Monday, October 17, 2011

Apology to home defence industry and, where are we going?

I want to apologize. My comments on home defence industry in yesterday's post were too harsh.

Again, I am usually the optimistic guy on the team; yet for the current Defence situation there really are a lot of problems.

First, how do we keep and bring new engineers to Defence industry? They can find stable and predictable work almost anywhere else.

Like it or not, the current Defence/DMO situation is still hostile to the Defence industry. The Defence bureaucracy has over the years signed a deal with the devil. It has allowed foreign industry to heavily influence too much workshare that would normally be done by Australians. The end goal seems to be that large portions of our industry are to shut-up while Defence/DMO sign up for an off-the-shelf item and we end up doing warehousing and screw-driver turning labelled as "sustainment".

While there could be many inquiries, we need real ones of why Defence Ministers are so poorly advised and why are there so many civilians in Defence?

Also needed: real punishment for lying to elected officials in hearings dealing with Defence issues.

I like off-the-shelf purchases when they make sense. Yet, I don't see much of anything in the current Defence/DMO management trends that make sense.

Consider what we get in return with the following platform decisions.

-There is no direct replacement for the Caribou. Defence is in absolute fear of refurbishment and upgrades of old platforms.
-The F-111 which offered great capability to be upgraded (JDAM, JSOW, JASSM, SDB and a future super-sonic stand-off cruise missile) is now gone. The range capability was a great loss.
-Defence buying a more expensive U.S. made combat system for the Collins-class when a cheaper and better alternative made here in Australia was minimised.
-The F-35 and the Super Hornet can in no way achieve air superiority in the region over the time span of their service. Money spent in this area is all wasted.
-If we need to keep our warship-building industry healthy with stable contracts over time there is plenty to do. That is: move up the Frigate replacement and build other small warships that are more scalable to our defence needs.
-Prove that we can effectively repair what we have. For example the recent amphibious ship maintenance disaster and the Collins class submarine situation.

I do not know where all this will lead. I do know that things are getting worse. We continue to pay more for less... real defensive capability.

What, if anything, will change that negative trend? I do know that keeping our home industry in bondage will not help.

34 comments:

Bushranger 71 said...

You were not too harsh on so-called Australian defence industry Eric because it is now largely foreign-parented and also heavily influenced by trade unions. Successive federal governments generated this scenario through selling off/leasing some defence assets.

DMO/DSTO have far too much political clout and have been complicit in many of the shabby deals with the major arms conglomerates concerning Australian manufacture; but there is a simple answer to this problem. Disband the Ministry of Defence Material and vest responsibility for projects management back in the military arms, wherein it once functioned effectively. Incorporate smallish cells of DMO within the respective armed forces headquarters subordinate to the individual military chiefs who should be accountable for project origination and co-ordination. Unless the operators of the hardware are responsible for capabilities definition and maintaining adequate and credible ongoing military preparedness, nobody will be held to account for reckless spending. There is progressive diminution of military capacity due to outrageous costs of local production with profits largely siphoned offshore and Australia simply cannot afford to keep on wasting large slices of adequate defence expenditure when better value is achievable for some hardware through MOTS acquisitions.

Some years back, Australia was largely technically deskilled when outstanding technical colleges were converted to lower grade universities and the TAFE system initiated in substitution. Long-established apprentice training systems in the military, airlines and other industries (like BHP) were also closed down when federal government support was withdrawn. Technical standards in many fields have deterioriated in consequence as the invaluable backbone of very skilled craftsmen/tradesmen has withered away. The skills base that once existed is now being offset in some fields by importing foreign labour, which is already being mooted for military shipbuilding. If we will have to import labour to build warships at inflated cost, why not just acquire them direct from offshore?

Anonymous said...

Buying MOTS/COTS from the overseas big boys just adds to the dumbing down and deskilling of both Defence and Industry - as well as the capabilities needed for the defence and security of our Nation.

On the Industry Policy front, this will result in screw drivering, stores accounting and shipping becoming the only PICs the DMO policy wanks will support!

This is already happening.

Take a look at the C-17 and SH projects for a glimpse at the future for Australian Industry.

Bushranger 71 said...

Not sure what you are favouring Anonymous. Australia should have/could beneficially negotiate upgrade/optimisation of say proven F-111, C-130H, P-3C, Caribou, Chinook, Blackhawk, Iroquois, Kiowa by Australian based/owned organisations rather than building dubious merit costly hardware like Tiger, MRH90 via foreign-parented outfits. That approach would maintain adequate and credible military capacity and appropriate skills for sustainability of military operations.

But most of the cheerleaders for so-called Australian defence industry seem to keep wanting to throw vast amounts of money at questionable value projects in lieu of a more realistic and affordable approach to national defence industry potential. Hugely subsidising defence industry, a la the motor vehicle industry, is just not an economically viable proposition longer-term if it costs us multiples of acquisition cost for MOTS hardware. Australian taxpayer defence dollars ought to principally optimise ongoing military preparedness rather than heavily subsidising low productivity defence industry.

Anonymous said...

Very interested in your opinion of sustaining Australian Defence industry. In the spirit of debate, I disagree with a few points in the original post. I'll stick to the points on fighters as that's what I know.

The F-111 was retired very late. At the time of it's retirement, it was no longer credible in any modern theatre. It had a lot of range and a lot of payload. However, it's lack of basic capability such as a useful air-air radar, air-air missiles meant it would need an escort against the most basic of air-threats. An F-111 could not turn tail and run if it had no awareness of the bandit group on its nose. It's long range was therefore of no use. The F-111's payload was limited by it's very old targeting pod and avionics system. The F-111 is now outclassed in the air-ground role by an F/A-18A with Link-16, Litening AT, JDAM and JHMCS (and soon to have JASSM).

The AF/A-18A as an integrated weapon system already outclasses every regional threat. The F/A-18F capability with APG-79 multiplies this. The most serious regional 'threat' at the moment is the SU-30MKI/M which is armed with AA-10C/D, AA-12, AA-11. Future 'threats' such as a decent-range threat missile (that hasn't made it off the napkin) will be overmatched by AIM-120D (already being thoroughly tested in preparation for service entry). Upgraded Flankers with decent radars have been beaten to the region by the APG-79 already in service. Future 'LO' systems (built by manufacturers with no former experience in LO) of which prototypes have just started being realised (F-22 prototype was early 90's!) will be countered by not only Super Hornet already in service but the F-35 already in LRIP and destined for spiral upgrade.


Rex

Gobsmacked said...

Can you telll which comic you got this information from Rex so I can buy it?

Anonymous said...

Gobsmacked, I Understand there's little to be gained on discussing future capabilities that there are no publically available details on, but surely you understand my reasoning on the F-111 as a former capability?

Gobsamcked said...

The problem with the F111, was simply that the RAAF did not upgrade the aircraft with the same avionics you discuss.
DSTO tested the wings to 18,000 hours and the Airframe was on track. Go figure

Anonymous said...

I think an attempt to upgrade the F-111 would have been well beyond Australian industry. The sea-sprite program would have been nothing compared to trying to build a relevant fighter.

A whole new radar would be required, a huge task by itself. Even if an off-the-shelf radar was selected (APG-73?) it would have to be integrated into a completely new mission system not designed to accommodate it. Along with the radar would be required an interrogator/transponder for multi-source integration, a new SMS capable of handling AMRAAM and GPS weapons. To maintain the situational awareness required in 2010, it would also need a proper MIDS terminal for datalink transmit/receive.

While you were at it, the entire cockpit would need to be overhauled with a proper HUD and a useful number of MFD's. So really you'd need an entirely new mission computer system capable of handling all this (F-111F architecture in the F-111C AUP wouldn't handle all of this).

A new targeting pod (ie Litening AT) would need to be integrated from scratch.


All of these new avionics would need to be powered by the appropriate buses. New generators, transformers, power buses, data buses. Was there much room left on the accessory drives when the Pig was retired?

Revealing at the end of the F-111 regarding how hard it was to maintain from an atech (mechanical) perspective were operating costs. I recall seeing an AAP quoting $140k an hour circa 2007.

Anonymous said...

adding to my post above, you'd still be left with a platform that couldn't manoeuvre to save itself (literally!). The jet was a bomber, it would still need an escort to go downtown. About all it could do if it had the awareness of a hostile group on its nose would be to launch, abort and fly home (unless you want to start grinding!).

Rex

Anonymous said...

Oh, and BTW, grinding while OCA is a BAD idea!

Rex

Anonymous said...

Coul see that one coming.You have been reading comics again.Why do you not talk some real world people in the Aviation Industry.They love this bit about "beyond Autralian Industry".
Do you think professional people in this country ae morons?

Anonymous said...

Look what they did with seasprite.

A much MUCH smaller operation than that proposed by Gobsmacked and a lot less consequence for failure!

Rex

Anonymous said...

An further, what's the point of a high SA bomber still requiring fighter escort when you could have a cheaper, more capable multirole fighter like the F/A-18F?

Rex

Horde said...

Rex:

You clearly have little idea of what had been done with and to the F-111 during and post the AUP, particularly by the Engineering IPT at the F-111 WSBU.

Reading the relevant ANAO TACAIR report would help as would buying and reading a copy of “From Controversy to Cutting Edge” by Mark Lax.

If you don’t wish to believe what Mark has so meticulously recorded, then you should go and read the “F-111 Type Record, AAP 7214.001”.

This should still be available in the DMO on-line library.

Cheers,

Horde

Horde said...

