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Jan 10, 2011

Joint Strike Fighter latest puts our defence planning under siege

Australia, in the JSF, has no answers. Just a painfully expensive toy that is years late in development, and already below the specifications of rivals that appear closer to entering operatons.


The latest signal that the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program is in even more trouble came from soon-to-resign US Defence secretary Robert Gates, in an interview given on his way to his current talks in Beijing.

China, Gates said, has “the potential to put some of our capabilities at risk”.

His comments were almost entirely directed at the sudden, unpredicted, early appearance of China’s J-20 answer to the JSF, less than a year after Russia flew its response, in the PAK-FA.

The evasive language of the Gates interview puts Canberra on further notice that the centerpiece of Australian defence planning is under siege.

And no doubt makes for a jolly time in the discussions now going on between himself and the China leadership cadre.

Over the holiday season Gates has announced that the US will put one model of the JSF, with short take-off and landing capabilities, on probation. It’s not the model on which Australia hangs its future air superiority, but it erodes the battered finances of the entire program.

He also foreshadowed reductions in the US order for the other models, thus risking a huge increase in unit cost, and announced more orders for FA 18 Super Hornets to cover delivery short falls, as did Australia, last year.

In a strategic environment that is getting J-20s and the PAK-FA faster than Australia will get “real” JSFs, the Super Hornets are as useful as more horses for the Polish Cavalry.

As are the JSFs, once they meet specifications, when confronted by aircraft that will fly higher and further and faster.

The JSF has a mission profile invented in the ’90s that is designed to fail in the current decade.

Gates’ reference to doubts about the stealth characteristics of the J-20 are disingenuous. If it can kill our JSFs before they even know they are being hunted it hardly matters if they are less than invisible by the time they get to point where the could have been engaged.

The sleeper issue for the Pentagon, which America’s US Air Force Association tried to awaken last year, is a Chinese investment in surface to air missile defences that denies its air space to intruding military aircraft.

It is reasonable to conclude from Gates’ comments about the need to pay more attention to China that one of its immediate objectives has been achieved.

China owns enough US government debt to hurt, and it has a rapidly developing technology base to challenge both its trading and military interests.  This includes a proven capability to destroy satellites in orbit, intercontinental nuclear missiles, ground based missile defences and now a large and potentially troubling fight and attack design.

Australia, in the JSF, has no answers. Just a painfully expensive toy that is years late in development, and already below the specifications of rivals that appear closer to entering operations.


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59 thoughts on “Joint Strike Fighter latest puts our defence planning under siege

  1. Greg Angelo

    It would seem to be much more sensible for Australia to approach the Chinese/Russians/Indians to purchase equipment from them rather than the US. . There could even be some strategic advantage in getting first rate Chinese aircraft as it would appear that the Chinese economy will dominate the world within 20 years. Aerospace developments in China and India are significant, and Russia still holds a significant technological capacity in fighter aircraft. Due to the massive overspending within the American economy, the US will have to cut back on defence expenditure, resulting in even higher cost per unit of equipment delivery on current designs under development. Our defence planners should be factoring in the decline of the US economy into our long term defence planning.

  2. freecountry

    The central consideration of the JSF project is to control costs. Remember that one of the several reasons the USSR toppled was its diversion of economic resources into unaffordable military spending to keep up with the Americans. NATO defeated the USSR not by out-shooting it or out-spying it, but by out-spending it. A lesson not lost on the Chinese.

  3. Tom F

    That sounds good in theory; but our entire electronics setup (IT, Comms, physical hardware) is build around US standards and US equipment. China and Russia use very different systems, and certainly wouldn’t be willing to provide us with late-generation infrastructure that their newest systems are using. Since the electronics and software is what actually defines them as a 5th generation fighter, tearing out the innards and replacing them is not plausible – it’d take as long again as developing the JSF in the first place.

    Operating fighters as stand-alone systems, cut off from the rest of our military infrastructure would be ludicrously dangerous and ineffective in a combat environment; and I’m not entirely sure if it would even be possible, given their reliance on ground, long-range aerial and satellite-based guidance and targetting.

    The US, a long-standing ally, does sell Australia (fairly) cutting edge equipment; but the downside is that we’re sucked into US procurement debacles like the JSF that neither we nor they can really afford.

    If we want to stop buying US armaments, it will take a massive investment to switch over to a Russian or Chinese system (European systems are generally designed to work with NATO/US systems, but they don’t have a 5th gen fighter under construction that I’m aware of – I think a number of Eurozone countries had JSFs on order, too.)

  4. Philip Amos

    For me, Ben’s column raises several important questions:
    – Are the JU-20 and PAK-FA superior to the JSF? How do we know? Especially re the JU-20 given it’s surprise recent appearance?
    – How do the Chinese and Russians produce a jet superior to the JSF in a shorter period? China steals a large amount of IP in other industries, is this the case here? (The jet in the video appears very similar in many ways to the F22/F35)
    – If the Chinese and Russian military-industrial complex is now superior to the American/Allies how do we react?

    Perhaps Ben could address some of these questions in future columns.

  5. Philip Amos

    One more question:
    – Why won’t the Chinese and Russians have similar development challenges as the JSF? I think this is a key question. We are critical of Australian/US defence procurements that fail to meet their timetable for delivery on almost every occasion, why would we take the Chinese on face value when they promise an in-service date for the JU-20 of 2015 or 2017?

  6. Ben Sandilands

    A good suggestion, even though I focus more on the procurement process and the failure of public administration than the technical analysis. I have struggled in the case of the JSF to find a clear countervailing voice to the criticisms made of it, since the responses generally resemble brand rage on the part of supporters than a chapter and verse work through of the long record of deceptive or evasive or just pain wrong statements made on its behalf at that political or administrative level.

    And I’m embarrassed to admit to a typo that escaped.*** IT IS A J-20. *** Not a JU or Junkers museum piece!

  7. Tim nash

    I find the reactions from the Americans about the JU-20 a little weird, lets face it China is a leader in manufacturing for quite some time.

    It’s really not that surprising that they invented a better tactical fighter jet/

    Is America supposed to just be unquestioned dominant military force for eternity?

    Also I don’t think Australia should be picky where we get our military equipment from, if china has a better jet..get the jet from china that’s..if they will sell it to us anyways.

    -BTW why don’t journalists just come out and say ‘in a future possible confict with China’, its like everyone is dancing around actually saying it.

  8. James Hunter

    Make one wonder if we should not do a deal with Russia for the Pak FA. Fitted with British , French or Israeli electronics . Mind you reports on the new gen Russian Radars and of bore sights ? One thing if we bought Russian we would be assured of parts and support no matter what situation we were in. The usa by comparison have a history of being Indian Givers. Spares and support dry up if you want to use “their” toys in places they object to.
    But the Pak FA has a massively powerful radar, supercruise engine capability and very long range on internal fuel. all the things the F35 should have had but doesnt.
    Time Australia bought its Military equipment where its needs are best met rather then where the USA tells us to.

  9. jeffb

    No mention that the type Australia is buying has exceeded its 2010 test flight target and is proceeding satisfactorily? Thats what 500+ test flights to … zero J-20 flights?

    No mention that due to the STOVL version effectively being put on hold for 2 years the type Australia is buying has moved to the front of the production line?

    People are trying to make a comparison between an open project under constant media scrutiny and a handful of pictures on the internet.

    I’m curious Ben, besides APA who have you talked to about the F35? Crikey has had quality defence writers do articles for it in the past, and there plenty of real defence academics out there without having to ask CS grads for their opinions.

  10. TheEvilOne

    @Phillip Amos

    “- Why won’t the Chinese and Russians have similar development challenges as the JSF? I think this is a key question.”

    What you are missing is the amount of corruption in the US defense procurement industry. The American war machine’s main purpose has become creating handsome profits for Defense contractors and financial investors in them. These excess profits are a drain on the efficiency of the industry to develop efficient cost effective weapons. I have no doubt that both Russia and China have similar problems but the level of corruption is lower because the main purpose of Russia’s and China’s defense industries is to produce weapons that can compete with the products of the American defense industry while both countries have lesser financial resourses to the Americans.

