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1/22/2020 12:12:56 PM
Posted: 1/3/2007 10:51:04 PM EST
Super Hornet Shoots Down F-35s
by Harold C. Hutchison
January 3, 2007

In a surprise move, Australia is in negotiations to become the first export customer for the F-18F " Super Hornet". The proposed purchase of 24 aircraft will allow the Royal Australian Air Force to retire its aging force of 22 F-111 bombers by 2010. Ironically, this is because of the F-18F being an "evolved" version of the of the F-18 Hornets already in service with the RAAF. Earlier that had been the major reason why the F-35 was chosen to replace the F-111s. But now the Super Hornet also has something that it did not have when Australia was making its earlier decision: proven combat performance over Iraq and Afghanistan.

The RAAF is doing this largely because of the potential for cutbacks in funding for the F-35 by the U.S. Congress, that could delay production. Such delays could mean that the F-35 would not enter service in Australia by 2015. Not only is Australia looking to quickly replace its aging and expensive-to-maintain F-111s, but some of its Hornets have had fatigue issues – and acquiring the F/A-18F will allow the RAAF to retire its older airframes. The fact that the F-18F is an "upgrade" will also be used to convince the bean-counters and lawmakers to go along with this as a temporary measure – even though the F-18F is actually a new plane that is 20 percent larger than the original F-18, has engines generating 35 percent more power, and weighs 30 tons, compared to 23 tons for the older F-18s in RAAF service.

The F-111 first flew in 1964. It has a combat radius of 2,140 kilometers and can carry 15 tons of air-to-ground weapons – or up to 36 500-pound bombs. In its day, it was arguably one of the finest tactical bombers in the world, and had a solid track record over Vietnam, Libya, and Iraq. The F-18s in Australian service have a combat radius of 535 kilometers and carry 6.5 tons of weapons. The Hornet proved itself in combat over Libya, Iraq (1991 and 2003), and Bosnia. The F-18Fs that Australia contemplates buying have a combat radius of 1,095 kilometers and carries up to 8.8 tons of weapons, in addition to some stealthiness, and a new radar, in later production blocks.

The F-18F will easily integrate into the RAAF. It can carry just about anything the Australian F-18s can carry, and with two extra hardpoints, it can carry more of them. Transition from the F-18 will be very simple, and Australia will also not have to be saddled with supporting the aging F-111s. The total cost for this purchase will be just under $2.4 billion.

One potential loser in this decision is Lockheed Martin. If the Australian experience with this first Super Hornet purchase is a good one, more of them may be purchased, instead of F-35s. The Super Hornet, which costs $58 million per plane, slightly higher than the $50 million "fly-away" price tag of the F-35. However, the Super Hornets will be much cheaper than the $110-115 million each for the initial production versions of the F-35.

Link Posted: 1/3/2007 11:09:34 PM EST
oh, and i was thinking that an F-35 was actually shot down
Link Posted: 1/3/2007 11:15:53 PM EST
Australia is making a big mistake buying the F-18 and F-35… everyone says so. Most politicians agree, the RAAF don't want them and it's not as if Australia can't afford to buy the F-22.



Flying into trouble

December 30, 2006

Test triumph for new $16bn air defence fleet
Unmanned planes on RAAF list


Australia is risking its credibility in the region if it pursues its plan to buy 24 Super Hornet aircraft, writes Carlo Kopp.

LAST week's disclosure of negotiations to procure 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets as interim replacements for Australia's existing F-111 fleet is the latest instalment in the sorry saga of the RAAF's decline as a credible regional air force.

Until last week, senior Defence figures repeatedly denied that Super Hornets were being sought as gap fillers to overcome continuing difficulties with the long running F/A-18A Hornet Upgrade Program, increasing delays with the Joint Strike Fighter, and Defence's campaign for premature retirement of the F-111 fleet.

The Super Hornet is the US Navy's follow-on fighter to the "Classic Hornet", currently flown by four RAAF squadrons. While slightly larger than Australia's Hornets, the Super Hornet's agility, supersonic speed and acceleration performance, critical in air combat, are no better than the earlier model, due to a Congressional mandate during development. With unique engines, radar, airframe and electronic warfare systems, the Super Hornet shares little real commonality with its predecessor, driving up support costs. All it offers is a better radar, improved avionics and 36 per cent more internal fuel, at a price tag estimated at $2.5 billion.

The bad news is that the Super Hornet is not competitive against the latest Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK fighters, operated or being acquired by China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, and it is also not competitive against the Boeing F-15 models being acquired by Singapore, South Korea, and flown by Japan.