Rex:

One of the many countervailing views to what you espouse in relation to the JSF and, more particularly, the opposition can be found over at Aviation Week:

Less Spending Drives Big Changes
http://tinyurl.com/429cnm7

An interesting read, particularly the part about:

“As a result, the F-35 is having its mission tailored to operate outside the range of the most advanced, electronically scanned radars used for next-generation, surface-to-air weapon systems. These include the Russian-developed family of long-range, high-altitude interceptor missiles such as the S-300 PMU2 (SA-20), S-400 (SA-21) and S-500 (Triumfator).”

“It is hardly surprising to see potential adversary systems evolving to counter the F-35, since we’ve been loudly announcing for 15 years that allied air combat capability through 2040 will be dominated by it,” says a longtime international aerospace analyst. “At the same time, the U.S. monopoly on stealth has been eroding rapidly. The JSF’s signatures are well understood, hence the revival in very high-frequency radar and the Russians’ continued development of high-power, transportable, missile-guidance radars.”

The further development, post the end of the Cold War, of these Reference Threats has been underway for as long as the JSF Program has been in existence.

That some people are just noticing this fact is testament to the blinding power of the "total indifference to what is real" that is the foundation of the JSF Program.

Cheers,

Horde

ps: Is there some reasons why you keep posting under the header of "Anonymous"?

Anonymous said...

Horde,

Well aware of the fantastic job that was done to upgrade the F-111 to AUP standard. It was a great long-range bomber when such aircraft were survivable.

However, in the face of an air-threat, the F-111 lacked any kind of defence other than turning for home and running. It's air-air radar was also inadequate for detecting such a threat (especially with the radar volume of a single radar). The final evolution of the Pave-Tac pod was also horribly outdated and incapable when compared to Litening or Sniper.

Rex

Atticus said...

Follow this stuff with jaundcied interest. It never changes.
Rex, how about you listen to some one who knows what he is talking about, instead of those on kiddies sites and who have no idea of what they are talking about.
Anon you will never win, comic books indeed!
Facts are always welcome, and you do not contribute any.
You sound fimiliar?

Atticus said...

Ah ,Rex, how is the F18 in any form survivable?

Anonymous said...

Atticus,

Besides reading kiddie sites and comics, I also have a few hundred hours in fast pointy things. Not that I expect that to pass as any form of credibility as I'm not going to prove it, but there you go.

Also, not one of my points has been rebutted. If I'm not stating facts, I'm certaintly not seeing any facts opposing what I say.

Here are some facts. The F-111 air-air radar modes were inadequate. The F-111 had no defence in the face of an air-threat besides going home. The F-111 SMS could not support AMRAAM without a major update (yes it was had elements of the F/A-18 SMS, big difference not to mention a completely new radar. The F-111's E-M was terrible, it could not go to the merge and survive. The F-111 requires an escort against any adversary with early warning / PD radars.

Rex

Anonymous said...

Atticus,

Open source reporting reveals the F/A-18 has an APG-73, RWR and AMRAAM.

It's survivable by shooting the bad jets and being aware when it gets shot.

Anonymous said...

Great exchange Rex and Horde. Thanks for the read and different viewpoints.

Was there ever a consideration to present a request for info open to some Israeli company e.g., which could have possibly done a total rewiring, avionics, computer and display refurb on the Pig like they do with Migs... and in an acceptable period of time and for considerably less than what would be considered today as 'expensive'?

Or even some form of a Super-Hornet'ing of the Pig kind of feasibility study, cost??

Anything to that extent, along those lines according to the proposal by APA?

Add new engines, integrate new weapons (A2A/A2G), add Litening G4/SE and an AEA pod... it seems like it would have been worthwhile to kick around a bit more.

Could it have been done for less than the Super Hornet Procurement portion of the contract?

I'm just curious how far and in depth the entire evaluation process went with regards to different options?

Off hand it seems like it would have been doable and at least a pretty logical concept to contemplate in greater depth back in the time.

Then the focus could have been put into which mature platform RAAF could have best replaced hornets with... in an IOC say, starting around 2014-2015??

Apollo said...

My thoughts on the Caribou,

I don't think refurbishment was an option. The hard landing in PNG reinforced that! I remember a maintainer once telling me parts were becoming so expensive for those radials as they had to be imported from undesirables in South America!

I believe the requirement for AVGAS was also quite prohibitive. (and let's not forget Canada's unfortunate problems attempt at making it a turboprop)

Atticus said...

Ah, rex you did not answer the question, how is the F18 survivable against current and future threats?Can not because it is not.
The F18 is hardly in the top echelon.Who will escort the F18?
Who ever said the F111 was required in the A2A, it is a long range strike aircraft.
Your comments regarding the upgrading the F111 with newer avionics, and stand off weapons, show that you definitely are not in the real world, and you do not read what others post.
As said before , those in industry can not believe comments such as "beyond Australian capability".
The only lack of capability is with the likes of Houston etc and DMO, and your self.

