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Australia to Buy 24 F-18 Super Hornets

Published: Tue March 6th, 2007 via: www.minister.defence.gov.au

Australia is assured of maintaining its air combat capability edge with the Government's decision to acquire 24 F/A-18F Block II Super Hornet multi role aircraft. At a cost of approximately $6 billion over 10 years, the acquisition of the Super Hornet will ensure the transition to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter over the next decade. The acquisition will include 24 aircraft, initial support and upfront training for aircrew and maintenance personnel. The Howard Government has delivered solid economic management and Budget surpluses over a decade. We are now in a position to deliver this for Australia. The acquisition of the Super Hornets will be fully supplemented as part of the 2007/08 Budget process. The JSF is the most suitable aircraft for Australia’s future combat and strike needs. Australia remains fully committed to the JSF. But the Government is not prepared to accept any risk to air combat and strike capability during the transition to the JSF. The F/A-18F Super Hornet is a highly capable, battle proven, multi role aircraft that is currently in service with the US Navy through to 2030. The next generation Block II Super Hornets will provide a more flexible operational capability than currently exists with the F-111. Only last week Aviation Week reported “Supporters of the design say it will give the Block II Boeing built Navy aircraft a fifth-generation capability similar to that of the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Hornet’s electronic attack capabilities could become even more sophisticated with additional modifications.” – Aviation Week 26 February, 2007 It is anticipated that Australian personnel will begin Super Hornet training in the United States in 2009. The selection of the Super Hornet builds on the Royal Australian Air Force’s deep understanding of the current F/A-18 fleet. The Block II Super Hornet will provide Air Force with the flexibility to assign all air combat crew and technical personnel across a relatively common fleet during the transition to the JSF. The Super Hornet will be based at RAAF Base Amberley. Negotiations for commercial support arrangements will commence immediately. Defence is already engaged with Boeing and the United States Navy to ensure that the maximum potential of Australian Industry Involvement is achieved. Local Industry participation will be a key factor in developing the through life support concepts for the Super Hornets. The Australian Super Hornet program plans to contain local contractor owned and operated intermediate maintenance and training for aircrew and support personnel. Additionally, the supply chain infrastructure, warehousing and operation will be manned locally in support of both Australian and US Navy Super Hornets in the region. The selection of a next generation fighter allows for upskilling of the workforce. The Super Hornet brings a significant growth of capability within the support and supply chain, low observable materials (stealth), advanced sensors and IT. This will ensure that Australian industry is trained, qualified and has access to both USN and then JSF markets as they share common technologies. This in no way diminishes our commitment to the JSF Program subject to final Government approval in 2008. Current planning is for Australia to acquire its first JSF in 2013. There is no gap in Australia’s air combat capability and the Government is taking all necessary steps to ensure a gap does not emerge. Air combat capability is vital to defend the approaches to Australia and enables us to operate air power on deployment overseas. Our air combat forces are a key part of enhancing our land and maritime forces. This was most ably displayed by the combat performance of our F/A-18 squadron in Iraq in 2003. The Australian Government is committed to retaining the leading edge in air combat and the Block II Super Hornet will enable this through the next decade. The F-111 has been a stalwart aircraft at the centre of Australia's strike capability for over three decades. The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Shepherd, a pilot with around 2500 hours flying F-111’s, said it is important for Australia to retire the F-111 at a time of our choosing. This ensures that the men and women who operate them are not endangered through the risks of an aging platform. The withdrawal of the F-111 is expected in 2010 with the F/A-18F Super Hornets to be operational that same year. Many generations of Air Force personnel and Defence civilians will be sad to see the F-111 withdrawn from service in 2010. The Government acknowledges the tireless efforts and professionalism of personnel at Amberley who have maintained this vital element of Australia's Defence. The immense experience base from decades of F-111 service will boost the new air combat capability in the coming decade. Our nation is grateful to those who gave Australia this magnificent aircraft, those who have flown and maintained it and who will do so for a further three years. With the C-17 and KC-30B tanker refuelling aircraft also to be based out of Amberley, as well as the Wedgetail AEW&C support centre, the region is well placed to capitalise on these significant aerospace industry involvement opportunities. The Super Hornet provides Australia with the greatest capability enhancement and least risk option to ensure Australia’s capability edge. Broadcast quality vision of the F/A-18 Super Hornet will be sent to television networks at Parliament House.
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