A former Defence official closely involved in the oversight of the replacement program agreed to talk to Four Corners on condition that his identity was protected.
He said the decision to join the JSF program was taken without the aircraft ever being fully tested – and that Air Chief Marshal Houston was seemingly swayed by the enthusiasm of his US counterpart.
"He told several people at the time that the Chief of the US Air Force had said this was the right aeroplane for Australia and so Angus thought that was the correct answer, that this was the right aircraft for us."
The former Defence official said it was "an interesting approach" and certainly "speeded up the decision-making process".
He said Australia would normally have gone through a competitive tendering process to work out "what the aeroplane could do, what its costs and its schedule was".
But this had not happened in the case of the JSF, he said.
"We were proposing that we buy something being developed for the US Air Force, if you like, on a whim."
In a statement to Four Corners, Angus Houston said: "The System Design and Development phase was non-binding and the Australian Government could opt out if it so wished."
He added: "I am still convinced that the JSF is the right air combat aircraft to meet Australia's future security needs."
Monday, February 18, 2013
Houston endorsed F-35 on a whim
Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston endorsed Australia going with the F-35 simply because the U.S. said it was the right aircraft for Australia. No critical analysis was done.