The larger Sukhois are faster, much more agile, and have greater range and firepower than the Super Hornet. The Russians are now testing an advanced supersonic cruise engine in the Sukhoi fighter, which will effectively double the combat speed of the Russian fighters, putting them well out of reach of the lacklustre Super Hornet.

The Super Hornet is not a credible air combat fighter in this region, and no upgrade can ever make it so.

The stated intention to use the Super Hornet as an interim replacement for Australia's F-111s is no less incredible.

Capable of carrying about half the F-111's payload of smart bombs to about two-thirds the distance achievable by the F-111, in raw firepower terms the Super Hornet delivers around one-third the punch of the F-111.

To match the range and persistence of the F-111, the Super Hornet must be supported by aerial refuelling tanker aircraft in numbers that Defence has no intention of ever acquiring. In real terms, replacing F-111s with Super Hornets reduces strike capability three-fold.

Claims by Defence that the F-111s will become dangerous to fly after 2010 are absurd, given the advanced testing used to verify structural integrity of the fleet. Defence has repeatedly inflated the cost of operating and upgrading the F-111 in evidence to Parliament, and made factually incorrect claims on a wide range of technical issues, while publicly admitting "we don't know what we don't know". In short, the Defence leadership has no credibility whatsoever in justifying the early retirement of the F-111s. Even a fraction of the budget required to buy the Super Hornet would equip the F-111s with new engines, new wings and new avionics, allowing them to remain in use decades longer.

Compared to the mediocre Joint Strike Fighter that Defence intends as the ultimate replacement for both the F/A-18A and F-111 fleets, the Super Hornet has inferior stealth and avionics. Neither of these aircraft were designed to be credible in air combat against the latest Russian Sukhois.

Nor were they designed to defeat the advanced Russian S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, largely superior to the US Patriot, and now appearing in this region.

In strategic terms, Defence is re-equipping the RAAF with a fleet of aircraft that will be little more than a bad joke in the region — and doing so despite better alternatives, such as the superlative F-22A, and despite repeated advice to the contrary.

Defence runs a real risk that as further difficulties emerge with the Joint Strike Fighter, and its cost continues to creep up, a future government will bale out, and with Super Hornets already in service, opt to buy more to replace the legacy Hornets. This further reduces capability against the non-credible Joint Strike Fighter plan. A far better strategy for the future of the RAAF is to scrap current planning, and start again.

The F-22A Raptor suffers none of the limitations of either the Joint Strike Fighter or Super Hornet, and is in production and operational in the US.

If Australia is to have any strategic credibility in the region, it cannot pursue the path sought by the Defence leadership.

Dr Carlo Kopp is a defence analyst and research fellow in regional military strategy at the Monash Asia Institute. He has flown the Super Hornet.


http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/flying-into-trouble/2006/12/29/1166895477918.html?page=2
Link Posted: 1/3/2007 11:29:24 PM EST
That 'expert' doesn't make any sense. We're talking about Strike aircraft, not air superiority fighters. Talking about replacing FB-111s with something similar that ALSO serves as a fighter aircraft. Decrying the choice because it isn't an air superiority craft is like complaining you can't haul lumber in your roadster.
Link Posted: 1/3/2007 11:42:58 PM EST
[Last Edit: 1/4/2007 12:40:13 AM EST by vito113]
The point both he, and the RAAF make, is that any aircraft they have need to meet both key critera. They must overmatch any adversary so Australia retains it's regional air dominance, and the must represent a credible strike threat.

The F-35 is being bought to replace both the F-18 and F-111, it's no long range strike aircraft, nor is it a cutting edge air superiority fighter. At the moment anyone within a few thousand miles of Austrailia know that if they step out of line, F-111's can come calling and really ruin your day. The F-111 has a great payload, has very long legs and is faster than just about anything n the sky. The barely supersonic F-35 with two JDAM's is not a viable replacement.

The F-22 on the other hand can be used for very long range strike missions and overmatches any opposition while carrying a significant weapons load, it's also unmatched as an Air Superiority Fighter.

The Australian .Gov bought into the F-35 when the unit cost of the F-22 was something like three times higher than the F-35. The latest figure for an F-35 are @$90 million and an 8 year wait for delivery to the RAAF, and that's why the Australians are having to buy F-18E's as stop gaps. LM are quoting $116 mllion a copy for a follow on order of F-22's with delivery in a few years at most.

And that's what's causing the raging debate in Austraila, the 'Gov bought into something it really didn't want, the F-35, because it thought it couldn't afford the F-22 which was the plane it did want, now the F-22 is bargain priced and the F-35 has slipped by years and getting mighty expensive, rather than admit they got it wrong and order F-22's that would make viable F-111 replacements, they are buying F-18E's as stop gaps to save face.


