Sunday, August 7, 2011

Before there was "So what?" there was "Why worry?"

In the near future, I will spend some time going over the "So what?" DMO/NACC F-35 brief from the previous post. That effort will start by looking into the following questions in slide number 2 and what it all means.

Why not the F-22?

Has it actually flown?

Isn't the software an issue?

Is it as stealthy as planned?

Is it truly unaffordable?

So when will it turn up?

Isn't it billions over budget?

But first I want to draw your attention to this 2004 Australian briefing (5Mb PDF) so you have a better idea of how the Ponzi scheme was sold to the gullible politicians and wanton rent-seekers. In it you will see many things that are long overdue and unrealistic. Hopefully you will find this useful when we dig into the "So what?" brief.


ELP said...

Funny how that works. The people with all the special access to the secret info have been consistently wrong about price, schedule and capability. Funny too is that just because something is classified, it doesn't mean that it gets to ignore the laws of physics; no matter how much the marketing pukes wish that were so.

Atticus said...

Hey Bonza they are putting it out there, hey anon.

Bonza said...

Yes but Eric, you are telling us what they can and can't do based on the same marketing specs that you say these blokes are falling for...

Can't you see the ridiculousness of that situation? About price and schedule I admit these people haven't been correct, but that is the nature of a developmental project. They rarely come off as well as "projected" and the best managers and engineers in the world can't always help that.

However the capability is something else. The capability managers are all referring to Block III level F-35's and while schedule may effect when that is delivered, that is the combat configuration "baseline" I believe they are referring to when they talk about it's capability.

You believe that capability isn't sufficient in the Asia Pacific region in coming years, yet the SAF, USN, USMC, RAAF and Singaporean Air Force does.

There is a massive divergence between these two points of view.

The customers that operate the so named high end F-22's and F-15 examples, that you have stated many times you consider to have respectable or sufficient "specs" to go up against "tier 1" threats have all stated many times that they believe F-35 does too.

It's a ridiculous argument that they know what they're talking about if they choose F-15 or F-22's but then allegedly don't know what they're talking about when they say F-35 is good enough in this role too...

In terms of defying the laws of physics, only Dr Kopp and Mr Goon have ever suggested the claims about the F-35 are, but I do wonder without seeing the testing results how they are coming to the conclusions they are. At best they can venture an opinion, but having an opinion hardly makes one an authority.

I for instance have an opinion that RAAF doesn't even need 3 squadrons of JSF's in future years to provide a sufficently capable air force for our needs and we'd be far better off financially, as well as schedule wise in opting for an additional 2 squadrons of -E model Super Hornets to replace all our Hornet squadrons, selecting about 6-8 of the -F models to become Growlers, selecting the rest of the -F models to become AARGM/standoff missile shooters and operational FAC aircraft and choose only a single JSF squadron for our "strike" role that was once tasked to the F-111, ie: penetrating air defences.

Admittedly the JSF doesn't have the legs or the bomb-load an F-111 did, but it should be more than capable enough at penetrating the kinds of IADS we are ever likely to go up against, conduct the kinds of missions we do (ala Gulf War 2, 2003 - OCA/DCA missions primarily with a bit of tank plinking and manned recon missions thrown in for good measure) and would give us a capability that allows us to reduce our reliance on expensive standoff missiles in the longer term.

If we ever have to go up against a truly advanced IADS, we're unlikely to do it alone and we will NOT be doing it without a very large standoff missile strike before manned aircraft get anywhere near the IADS.

Because of these reasonings, I think the 3 Super Hornet, 1 JSF squadron force structure would be more than capable enough for our need, would be far cheaper to acquire and maintain than 4 JSF squadrons and would alleviate any real concerns we had over scheduling.

ELP said...

Bonza, it looks like you already think the program is going to fail too. One squadron of F-35s? Think of the industry from reduced orders. Once it gets down to that the F-35 will be even more unaffordable.

Btw, this is what the Boeing sales force believes.

And, what tactical realivence to future threats do you think it would be to the RAAF if we wasted hard earned tax dollars on more Supers? That will guarantee that the fast mover end of the RAAF turns into a very expenisive flying club.

I don't see Singapore handing over any money at this time for F-35 orders. Not until it is completely proven and they can evaluate it. And I wouldn't associate them with our Defence brain donors. Singapore has better strategic thinkers and logistics people by an order of magnitude.

ELP said...

Posting for Bushranger--

DWP20090 requires capabilities to '...defeat and deter armed attack on Australia...'. Armed attack BY WHOM? China has a snowballing economic stranglehold on Australia negating any need for very difficult military occupation, but would likely move to protect her economic interests if other regional nations sought to interfere with Australia's sovereignty.

Defence planners seemingly envisage involving Australia in high end air combat operations and trundling big Army formations with copious armour around other parts of the world. The priorities are wrong in my view, as we more realistically need affordable capabilities to deter interference with trade corridors and light-weight mobile ground forces for regional interventions as necessary.

