I give you the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project. Over-priced, obsolete and tailor-made for the easy mark.

Tom Burbage, from US defence firm Lockheed Martin, will be in Australia this week to brief the gullible on the status of Operation: Ponzi Scheme.

This is the effort to lift from the Australian taxpayer by trick or device a minimum of $16 billion — minimum because, at this time, no one has a clear figure on what the F-35 Joint Strike Fiasco will cost. Yet there are many in government clearly willing to pitch in for the swindle.

I weep for our Defence Minister John Faulkner, who inherited this mess. He is a politician who is being used for the sole purpose of his office to push this military version of the global financial crisis. Due to little fault of his own — he is only as good as what his advisers tell him — he is being used as a puppet to help carry the water for a dysfunctional defence bureaucracy.

Let us compare the global financial crisis to the F-35 Joint Strike Failure program. Organisational groupthink? Check on both. A total indifference to what is real? Check on both again. A need for a  government bailout when serious problems arise? Yes.

This year, the top procurement person for the US Department of Defense (DOD), Ashton Carter, signed off on a recertification of the F-35 program after it had significant cost blow-outs that triggered a US Congressional law that gives the option to cancel the project or recertify it. The reasons Carter gave for the re-certification were weak at best.

This was after testimony he made to Congress, which stated that the US DOD lost up to two years of proper corrective action of the program’s health because the first of two back-to-back negative reports by an independent auditor was ignored by the leadership of the time.

For Australia, our elected officials must demand that none of the $3.2 billion are handed over for the proposed first instalment of 14 aircraft Faulkner stated he wants purchased. With less than 3% of the flight testing done and over three times the software of an F-22, there are years of work still to do on the  F-35 before it can be evaluated for purchase.

It is time for our civilian leadership to break this cabal that is taking money from us for no good reason. Once that is done, then maybe more sane minds can start over with a blank piece of paper and take a good hard look at what kind of an air force Australia needs. This is not being an ungrateful ally. It is being an intelligent purchaser of military hardware.

*Eric Palmer writes on military issues at ELP’s Defens(c)e blog.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey