"IS THIS WHERE I GO, AK AK AK AK AK?"
Four-time Walkley Award winning political commentator and Churchill Fellow, has returned to the fray over concern that the integrity of news dissemination is continually being threatened by a partisan media.
Hard to understand the fuss about a $5 GP co payment when we’re purchasing at least 72 of the Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter which is the most expensive weapons system ever to reach the blueprint stage. The trillion dollar project has been plagued by design flaws and massive cost overruns without any clear air in sight.
It flies only in good weather, its Pratt and Whitney turbines catch fire, its fuel tanks are likely to explode, the computers that fly it lack the software needed for combat and no-one can say when the plane will meet its specifications or even when it will be delivered.
It was supposed to be operational by 2010, but that delivery date has been notionally stretched to around 2020, which again seems highly optimistic.
Australia has recently upped its order of the F-35 JSF by 58 to 72 and we are expected to buy up to 100 of them at a cost of $16 billion, but that cost figure is highly speculative and is likely underquoted as other customers like Canada and Italy get cold feet, skyrocketing the unit price.
Reconfiguring airbases at Williamstown and Tindal to cater for the aircraft is likely to cost a further $2 billion and don’t even think about servicing, training and fly-time costs. A confidential Pentagon report has described the project as, “too big to fail”.
Estimates suggest that the total cost of buying, operating and maintaining the planes over the next 30 years could be as high as $500 billion.
In March this year the US House Armed Services Committee was told the planes were, “not affordable to use at the moment”.
When asked if the purchase made sense, considering our current budget emergency, Tony Abbott said, "I want to stress that this is money that has been put aside by government over the past decade or so to ensure that this purchase can responsibly be made”.
Hmmm, let’s say an aeroplane that will take over 20 years to develop can still be 20 years ahead of its time at completion (there’s no doubt it’s a spectacular concept) but warfare is changing quickly and dramatically.
Dog fights over the English Channel are confined to ‘Biggles’ books, they will never be seen again, and you’ll certainly never see an F-35 chasing the latest Putin has to offer in and out of clouds.
The F-35 is a weapons delivery system, as was the Enola Gay, so you have to ask just what is the modern role expected of this aircraft. To get there and back with a bomb more quickly?
I’m no defence writer, but I do know any modern jet fighter can be flown remotely from any lounge chair, including our Hornets! It can deliver its payload to within 10 feet anywhere on the globe, it can be refuelled mid-air and it can return and land unscathed without risking pilots’ lives.
If it gets shot down who gives a stuff? A hundred of them could be launched into the air at the one time! So, why the hell would anyone think of using an F-35 JSF to do that job when we have ten years’ further development of remote flight ahead of us before we even see this trillion dollar F-35?
The aircraft is a brilliant American thought bubble from the last century and you have to wonder what will be its application in another 10 years’ time when drones are rapidly becoming the weapon of choice for us and our adversaries.
The age of terrorism is here and terrorists don’t intend to conduct dogfights with us. Sophisticated explosives are more compact than ever and can be delivered via a drone to targets from a terrorist’s lounge chair.
A drone can intercept any Boeing A380. It can deliver its payload to any major event, any iconic building, any parliament house, any town hall, school or the Vatican.
How can you send an F-35 to intercept a drone you can’t see when another 100 of the little buggers are on the way?
And if the US really thinks drones aren’t on the terrorists’ menu of destruction then it’s asleep, just as it was asleep when ISIS exploded on to the scene. But it seems the West is consistently late to every party.
According to the latest census there are 528,997 Buddhists in Australia and 476,291 Muslims and no-one has noticed where all the confrontational war cries are coming from.
And when we finally do get around to identifying the enemy (and they already say we are their enemy) what good will 100 F-35s be?
If estimates are right, these boys’ toys are fast approaching a price tag over their lifetime that if we were to cancel half of them we could wipe out our budget deficit, reduce debt and have plenty left over for our pensioners, destitute farmers and the ADF payroll office.
There are outs to the contract and there is room for negotiation... it should be used.
[Correction Airbus A380]