On the topic of Australia's air power roadmap, the results from ASPI have been weak, off-the-mark, and not very independent.
A recent article in the Canberra Times shows at least 3 statements from ASPI that show their research skills are off.
"Further deferrals [in the number of planes being ordered by the US military] are a plausible eventuality,'' he said. ''But the future of the US Air Force is the first order concern [for the Americans]. There is no fallback option. What will they [the US] do? Revive the even more expensive F-22?"
Let us look at these three statements:
“There is no fallback option.” This is untrue no matter how many bought and paid for Congressmen, or flag-ranks promoted beyond their ability say it. First; the U.S. can win wars without short take-off and vertical landing ability. Including the fact that U.S. Marine aviation existed before the Harrier. Next, the F-35 is a second-tier fighter aircraft. It needs the F-22 to take on high-end threats that are supposed to exist over the alleged lifetime of the F-35. I have shown more than once that after the U.S. is on-track to spending $60B developing the F-35, what is delivered will have less usefulness to a joint coalition commander than the lowest performing “fast” jet in U.S. full-rate production; the Super Hornet. Also, the F-35 program has not proven that the aircraft can perform to its original specifications. Two of those specifications are that it would be “affordable” and “a model acquisition program”.
Which leads to the another point stated by the ASPI; the fib that the F-22 is somehow more expensive than the F-35. The F-35 has a long way to go before the aircraft can show real capability or wear the badge of being “affordable”. While the F-22 production supply chain is shutting down, the F-22 line has not been torn down all the way, yet. When it was in full swing, the F-22 was putting out an aircraft that was around $141M each and reducing. Any warfighting comparison of the F-22 to the F-35 is weak simply because even if an F-35 is delivered in go-to-war trim, it will have half the capability of the F-22. Simply because the F-22 is survivable against high-end threats. This by itself, disqualifies the F-35 as a "first-day" stealth aircraft unless you are bombing Belgrade in 1999.
“What will the U.S. do?” First, would be to stop procuring and sustaining dud weapons systems like the F-35, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Zumwalt-class “destroyer” which should be broken up now and cut our losses while there is time.
Since the U.S. seems destined to not restart F-22 production, the only way to have any hope of capability against “anti-access” threats is to develop long-range air-to-surface super-sonic cruise missiles. You can drop just about anything from a B-52 and we can keep them in the air for a long, long time. And, since range is needed, there is no justification for retiring long range bombers.
The United States Air Force has options. New-build F-15 strike eagles with modern avionics will be able to back up F-22s. For any other work, they have more range and versatility than the F-35 could ever see. Also, as per the early JSF plan, even though it was stated it could replace the A-10, that is not so. There is no replacement for the A-10.
Unless FA-XX delivers something useful, the carrier air-wing as we know it will be obsolete against anti-access threats. The Brewster Buffalo II and the Super Hornet are not up to the job. However the Super Hornet is up to the job of second-tier threat strike work. So, unless someone has some bright ideas, our tens of billions invested into every carrier battle group will not be able to take on emerging threats without being put at risk. With or without the F-35.
So, the ASPI is way off the mark on their statements.
At best, their “analysis” of air power issues can be best described as “meme theory”.