    I have no doubt that when China becomes the world’s sole superpower the same corruption will set in, the miltary will be captured by the defense industry vested interests and corruption in procurement will sap its military effectiveness. The American Empire is already in its death throes, the Chinese Empire has to rise before it in its turn is destroyed by the excessive rents taken by its ruling oligarchs.

  11. TheEvilOne

    I might add that the purpose of Australian defense procurement is also to provide profits to the US arms oligarchy, so noone should be surprised if we continue to buy overpriced and underperforming US arms. The “logic” ehind this is our need to interoperate with the Americans when we jointhem in their next hare brained and illegal invasion of a sovereign nation.

    The JSF when and if it arrives will not provide the capability of the retired F111s. The superhornets grossly underperform current Sukhoi fighters that our likely adversaries in Asia already have.

  12. Michael James

    Leaviong aside paranoid comments such as Theevilone’s, lets look at a few hard and salient facts before people here start losing their collective heads, as many so-called expert commentators have.

    Way too many so called pundits are predicting the end of US air dominance on the basis of some imagery second and third hand imagery.

    Look at the issues that the world’s most experienced builders and operators of 5th generation and stealth aircraft had with the F22 and are having with the F35, and tell me exactly how the Chinese are going to replicate decades of manufacturing and operational expertise in less than a decade.

    Plenty of these so-called ‘experts’ and analysts’ need to have a cold shower, take a deep breath and think first rather than react.

  13. Norman Hanscombe

    Michael you’re being FAR too kind to the self-appointed ‘experts’ — even the non paranoid ones.

  14. TheEvilOne

    Michael James.

    For more than 40 years I have been working at becoming the most cynical person that I could make myself, you might call me paranoid. I always bias my thinking to interpret events in terms of the most revolting combination of stupidity and evil that I can think up. I have failed dismally all that has happened is that I have become a realist. I no longer interpret events as being the result of evil but of people acting according the incentives that society provides and operating in their unenlightened self interest as they see it. I post as The Evil One for the reason that it is appropriate for someone whose hobbies are cynicism and sarcasm.

    All human institution are more or less corrupt. A bad truth is that some nations are more corrupt, a good truth is that some are less so. Corruption acts as an overhead cost on the operations of society and economy. In more corrupt nations this overhead does more damage than in less corrupt ones. Sometimes our estimations of the level of corruption in a society are far from accurate.

    There is an interesting semi joking term used by some economists called “the bezzle”. The bezzle is the amount of undiscovered embezzlement in the system. By its nature we can not know its actual quantity, we can only estimate it and track changes as undiscovered fraud becomes discovered fraud when crises such as the US sub-prime real estate scandal ripen and explode throwing manure into the whirling blades. If a significant proportion of the economic actors in a society actually become aware of or solidly suspect the true extent of a large bezzle it can destroy the illusions that allow people to conduct economic activity with the (false) confidence that they previously had. The system can grind to a halt as people stop lending, stop borrowing and stop buying things The bezzle in the US is seriously underestimated and the US government from 2008 until now, both the pre-2008 Bush/ Republican party government and the post 2008 Obama Democratic party administration have been desperately trying to hide the fact that major companies are in fact insolvent until hopefully they can reinflate the asset boom and shovel government subsidized profits confiscated from the 99% of the US population that are not seriously rich into the insolvent companies owned by the kleptoplutocratic oligarchs who own the US government regardless of the party affiliation of the elected officials in supposed control.

    The US still thinks that it is a superpower but when in 20 years time historians look back they will realize that the loss of superpower status came much earlier than acknowledged. No one expected the Soviet Union to collapse but collapse it did surprising everyone including the CIA. In hindsight we can now see that the Soviet Union was a rotten shell well before what we see as the actual collapse. A hollowed out shell can appear solid until the corrosion gets all the way through or until a peak in stresses exceeds its load bearing capacity. The rotting process was the collapse and what we think of as the actual collapse was simply the systems rotten status becoming unavoidably visible.

    The US Empire and maybe the US as a whole is in its death throes and anything that hastens the death is to be welcomed. Personally I hope that Israel manipulates the US into invading Iran, if military quagmires in two nations are not enough to break the weakened system then 3 might do it.

    The bezzle affects all aspects of the US economy, but one sector of interest is the complex of private companies that support the military by producing weapons and equipment and sub-contracting for exorbitant fees jobs once done by soldiers. Once upon a time these companies were reasonably efficient and supplied goods and services of reasonable quality for reasonable prices, but that is no longer the case. The Pentagon has been captured by lobbyists for the military industrial complex and its first priority is to pad the profits of its suppliers. When officers retire most of them quickly migrate to very well paid jobs working for defense industries as lobbyists. A weapon is not necessarily developed because the US military asked for it but because former officers lobbying current ones that such an extremely expensive boondoogle would be a good idea. The US tends to over ambitiousness in what it attempts going beyond the cutting edge to the bleeding edge. Contracts are never written in a way that limits cost overruns, if costs go up a few billion that is hardly skin off the nose of cost plus suppliers. Current officers are looking to their post retirement futures have an interest in not pissing off prospective employers by driving too hard a bargain on behalf of their current one. This is institutionalized conflict of interest, and mechanisms that rely on the collective good faith of people in positions of institutionalized conflict of interest never work as supposed. What I am saying is that the overhead cost to the US military of the corruption in defense procurement is much higher in the US because the US believing it is still a superpower tolerates it. Russia and China are not superpowers or not yet anyway, therefore they are conscious of their military inferiority and are more concerned about producing effective tools for the military forces to close the gap than with padding the profits for their defense industries. They also want to sell equipment to foreign buyers who will choose according to cost effectiveness. The US has captive nations as buyers like the UK and Australia.

    All empires rise and their rise in retrospect seems inevitable but some time later they tolerate greater and greater levels of corruption to serve their ruling elites. And then when the cumulative effect of corruption has hollowed them out they surprise everyone by unexpected collapse. The US is well on the way down. Russia, China and India are on the rise and will no doubt become as dangerous menaces to humanity as the US now is, but they in their turns will collapse. Plus ca change …..

  15. TheEvilOne


    Why is it that my posts always get stuck in the moderation queue????

    Michael James.

    My paranoid reply to your previous post will no doubt eventually make its way through moderation

  16. freecountry

    Well, this column is in the general Crikey pages, where a large number of readers believe that the financial crisis was the end of capitalism and that the USA is like the evil empire out of the Star Wars movies. It’s a different scene than the informed “Plane Talking” blog.

    What I find disturbing is that defence issues receive only the most passing interest in federal parliament. One of dozens of subjects overseen by a joint house standing committee; a Defence White Paper every few years; and a bit of political controversy about China’s long term intentions. (I expect the Chinese will seek to buy the world, not bomb it; their military might will be kept in the background to add gravitas whenever they stare down any criticism or interference.)

    National defence was among the chief reasons for Australian states to federate in 1901, along with international trade, and matters of a pan-national nature which could not be adequately left to state governments. In recent years, federal parties have found it much easier to win votes by picking off local electorates one by one with money for sports playing fields, road improvements, hospitals and the like, breathing down states’ necks on local issues because it’s so much easier to interfere with someone else’s job than to do your own.

    Federal parliament should be spending a good 50 per cent of its time deliberating strenuously on national issues, such as defence readiness and questionable approaches to international trade. They are not doing it. Why do people put up with federal governments trying to be state governments while putting national responsibilities in the too-hard basket?

  17. Michael James


    It is because for politicians the truism ‘No votes in Defence’ is self evident.

    For the public, they take their lead from the media, who vacillate between mindless hero worship of ‘our brave Diggers’ and equally mindless ‘Defence waste / fraud / scandal’ stories.

    Both elements of the Defence story demonstrate how little specialist Defence reporting there is undertaken by the mainstream media.

    Aviation has a few specialist journalists in mainstream media, such as Ben here, Steve Creedy on the Australian and…. damned all else really.

    Defence has even fewer and many have their own axe to grind. Far too many of those end up regurgitating industry and government media releases, with almost none doing actual real investigative journalism into some of the ongoing issues.

