More reassuring news on the defence front from Patrick Walters in The Australian today:

The navy’s trouble-plagued Super Seasprite helicopter fleet has been grounded and the $1 billion program is at risk of being scrapped amid concerns the aircraft is unsafe to fly.

Nearly six years after they were due to enter service, the Seasprites – a vital anti-submarine and anti-shipping aircraft for the Navy’s Anzac-class frigates – have been banned indefinitely from operational flying.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has ordered a review of the project, with options ranging from scrapping the Seasprite and buying an alternative helicopter to persisting with its development.

Dr Nelson told The Australian last night that it was time to look at what was involved in “getting out of the program”.

Er… Right. All this on top of the Auditor-General’s scathing report over the French-manufactured Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter of less than a fortnight ago.

Defence insiders say the whole AIR 87 project, initiated by former defence minister Peter Reith, is a debacle. The say the acquisition project has been grossly mismanaged by DMO, the Defence Materiel Organisation.

Indeed, the only part of the project that seems be successful has been the Boeing Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft.

And, yes, you guessed it. The very same people are the cheerleaders for the Joint Strike Fighter.

Peter Fray

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