Australian defence: Avoiding JSF, sub blunders is the best strategy

Australian defence: Avoiding JSF, sub blunders is the best strategy. By Robert Gottliebsen.

Australia’s massive defence equipment blunders, led by the Joint Strike Fighter/F35, the French submarine and the British frigate, were all caused by the same flaw in our defence equipment purchasing systems and talents.

Defence Minister Richard Marles blames coalition governments for past mistakes and does not isolate the JSF and Frigate errors. Politically that makes sense, but in reality the ALP would almost certainly have made the same mistakes unless they woke up to the underlying public service weaknesses. …

The JSF, submarine and Frigate purchases involved three different governments (the US, France and the UK) and three different suppliers.

In each case, Australia was buying equipment at the design stage and the three suppliers sold the likely final product to our defence chiefs using claims that turned out to be false and misleading.

At the same time, the three governments involved put pressure on our politicians.

The defence chiefs simply didn’t have the ability to determine that the sales pitch was hogwash and to make sure there was a clear exit path if the design disappointed. …


In the case of the Frigate, the design could not take both the American combat system and our radar so instead of exiting, it was redesigned at our cost to create what will be the most expensive Frigate ever built in the world. …

F-35 fighter:

In the JSF/F-35, Lockheed Martin, backed by the US government, told us they would design an aircraft that would maintain air superiority in the region and would have a combat radius of at least 690 nautical miles. …

At the time, Australian Flight Test Services was among the nation’s top defence aircraft testing organisations. A team of its experts pored over the JSF proposal and told government defence officials it was one of the worst designs ever considered to be put into production.

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla. May 2013

The Flying iPhone: great computer, poor aircraft

Instead of a combat radius of 690 nautical miles, the JSF would be much less than 490 nautical miles and its combat altitude would be limited to 30,000 feet whereas its opponents would be combat-ready above 50,000 feet. …


In the case of the submarine, the error was evident on the day the contract was announced. Then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced one contract and the French, at the same time, announced a very different arrangement.

The French never intended to build what we had been offered, so the costs ballooned dramatically.

Thankfully, the last coalition defence Minister Peter Dutton had the courage to cancel the contract. …

Is Australia about to make the same mistake yet again?

Fast-forward to 2023, once again among the proposals is a submarine — this time nuclear — and a so-called stealth bomber, which are both in the design stage and like the previous decisions, it is unlikely we have the capacity to evaluate those designs.

In addition, we do not have detailed knowledge of what the Chinese are planning. …

The Chinese are developing a detection system to locate nuclear submarines in deep water and next year, they will launch a stealth bomber that shows every sign of being superior to the one the US are designing.

Does Australia [even] need an attacking bomber?

The days of expensive manned platforms is passing. As AI improves, drones and missiles become much more cost effective.

For example, for $30bn we could buy 12 (twelve) of the new B21 bombers — or we could buy  3,000 missiles or sophisticated drones at $10 million apiece. Or countless cheap drones, like the Iranian ones bombarding Kiev. What if the twelve bombers get shot down, or air defenses make them unable to strike, or maintenance problems mean half of them are grounded?

Notice that Russia is attacking Ukrainian infrastructure with cheap drones and missiles, not its expensive fighter/bomber aircraft.