    These issues include our defence industry policy; why the equipment being supplied to individual soldiers is not meeting their requirements; the harsh operational tempo of the patrol boats of Border Command and its effects on the crew; the future of our amphibious capability and why that is critical; the future design of our submarines and why we cannot just buy an off the shelf design; plus a hell of a lot more besides.

    One of the greatest media debacles concerns the F35. The program has issues; however Defence has not adequately and explicitly explained the rationale for its decision to acquire these aircraft, leaving the field free for mendacious fools such as Kopp, Goon and the APA nut house free rain to peddle their drek.

    The reason the F35 was selected was as follows.

    1. It is the only available 5th generation aircraft. The only other 5th generation fighter aircraft, the F22, was not, is not and never will be available for sale to anyone besides the US Air Force. Memo to APA: This is the reality, deal with it.

    2. The best non-5th generation aircraft available were the Typhoon, the Rafale, the F-18F/G Super Hornet and the Flatest versions of the F15 and F 16 (both of which designs are more than a ¼ century old)

    3. No one seriously proposes buying Russian and Chinese aircraft. Every air force that has operated them has done so because Western aircraft were not available. When modern Western aircraft were available, every competition has seen the West’s aircraft come out decisively in front. Even stalwart Russian customers such as India are buying from America, as the C17, P8 and likely Super Hornet purchases demonstrate.

    4. Everyone seems to think in terms of how fast an aircraft manoeuvres as a sign of how good a fighter it is. That was true up to the 1950s and the Korean War. Afterwards it started to shift to the capability of the aircraft to deliver the right ordinance to meet the threat. The Migs of the Vietnamese air force were more manoeuvrable than the US F4 Phantoms, however once the US training programs got into gear the VPAF was conclusively outflown and defeated.

    Today, while the Su35 continues to wow people at air shows with its repertoire of acrobatic tricks, modern air to air missiles can out turn and out fly any aircraft flying.

    5. Australia is likely to operate as part of a coalition in the majority of future conflicts, in which the use of similar aircraft to our major allies results in improved interoperability, plus being a partner in the largest fighter aircraft procurement of the next 40 years means we are paying lower costs for our aircraft than we would for almost any other comparable aircraft.

    The emphasis today is to see the enemy before it sees you, hence the use of long range radar on aircraft such as AWACS and the RAAFs Wedgetail, who pass the information to the F35s, which operate without using their radars, closing on their targets from off axis, avoiding the other sides radar, party due to their stealthy design, until they are close enough to launch their missiles from apposition in which the opposing aircraft are unlikely to escape.

    The future of air combat is changing, to one in which fighter aircraft attack the enemies data networks and communications links electronically while attacking their combat elements with weapons.

    The F35 is the only aircraft currently flying which has been designed for air combat today and for years to come. Everything else is either not as capable or still barely off the drawing board, with a decade pus of development in front of it. That is why the RAAF bought it.

  18. jeffb

    “Why won’t the Chinese and Russians have similar development challenges as the JSF? I think this is a key question.”

    Well thats the thing Philip, the Chinese still don’t have an engine powerful enough to get the full performance out of their airframe, the best they have access to are Russian AL-31s and their own WS-10s which they admit are inferior to the Russian engines and have been suffering serious production issues.

    The T50s that Russia have also have no radar or weapons control systems, they wont be included in the prototypes until sometime this year. The second prototypes flight tests were also delayed from 2010 till sometime this year.

    The T50s will likely go into service in very small numbers to refine the design before full production takes place, similar to the flight test and evaluation period the F35 is going through right now. There has been little serious talk of full production of the aircraft since its debut, with the biggest news being the deal with India.

    Both nations continue to purchase variants of the Su-30 as their main fighter.

  19. TheEvilOne

    Phillip Amos, JEFFB

    “Why won’t the Chinese and Russians have similar development challenges as the JSF? I think this is a key question”.

    Eventually the Chinese will have such problems, but not until they are as the US is now decaying superpowers, one might speculate on how many years in the future this will be, could be 40 years or 200 . The cumulative overhead of procurement corruption in the US where the first priority of the ruling classes is to pad their profits is much greater than that in China and Russia where the first concern is to catch up with the perceived war fighting capacity of the US.

  20. TheEvilOne

    Phillip Amos, JEFFB.

    Note that in my previous post I said perceived war fighting capacity of the US. The US dangerously overestimates the effectiveness of its military but I think its want to be rivals do as well.

  21. freecountry

    Michael James,

    With regard to your point 1, the unavailability of the F-22, it’s strange that Air Marshall Houston did not mention any such showstopper in his comparison of the F-22 and F-35 options in 2004. And it was still unclear as late as one year ago whether Japan’s application for purchase of the F-22 will be approved.

    Questions like these cannot be settled in a Crikey blog. They can be settled only by Federal Parliament getting its nose out of duplicating regional issues and turning its serious attention to national issues. I have the uncomfortable feeling that we are on a ship where the captain is down in the kitchen interfering with the cooks while no one is on the bridge.

  22. Michael James

    That was in 2004.

    In the years that followed, while media tried to suggest that Japan, Australia, South Korea and others were interested in the F22, the US quietly let it be known that the F22 wasn’t for sale. This was because the export sale of the F-22 was barred by American federal law as introduced in a bill in the Senate.

    Then the decision was made to terminate production.

    On 6 April 2009, as part of the 2010 Pentagon budget announcement, Secretary of Defense Gates called for production of the F-22 to be phased out by fiscal year 2011, leaving the USAF with 187 fighters.

    On 28 October 2009, President Barack Obama signed a defense bill that terminated some weapons projects and expanded war efforts for the current Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The bill terminated production of the F-22. This resulted in the cesation of funding for production of the F22.

  23. Horde


    Interesting cross section of views in the comments on the subject of your article.

    Ever wondered why, whenever Air Power Australia (www.ausairpower.net) is mentioned, someone like a Michael James rolls up spitting bile and venom, with the claims like APA is not objective because they have a ‘political agenda’ or because they don’t like the Joint Strike Fighter.

    So, according to such people, to be objective on military aviation and strategy matters, one has to believe in the JSF.

    Simply amazing and quite telling!

    As for the various posturings on the “when” and “how” of the J-20 entering service, there are a few salient things which, though many of your readers are likely well aware, are still worth noting, anyhow. These include the following eight points:

    1. China’s western fifth generation equivalent J-XX Development Program from which the J-20 has emerged started in earnest around 2001, IIRC.

    2. China has a leadership group that is principally drawn from quite large pool of high flying Technocrats (Scientists and Engineers) whereas the Western leadership groups are made up of bureaucrats, lawyers and political party apparatchiks.

    3. In contrast with many Western countries, the education system in China is effectively free, outcomes focused, based upon a contiguous 25 year plan, robustly supported by the State and, like so much in China, committed to the national good of the Chinese people.

    4. As a result, China almost certainly has more post doctorals in the hard sciences under the age of 40 than any other nation on the planet, most of whom are at least bi-lingual.

    5. Through the West’s pre-dilection for short term profits via outsourcing, China is now a world leader in manufacturing technologies and the productionisation competencies and skills that affords.

    6. By responding appropriately, in the National interest of China, to the West’s politics of self advantage and “a total indifference to what is real”, China is now America’s banker.

    7. Conversely, because China is not infected with the politics of self advantage and “a total indifference to what is real”, their industrial base, including the high technology areas for military capabilities in the defence and security of China as well as for generating cash and influence through export, is not hamstrung nor made less effective by the leaching relationships typified in the incestuous quadrangle of interplay that exists between the Pentagon, the large corporate players in the US Industrial Base, the US Congress, and those upon whose needs they feed, the Services (i.e. US war-fighters).

    8. Through stewardship with a primary, unwavering focus on National interests, China has relatively massive amounts of operating cash as well as accrued significant and deep capital reserves.

    Therefore to claim that the J-20 will take China the equivalent time to put into operational service as that other true fifth generation fighter, the F-22A Raptor, or, even more fancifully, that “apology for a fourth and no-where near” a fifth generation strike fighter, the just-so-flawed JSF, is yet another classic example of the hubris, if not outright arrogance, that leads to the judging of the performance of others by attributing them with one’s own or, in this case, the performance of the above cited incestuous quadrangle.

