trouble is, the necessity of hiding behind Top Secret classifications, leaves those who are justifiably worried about the blank cheque for acquisition without a basis to change their mind. ‘Trust me’ it’s really worth it sounds a bit hollow when you look at Australia’s long and ignoble history of acquiring equipment early in the developmental cycle (F111, OTHR, ARH). These programs typically result in massive cost blowouts and a nasty long-term battle between those who believe in the long term viability of the program, and those who are shocked at the inefficiency and cost of buying in to a program when the capability is still embryonic.
      McPhedran says that critics pay ‘scant regard’ to the stealth capabilities of the JSF, but equally supporters appear to be paying scant regard to the increasing costs, the delays in acquisition and the manufacturer’s litany of promises to fix capability issues such as weight, software and flight in the vicinity of storms (the last problem made me laugh – ‘sorry 75 Squadron, you can’t fly in the NT during the wet season ‘cos there’s lightning about’).

      I don’t think any serious commentator doubts the value of stealth – but the list of botched acquisitions and the subsequent cost to the taxpayer is hard to defend. I don’t blame people for holding Defence’s feet to the fire to justify why something which is now going to be about ten years late and about $100 million bucks more per unit should be bought by Australia. By the time the aircraft is delivered (IOC in 2020…. FOC when?), the technology will be nearly two decades old.

    • Hartz says:

      09:38am | 20/02/13

      I mentioned this yesterday but I’ll point it out again. I don’t really like hearing “Defence” used generically as it tars all ADF members with the same brush as the bumbling bureaucrats within DMO and the political offices in Canberra… While the rest of us sit here in frustration as the senior Sirs tell us to penny pinch and save a few bucks for our fabulous government they continually piss it against the wall… In saying that, I am sure that the uniformed component involved in making these decisions would be quite small and it would be dominated by suits and slick haircuts. Makes you wonder about the integrity of these tender processes and the people who run them - stinks of kick backs and corruption from here….

    • Meph says:

      10:09am | 20/02/13


      While I can see where you’re coming from, personally I take any reference to “Defence” to be the bureaucratic branch of government set to oversee (and often meddle with) the ADF. There are indisputably good and bad elements to all three services, and so I don’t personally tar all ADF members with the same brush.

      Having said that, winding some of them up with known stereotypes can be fun.

    • Paul says:

      10:52am | 20/02/13

      “and flight in the vicinity of storms (the last problem made me laugh – ‘sorry 75 Squadron, you can’t fly in the NT during the wet season ‘cos there’s lightning about’).”

      The reality is that there is already a fix for this… but as with all things aviation extensive testing has to be done, which takes time and money.  Ever watch air crash investigation? Even using the incorrect screw can screw you (so to speak).  Wouldn’t you rather that they get it right, especially given the money we are spending on them?

      “By the time the aircraft is delivered (IOC in 2020…. FOC when?), the technology will be nearly two decades old. “

      What a stupid throwaway line! 5th Generation fighters are bleeding edge technology.  The problems facing us are the same problems being faced by others… It’s not like we are being left behind the world here (which is what your comment implies), but being left behind is exactly what will happen if we cancel our orders and go for older, 4th generation planes.

      We have the 12th largest economy in the world… surely we can afford to do the right thing by our nation!

    • Meph says:

      11:28am | 20/02/13


      “The reality is that there is already a fix for this”

      While true, the fact that the aircraft was supposed to be beginning the delivery phase last year makes this revelation somewhat concerning. It’s also not like having a properly sealed and earthed fuel tank is bleeding edge tech that is unrefined. Plenty of aircraft today can take a direct lightning strike and keep on ticking (though don’t get me wrong, with the F-16’s reliance on the onboard computers to keep it flying, I’d not want to be in that situation).

      I’ve mentioned another issue regarding stealth that the moderators seem to have decided to consign to the bit bucket, but I shall say this: If your aircraft can be out-flown and out-gunned by pre-existing airframes, and your only advantage is being invisible(*) to radar, you’d better hope that the enemy doesn’t figure out another way to track you, otherwise you’re screwed.

