BOYS' TOYS A PART OF DEFENCE'S TESTOSTERONE 'CULTURE'
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.
Australian Air Force commanders have long opposed the acquisition of UAVs, explaining, “...they will put top gun pilots out of a job and threaten RAAF culture.” Hmmm, “culture” being the operative word meaning, at least to me, testosterone does play a part in these lethal boys’ toys.
In 1996 PM John Howard ordered Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike F-35 Fighter without a tender process. These jet aircraft will cost US taxpayers $396 billion, yep billion. And that's if the Pentagon actually builds a projected 2,443 F-35s by the late 2030s.
It won't build that many of course, as international orders have halved due to its protracted problems thereby more than doubling the unit price of each aircraft to Australia.
The unit cost to us has risen from John Howard’s $70 million to Tony Abbott’s $180 million and still soaring in what promises to be the biggest financial procurement in Defence history.
But there is no doubt this fighter aircraft is the most sophisticated yet devised, even if it still remains partly on the drawing board.
Gillard’s Defence Minister at the time, Stephen Smith, deferred the order for the further 58 F-35s (Julia didn’t fancy Defence spending, much more yummy things to buy) but that decision is now costing taxpayers many billions more.
We are currently spending a tidy $6 billion on Hornets and Growlers to fill the gap where we thought the F-35 would be.
Australia intends to eventually have 100 of these aircraft. Blimey!
Their real value to the US will be rapid deployment to anywhere in the world via a dozen aircraft carriers. Unfortunately we don’t have any aircraft carriers.
Defence Writer David Pugliese, said, “The Super Hornet can do anything the F-35 can and is better suited to operate from forward operating bases with no requirement to add a drag chute or air refuelling system”.
(I'm no defence expert but I'm not sure he is correct there, particularly if its endless problems can be surmounted. This aircraft is potentially light years ahead of anything else that remotely approaches it.)
At Mach 3 the technology-plagued F-35 will be able to get to any part of Asia in no time but without mid-air refuelling or a carrier base its endurance is limited from Tindal or any other Australian base.
But you have to wonder whether a price-tag that would embarrass even Julia is actually Defence Force testosterone-driven or a critical Defence need.
I mean a UAV can take out any installation in the world from a Washington armchair, without a pilot. And the inexpensive UAV will self-destruct if fatally hit, depriving the enemy of the technology.
Australia has already ordered $3 billion worth of Northrop Grumman UAVs to patrol our northern borders. This one (pictured) has a vast wingspan of 39.8 metres, can operate at 65,000 feet and stay airborne for 35 hours with a non-stop endurance range of 16,000 kilometres.
That eclipses any manned aircraft and it can be reconfigured to carry any type of missile. We can only muse at the development of UAVs by 2030.
The F-35 will make a hole in any smuggling boat, if not in Joe Hockey’s forward estimates, but exhilarating dogfights between Super Hornets and F-35s over Sydney Harbour will certainly draw paying crowds. Now all we need is a decent enemy and it’ll all be worth it.
Sometimes supporting close allies can be a costly exercise.