    This is not dissimilar to that part of the fallacious form of argumentation known as “argumentum ad hominem” that has “putting words into the mouth of your opponent” as its core meme/theme – that is, when an individual or group are seen to argue against a point that they attribute to someone else, usually the subject of their derision, when, in fact, they are the creators of that very point.

    There is a more academic description for this behaviour and those who do it, though the more colloquial description of “Tosser” is far more Australian and colourful, for reasons which should be obvious


    Peter Goon
    Head of T&E
    Air Power Australia

  24. freecountry

    Mr Goon,
    In your points 3, 6, 7, and 8 above, are you arguing from first principles that China’s political superiority makes it a better builder of military aircraft than the USA?

  25. Horde

    “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. ”

    “But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions – that time has surely passed.”

    Barack Obama, POTUS – January 2009

    The argument is certainly from first principles which is often, if not always, a good way to go.

    Funadamentally, China is not lumbered or constrained by the politics of self advantage and “a total indifference to what is real” – the very same things which the current POTUS railed against in his inauguaration speech just under 2 years ago.

    Therefore, it would be foolish to judge China’s abilities to advance in ANY endeavour based on our own or those of America when it is not shackled with the foibles, fallacies, falsehoods and frauds that are not only tolerated but promoted in the West.

    As to whether these “from first principles” points of argument could lead to China being” a better builder of military aircraft than the USA”, I leave that up to China to demonstrate and America and others to judge.

    I, for one, believe, they almost certainly could, as has been already been demonstrated in other extremely challenging high technology endeavours.



  26. Michael James

    “Funadamentally, China is not lumbered or constrained by the politics of self advantage and “a total indifference to what is real”

    Must be nice to live in a world so divorced from reality Mr Goon. Obviously you have never had to do deals in China and dealt with the naked self interest and the breath-taking levels of officially sanctioned corruption that passes for ‘the Chinese way of doing business’.

    Quanxi, or connections, where having the right members of the Party hierarchy’s children is essential to getting business done, is standard practice in China.

    As for indifference to reality, look at the vast shadow economy run by the PLA for the enrichment of the senior cadres of the military, churning out heavy industrial products that in the main have little of no market, but which are sold to the Government and then recycled, in a system that transfers wealth from the people, to the Government, to the military heirarchy, for no real purpose other than keeping the PLA leadership wealthy and quiescent.

    Finally, you bang on about the Chiese developments in education. Funny how China continues to send its best and brightest overseas to leatrn from the West, given how poor China’s own R&D and higher education sector is.

    “I, for one, believe, they almost certainly could, as has been already been demonstrated in other extremely challenging high technology endeavours”.

    Yes, they have been very good at taking technology designed and brought to fruition elsewhere and building it cheaper than anyone else. However when you look at the areas where real technological development is, China is not even close to being a leader.

    What technological advancement that is being developed in China is directed to a few specific endeavours, including their nascent space and ballistic missile programs.

    In the area of aviation technology, the Chinese military seems to derive much of its advances through commercially or clandestinely obtained western technology, such as the Israeli Lavi, which became the J10 in Chinese service.

    Their inability to build a servicable modern fighter engine and consequent reliance on the Russians for engines points out that they have a very long way to go.

  27. Horde


    Thank you for your contribution. There is strength in diversity – the trick is in knowing how to focus and use it.

    Permit me to respond from a different perspective – that of a Defence colleague who is held in very high regard. Their name is not relevant to this discussion but what is said is, and very much so.

    Peter omitted to mention that the Chinese and their diaspora may be the smartest people in the world. That has been my experience when working with Chinese people, especially in Singapore.

    The world’s IQ of students has been independently tested by the Pearson Foundation – Shanghai students are at the top:


    Then, if you have a commitment to excellence (rather than a commitment to personal greed), in a large population that produces about 450,000 engineering graduates a year, you have the opportunity to select the ‘best of the best’.

    And if you have massive FOREX reserves and a balanced budget, rather than a $14+ Trillion Dollar deficit, you can afford to fund projects.

    Expect the J-20A to be IOC before the JSF and, likely, before 2015.

    Then expect the J-20B, C, D, etc as progressive updates, just like the J-10A and J-10B.

    I have attached an image sourced from China (note it is laid out from right to left as is their writing) showing the planned sequence of developing Air-to-Air missiles. And the USA’s answer: the-single-point-of-failure AIM-120D.

    Finally, we should consider fiscal productivity. The USA’s 2010 Defence budget was circa $680B, China’s circa $70B (probably understated). But when an AIM-120D cost $US1M and an equivalent or superior PL-12 $US90,000, the Chinese are getting 10 times the bang-for-the-buck. And the Chinese have the capacity to mass produce weapons, which will be required in large numbers in a shooting war.


    Hoping this helps in furthering your appreciation of the strategic environment into which we and our fellow countrymen are being drawn, with both hands tied behind our backs, as it were, the latter for reasons driven by the politics of self advantage and “a total indifference to what is real”.



  28. Horde


    Specifically to some of the points you have made.

    The fact that you use the western aberration of “quanxi” to elevate your argument rather than the 汉语拼音 / 漢語拼音 derived “guan xi”, speaks volumes and, along with the tone and level of your arguments, may go some way to explain why you have experienced such difficulties.

    I never said or implied the words or the view that your arguments are endeavouring to encourage others to believe or infer were my arguments. Such words and view are of your own creation.

    Refer above for an explanation of the term “Tosser”.

    What I did say is that China is not lumbered or constrained by the politics of self advantage and “a total indifference to what is real” which, disappointingly, is not the situation we see today in the West.

    Given where China now sits in the World and the influence it now has on World Affairs, as the shortened version says, “Proof’s in the pudding”. QED.

    As to why this is – why behaviours “that for far too long have strangled our politics” in the West do not have such retrograde influences or deleterious effects in China – my personal view is that the strong sense of Nationalism that the vast majority of all Chinese possess, both individually (including many who are referred to as ‘dissidents’) and as a Nation, has a lot to do with it.

    On your one point regarding Education, some might say your logic is seriously flawed while others would say, “More fool the West!”

    Finally, I would hope you agree that your other points are more than adequately addressed above.



  29. Michael James

    I see you fail to deal with the points I raise, however as raising straw men is an APA specialty (such as non-existent Chinese Backfire bombers attacking our North West Cape oil and gas infrastructure or graphics of Papua New Guinea Su-35s with RAAF kill markers) I am not surprised.

    As for the suspect state of your own information, tell me; are you still passing off your own advice as the comments of the non-existent ‘Russian Air Force Colonel Medved’?

    Having dealt with your APA co-conspirator Mr Kopp in a previous life and having seen how he ignores briefings and information provided by Defence when it does not meet the APA agenda, I fail to see how giving you the time of day, let alone more oxygen for your particular world view, advances anyone’s understanding of the F35 purchase.

    You have made it quite clear that you do not support the F35 purchase, we get that.

    Claiming that we should buy F22s which were never going to be available for foreign sale, while rebuilding four decade F111s into supercruising missile armed fighter bombers to meet non-existent threat scenarios, highlights just how intellectually bankrupt your contributions are.

  30. Fueldrum

    Mr. James,

    “The emphasis today is to see the enemy before it sees you, hence the use of long range radar on aircraft such as AWACS and the RAAFs Wedgetail, who pass the information to the F35s, which operate without using their radars, closing on their targets from off axis, avoiding the other sides radar, party due to their stealthy design, until they are close enough to launch their missiles from apposition in which the opposing aircraft are unlikely to escape.”

    This assumes that the f-35 will work as designed. If you’d cast your eye over the various audit reports published by American Government departments you will see that 15 years after this program was begun (ie twice the development times of the f-15 and the f-16) there is still no verifiable evidence that it will work as designed.