      *. Personally I find the word stealth to be a little over-charged with respect to the capabilities of next generation aircraft. Plus there’s the whole “not totally invisible to radar, and in fact, not even as invisible to radar as the F-22”

    • Peter says:

      11:38am | 20/02/13

      @Paul, hang on, fella, the technology will certainly be old and you know it.  In fact, given the pace of technological change, any intelligent procurement strategy would buy off-the-shelf fighters for way, way less and then have a shorter re-purchase cycle.  Just like we do with our phones and laptops.  In other words, we should buy what’s available now, for less, and upgrade later.

    • TheRealDave says:

      09:16am | 20/02/13

      A better article than yesterdays, no…not better - just another more technically valid viewpoint.

      But still, despite all the posts yesterday pointing out that the F22 isn’t in production anymore nor will the US ever sell any to anyone - there is bound to be a few clowns calling for us to magic a few of them up anyway…somehow….

    • RobJ says:

      09:49am | 20/02/13

      If we need multirole jets to defend Australia then we don’t need them to be stealthy, we need them to have better weaponry than our aggressors.  My suggestion would be the Eurofighter Typhoon but it’s too late, we’re getting the JSF.

    • Fiddler says:

      10:31am | 20/02/13

      do you even understand air warfare? Stealth, except in the very small chance of a “dogfight” is pretty much everything.

      The Typhoon is probably the best non-stealth fighter out there, but that’s still like saying you have the best horse drawn carriage.

      And as for weaponry, the F35 can carry pretty much everything the Typhoon can

    • Adam R says:

      11:17am | 20/02/13

      Unless you want to get into a dog fight every single time I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that we don’t need stealth. I think the point behind stealth is that you want to blow up the enemy before they see you or can even think of engaging in combat with you.

      There’s a reason why the every nation is going after stealth fighters… It’s not just the US, it’s China and Russia. In all honesty I’d trust American military engineering over the ex-soviet’s any day. That and our systems integrate tightly with them.

      I think we’re forgetting that the JSF will be part of a system that is used to defend our nation. We’re not going to send them out one by one. If you don’t have a military that can talk and respond on the move you’re going to lose 9/10. It’s a ‘team sport’.

      P.S. The JSF’s are multirole… that’s why we’re getting them, they have the same capabilities as the F18 and then some.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      03:35pm | 20/02/13

      @RobJ, better let the ninja’s know their stealth meant nothing compared to the Samurais.

    • Nostromo says:

      11:15am | 20/02/13

      From Wiki:

      Unit cost   F-35A: US$107 million (sans engine, 5th LRIP)[4][5]
                    F-35B: US$237.7M (weap. sys. cost, 2012)[6]
                    F-35C: US$236.8M (weap. sys. cost, 2012)[6]

      How much is going to cost again ffs!?

      And if by stealth you mean ‘as invisible as the units now protecting our skies’, then that we can agree on. Are we in fact ever going to see one of these phantoms (pardon the pun) flying in our RAAF…?

    • RobJ says:

      11:17am | 20/02/13

      “do you even understand air warfare?”

      No not really, I work in an office,  just suggesting that missile range, accuracy, targeting and speed are important too.

      “And as for weaponry, the F35 can carry pretty much everything the Typhoon can”

      Yes but the Typhoon is in production, in action and a lot cheaper.  So in real terms the F35 could have a better weapons load but it isn’t much use if the plane isn’t in production and unproven in action. It would need to be very stealthy considering it is slow and has a smaller combat radius, and range. The short take off vertical landing model might be alright if we had aircraft carriers, which we don’t and never will.

    • Fiddler says:

      11:53am | 20/02/13

      Yes, but with stealth the detection range is a lot less.

      For arguments sake say the AIM-120D has a range of 160km’s (fire and forget) and the F35 can be detected at a range of 30km but the Typhoon can be at 150km’s (Given the reported RCS, these are probably fairly accurate figures) then you can see how much a game changer this capability is.

      And no, it isn’t really any cheaper (if current figures can be believed)
      Typhoon - 90 million Euros ($116 million) vs F35A - $107 million + engine

    • Steve of QBN says:

      02:05pm | 20/02/13


      But we can buy the Typhoon now.  Is it better than the Super Hornet?  Don’t know.  It is stop gap technology until the F-35 finally arrives.  We are purchasing the Super Hornets because we lost long range capability when we stood down the F-111.  And the F-35 will not restore that long range capability either.