ANdy
Link Posted: 1/4/2007 12:29:00 AM EST
[Last Edit: 1/4/2007 12:33:18 AM EST by Slogger78]
Andy is 1000% correct. The JSF is a waste of money for Australia and doesn't fit the role it is being bought for. We also don't need to be retiring the F-111's so rapidly and should be buying the F-22.

But no worries, blunders in military acquisitions are standard operating procedure for Australian governments. Although this does look to be potentially the worst blunder of this type we've ever engaged in.

The worst part about this is that this has been known for a long time now. We should simply cancel the F-35 orders and swallow whatever costs we have to pay for breaking the contract. This plane is a total waste for Australia and will meet none of our requirements. Just accept the PR damage and do what needs to be done.
Link Posted: 1/4/2007 12:47:29 AM EST
I read an article recently about the RAAF's F-111's. They have only used up something like half their fatigue life and were fitted with upgraded avionics some time ago. The only parts that wear significantly are the wings and something like 100+ spares are avaiable at AMARC in the US. The other idea considered was refitting them with more modern engines like the F-119 … apparently a fairly easy mod and would dramatically increase the range and performance of the F-111.

ANdy
Link Posted: 1/4/2007 12:51:29 AM EST

Originally Posted By vito113:
I read an article recently about the RAAF's F-111's. They have only used up something like half their fatigue life and were fitted with upgraded avionics some time ago. The only parts that wear significantly are the wings and something like 100+ spares are avaiable at AMARC in the US. The other idea considered was refitting them with more modern engines like the F-119 … apparently a fairly easy mod and would dramatically increase the range and performance of the F-111.

ANdy


I have read the same thing in multiple newspapers and magazines by people with extensive experience in this field. We could be flying those planes for 20+ more years for minimal costs, with the saved cash allowing for a decent number of F-22's to be bought.
Link Posted: 1/4/2007 1:03:33 AM EST
Andy and Slogger have it spot on. The Howard govt lacks any credibility in defence. First,they decide to continue with the abortive purchase refurbished Seasprite choppers that don't even fly, leaving over half the Navy with no helicopter capability, then they upgrade 4 our Perry class frigates to VLS pay off the other two instead of replacing the lot, then they decided to buy the French Mistrale class LHD rather than the bigger, more capable Spanish version [or better yet, Wasp class], then they buy 4 c-17s, thereby lumbering the RAAF with the nightmare of operating an aircraft with no commonality with anything else in the inventory, and no critical mass, then they decide to buy 25 year old non-DU Abrams to replace 100 35 year old Leopard 1 tanks. They bought the Eurocopter Tiger over the Apache longbow, they've stuffed up AEW and tankers, had small arms and anti-tank missiles end up in the hands of middle eastern crime gangs, and the list goes on.

This govt has sacrificed strategic credibility and combat effectiveness on the altar of political expediency at every available opportunity.

Unfortunately, the other side is worse.
[rant off]
Link Posted: 1/4/2007 1:11:01 AM EST

Originally Posted By Slogger78:

Originally Posted By vito113:
I read an article recently about the RAAF's F-111's. They have only used up something like half their fatigue life and were fitted with upgraded avionics some time ago. The only parts that wear significantly are the wings and something like 100+ spares are avaiable at AMARC in the US. The other idea considered was refitting them with more modern engines like the F-119 … apparently a fairly easy mod and would dramatically increase the range and performance of the F-111.

ANdy


I have read the same thing in multiple newspapers and magazines by people with extensive experience in this field. We could be flying those planes for 20+ more years for minimal costs, with the saved cash allowing for a decent number of F-22's to be bought.


politics. Its all about politics. The defence dept and others have been trying to kill the F-111 since before we bought it. Some argue that its bad for diplomacy to have a capability that threatens the neighbors. Others argue that we live in an environment of `no specific threat` [the catchcry of the `80s and `90s] and so don't need the expense.

This whole thing is sheer madness
Link Posted: 1/4/2007 1:18:19 AM EST

Originally Posted By Lert:
Some argue that its bad for diplomacy to have a capability that threatens the neighbors.



But it does concentrate the 'neighbours' minds wonderfully!

ANdy
Link Posted: 1/4/2007 1:37:33 AM EST
I have no problem with them buying Superbugs instead of the JSF. They get them now instead of in ten years.

But the Superbug, even with upgraded capabilities...is no Aardvark (F-111).
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