Twilight of the F-35, leaving Australia defenseless

Twilight of the F-35, leaving Australia defenseless. By David Archibald.

There were two articles on the F-35 in today’s The Australian newspaper. One reported that the RAAF had cut the flying hours of our 33 F-35s by 36%, from 8,204 to 5,205 hours per year, while the operating cost for the whole fleet remained much the same at $258 million per annum.

It means that the hourly operating cost had risen from A$32,545 to A$49,568 which converts to US$24,409/hour and US$37,176/hour respectively. It seems that reality has caught up with the RAAF. The F-35 has been costing US$44,000/hour in US service … A$32,545/hour was a dream number provided by Lockheed Martin which our RAAF swallowed. Now the RAAF is confessing that the real number is 52% higher.

The way it works in places like the RAAF is that the annual budget remains the same so the flying hours get reduced, in this case from 20 hours/month to 13 hours/month. Pilots need 20 hours/month to maintain proficiency. As shown by recent USAF results, when flying hours drop below 20/month the accident rate rises.

Bad news for our pilots — they will be flying an undefended light bomber into combat and not even be proficient in operating it.

In the second article, Robert Gottliebsen continues to point out the deficiencies of the F-35, including the fact that its normal operating altitude is 30,000 feet lower than the Chicom and Russian stealth fighters, the J-20 and Su-57 respectively. In combat the F-35 will be fighting uphill against those two fighters. The faster and higher a fighter is flying, the greater the range of its radar-guided missiles which fly a ballistic arc towards their targets. This gives the Russian and the Chinese fighters the ability to fire at the F-35 and then turn around before the F-35 can fire back.



The F-35 is Australia’s biggest problem, because without a proper fighter aircraft we are defenceless. The USAF has relegated its F-35s to delivering cruise missiles to the edge of the combat area and then running away. The USAF is patching its F-35 problem by buying more F-15s and F-16s. The US Department of Defense signed a contract for 1,000 new F-16s with the initial batch at US$54.4 million per copy. No doubt we will be offered the F-16 too but Australia should turn it down because we can buy something a lot better at much the same price. …

The optimum solution to the F-35 problem remains the Gripen E from Saab in Sweden. The Gripen E has 80% of the combat effectiveness of the F-22 at a quarter of the capital cost and 15% of the hourly operating cost.

The standard for combat effectiveness is set by the F-22 which combat simulation modelling indicates will shoot down two Su-35s for each F-22 lost. The rate for the Gripen E is 1.6 Su-35s shot down for each Gripen E lost. Using Lanchester’s square law for relative effectiveness, it takes 1.5 Gripen Es to do what one F-22 can do. So the work that a force of 100 F-22s, costing US$20.5 billion, could do would be achieved by 150 Gripen Es costing US$8.4 billion.

Keeping out the Chinese virus will have been for nought if we cannot keep out the Chinese air force.