Letter to the Australian Minister for Defence on the F-35
by David Archibald
30 April 2021
Dear Minister Dutton,
Friends of mine have sent me copies of correspondence received from the Department of Defence with respect to the F-35:
MC21-000942 Air Vice-Marshall CJ Roberts to Mr Bill Bishop
MC21-001014 Andrew Hastie to Mr Michael Flanagan
The purpose of this letter is to provide some further information and clarification on the F-35.
The letter to Mr Flanagan states that:
The Department of Defence is not aware of any plans by the United States Air Force to reduce its order of F-35 aircraft from 1763 to 1050 despite ongoing media reports and commentary.
The Department of Defence may not be aware of any reduction in the USAF order for F-35s, but that does not mean that it is not planned or going to happen. From an Australian in Washington with a high level clearance:
The F-16V is not set to replace the F-35. Quite the contrary; they are coming in to supplement it because the F-35A cannot do the job. But additional F-15EX are also being delivered to the USAF for the same reason.
The F-35’s procurement will not expand to the levels originally considered, which is why the F-16V/F-15EX input is occurring while the USAF goes to a next-gen fighter. It has been a staggering failure for the USAF.
The letter to Mr Bishop contains the sentence:
The F-35A, along with the F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler ensure Australia maintains its Air Combat edge.
On the contrary. Lt. Gen. Clint Hinote, USAF deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, said of recent war game simulations:
F-35 attacked Chinese surface ships and ground targets, protected American and Taiwanese assets from Chinese aircraft, and provided cruise missile defense during the exercise. But “it’s not the one that’s pushing all the way in [Chinese airspace], or even over China’s territory.”
That role for the F-35 is consistent with the role assigned by the USAF’s Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability office for the F-35 in future combat. As reported by Aviation Week:
By the end of 2018, the AFWIC’s team of analysts had adopted a new fighter road map, according to a source. The road map envisioned a “great power” war.
The principal role for each F-35A was to launch two stealthy cruise missiles — Lockheed AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM) — from just inside defended airspace.
To be clear, the USAF intends to use the F-35 as a light bomber because it would not survive as an air superiority fighter. It follows that the F-35 will not survive as an air superiority fighter for the RAAF either.
On top of that, the F-35 is proving to be flaky in service. There are reports that RAAF F-35s in the Northern Territory refuse to start if their fuel is too hot, because the aircraft uses fuel as its coolant. An F-35 landing at an airfield in northern Australia would soak heat from the tarmac and potentially not be able to take off again.
At Luke AFB in Arizona, F-35s have been aborting their take-offs because their computers were crashing as they were heading down the runway.
To get back to the main problem, Australia needs an air superiority fighter and the F-35 is not a fighter. My research points to the Saab Gripen-E as being the most cost-effective solution for Australia at this point in time.
Our nation faces an imminent threat from China. Without effective air cover, our forces will be operating at a great disadvantage. We risk a repeat of what happened in WW2, in which a great number of RAAF Wirraways were shot down by Japanese Zeros; only one Zero was shot down by a Wirraway.
I would be quite happy to give you a presentation on fighter aircraft design considerations and operating principles that would help inform your decision-making. In the interim I commend to you a book I wrote on the F-35, American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare, the pdf of which is attached to this email.
On another matter, you will also be dealing with the Brereton Report. That report is laughable because of the ridiculous claims it made — including that there were Afghan villages in which all the men and boys had been slaughtered by Australian special forces, but the report was unable to name a single such village. I wrote that up here; a pdf is also attached.