Anonymous said...

Apollo, check out the upgrades on Penturbo.
The airframe is repairable for ever.

Rex said...

F/A-18 has a radar and air-air missiles. It doesn't need to turn around in the face of an air-threat.

F-111 doesn't require A2A, but in order to get past any air threat whatsoever, it will need an escort. Just pointing out that it's much flaunted range is limited by the escorting fighters.

Atticus said...

Rex, a radar and missiles totally outranged by it's current and future antagonists?They all fly higher, faster and are longer ranged.That is the current crop.
If you are what you say, at university you would have studied the Pacfic conflict,and what did you get out of that study.
"Surprise", faster, longer ranged and more manouverable aircraft and better tactics.An they were underestimtated.
And here we are with an obsolete F18,and purchasing the Wirraway Mk2.

Rex said...

Suppose so. If Pax America is over, wonder how things will end up.

ELP said...

The F-111 was not upgraded with J-series weapons simply because Defence was too lazy. That and well surprise, Boeing did the last long term sustainment on the aircraft. They also wanted a Super Hornet sale. The Fox telling the Farmer the definition of a Chicken. Those that claim the F-111 could not take on air-to-air threats forget that for any long range roadmap, the F-18 family and F-35 will not be able to stand up to modern threats in the coming years either. Yet, when the F-111 has the only coverage in an air campaign that matters (the F-22) you can do pretty much what you want and well, the F-111 could also take JASSMs a very long way. Then there is the issue of lower threats. The F-111 went very far and used less tanker resources. Something the Hornet family can not claim. The taxpayer was robbed of value. In any event, as the 2004 briefing stated from NACC... if the F-35 fails...we go back to ground zero with a clean sheet of paper and not the silly idea of buying more Super Hornets.

Apollo said...

I think if it's coming down to F-111s flying a long way without protection to deliver bombs on coordinates, a cruise missile has become the right weapon for the job.

ELP said...

And only an aircraft can drop cruise missiles every day--rinse and repeat--or more than once a day. That and fast response times. A ship or submarine has very limited ability in this area.

Bushranger 71 said...

Maybe drifting a bit off theme here, but multiple proven platforms are readily upgradable with a plethora of type certified hardware options available; for example, modified AESA radars and datalink kits. Some aircraft types, like the F-16, have more growth potential and a huge amount of R&D has already been done. There are multiple approved manufacturer upgrade programs in train for various types including helicopters (not Australianization fiascos like Seasprite) and I do not see enhancement/optimisation of suitable proven in-service types as being beyond Australian-owned defence industry.

Digressing somewhat to flawed Defence White Paper 2009 strategy; defence/defeat of armed attack upon Australia is arguably physically unrealistic, but deterrence of interference with trade corridors is an affordable and practical military goal. Long-range maritime strike capacity is the obvious need for which an optimised F-111 would have been ideal, until something like an FB-22 emerges sometime downstream. Mission profiles would probably be 'lone ranger' style to launch stand-off missilery and then bolt for home. Not stealthy of course so maybe some acceptable losses.

The F-22 would have been a better proposition than the F-35, but Australia does not need either in my view. Given an F-111/FB-22 capability, an optimised Generation 4.5 F-16 version would suffice for other foreseeable regional roles. Maybe some lateral thinking along those lines might emerge, if the F-35 program falls over.

geogen said...

On the F-111 topic,

Taking a 2011-enhanced perspective and given proper hindsight to make a better evaluation...

I would have loved to have seen a NASA joint development and testing of an F-16XL cranked delta on the F-111 + addition of a LEVCON for slower approach speeds, similar to the Tejas Naval concept.

Modify the inlets, possibly DSI type to incorporate the PW-232 engine.

Add Fluidic Thrust Vectoring nozzle.

Chop off the vertical stab.

Possibly develop a top-mounted supersonic-friendly CFT.

Modify the weap bay to integrate next-gen long-range and medium-range AAM.

M 1.3 super-cruise @ 40k?

1,500nm cr?

8G?

Add APG-82, Sniper SE, MAWS, and internal IRST?

Develop a manned-optional block?

IMHO, APA was unfortunately ahead of its time. They had a very good finger on the pulse and instinctively knew for the most part, what was in store and which strategic baseline line approach to recapitalization was prudent as a solution.

Have to give respect where respect is due. my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, post that on Defence Talk for fun, and see how it flies.

Anonymous said...

Since 37klb of SL static uninstalled thrust was sufficient for >790KCAS on the deck and Mach 2+ at altitude, since the airframe doesn't care about whether the thrust is provided in MIL or AB, the only limitation to Super Cruise would be the engine temps.