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March 15, 2012
CPL Max Bree
THE development of the F-35 Joint
Strike Fighter will not cost Australia
a "single cent" more than our cur-
rent contribution, despite the US
military deferring acquisition of some
of its early aircraft, according to the
head of Australia's New Air Combat
AVM Kym Osley said the recent
US decision to defer procurement of
179 of the new fighters over the 2013-
2017 period to allow for more testing
and development would not change
Australia's dollar contribution to the
development of the F-35s.
"The Americans, over the past 18
months, have put an extra US$7.4 bil-
lion into development of the F-35. We
put in $150 million at the start as a
fixed price for the development of the
aircraft," he said.
Nor does the decision to defer
procurement of 179 aircraft change
the total number of F-35s the US will
eventually purchase, he said.
"The US is still committed to buy-
ing 2443. That's the same number
they've been planning to buy for ages."
While the US decision will margin-
ally increase the cost of Australia's
early aircraft, the potential increase
had been budgeted for.
"Some people confuse the US pro-
gram and Australia's project," AVM
"If I asked the average person in
the street they would say the F-35's
cost has blown out. But we're running
to the budget we took to Government
in late 2009."
He said on current plans, Air Force
pilots are programmed to start training
with the new fighters in 2014. This
would enable sufficient pilots to be
trained in time for the first operational
F-35 squadron to commence opera-
tions at RAAF Base Williamtown. It
would also allow the gradual retire-
ment of the Classic Hornets from
The F-35 was recently put through
its paces with test pilots taking the
aircraft up to Mach 1.6. The F-35's
stealth coating had now been perfected
and was being retrofitted to the US
military's F-22 Raptors.
The F-35's radar and electro-optical
sensors, which form a "situational
awareness bubble", performed well
when flown against modern fighters
during a recent US Air Force exercise
in Alaska, AVM Osley said.
"Against their latest fighters, like
F-16s and F-22s, the F-35 radar and
sensors did a fantastic job. It detected
and tracked the other aircraft despite
their best efforts. It was also able to
jam the radar on the fourth-generation
fighters," he said.
The F-35 fleet has notched up
about 2500 test flight hours. The air-
craft is in its fourth year of production
at the Lockheed Martin production line
in Fort Worth, Texas.
"With the Russian fifth-generation
fighter, the Sukhoi PAK FA, and other
high capability fighters likely to be
marketed in the region, it is essential
for Australia to stay on the cutting
edge of fighter technology," AVM
He said being involved in the JSF
Program meant Australia would have
access to the new fifth-generation
"The US military is to retire a lot of
jets in the next decade and there will
be great demand for fifth-generation
fighters from many other countries
around the world as their air combat
fleets reach their 'use-by' dates.
"There is no other alternative to the
F-35 for those seeking an interoper-
able Western-sourced fifth-generation
fighter, and I predict demand will be
very high from late this decade.
"If you're not a partner nation you
will run the risk of having to stand in
line behind the US and all the other
eight partner nations before you could
get hold of any F-35s."
Defence Minister Stephen Smith
said while Defence was on-track to
receive the first two F-35s in 2014, the
schedule for another 12 was "under
consideration, just as the US's sched-
ule is under consideration".
Still on track
WE'RE MOVING AHEAD:
AVM Kym Osley (pictured
inset) says Australia's JSF
project will not be affected
by the US decision to delay
procurement of 179 jets. Main
photo: Darin Russell, Lockheed Martin
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