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JSF delay will compromise the defence of Australia.

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

29 April 2004


Reports of growing uncertainty about the Joint Strike Fighter project in the United States have serious implications for the Defence of Australia.

The problems being experienced in the US could have serious flow-on implications for Australia’s $16 billion investment in the JSF project.

The JSF project is reportedly losing support in the US Congress due to a 15% budget blow-out, uncertainty about the delivery date, and because the planes are 680 kilograms overweight in the initial design stage.

These problems mean that Australia could face a serious capability gap in air power because of the Howard Government’s decision to retire the F111s in 2010.

That decision was only necessary because of the Government’s inability to control budget pressures in Defence.

If problems with the JSF project continue, and the delivery of other key air capabilities is delayed, the F111 retirement decision could prove to be premature, as it will expose Australia’s lack of air defence after 2010.

Now that the decision to retire the F111s has been taken, it would be very difficult to get these aircraft back in the air if they are required to fill an air capability void after 2010.

John Howard went to the US in 2002 and agreed to buy the JSF, the largest acquisition project in our history, without a proper tender or evaluation process.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute recently found that Air Force does not have adequate contingency arrangements should problems be experienced with the delivery of the JSF.

For comment: Chris Evans 0419 983 593 Mathew Stephenson 0408 577 617