      Should we have scored some A-10’s from the US?  Maybe.  Much better ground attack than the FA-18 (longer time on target, more ordnance, better deployment into rough areas).  The F-35 will be no better, too fast, too high, too expensive, too far back from the front, no loiter time.

      Should we buy F-16’s?  Perhaps.  Great planes, the Israelis love them, tried and tested technology.  The MiG 31’s the Indons have will run rings around them though.

      Planning for a 2020 deployment is fine if your current technology is sufficient to keep you on a level pegging with your neighbours.  If it doesn’t, then you are creating a capability gap.

    • Dennis Jensen says:

      02:27pm | 20/02/13

      RobJ, you are only talking radar in X-band. L-band and lower, the JSF is quite detectable (due to physical dimensions, at longer wavelengths the stealth shaping becomes irrelevant, and it is coatings etc that become important, and they are difficult to achieve, never mind on an aircraft where the coatings have to be thin).

      What about visible (have a look at the 4 Corners program, those suckers are flying almost all the time with wing-tip vortices saying “here I am”). Then consider the IR, that exhaust is going to put out loads of heat, never mind the thermal cooling issues.

      In terms of missile envelope, be very careful of simply reading sales pitch. A missile may have a range where aircraft are coaltitude, flying head on at high speed of 100km. Put one lower than the other, where the target is high supersonic and you are chasing (nose to tail) and the range could go down to 15-20km, and even then the target could escape with some vigorous terminal manouevres.

      For the person saying that no one had AIM-120C capabilities, suggest you check the likes of the R-77 Adder and the Meteor that is fitted to the Eurofighter. Consider also that the JSF is only able to attack another aircraft using radar guidance. Far easier to defeat that if you have two missiles, one radar and one IR coming at you, where what you would do to defeat one could make you more vulnerable to the other. That is where a mix is advantageous.

    • RobJ says:

      11:33am | 20/02/13

      “I think the point behind stealth is that you want to blow up the enemy before they see you or can even think of engaging in combat with you.”

      OK, thing is if your missiles and radar have a longer range than the enemy then you can kill them before you come into their range and if their aircraft are stealthy then you’re buggered. It seems that when all aircraft are invisible to each others radar then dog fighting will become the norm. Better buy some flankers.

      “P.S. The JSF’s are multirole…”

      I’m aware of that. Cheers.

    • Fiddler says:

      11:55am | 20/02/13

      Except the Flankers aren’t stealthy and will last a few seconds in the air.

      They can do some pretty cool tricks at airshows though

    • RobJ says:

      12:08pm | 20/02/13

      Fiddler, OK I concede, we need a stealthy multi-role fighter, also we may need a stop gap, why isn’t the Typhoon being considered over the Super Hornet? Would it be an infrastructure issue, ie we already know the F/A-18? I just have a suspicion that we favour American gear because it’s American and we rely on them for security, the reason I have this suspicion is because we purchased those Abram tanks which seem rather useless for Australia. Sea Sprite is another example of a crap procurement .

    • Tator says:

      12:37pm | 20/02/13

      I believe that the RAAF went for the Super Hornets due to the amount of commonality they have with the normal Hornet. (around 30% common components)  and that all ordnance used by the RAAF is already certified for use with the Super Hornet this minimising the extra training required for both flight and ground crews.
      As for the M1A1 tanks, battle proven against most other Warsaw pact tank, only real complaint is that it is too heavy for our roads which is a load of crap - I work with the heavy haulage industry and we move 200 ton loads around Australia regularly which is over twice the weight of a M1A1 on its transporter.  Plus the real issue is more that we have crews trained up on the M1A1 and they use US supplied tanks on overseas deployments as the US have massive amounts of these things set up in predeployment ships around the world so they actually have more tanks than crews.
        Sea Sprites were problematical because of the attempt to marry a 30 year old airframe with modern avionics and it didn’t work.