    You also assume that the enemy will not find some way of tracking the f-35. This is important because the f-35 is seriously overweight, underarmed, underpowered and overpriced in comparison to current threat aircraft, let alone these advanced prototypes. Once detected and identified (if it is detected and identified) the f-35’s weight, speed and limited missile load make it a relatively compliant target. Options for tracking it include selecting a radar wavelength matching the f-35’s natural radar return, using IRST, or some other method which the enemy might choose not to describe to me or you.

    Lastly you assume that the f-35 will be available to us in sufficient numbers at an affordable price within a viable timescale. Again if you cast your eye over the various GAO and other audits (which are written by professional auditors who have access to all pertinent information) you will again see that there is no verifiable evidence that this will be the case, despite this program soon entering its 16th year.

    You can make all your ad hominem attacks against the media’s “waste/fraud/scandal stories,” but you can’t deny that their ‘mindless’ analysis has been richly justified by events (seasprite, tiger ARH, Collins etc.)

    The F-35 looks likely to be the mother of such programs.

  31. Horde


    You would appear to have posted before reading my last. Is this the case?

    As you can see, every one of the points you raised in relation to my post on China have been dealt with in my last two post, even those that were clearly malicious and deliberate attempts at misrepresention.

    “You have made it quite clear that you do not support the F35 purchase, we get that.”

    No truer words have you said.

    But, have you ever asked yourself, “Why?”

    Now, what about providing some substantive arguments, rather than the flim-flam and “a total indifference to what is real” that you have proferred so far, as to why you support “the F-35 purchase”.

    To help kick you off with this, how about you try answering the following, using data and facts to support your arguments:

    Is the JSF “a truly 5th Generation Fighter” and if so, why?
    For example, what features will it have in common and what features will it not have in common with truly 5th Generation Fighters?

    Is the JSF “affordable” in the context of how it was marketed to Australia back in 2001?
    For example, Australians were told back in 2001/2002 that the JSF would cost “about 40 million dollars per aircraft”. Is this the case, today?

    Is the JSF “supportable” in the same context?
    For example, Australians were told back in 2001/2002 that the JSF would cost far less to operate and support (the O&S costs) than the F-16C. Is this the case, today? What are the predicted O&S costs for the JSF, today?

    Is the JSF “survivable” against the current ‘reference threats’ and those that standard risk management predicts will almost certainly be in Australia’s region of interest from 2015, onwards?

    Is the JSF of today “lethal” in the context of what was marketed to Australia back in 2001 and when compared with the current ‘reference threats’ and those that standard risk management predicts will almost certainly be in Australia’s region of interest from 2015, onwards?

    Look forward to you responses. Would also make a pleasant change if you left out your usual invectives and ad hominems since they do you no credit and detract from your being able to present sound argument.

    Thanking you in advance.


  32. Horde

    Fueldrum and All,

    Well said.

    We can but wait to see if Michael has the clarity of thought, professional attributes and maturity to make any valuable and valued contributions to the debate on this most important matter.

    In addition to what you have posted, it may also be of interest for others to know that the F-111 which Michael and others so malign was designed, developed and fielded in four and a half (4.5) years from contract award to the Ft Worth Division of General Dynamics to first delivery of production aircraft to a US Air Force squadron.

    This contract produced an aircraft, like the F-111C, with a MTOW of over 100klbs, that is able to do more than 790 KCAS/Mach 1.2+ on the deck and over Mach 2.2 at altitude on two engines that produce a combined static, uninstalled thrust of some 37,000 lbf at Sea Level, ISA conditions.

    The JSF is a much smaller aircraft and, though, quite overweight and overly ‘draggy’ for its size, will have nowhere near the MTOW nor the internal (or internal/external) fuel load of the F-111C nor the lift capacity. However with a much higher thrust rated single engine (43,000 lbf under the same conditions as above), the JSF will still not be able to go anywhere near as fast or as far or as high as the F-111C.

    What is just gobsmackingly unbelievable is that people like Michael and others, including the dominant senior officials in Defence, have not been asking themselves the age old question, “Why is this so?”

    If they were to do this and be able to answer it correctly (or get and, moreover, understand the correct answer), they would start to see the JSF Program for what it really is – a Ponzi Scheme and the biggest defenc(s)e acquisition fraud and FUBAR of all time.

    Sadly, the politics of self advantage and “a total indifference to what is real” prevents them from seeing the wood for the trees and, unless the politics of “what is right and what is best” prevail, it will be the Australian (and American) peoples who will end up wearing this mess.



  33. Jeremy Davis

    Not really the whole story of the F-111. As Horde well knows it also had serious issues in development. It may have been delivered in under 5 years but it was then deployed on combat test to Vietnam where a number crashed over a very short period due to design fault .

    As most informed posters would know it took 10 years for Australia’s F–111Cs to enter service from the initial order in 1963 – they sat in storage for about 5 years. From 1970 to 1973 when the Pigs finally arrived at Amberley 24 F4 Phantoms were leased from the US.

    This draws obvious comparisons to the purchase of 24 Rhinos as a capability stopgap pending delivery of the F-35.

  34. jeffb

    Its kind of funny how you expect people to jump through hoops for you Mr Goon when you’re completely dismissive of their opinions and ignore questions already asked that don’t fit your narrative.

    You criticise people for making “assumptions” concerning the F35 based off hundreds of flight tests, yet you for-tell the doom of the western world based off a handful of photos.

    You’ve have been against the JSF for so long that you’re completely blind to reality. Australia isn’t going to rebuild the F111s no matter what fan-fiction APA writes.

    Seriously, go on a holiday.

  35. Horde


    Thanks for highlighting there is far more to the history of the F-111. However, my intention in referring to the F-111 was as a further comparison in support of the point put to Michael by Fueldrum on how inordinately long the JSF development is taking.

    I could also have referred to the development of the A-12/YF-12/M-21/SR-71 which, if memory serves, the former took just over two years to enter production from a concept on drawn up by Kelly Johnson, most likely on a bar napkin , and this was both a radically new airvehicle and equally radical propulsion system development program with slide rules as the principal tool for doing calculations!

    Now, as is common knowledge among Senior Engineers, the complexity in Engineering Design may be measured by and, thus, is relative to the tools available to the Designers. Just imagine what the Skunkworks Design Team on this program could have done with simple, PC based spreadsheets, like MSExcel, even if they were running on CPM based machines?

    The mind boggles, as it does when we look at the JSF.

    This all begs the question as to why the JSF Program of Record is taking so long and having so many problems and these problems are so significant as to warrant the program embarking on a whole bunch of re-design and new design activities.

    You also raise a very good point about comparing the very favourable terms (for Australia) of the Fraser/Laird F-4E lease agreement and the associated activities (Project Peace Reef) with those of the Super Hornet procurement.

    Talk about comparing chalk and cheese, deskilling and demonstrating what a waste of money the latter is.

    Since you raised this comparison, why not outline for others the background and salient points, like costs, capabilities, timelines, etc. etc.

    A good place to start would be Dave Rogers’ synopsis over at:


    I look forward to reading your account.



  36. Horde


    Ducking the issues again, I see.

    When are you and those of your persuasion going to explain, in a logical, rationale and mature way, why you are so enamoured with and support the purchase of the JSF, presenting your reasons for me and others to see?

    Surely you have more substantive reasons other than APA isn’t and doesn’t or because someone-told-someone-who-told-you that the JSF is good for Australia.

    How about showing everyone that you are actually capable supporting your obviously quite fervantly held belief that the JSF is good for Australia with something other than invective, ad hominem, and childish misdirection.

    If you can’t do that, then I recommend you stop doing what you are doing, else you go blind.



  37. TheEvilOne


    Here is an interesting post on legally gagged FBI whistleblower Sibel Edwards’ web site.
    The bit about “Rent A General” illustrates my previous point about corruption in US defense procurement.

    Sibel Edwards by the way is one of the better commentators on US political corruption.

  38. Razvan Mazilu

    Hello, newbie here!

