Friday, May 4, 2012

Australia's real air capability plan

LOL. Too bad the Hornet was never made as a PDM jet like F-15s, F-111s and B-52s.

Wonder what they will do when the F-35 falls on its face?
Minister for Defence Materiel – Release of Tender – Deeper maintenance for the RAAF Classic Hornet fleet
4 May 2012
Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare announced the release of a Request for Tender (RFT) for the deeper maintenance of the F/A-18 Classic Hornet fleet.

“The F/A-18 Hornet is a very capable multi-role fighter which can undertake a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions including air combat, close air support of ground troops, and interdiction of enemy supply lines,” Mr Clare said.

“This contract will provide all deeper maintenance requirements for the 55 single-seat and 16 dual-seat aircraft and associated systems.

“This includes operational fight trainers, computer‑based training systems, maintenance training systems and Classic Hornet unique ground support and test equipment.”

The RFT closes in July 2012 with the new contract expected to take effect from April 2013.

Media contact: Korena Flanagan – 0418 251 316

Imagine if someone suggested this back in the days of Air 6000? Or, back in the days of the original Australian commitment to the Just So Failed in 2002?

How much has the F-35 Just So Farcical cost the taxpayer?

$6.6B for the Super Hornet gap-filler

$3-4B in lost F-111 capability

$1B in obsolete Growler upgrades.

Probably another $1.8B (minimum) for the geriatric jets mentioned above. Today, rebarrel work on Hornets goes for around $25M each. That doesn't count things like corrosion and wear on other parts of the airframe. Double the $1.8B.


Add that all up and the dumbassery of Defence senior leadership has just surpassed the cost of the first 72 jets in the F-35 recap plan developed by the jet-setting NACC.

What a disaster.

Just think of the many more billions it will take to clean up this mess.


Anonymous said...

Watch out you will upset Bonza.

Anonymous said...

Oh folks

When I see the word "F-35 Joint Strike Fighter" on the side of the air intakes with the national flags that have participated the failed program, it should be the opposite by retitle the name "Joint Strike Failure" or any nicknames the aircraft can be called.

Regards Peter

Anonymous said...

Which will be hilarious to stir up the hornets nest to the pro-JSF advocates etc.

Cheers Peter

Canuck Fighter said...

A billion here, a billion there, what's the big deal? You know the government can just print more money, and 20-30 years down the road when they're gone it's will become the next generation's problem. It's the modern way.

S O said...

Didn't you notice!?

Bushranger 71 said...

Hang on. Extending the life of the F-18 is logical to allow breathing space for development of something better than the F-35. Toward that end, Australia could acquire 2 squadrons of A-10s for regional close air support needs and reduce to 2 squadrons of F-18 optimised for air combat purposes.

Retired Chief of Army Peter Leahy recently made an astute observation. Commitment to whole of life maintenance contracts is going to become enormously costly for the ADF and there is also a deafening silence from DoD entities in many forums when questions are asked re operating costs for new hardware.

Continuation of the present philosophy of acquiring all top shelf assets, instead of cost-effectively optimisating/refurbishing proven platforms in service, will ultimately cause the ADF to reduce or shed some roles in my view due to funding constraints.

Eric Palmer said...

The Hornet was never made to be refirbished at this level. Look at the trouble Canada (who Australia depended on for learning curve) did the last truncated barrel replacement effort. And that only includes barrel replacement not the other stuff. USN can do it in places like Jacksonville because the budget is there. However the process is very, very long, dirty, and an exercise in wasted money once you start getting to 6000k hours. A comparison, the 5-7 year PDM cycle on an F-15 takes 180 flow days of work. F-18 refurb at Jacksonville about 50% more...and it isn't PDM as such. What Australia gets with this is aircraft suitable for air-policing and not very effective vs. emerging threats. Dumping half of the Hornets may be a good idea on this bad idea because you can cherry-pick the "good" airframes. The jet is expensive to run per hour for what it gives. That, and the legacy-Hornet is the shortest-leg, most tanker dependant jet in its class. If all one wants is some air-policing, best to get Gripens. Not NGs. C-Ds like Thailand. Then dump the Supers and replace them with F-15Es. 24 of those at least gives you joint coalition range, payload, strike and stand-off. My opinion. I would rather have OV-10s over A-10s. At least you can do more stuff with an OV-10.

OV-10 18-24
Gripen 36
F-15E 24

Bushranger 71 said...

Eric; respectfully, Australia will likely not be able to afford any more new assets for a time, so it will be a matter of doing the best with what is possessed for a while. Too much stratospheric thinking surrounding higher end capabilities in my view and not enough regarding basic functions.

As for OV-10s; I have operated with them and a Huey II Bushranger helo gunship would leave them in the shade. A-10s and AC-130 are also the sort of firepower capabilities needed for regional operations.

Sometime soon, it will be realised in Canberra that 100 JSF or whatever type would be twice as many as Australia needs or will be able to afford.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting insights on the F-15 PDM cycle and F-18 hornet refurb, Eric.

And while I would support A-10s being transferred to the Army, I'd vote for them to transfer to the US Army (or Marines), so no offense to your dream RAAF mix there Bushranger :)

As far as Bushranger's view though, that RAAF can only afford half of the 100 F-35 fleet it wants, that's probably a true statement and in that case I'd have to concur with some sort of plan B mix along the lines of Eric's, to include F-15E+ as a substitute to the F-35.

