When one looks back in the early days of Australias decision to sign on as a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), little of the justification put forward by then Defence Minister Hill or then Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshall Houston make any credible sense. For example, Mr. Hill was quoted as saying that the JSF has “already won a competition in the United States against Boeing. Two examples of the aircraft are flying, and there’s been an enormous investment and work done to get to this stage for it to win that competition.” The truth is different. There may have been two aircraft flying, but they were prototypes from both Boeing (the loser) and Lockheed Martin, (the winner) of the competition to see who would produce the JSF. Neither of these prototypes represented anything close to the kind of equipment in a go-to-war aircraft. What kind of advice was Mr. Hill getting to make such misleading statements that implied some kind of low risk appearance to the program that didnt exist?

Houston stated that it is “an affordable aircraft. It will be affordable because there are 3,000 aircraft (already) on the order books, and there’s likely to be many more. This is not true. There is a big hope of long orders but there is no large amount of aircraft on the “order books” now or when the program started.

In defending the projected cost of each JSF he states: “Earlier aircraft will be more expensive and there will be additional costs for any additional equipment or Australian unique modifications.

This is true. For the U.S. 16 F-35 in the 2009 budget will cost $237 million each. In 2010, 12 F-35s will cost $203.1 million each. For unit costs over the total program , 1,763 F-35As will cost the United States Air Force $96.8 million per aircraft. The costs become wildly unsustainable after doing the currency conversion to Australian.

Recently it was announced that the program may need yet another $15 billion U.S. pushed into testing and development and could end up being another two years late. The behavior by senior Defence officials to get Australia to sign on to the JSF program is pure deception. This is an insurance policy we cant afford and dont need.

Peter Fray

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