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Senator Chris Evans Labor Senator for Western Australia Shadow Minister for Defence

16 July 2002


The inability of the F111s to be able to participate in exercise Pitch Black highlights to the world Australia’s failing air security capabilities.

With the largest international aviation exercise of 2002 underway our F111 fleet remains grounded because of a problem with the fuel system detected three weeks ago.

The F111s were to fill a central role in the Pitch Black exercise that started on 15 July 2002.

It emerged today that the F111s will continue to be grounded until at least the end of the week.

Australia as host of this exercise has been severely embarrassed and the problems with the F111s have been brought sharply into focus.

This is the second time this year the fleet has been grounded, with cracks detected in the wings earlier this year.

The problems plaguing the F111s only highlight the need for a realistic replacement strategy for this ageing aircraft.

The Government continues to claim that the F111s will be able to fly to 2015, by which time they will have been in service for forty-five years.

The cost of flying the F111s is increasing alarmingly. The F111 currently costs $125,000 an hour to fly and figures provided by the RAAF indicated that this cost could double by 2015.

At the same time the actual number of hours the F111 fleet fly has declined significantly over the last three years, down from 4400 hours to just 2700.

We are paying more money for less flying hours as these aircraft age.

The phasing out of the F111 is critical because of the Government’s decision to buy the Joint Strike Fighter as its replacement. This aircraft is not likely to be delivered before 2015.

For information: Chris Evans 0419 983 593 Mary Wood 0421 910 128