    • RobJ says:

      01:07pm | 20/02/13


      Thanks for that, my beef with the Abrams is that we have 50 of them and Australia is massive so they aren’t much use as a defensive weapon. I’m not sure we have the capability to deploy them overseas (we might with the LHD) and deploying them overseas on a US war of adventure is not defence.

    • Meph says:

      01:45pm | 20/02/13

      The Eurofighter Typhoon had some teething problems of its own. If I recall correctly, it had to be retrofitted for air to surface operations, as it was originally intended as an air supremacy platform, not multi-role.

      My personal concerns with the M1A1 is the amount of air the onboard turbine needs to keep the thing powered. The old Leopard II MBT’s they have in Darwin are capable of running using a snorkel while all but completely submerged. It makes fording rivers where there is no bridge a simple prospect. About the only place where the M1A1 comes up trumps is in the weight of armour it carries. About the only tank that can kill an M1A1 with one shot, is another M1A1.

    • Angus says:

      02:03pm | 20/02/13

      The super hornets are not a replacement for the hornets. They are an interim stop-gap measure for the loss of our strike capability when the F-111’s were put to bed early. We will have 24. Just for a laugh the boffins on Russell Hill are now telling us that they will serve past 2040!! They’ll go down a treat against 5th gen air superiority fighters. The rest of our fast jet fleet are the original hornets, probably slowing decomposing on the tarmac at Williamtown waiting to be retired while the pilots fly simulators.

      It makes sense in terms of training and parts etc. to have the super hornet, but the ordinance we have could have been put on the Eurofighter without much fuss because of NATO commonality requirements. We could have also replaced the Hornets with the eagle along the lines of the K or SE variant which does have some small stealth characteristics. Boeing are desperate to keep their assembly line at St Louis open and we could have practically stolen a much more capable aircraft, especially now that defence are talking about these timeframes because the f-35 continues to appear as a mirage on the horizon.

    • Steve of QBN says:

      02:20pm | 20/02/13


      tanks (Leopard or Abrams) are like koalas.  A protected species and not to be exported. 

      The real value in them is that, if we need to send troops somewhere where tanks are likely to be of value, we will keep the tanks here, send the crews away and have them crew borrowed US ones.  The down side is that, our tanks have several internal differences to the US ones.  Not show stoppers, just annoying.

    • Tator says:

      02:37pm | 20/02/13

      Meph.  Apparently in one of the gulf wars, one got so bogged the couldn’t drive it out so they tried to destroy it and all the dudsat round did was lesve a nice crease in the Armour

    • RobJ says:

      02:47pm | 20/02/13

      “About the only tank that can kill an M1A1 with one shot, is another M1A1.”

      What about a Challenger? And could an Abrams kill a Challenger with one shot considering the Challenger has better armour.

    • Fiddler says:

      02:50pm | 20/02/13


      The M1A1 has a 120mm smoothbore cannon, same as the Challenger 2, Leopard 2, Merkavka 4 and various others. The Russian T80 and T90 have 125mm guns as well.

      It isn’t a bad tank, but there are others which are just as good. It isn’t indestructable, it’s just the Iraqis were using mostly T-72’s and really didn’t engage them much, which is the main time they have been used in a force on force environment.

      Oh, and we have neither the good armour nor good ammunition for them

    • Meph says:

      02:56pm | 20/02/13


      There’s something to be said for the application of a depleted uranium knitting needle at something close to 1,680 m/s, but you’d think seeing as they not only use the thing exclusively, but also invented it, that at least a few of the jarheads would know how to make one pop.

    • Angus says:

      11:53am | 20/02/13

      The f-35’s profile is only ‘stealthy’ from the front aspect. From the rear or side it has a similar radar profile to legacy fighters. If you add drop tanks or external ordinance to overcome the f-35’s low internal fuel store and meagre weapons bay this is lost in any event. I think it’s a misnomer to describe the f-35 as a stealth aircraft.