    I just have to say a couple (or maybe more) of things. While I enjoy these kinds of discussions, as of late I’ve noticed more and more people basing their opinion on their disapproval of someone else’s ideas. That barely constitutes an argument, particularly when one can’t or won’t present any reasons as to why that is the case. And the longer these debates drag on, the more the abundance of weasel words and evasive replies. “I’m replying to you in order to give the appearance of dialogue, without actually answering to any of your points”. Or better still: “I’m answering you just so that I can point out how ludicrous your ideas are and how much knowledge of some basic facts you lack”. I know I’m just a reader and a lurker, but maybe some of you don’t know or don’t care how these debates look from the sidelines.

    Other than that I do have a few questions/points of my own.
    1. I’m from a NATO country (Romania), so I guess that makes us more or less allies… so are we really gearing up for war? Or are we just playing into the hands of defence contractors who like nothing better than the looming prospect of war in order to press their agendas? Making a threat seem greater than it really is (or making up a nonexistent threat) is a well know strategy used to increase defence spending.
    2. How wise is to speculate and conjecture so much about an aircraft (J-20 now, T-50 a year ago), based solely on photographs? I know in the Cold War you people from the other side of the Iron Curtain where used to analyzing Soviet designs based on little else than low quality photographs, but today we live in a different world. Sure, you can tell some things based on photos, but it seems some of you are taking things too far. It’s obvious that if the Russians and the Chinese really want to sell these things, sooner rather than later they will have to start releasing some real data in order to convince prospective buyers/partners of the viability of their designs.
    3. All the time I hear people talking about 5th gen fighters, debating an aircraft’s performance based on this term. But is there a widely accepted definition of what constitutes a 5th gen fighter? All aspect stealth? Supercruise? Supermaneuverability? Highly integrated systems? If you use the F-22 as benchmark I think it’s obvious the F-35 falls far short of it.
    4. Is there a definitive argument that the US never was willing to sell the F-22 to its closest allies? Well, I’d say the answer for the most part is yes. But I think it’s mostly because everyone was so eager to jump on the JSF bandwagon. JSF was designed as a lower-grade supplement for and to be used in conjunction with the F-22. No better way to keep your allies hands tied up but by selling them an aircraft that’s inferior to your own best tech and which only works well if used together with that tech which, in the event of a conflict, only you can bring on to the battlefield. It helps keep your ‘friends’ in line with your own policies. If the world had said no to the JSF there may have been a different story.

  39. jeffb

    Oh please if all you’re are going to do is dodge the questions and resort to name calling then perhaps its you who should stop.

    You accuse me of dodging the issues? The entire thread is here for everyone to judge for themselves.

    It’s really tiring seeing people try to debate the flaws of the JSF project when they continue to base their views of either very old information (similar to how people still consider the Collins a failure), urban myth or “think tanks” who are so invested in a particular outcome that they ignore all evidence that doesn’t conform to their world view.

    There are plenty of real defence academics and journalists out there who don’t agree with you at all, people who actually have access to information that’s not publicly available on the internet, why is that?…

  40. Norman Hanscombe

    Razvan Mazilu, sadly the point made in your second sentence describes much of which nowadays passes for debate; but don’t give up.

  41. Horde

    Ben, Razvan and Norman,

    Sadly, the internet has allowed the unaware, unskilled, pathological wannabes and those who spruke “a total indifference to what is real” (which is the definition Prof Harry G Frankfurt gave to ‘bullsh*t’ ) to have a voice.

    This paper goes some way to describe the psychology of such individuals:


    There are ongoing studies of these phenomena being undertaken at the request of some very concerned people.

    The level of deskilling that has occured around the Western world since the mid-1990s due to such things as outsourcing, the “a total indifference to what is real” approach to management and the Politics of Self Advantage is in the process of creating a whole new world.

    The JSF Program and the just-so-flawed aircraft it is producing is but one example of this process and its effects, albeit on a very important aspect of our society – the defence and security of our sovereign nation.

    Specific to Ben’s article and the resulting comments, most who have posted here do so to share thoughts/ideas/information and to critically debate the issue with the principal intention of informing themselves so they are able, inter alia, to make informed judgements.

    Since Australia is a democracy, one would hope that such pursuits like this and similar, including in the broader 4th estate, would lead to decision makers (those in the 2nd estate) being able to make better, informed decisions.

    As we have all seen, there are a small few who frequent discussions and forums like this one who do not share these ideals or who are even prepared to contribute constructively to the debate.

    These individuals and their clique may be easily recognised by the invective language they use, the ad hominem they direct towards those who a countervailing view to their belief system, and the way they use logical fallacies as the basis of their strident claims while avoiding the provision of any supportable evidence or answering even very simple of questions about what they assert.

    Also, a quite common trait of the Jungian female archetypes, known as ‘projecting’, is often the ploy of choice used by these artisans in plying their “a total indifference to what is real”.

    The last post by JEFFB provides a good example of this form of behaviour.

    Enjoy the paper – it is well worth the read.



  42. William Simpson

    Re Horde.
    I agree.
    I note that you provide reasoned argument, referenced where necessary to argue your point of view.
    Regards APA, the articles are presented with references and in some cases peer reviewed.
    For those carrying on with the insults and invectives, why can you not do the same to present your argument.
    I might not agree with APA all the time, however they present their facts as an academeic exercise.
    If you believe that those facts are wrong, behave in a similar manner.
    The fact tht you do not only tells me onre thing, as an advocate you fail.

  43. Norman Hanscombe

    Thanks for the reference, Horde. It confirms what any objctive (reasonal competenet) observer has seen in almost all areas of society — except, of course, in truly imprtant fields such as sport, where we’re allowed to recognise some of us are much better than others.

    Unfortunately we’ve been working so hard since the early 70s blindly building unwarranted self-confidence to such dizzying heights that reversing the trend won’t be easy. I’d argue the deskilling aspect also goes back further than the 90s; but examples I’ve given with Crikey posts in the past tended to elicit little more than anger from ersatz left True Believers.

    Here’s hoping a few will not only go to your recommended site, but also control their emotive instincts sufficiently to actually understand what it means.

  44. Greg Angelo

    I have been following this discussion thread since the beginning, and have found the “debate” quite illuminating. Notwithstanding the discussion on military procurement I am indebted to @Horde for the introduction to the Dunning–Kruger effect in relation to which there are many fine examples on Crikey from time to time.

    I have enclosed below a short Wikipedia extract for those without the time to follow-up Horde’s Internet links. It should be mandatory reading for all crikey commentators.

    “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence. Competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. “Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”

    The Dunning–Kruger effect was put forward in 1999 by Justin Kruger and David Dunning. Similar notions have been expressed – albeit less scientifically – for some time. Dunning and Kruger themselves quote Charles Darwin (“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”) and Bertrand Russell (“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” W.B. Yeats put it concisely thus: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” The Dunning–Kruger effect is not, however, concerned narrowly with high-order cognitive skills (much less their application in the political realm during a particular era, which is what Russell was talking about. Nor is it specifically limited to the observation that ignorance of a topic is conducive to overconfident assertions about it, which is what Darwin was saying. Indeed, Dunning et al. cite a study saying that 94% of college professors rank their work as “above average” (relative to their peers), to underscore that the highly intelligent and informed are hardly exempt. Rather, the effect is about paradoxical defects in perception of skill, in oneself and others, regardless of the particular skill and its intellectual demands, whether it is chess, playing golf or driving a car.”

  45. snorbak

    My understanding, based on the original design concept of the F-35, was that the F-35 was to be a low cost, mass produced, partner to the F-22, similar to how the F-16 performs in conjunction with the F-15.
    The main issue as I see it, aside from the obvious cost blowouts, engineering & programme management failures, is the intention to use the aircraft as a one size fits all, with the requirement that it perform roles it was never designed to perform.
    My question is: If the F-35 was, from the outset, designed & optimised to be the Lo in a High/ Lo mix, an aircraft designed primarily as a battlefield strike, CAS platform. How do we effectivly operate the aircraft in an air superiority role?
    Much has changed, particularly in our region, since the JSF concept was born, both militarily & politically. Nations that have the potential to be hostile in the future are developing & purchasing modern, advanced & highly intergrated weapons systems not envisaged when the JSF concept was born.
    I dont agree with those who argue that the F-35 is the only aircraft available but then again, the alternatives; Typhoon, Rafale, F-18 etc would end up just as dead. However to say the F-22 was never an option is inncorrect. Australia never made a formal request to buy the aircraft. As it stands now, the F-22, long term, may well have been a cheaper option, given the volume of funds poured into the JSF programme.
    Blindly putting all our eggs into one basket is dangerous at best & downright foolish at worst. Compounded by the fact that we dont even know if the basket is strong enough to hold the eggs.
    My humble opinion.