Sure, while the F-15E+ might not be as high-end and stratospheric as the 5th gen F-35, it would be 'good enoug', cheaper to acquire, more capable in some conventional regards, and less risky. All cost-effective worthy criteria, yes?

So fwiw, I'd propose:

Dump the final hornet squadron by 2019 (a less risky and more prudent retirement decision, as they were designed to be retired).

Procure 54x F-15AU (basically F-15SA + APG-82 plus PAWS-2 + touch-screen display intended for F-15SE) starting w/ 4 units in FY14 and 10 units/yr thereafter. Lease the initial 14 units which could be returned to USAF (or foreign customer) by 2027 where they can complete their life. Buy the remaining 40.

Buy about 12 Super Tucano also in FY14, which would enable far superior endurance and performance vs the Huey II. (not as much CAS firepower as A-10, but good enough, cheaper to operate and with better endurance).

With the current Supers being returned to USN by 2025(?), perhaps acquire around 25x UCAV (possibly Predator-C model?) starting around 2022 for a seamless recapitalization.

Leave flexible option open to recapitalize the 12 retiring 'Leased' F-15AU in 2027 with a next-gen 'multi-mission' platform as per future requirements.

My 2 cents.

Bushranger 71 said...

The RAAF continues to devote much effort to air to ground weapons delivery training (I live near Williamtown). The F-35B was mooted as perhaps being operated from Canberra class LPDs and a Navy related proposition for OV-10s in lieu is being quietly kicked around. And the Army seemingly believes the Tiger to be the ultimate as a close air support vehicle (very misguided).

Not hard to see why defence planning for a smallish military is a costly shambles when it cannot be decided which arm of the ADF should provide offensive air support.

I have heard it said by current serving personnel and DoD entities that stand-off weaponry is essential as it is potentially too risky to get into the face of the enemy down among the weeds. Well; that is just what the A-10 and helo gunships like Blackhawk MH-60L DAP were designed to do - check out Warthog close to the FEBA operations in Iraq. Also; considering range, endurance and all weather firepower capabilities, nothing beats the AC-130 for regional operations.

Australia has a thinly-veiled samallish unified ADF absurdly embracing 3 air arms and methinks air power roles require rationalisation.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the AC-130, they are apparently only used in Night operations due to survivability limitations of being a more vulnerable target.

6x OV-10s or Super Tucano operating from a forward base/strip or LPD would arguably provide more rapid response and flexible 24/7 capabilities than would a single AC-130 at about the same cost.

Add some laser designated rockets, and perhaps a couple Brimstone.

Anonymous said...

Raptor1 says:
The F-35 is such a joke, when viewed through the prism (or crystal ball is more like it) that is its development "plan". It was born of an operational monster (F-22), and the JSF "Team" chose to stomp on its FAR superior sibling, all in the name of dragging us through to this ridiculous point in time, in the ridiculous state that it's in. Truly remarable.
I agree with the argument for F-15s, though I would certainly lean hard toward the F-15SE - Good-enough stealth, great avionics, plus an airframe that hauls more "stuff", further; and with real-world maneuverability that will allow it to do anything the f-35 can do, better.
How long will it be before the JSF team begins knocking the -SE with such hypocritical arguments as "cost" or "interoperability" or lack of "true 5th gen capabilities"? They seem to have no shame, to go along with their lack of common sense.

Bushranger 71 said...

Anonymous; the USAF are expanding and upgrading their AC-130 component and the USMC are moving into that field. A gunship version of the Basler BT-67 (turbo-Dakota) is offered and there are musings elsewhere about that capability for the C-27 Spartan.

Sure the USAF have lost a few AC-130 in combat; but the value of that platform with its sensors and weaponry variety/capacity has been outstanding, perhaps too potent for Australian defence planners!

Re the Super Tucano. It has the essential attributes of ball ammunition/HE cannon weaponry for intimate close quarters air support and multiple gun redundancy so is arguably better than the Tiger. But helo gunships (not AAH) are still necessary for the real close quarters stuff during ongoing fighting with their greater ability to see and hear ground-fire and suppress behind the aircraft.

If the ADF is forced to somewhat shrink and rationalise roles downstream due to budget constraints and operating cost pressures, the ST could conceivably progressively replace F-18 and Hawk ground attack functions and also PC-9 for training, as a longish range program when those types reach the end of their economic service life. At the higher performance level, trading the Super Hornets on maybe 50 F-15SE would also enhance capabilities.

Cost-effectiveness is going to become much more significant in Australian defence planning as the downstream consequences of some bad hardware choices are realised.

Anonymous said...

Good reply Bushranger71.

Re: Super Tucano or OV-10... imho think 6hr endurance 24/7, 22k' effective operating altitude capability and utilizing high power EO/IR sensor when over potential manpad and AAA threat zones. Can arm with with next-gen micro PGM munitions and brimstone for stand off. Basically, it's definitely not your OV-10 from ODS. Slightly better than Tiger, true, but it's also not intended to replace helo gunships, fully agreed. (I'm personally a proponent of increased helo gunship investment).

Regarding an hypothetical F-15E++ option for Australia, eg an F-15SA + additional upgraded avionics and possible components from the proposed F-15SE such as touch screen displays and blockers (not necessarily the full blown F-15SE which at best will be significantly delayed, risky and high-cost)... I'd also concur with you to trade in any current or future Super Hornet stopgap procurement thinking and go straight for an alternative high-end asset to replace the F-35.