Anonymous; re your August 3, 4:45pm bit on Eric's August 2 thread. A good analysis of the Wedgetail decision is here: . Alternatives available included proven in-service E-2 versions and a C-130J conversion. My view is the E2D Advanced Hawkeye would have been adequate and more cost-effective.

Enhancing the F-111 in lieu of acquiring Super Hornets would have provided an excellent long-range maritime strike capacity, perhaps saving $4billion. Going the proven E-2 platform route would have provided sufficient AEW capability plus suitable command and control functions for any lower level conflicts foreseeable in Australia's near neighbourhood, perhaps also saving at least $2billion.

A glaring capability gap is adequate ISR to stay abreast of what is happening in our region. While P-3C, Wedgetail, C-130 adaptations embrace some ISR functions, adequate strategic surveillance would be more comprehensively satisfied by say 6 Global Hawk, which could have been paid for by fore-mentioned savings. The surveillance footprint/endurance of that great platform, with numerous optional modular fits, is incomparable; yet, Australia withdrew from the BAMS project! Instead, the RAAF is operating little Heron UAVs for tactical surveillance in Afghanistan.

The Super Hornet/JSF, Wedgetail, MRTT constellation is going to up Air Force operating costs substantially and accepting 14 largely unproven F-35 may encumber more than advantage the Air Force, on present indications. Arguably, the ADF no longer has an adequate structure for conduct of air operations in our regional wet tropics near neighbourhood due to over-emphasis on high end capabilities with shortcomings in tactical airlift, long-range/endurance firepower (AC-130) and deficient helicopter types.

At risk of being chastised by colleagues at bi-monthly fighter squadrons association luncheons, maintaining a 100 airframe strong fighter fleet somewhat for air combat purposes is really not justifiable in Australia's strategic circumstances, so opting out of the JSF project would be prudent.

Why not recover and enhance the F-111 (at cost of maybe $3billion) for long-range maritime strike deterrence, stretch the life of the F/A-18 and be satisfied with just 24 Super Hornets, which are more bomb trucks than fighters? That approach would provide adequate deterrent capabilities for maybe the next 20 years with significant cost savings that could be redirected to other shortcomings, like ISR. More affordable air combat options than F-22 and F-35 may emerge by around 2030.

Gobsmacked said...

ELP, agree, however Angus has had the F111 and all parts trashed, never to be retrieved.

Bonza said...

Don't think it's going to fail exactly, but I can't see it being anywhere near as successful as hoped. Even if they had executed the plan perfectly and delivered the greatest fighter ever built ahead of schedule, I think the current economic circumstances would still have limited the numbers bought. Ironically the "lack" of capability may be it's saving grace in the overall numbers bought. If it were the uber-fighter the F-22A is, it would be very easy to argue we don't need as many of them.

In termw of first tier threats, you seem to imagine us actually fighting a first tier threat. I don't at all. The only such threat anywhere near our region is China and ajust like Bushranger, I don't see us fighting them under any circumstances because of our economc and growing cultural ties.

Even if North Korea blew uo, went nuts and invaded South Korea, the US joined in, in defence of SK and then China joined n, in defence of NK, I very much doubt we'd get involved. It would take a politician with some guts to commit to that and I don't think we have any. Even if we were flying a fleet of F-22A's that could operate with near impugnity, I doubt we'd send them anyway. Ditto for some sort of Taiwan scenario.

My thinking behind the Supers is exactly what I said earlier, with AARGM, JASSM, Growlers and some F-35's we'll have an airforce that can defend us according to the threat level we are likely to face (minus any sort of extreme China scenario) and give us capable options to contribute to a US led or UN mandated Coalition air effort.

I believe we are unlikely to face anything more difficult than that in future years and if it does seem more likely than now at some point our defence expenditure will have to rise in respond and then we can consider a more robust force.

In terms of ISR as mentioned by Bushranger, he is overlooking the new P-8A and we haven't withdrawn from BAMS, we've just delayed it, but given the problems the Global Hawk is having I'm glad we delayed it because it would be yet another "stuck in the mire" development program.

RAAF has improved it's ISR capacity with the Heron UAV and is fighting tooth and nail to get such a capability (or better) into the DCP to become a permanent capability, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a Predator B or C acquisition within the next decade now that RAAF has a good corporate knowledge of UAV operations.

Army has improved it's own airborne ISR substantially too with Tiger ARH and Shadow 200 UAV's rapidly coming on line and approaching IOC.

Atticus said...

Where are the students of History?
Sadly lacking in this debate.

Bushranger 71 said...

Bonza; reality is that Australian defence expenditure is now beyond 9 percent of Federal Government revenue. It is unrealistic to expect further increase considering highly probable world economic stagnation for a decade or so. Predictably, China must also slow down so the perceived resources boom will fade. Short of taxing the nation into poverty, there will not be scope for the compounding increases in defence expenditure on which DWP2009 and capabilities projections out to 2030 are based.

