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Poor air power planning exposed but Super Hornet to stay.



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THE HON JOEL FITZGIBBON MP Minister for Defence

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Monday, 17 March 2008 018/2008

POOR AIR POWER PLANNING EXPOSED BUT SUPER HORNET TO STAY

The Government today announced the outcomes of Part A of its Air Combat Capability review.

Based on the advice of the Review, the Government has concluded:

* There has been a lack of sound, long-term air combat capability planning decisions by the former Government over the course of the last decade.

* The retirement of the F-111 was made in haste but is now irreversible. The cost of turning the F-111 back on would be enormous and crews and skills have already moved on.

* The former Government’s decision to leave Australia’s air defences in the hands of the Joint Strike Fighter project was a flawed leap of faith in scheduling terms and combined with the quick decision to retire the F-111 early, allowed an air combat capability gap to emerge.

* The subsequent timetable the former Government put on the acquisition of an interim fighter left Defence planners with no choice but to recommend the Super Hornet. No other suitable aircraft could be produced to meet the 2010 deadline the former Government had set. One year on, that is now even more so the case.

* Cancelling the Super Hornet would bring significant financial penalties and create understandable tensions between the contract partners.

* The Super Hornet is an excellent aircraft capable of meeting any known threat in the region and is the only aircraft which can meet the small delivery window created by the former Government’s poor planning processes and politically- driven responses.

One benefit the Government’s Review has already produced, through the detailed analysis undertaken, is the opportunity to reduce the cost of the Super Hornets.

As a consequence of the Review process, the Department of Defence has indicated that it expects that significant savings of up to $300 million can be made in the internal Defence and industry costs of supporting the Super Hornet aircraft.

The analysis also highlighted additional capabilities such as specialist electronic warfare variants (the F/A-18G) that will be considered as part of the Super Hornet acquisition. These additional capabilities will be more fully considered under the second stage of the Air Combat Capability Review.

Part B of the Review will continue and further announcements will be made after it reports in late April. It will consider Australia’s air combat capability needs out to 2045, including the status of plans to acquire the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Air superiority is Australia’s single most important Defence capability.

The Government thanks the Review team for their hard and conscientious work and looks forward to the team’s further recommendations in ensuring Australia maintains its regional superiority in air combat capability.

Media contact: Christian Taubenschlag (Joel Fitzgibbon): 02 6277 7800 or 0438 595 567