  46. Norman Hanscombe

    Angelo, what I see as an especially interesting aspect of this problem is the extent to which it may have increased significantly since the 60s. Although I’ve no empirical data, I remain convinced [at least in the Australian context] that even in ‘academia’, there’s been an increasingly inverse correlation between ability and confidence levels — but it’s another of the touchy topics, needing to be relegated to the too hard basket.

  47. snorbak

    For those that intend to “rip me a new one” for my bias against the F-35, I dont see the aircraft/ project as being a complete failure, only that it will be a failure in the role Aust intends to operate it. As a battlefield strike/ CAS platform it will in all liklyhood perform well if suitably supported & protected & only then if it actually becomes operational.

  48. jeffb

    Dunning-Kruger is actually very fitting to this little debate Greg, although perhaps not in the way you think.

    “Sadly, the internet has allowed the unaware, unskilled, pathological wannabes and those who spruke “a total indifference to what is real” (which is the definition Prof Harry G Frankfurt gave to ‘bullsh*t’ ) to have a voice.”

    It’s funny that APA wouldn’t exist without the internet isn’t it.

    Someone remind me again how we got to first year psych theory in this thread?

    The fact remains that the F35 type Australia is buying has exceeded its flight test target for 2010 and is proceeding satisfactorily, its also been moved to the front of the production line thanks to the delay of the F35B. While there are plenty of problems with the Defence Department, and significant problems in the way this project was initially handled, the F35 itself is not one of them at this point.

    To quote Hugh White,
    “It will be more expensive than we expected, it will perform worse that we hoped and it will be later than expected.”
    “But it may still be the best plane for Australia; I am not convinced it is the wrong aeroplane.”

    A similar thing can be said for the majority of the development projects the ADF has ever been involved in, including the F111.

    I think I’m done at this point, alot of the debate in this thread had been nothing more semi-intellectual personal attacks, desperately trying to talk about anything but the actual plane the article is based on.

  49. Fueldrum


    Welcome aboard!

    Some answers to your points/questions.

    You are correct that many people just yell and scream rather than produce an argument. This is often the best way for you to distinguish those who are considering the actual issue and those who are not. Having said this, it is common for pilots and others in aviation to speak in very blunt language. People with a poor signal/noise ratio are rarely successful in the industry. Everyone’s used to it; it isn’t personal unless it’s put in personal terms.

    1. Australia isn’t gearing up for war (so far as I am aware) but Australia is a group of islands. Unlike Romania we have no land borders. We need to be able to detect, identify and (if appropriate) destroy incoming ships or aircraft, before they get close enough to inflict unacceptable damage. The argument is that the f-35 is unlikely to be capable of doing that.

    2. It is unwise to speculate about a whole aircraft based solely on photos and videos, but not so unwise to consider the characteristics of the airframe in this way. Looking at the wings, inlets, tail and control surfaces can reveal useful information about the intended use of the aircraft. It tells you little about engines, radars, avionics, and missiles, and nothing about pilots.

    3. The expression “5th generation fighter” is really a red herring intended to deflect debate. There are strong arguments that the Eurofighter and Rafale (for example) are better fighters (for their intended customers) than the f-35, but a politician or a salesman can deflect those arguments by simply pointing out that they are not ‘5th generation.’ In today’s Australian media, that’s accepted as a satisfactory response.

    4. Regarding f-22 exports, the answer to your question is no. Yes, there is a law prohibiting f-22 exports. The f-16 was prohibited from sale to anyone when it was first produced (during the Carter administration). Today it is operated by nearly 30 air forces. Until recently there was a law that homosexuals couldn’t serve openly in the US military, but not anymore. The legislation against it was an obstacle but hardly an insurmountable one. The US would have exported the f-22 if they considered it in their interests to do so.

    Currently f-22 production is scheduled to be stopped; so were production of the C-130 and the F-15 more than 20 years ago. They’re both still in production today. They survived because their intended successors didn’t perform as hoped, when hoped, at an affordable cost. Can you see a pattern emerging here?

    You are correct that many other countries were prepared to ‘jump on the JSF bandwagon’ but that will change very quickly unless the f-35’s performance improves dramatically from where it is now.

  50. William Simpson

    JEFFB You have not answered any points raised by the other contributors, and once again dismissed those who have asked for some more substantive information in their replys as “semi-intellectual”
    I had a look on the APA website and note the qualifications of Mr Goon and Mr Kopp. Surely they are qualified to give an informed opinion.
    I have two degrees and other post grad bits and pieces, but in the field of economics and safety, not in engineering, however my forays into safety involve engineering matters on a large scale in the mining and manufacturing industries, with some with subcontractors for the DOD.
    What are your qualifications?

    If you have one please advise.

  51. Horde


    Your points are well made and well taken.

    Expanding on point three, the term ‘5th or Fifth Generation’ is certainly the logical fallacy of ‘Red Herring’ when it is applied to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

    The JSF is not and never will be a peer of the first of the true Fifth Generation aircraft, the F-22A Raptor, nor those with the design aim of competing and defeating the F-22A; namely, the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA and, now, the Chengdu J-XX/J-20.

    Those who may wish to judge for themselves are cordially invited to review (though please note this pre-dates the first flights of both the T-50 PAK-FA and the J-XX/J-20):


    More and later data, information and knowledge may be found on the APA website.

    For those who may not know, after being awarded the winner-take-all contract for the JSF SDD Phase, Lockheed Martin applied to have the terms “5th Generation” and “Fifth Generation” or similar prescribed as LM corporate trademarks but was unsuccessful.

    It is worth visiting the LM website to see how they define these terms and claim their designs are the only 5th Generation Fighters.


    Claiming the JSF to be a 5th Generation Fighter Aircraft brings with it the risk of being assessed against the Trade Practices and Anti -Trust statutes that apply in most, if not all, countries throughout the Western world and found to be wanting.


    Now you are just being plain silly.

    The works of Dunning-Kruger is on the bleeding edge of this field of psychoanalytic research. There is follow-on works which confirm these findings as well as focuses on behaviours like yours and those of your peers.

    Anyone who tries to denograte such research, as you have, is clearly being defensive, trying to deflect the spotlight of such research off their own behaviour, and obviously has no idea of the things they speak, such as “first year psych theory”.

    If you truly need reminding, it is because of your unacceptable behaviour as well as that of your clique. Such behaviour makes you all, inter alia, appear rather foolish and goes to your credit.

    As to the rest of your last post, masquarading fiction, part truths and the silliness of others as facts does you little credit.

    The quote of Prof Hugh White you proffer is somewhat dated and out of context. However, a paraphase of what I said to Prof White at the time would be – “hoping” does not make it happen and “may” does not mean it will.

    By now, given the methodical, diligent and critical-thinking way Hugh approaches such matters, particularly when they hinge on areas outside his field of expertise such as Ops Analysis, Aerospace Design and FighterOps, I would be confident he is now convinced.

    As ever and before you disappear off into the gloop of the internet only to return under one of your many multiple, or a new, anonymous personalities, if you really wish to “talk about the actual plane the article is based on”, how about you try answering the following, for starters, using data and facts to support your arguments:

    1. Is the JSF “a truly 5th Generation Fighter” and if so, why?
    For example, what features will it have in common and what features will it not have in common with truly 5th Generation Fighters?

    2. Is the JSF “affordable” in the context of how it was marketed to Australia back in 2001?
    For example, Australians were told back in 2001/2002 that the JSF would cost “about 40 million dollars per aircraft”. Is this the case, today?

    3. Is the JSF “supportable” in the same context?
    For example, Australians were told back in 2001/2002 that the JSF would cost far less to operate and support (the O&S costs) than the F-16C. Is this the case, today? What are the predicted O&S costs for the JSF, today?

