National Defence? No, Notional Defence

National Defence? No, Notional Defence. By David Archibald.

Nuclear submarines re-engineered as diesel-electrics, plus fighter planes that are a credible threat only in Lockheed salesmen’s brochures — this is the alleged backbone of our future defence. …

The DCNS Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A design is a conventionally-powered derivative of France’s nuclear-powered Suffren-class submarines.

French barracuda-shortfin-dcns-submarine … ours in an under-powered form sometime in the 2030s??

It is far cheaper though to interdict enemy forces as far from our shores as possible. Ideally that will start with our submarines sinking Chinese ships in the South China Sea. Malcolm Turnbull has made that very difficult. He took delight in choosing French vapourware submarines over the proven Japanese offering because the latter was Tony Abbott’s choice. The French submarines are scheduled to enter service in the 2030s. In the interim we will be spending as much keeping the sclerotic Collins class submarines going as it would have been to replace them with the Japanese Soryu class. The Collins class is cursed with one of the worst diesel engines ever put into a marine vessel. …

F35 … under-armed hangar queen?

The F-35 nightmare is proceeding much as predicted. The damage was controllable until Tony Abbott became Prime Minister and upped the buy from 14 aircraft to 72. Now we are selling some of our clapped out F-18As to the Canadians to make the fighter aircraft shortfall even tighter. …

Apart from its enormous cost and a host of deficiencies, what would be damping the affection for the F-35 in the USAF would be two things: the F-35’s low availability and the fact that it is practically unarmed. The F-35 spends a lot of time in maintenance …

The F-35 is designed around its role to bomb SAM [surface to air missile] sites, carrying two 2,000 pound bombs and two beyond-visual-range missiles, the AIM-120, on the off chance that it would have to defend itself from an enemy fighter aircraft.

The problem with carrying only two missiles is that most missiles miss. … The chance of one missile hitting a target aircraft that is not maneuvering to escape is 70%. That falls to about 10% if the target aircraft is aware of the missile’s approach and takes evasive action. Most targeted aircraft are aware because of the flare of the launch, the targeting updates from the firing aircraft to the missile, and then the missile’s own radar emissions. An F-35 that has fired its two missiles is defenceless. It can’t turn fast enough to engage a real fighter aircraft with its gun. It will have to run as fast as it can but its enormous exhaust plume will be a beacon for infrared-guided missiles.

In modern warfare an enormous number of missiles can be fired for little effect. … [In] the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, Serbian forces fired 665 surface-to-air missiles and downed two aircraft. NATO aircraft fired 743 radar-homing missiles at Serbian SAM batteries. Post-war analysis determined that between 3 percent and 6 percent hit their targets. …

Another sign that the F-35 is on the way out is the fact that 18 months ago the USAF asked Boeing about supplying an updated F-15. … Boeing … responded … with a variant call the F-15X. It is an ugly thing with conformal tanks to carry more fuel attached to the engines under the wings. It is a triumph for Russian air combat theory in that the F-15x will be able to carry 22 air-to-air missiles instead of the handful that USAF fighters have normally carried. Russian theory holds that it is best to fire off a volley of missiles at once instead of just one at a time. When the missiles have run out and the opposing aircraft go to the merge to fight with their guns, the advantage will be to the Russian aircraft and their derivatives. A 2° per second difference in sustained turn rate will allow the faster turning aircraft to dominate the engagement; the Su-35 outturns the F-15. Faster-turning aircraft are also better at dodging oncoming missiles in the first place.

What would have motivated the USAF to go back to the F-15 would have been war gaming exercises using real world data which would have few F-35s getting into the air and then being shot down pretty well straight away. …

In their own way the RAAF leadership that got us locked into the F-35 are just as retarded as the RAN leadership that signed up for French vapourware submarines. The country is defenceless. There is a solution – build the Saab Gripen E in Australia, as per the Brazilian deal for building that aircraft in Brazil, and switch back to getting the Japanese Soryu class submarines.