Economic realities might sooner than later force a rationalisation of ADF structures with some roles having to be diminished due to acquiring costly unproven hardware in lieu of progressive optimisation of types in service. The latest recklessness is the quite specialised and highly costly MH-60R wherein part of the deal is to refurbish Blackhawks and Seahawks for sale to other nations, splitting the profits with LM/Sikorsky.

Other nations have opted to put new wings on P-3C to get more value out of that great platform; but Australia is again seeking to be an upfront customer for the P-8, before adequately proven.

It seems that Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, BAE Systems, Thales, EADS, et al are virtually deciding what Australia will acquire and they are now much involved in managing defence assets. It is rather sad to see that many ADF serving members have been brainwashed into believing this is good for the nation.

Bushranger 71 said...

Bonza; I previously referred to need for strategic ISR, a role which Global Hawk has been performing well since about 2006, plus involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan according to multiple research sources. Strategic ISR in my view overrides AEW&C in importance for Australia.

Global Hawk is far more proven than Wedgetail and their surveillance footprints/range and endurance are vastly different. We need to be constantly looking and listening well beyond Australian territorial limits and short range low altitude battlefield ISR (like Tiger and Shadow 200) is just not in the same category.

Anonymous said...

This whole "So What?" briefing makes me wonder (again!) why the RAAF couldn't afford to buy, and support(!), 1.5x if not 2x as many Gripen NG fighters for the same price as what they're planning on throwing away on the F-35A "dream machine" ...


Atticus said...

Bushranger the Defence spend is near 5% of total Govt expenditures.
In additon it is a fact that 40% of all benefits paid, 50% go to the 50% of highest income earners.
Called middle class welfare, and one of the blights upon Peter Costello's memory. Hard to reverse.

There is plenty of scope for further expenditure, as long as it is done properly ie disband DMO for a start, and save their yearly budget of 1.2 billion.Even that amount alone would be of benefit, and think of how much you could save by not wasting billions on unsuitable, unworking equipment.

Atticus said...

Bushranger, re the refurbished Blackhawks and Seahawks, I agree.
Staggering thought processes.
Where do they come from.

Bushranger 71 said...

Hi Atticus; defence expenditure of around $22billion plus in 2008 represented 7.6 percent of federal government revenue. Outlays on defence for 2011 will near $27billion or north of 9 percent of revenue, and that does not include anything the government chooses to keep off budget.

The latest political dimwit to advocate that Australia should maintain increasing defence expenditure by an unaffordable 3 percent per annum in real terms was Christopher Pyne. We should remember that it was Johnny Howard who set in train the unrealistic and now unaffordable compounding increases in defence expenditure based on a supposed virtually inexhaustable inflow of revenue from the mining boom (BTW, I was involved with National Party politics).

The reality is China is going to slow down and other mineral developments elsewhere in the world will soon come on stream. Like it or not, defence expenditure is going to get squeezed and I foresee big cuts being unavoidable in the US, which will affect Australian defence planning in some ways.

I do wholeheartedly agree that much Australian wealth has been foolishly squandered on middle class welfare, again initiated by the Howard Government. Also agree that there is huge scope for savings in re-organisation of the Defence realm; like disbandment of the really superfluous Ministry of Defence Material, Science & Personnel.

People of my generation (now 74) and older who were involved in prior conflicts are perhaps more tuned to need for continuous adequate and credible defence preparedness; but that is not being achieved through reckless defence spending. We would now be in much better shape had we progressively optimised in-service proven assets, where cost-effective.

Atticus said...

Your figures are slighly off. Have a look at the actual 2009-2010 gudget, 5% approx.
Apart form 7, 500 employees in DMO, WHY do we need another 15,550 to run about 50,000 in uniform?
Imagine a private company with that structure?
Public service gone wild.

Bushranger 71 said...

Hi again Atticus. The Final Budget Outcome 2009-10 said Revenue $298.2billion and Defence $20.150billion, ergo 6.76 percent. The budget document for 2010-11 projected revenue at $328.1billion with a Total Defence Funding estimate of $26.897billion, thus about 8.2 percent.

In April 2011, the government predicted a $13billion shortfall in estimated revenue so the defence outlay as a percentage would have increased. Much has happened since then in economic terms with reports from some sources of defence expenditure now climbing beyond 9 percent of revenue. As said previously, we may not be aware of some spending camouflaged within the budget papers and/or off budget. The Final Budget Outcome 2010-11 should be promulgated in September.

Atticus said...

Bonza watch out.

Bonza said...

Why would I care Atticus? Like you I'm in prvate industry, I don't work for the Government. I'm glad though that individual accountability is going to be emphasised wthin Defence.

It's a pity no some commentators can't be held to the same degree of accountability...

Atticus said...

Because you defend the indefensible. It gets very personal, why?