    4. Is the JSF “survivable” against the current ‘reference threats’ and those that standard risk management predicts will almost certainly be in Australia’s region of interest from 2015, onwards?

    5. Is the JSF of today “lethal” in the context of what was marketed to Australia back in 2001 and when compared with the current ‘reference threats’ and those that standard risk management predicts will almost certainly be in Australia’s region of interest from 2015, onwards?

    Five questions such as these should be no problem for someone like you if, in fact, you are as knowledgeable and well connected as your posts seek to have others believe.



  52. Norman Hanscombe

    Horde, I’d argue you were being too kind when you described Jeff as “just being plain silly.” His ‘interpretation’ of the Dunning-Kruger material [which is the one area in which I’m competent to comment] shows he’s not simply “silly”, but rather the full Looney Tunes. Much of Jeff’s other material does strike me as being (as you put it) “rather foolish”, but I leave judgment on that to those who know more about the relative merits of different fighters than I do.

    Fortunately I lack Jeff’s hyper self-assurance which permits him to venture [given the paucity of understanding] into areas no rational poster would be so foolish as to even contemplate tackling.

  53. Horde

    Yes, Norman, you are right but that is my nature and, as you know, the right of all professionals who are confident in what they say because they have the training, qualifications, skills, background, knowledge and expertise to be regarded as members of that ever diminishing cadre known as subject matter experts.

    The other, and I suggest, most important quality for such membership is the experience and wisdom from the doing and the training of others to do. This also includes making mistakes and learning from them because, as every mother knows, this is the most powerful learning tool of all.

    The culpability is not in the making but the failing to learn.

    However, this is where the politics of self advantage and ‘a total indifference to what is real’ is doing us all a great disservice.

    Politicians are surrounded by as well as live and breath this bumff every day. In response, they adopt a frame of reference that allows themselves to be judged more on their mistakes than on the good they might achieve.

    As a result, they believe it is political suicide to admit to any mistakes and, thus, through the politicisation of the public service over the past decade and a half or so, have created an environment that is intolerant to admitting to, let alone acknowledging the mistakes that have, are and will continue to be made.

    Now, if you are unable to admit mistakes, you certainly are not in a position to learn from them.

    In addition to many other far from optimal outcomes, this situation makes a farce of any claims to being “a learning organisation” – as Defence has done and continues to do with monotonous regularity, just as they do with the mistakes they repeat over and over again.

    A perfect example of that apt description of “the self eating watermelon”.

    As for the personalities behind JeffB and the so called Michael James, they are just ‘wannabes’, albeit ‘pathological wannabes’.

    It is clear from what they post that they have no qualifications in any of the hard sciences or requisite qualifications at all, let alone nous, for the subjects in which they claim to be informed.

    Such personality types are susceptible to the very same ‘a total indifference to what is real’ that they sprout which is why that old adage about ‘birds of a feather’ is so apt.

    However, as you will know, such personality types crave validation and this is where it gets quite scary.

    A few in the core group which, by the way, is only small in numbers but quite vocal, claim to be members of the Australian Defence Organisation (ADO).

    If they are, in fact, getting the validation they crave for what they are posting and saying from inside Defence, then this is cause for all Australian’s to be concerned – very, very concerned.

    Here is a link to a post from one who claims he works in the Defence Material Organisation (DMO):


    The cited author of this tripe (gf0012-aust) is the most virulent and prolific poster of the lot of such nonsense and the invective directed at all who hold a countervailing view to his.

    By the suggestive statements, insinuating language and quite brash claims this poster makes, he obviously thinks, as do his minions, that he is well connected into and, in fact, a peer of the senior leadership positions in DMO, as well as Defence, at large.

    That such posts are made during the normal working hours of the DMO speaks volumes.

    This is symptomatic of what those who seek Australian politics to focus on “what is right and what is best and how this can be achieved” must confront.



  54. Razvan Mazilu

    Fueldrum, Norman, Horde, thank you for your replies. While aviation, military tech and geopolitics have always been interests of mine, sadly I’m not exactly qualified to have expert opinions on such things (I’ve studied, for the most part, communication theory in various fields including public relations, advertising, marketing). But I do have a brain of my own and I can tell when someone offers a constructive opinion on such a topic and when someone is being “foolish”. And of course, when you don’t know something, there’s no shame in asking.

    While Dunning–Kruger (or psychology for that matter) is just on the fringe of my expertise, I do know this: the fact that experts tend to downplay their knowledge and abilities while other, less competent, individuals can be very forceful in their rhetoric, basing their arguments on unsubstantiated claims they present as facts. One thing I’ve learned even as a kid is that it takes smarts to know when you’re being stupid.

    As for this debate regarding the F-35, the reason why I’m so interested is that my country too is facing the purchase of American hardware, including the possibility of F-35s past 2020. Not to mention the damned Ballistic Missile Defence System that’s probably gonna attract more danger than it’s going to deter. And sadly around here there has been a limited amount of public debate on the issue. So basically I’m interested in seeing how others approach this problem. Oh, and for the record: a link on APA’s news page got me here. I guess that makes me one of the people who think F-35s aren’t what they’re touted to be.

  55. nick

    Lets keep it simple. Forget the J-20 and the PAK-FA what it can or might be able to do. What I want to see is simple. When the F-35 take to the air lets have a competition between the JSF-35 and the SU-35S.

    And a few years later take the PAK_FA, J-20 and whatever the US want to use for a competetive fly off. All arguments will be answered there and then. period

    Any takers?

  56. Horde


    A good suggestion, worthy of consideration.

    Alas, the American politics of self advantage and pride will get in the way; but worthy, non the less.

    How about this as a corallary to what you suggest.

    Since the Su-35S has been specifically designed to compete with and defeat the F-22A Raptor, why not have a fly off between the F-35 JSF and the F-22A Raptor?

    Mind you, the way Defence Analysts do what you have suggested is to use OpsAnalysis tools like the one the Commonwealth (i.e. all of us) has shares in, AGSI’s H3 MilSim, and do the flyoff in computer S&M.

    See: http://www.pressreleasepoint.com/harpoon-3-professional-becomes-h3-milsim-release-v310

    Some very talented folks who, until recently, ran the Red Force Group of the Australian Dept of Defence have done just that and more, using real world scenarios based on Australian defence and security policies, along with a number of other relevant scenarios, using Australian air combat assets (current and planned) and their support systems (current and planned).

    Sadly, the results are not good for Australia and not what we Australians need, let alone expect, which the founders of APA were advising well before the Govt took the decision to go with the JSF and APA has continued to advise, supported by analytically derived hard evidence, for years.



  57. William Simpson

    Horde just did a look up on Google regarding GfOO12-aust and others. I am astounded.

    I have seen fleeting comments before, however you are totally correct. However this is strange, not silly.

    If they are indeed in or related to DMO then that explains a lot.

    Goes wqay beyond basic physcological problems. I thought we had a good health system.

  58. nick

    Excuse my ignorance but isn’t all that “stealty” stuff a bit over rated?

    As long as they fly level and do a flat turn the radar signature should be pretty much predictable. But once the turning and burning start all bets are off. And because of that isn’t the PAK-FA in a better position with its 3D thrust vecturing, wider spaced engines, fully articulated vertical fins and not quite having the canards as the J-20 but a trade off by placing them over the air intakes as part of the wing.

    All in all it might not have the stealth the F-22 has but it will have superior kinematic performance which seems to be Sukhoi’s forte.

    I think the PAK-FA has a more balanced trade off than the F-22 and definitely the JSF-35 which has ended up in one off Steven Hawkins black holes and in my opinion should start anew on a fresh sheet of paper.

    Wasn’t Kelly, the famous Lockeed designer, once said that sooner or later the planes will become so expensive that a nation can afford to have only one of them?

  59. Norman Hanscombe

    I recall a (very obviously distant) Chinese leader’s comment re the machine gun meaning that China could never again be a significant military power — not to mention numerous ‘forecasters’ announcing a particular new weapon would be so horrible that war was about to become ‘inconceivable’. Hasn’t quite worked out as any of them thought, has it?

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