      The tragedy for Australia is that they committed to the f-35 very early on and did not properly evaluate other aircraft. They were meant be in production by now and in our inventory by 2014. When we will receive same is anyone’s guess, 10-15 years? In the meantime we plod along with 3rd generation fighters that can be barely maintained because of their age and have less capability than the 4th gen aircraft that are now present in our region. When we buy the f-35 it will cost us an absolute bomb because we will be desperate to get them and buy from the first tranche and then have, perhaps, 15 or so years before the Chinese and Russians bring their 5th gen stealth aircraft into production and we lose air superiority.

      Whoever is responsible for this procurement mess in defence or in parliament should give themselves a massive uppercut.

    • TheRealDave says:

      12:52pm | 20/02/13

      That would be the Liberal Party - you’re welcome wink

    • LJ Dots says:

      12:25pm | 20/02/13

      A quick question for the more knowledgeable here about military matters. Has Australia ever purchased equipment from non NATO aligned countries?

      Several posters have already suggested buying Russian aircraft, I’ve been looking into it and all I could find was the Swiss Pilatus PC9 training aircraft.

    • TheRealDave says:

      12:54pm | 20/02/13

      Carl Gustav - off the top of my head

    • Steve of QBN says:

      02:14pm | 20/02/13

      @ LJ Dots,

      As TRD has said, almost nothing except the Carl Gustav (anti-tank weapon - Swedish?) and the submarine (Swedish).

      Buying non-NATO can present a problem if we want to put US or NATO gear into it due to “non-standard” sizing and / or security issues.

    • AV boffin says:

      02:19pm | 20/02/13

      RCS of these new generation aircraft isnt as big a deal as people make it out to be. There are LBSR and dual primary radars out there / being devloped to counter stealth aircraft.

      They may not give as good resolution as higher frequency radars however they still announce the presence of something being there.

    • Colin McKerlie says:

      03:40pm | 20/02/13

      We only need a stealth fighter to participate in aerial attacks on other nations, so we shouldn’t need one at all. Our participation in American-led foreign interventions is always a token anyway, so why not just have one rapid deployment battalion trained to operate off the new helicopter carriers and leave it at that? We should cancel our F35 order and spend the money on cruise missiles that could since any enemy ship carrying a stealth fighter 1000k’s off our coast. Name one time an Australian jet has ever been used in the actual defence of Australia. It has never happened and it never will.

    • Meph says:

      03:58pm | 20/02/13

      @Colin McKerlie

      Jet? no, you’re absolutely right. On the other hand, the Australian Boomerang flew alongside mustangs, hurricanes, kittyhawks and spitfires during WWII in direct defense of our coastline from sorties flown by Japanese Zeros.

      Aside from that, it’s probably also worth noting that scrying the future is notoriously difficult, just ask Nostradamus wink

    • Fiddler says:

      04:13pm | 20/02/13

      @Meph, give it a few more years until the defence files from the early to mid 60’s are declassified. It is well rumoured in ADF circles that in Sukarno’s later days we were being overflown by Indonesian aircraft, some of whom “may” have been shot down by RAAF jets

    • Meph says:

      04:26pm | 20/02/13


      That would have placed things fair in the middle of Mirage III territory for 75SQN yes?

    • Fiddler says:

      05:07pm | 20/02/13

      Not 100% sure. I do know (from a groundcrew who was there) that they were pulled from Williamtown very quickly to go up North. There were a number of emergency scrambles and after a few days of this during one the radar was switched off.

      On landing there were some very happy with themselves pilots and the planes were missing some bullets from their guns. And yes, Mirage III’s

    • Steve of QBN says:

      06:58pm | 20/02/13

      @ Colin McK,

      We bought the F-111 due to the belligerent expansionism of Indonesia in the early 1960’s.  They were the only planes in the world at that time to be able to fly from Brisbane, bomb Jakarta and get home again without inflight refueling.  With the retirement of the F-111, we no longer have that sort of strike range and the F-35 will not provide it either.

    • St. Michael says:

      06:39pm | 20/02/13

      “Either way they will be expensive but national security is a costly business. They will also be late but world leading technology is usually worth the wait.”

      The problem being if they’re too late, they’re no longer world leading technology.  In which case they’re both costly and not worth the wait at all.  See: the battleship right after Billy Mitchell proved a single aircraft could sink a cruiser.


Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more



Read all about it

Sign up to the free newsletter