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.
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.
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Australia’s air combat capability is critical to defending our nation. In the 21st century, those who control the skies control the world. The stealthy fighter designs that will soon dominate our region are the Russian T-50 and the Chinese J20 and J31. Australia’s fighting men and women are stuck with squadrons of obsolescent and uncompetitive fighters.
In 2004 the Defence Teaming Centre issued a document praising the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). They stated that the RAAF would achieve an initial operational capability (IOC) in 2012. Now, Bill Sweetman in trade journal Aviation Week and Space Technology says the earliest the US will achieve delivery is 2020, so what hope do we have?
Sweetman states “The users and taxpayers need an IOC date, IOC capabilities and some real cost numbers. If that’s too much to ask after 11 years, it’s time for someone to get fired.”
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UPDATE 2pm: Kevin Rudd just announced Faulkner’s got the gig.
Who would be defence minister? The poisoned chalice effectively killed off the political careers of the last four people who held it. Peter Reith, Robert Hill, Brendan Nelson and now Joel Fitzgibbon were all so battered after scrapping the military top brass they ran out of the ammunition needed to take things to the next level.
The last person to hold the position without it completely wrecking his public image was Kim Beazley, who was so defined by his ability in the difficult portfolio he’ll be forever known as “Bomber.”
Talk of putting former union chief Greg Combet in the job is madness. Union heavies are one thing - war, both militarily and with your own department, is another. Bring on the owl glasses, forensic nature and hard arse exterior of John Faulkner, he’s the only man for the job.
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