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Australian Super Hornet purchase under a Parlimentary inquiry cloud.

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posted on Aug, 21 2007 @ 08:28 AM
Well its a good thing I am not usually a betting man as, if I had bet against Westy's idea of the ADF operating FA-18's off carriers down the track, I might have had to pay up! Damn Westpoint, your good. This surprising story turned up in "The Australian" today. Note that the plan is discussed openly in a press briefing by the USN and the first pilot to be trained is named, but the defence minister when asked about it, denies that it will happen. Either the USN has lost it marbles or our defence minister is quickly trying to prove how clueless or out of the loop he is in an election year.

As for the Labour party being soft on the idea of carrier capabillity and defence in general. Traditionally (WWI & WWII excepted) this has been the case but things are changing. Remember in the last few years they have actively called for the F-111 to be retained and heavily upgraded as a strategic deterent. And they have made no secret that they would persue the F-22 in place of the F-35. Given how many navies in Asia either allready have carriers, are obtaining them now, or are planning to do so in the next few years, selling this idea to the ALP party base, and the region may turn out to be more likely than we might think.


[edit on 21-8-2007 by thebozeian]

posted on Aug, 21 2007 @ 09:01 AM

Asked to clarify RAAF Super Hornet training, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said yesterday: "There is no plan for RAAF pilots to undertake training in aircraft carrier landings."

The official government line contradicts briefings provided to The Australian by senior US military officials at Lemoore Naval Air Station in California that other RAAF "Top Gun" instructor pilots are expected to follow Flight Lieutenant Haly and be provided with carrier training.

thats like saying just becuase an RAF pilot is trained on the F-22 , then the RAF will get them and all pilots will be trained.... its called cross training and alot of forces do it.


read some of the other stuff they put there - golly gosh they come up with some serious crap and make up things.

so an `unamed US offical` claims the british forces in iraq have allready been defeated then...

[edit on 21/8/07 by Harlequin]

posted on Aug, 21 2007 @ 12:11 PM
Well thebozeian,

That puts an interesting spin on the purchase!

If the Minister who supposedly sanctioned the purchase isn't in the loop, then exactly who (other than Westy - interesting in itself) does know what's going on here?

Westy, I'll take it that you made an educated guess on that one, shall I?

The Winged Wombat

PS - I was aware that the Right is the new Left, but I was unaware that it was that far Right. Interesting how that will be sold to the Labor power base.

[edit on 21/8/07 by The Winged Wombat]

posted on Aug, 21 2007 @ 05:37 PM
Hornet pilots on exchange to the USN and USMC haven't traditionally got a carrier landing qualification. They do land based arrested landings, but as the exchange officers don't deploy to sea, there was no need to actually spend the time and effort getting the carrier qual. So I guess people can draw their own conclusions from that. And as the article states, it is the "Top Gun" pilots (which is a Fighter Combat Instructor (FCI) in Aussie speak) that will get the training. It never hurts to have your instructor cadre trained in an area that may be useful in the future, even if you don't have immediate plans to get an indigenous capability. Kinda like future-proofing I guess.

I don't think anyone can draw a connection between the Super Bug purchase and Australia getting an aircraft carrier. It isn't in the current Defence Capability Plan (DCP - then again neither was the Super Hornet!), and the costs (both in terms of money and capability requirements) are astronomical for a carrier. Hell, the RAN is struggling to man their current fleet. In the time frame we are talking about, I can't see a carrier enter service for use by the F/A-18Fs before the JSF achieves IOC in Australia, even with slippages in timelines. That said, the simple experience of carrier life, wing organisation, logistic and maintenance requirements, and so on, would be useful knowledge if we ever wanted to take JSF to sea...

posted on Aug, 21 2007 @ 09:56 PM
They need to stop wasting there money on buying interim planes, especially hornets. Wait for the far superior F-35s... and buy loads of them.

[edit on 21-8-2007 by C0bzz]

posted on Aug, 21 2007 @ 11:24 PM
Hi all,
Have been following this thread with interest while trying to get my login problems sorted.
Being a F111 maintainer I obviously have a vested interest in what's happening in the RAAF at the moment. The information I have received so far is that various aircraft including the F-15K variants were actually considered (even if it wasn't via the usual methods of appraisal) but the US plan doesn't see that production line continuing for any length of time.
We didn't want the current problems of being the only country operating the type as has happened with the pig.
Now I know that plenty of other countries fly F15's in various forms but that is what we were told. In no way do I want anyone to think that because I was told this I believe it is COMPLETELY true and the only story available.

I'm a firm believer in the facts that the F111 is a fantastic plane and trying to find another airframe that will complete it's chosen task would be almost impossible. However age and cost of repair also have to figure into the equation when looking at the big picture.
Long story short, It's beginning to cost a lot more $ per flying hours than it did before!
Do I think the Super Hornet is the best choice for interim aircraft? Maybe
Do I think we will need an interim aircraft because the F-35 will probably suffer from more delays? Yes

Personally I feel the current government is trying to cover Australia's collective ass incase the same thing happens with delivery of F35's as delivery of the F111 e.g. extensive delays from unforseen airframe problems when buying aircraft that were very early in the production phase.

That's not to say they made all the decisions by the book.
Look at the C17 purchase, it was made quick smart and it turned out to be a good decision in the public eye. I figure they decided that the average joe wants the government to make decisions, not spend a couple of million bucks deciding on whether a decision should be made or not.

Cheers Watto

posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 02:10 AM
just buy the ex-RAF tornado F-3`s , long range BARCAP A2A and A2G capability and cheaper than brand new F-18`s

posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 04:30 AM
All this carrier talk has got me feeling all tingly!

True, Asian countries are actively pursuing carrier-based navies, namely India and Thailand while China a probable third.

So why don't the Aussies get the F-35B for possible carrier ops in the future?

And I've said this before, how can an Island-Nation not have a carrier force?

posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 08:24 AM
i cannot see why we don't design/build our own aircraft instead of importing the american crap.

at least that way some of our tax dollars will be going back into the local economy.

posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 08:42 AM
Well Harlequin, it may be crap reporting but there is no denying that the ministers office said the following today in complete contradiction of what he said 24 hours earlier,

"A spokesman for Defence Minister Dr Brendan Nelson yesterday confirmed US aircraft carrier training is on offer for RAAF fast jet pilots transitioning from F/A-18C Classic Hornets to the new F/A-18F Super Hornet, 24 of which are on order for a cost of $6 billion."
So it would seem that he is indeed clueless and out of the loop.

Yes Wombat for the ALP the times are a changin. Given that the union influence has waned and economic growth is booming, it's either change or die.

Willard856, it's good to have you back. Your point on Hornet exchange pilots not usually receiving this kind of training is interesting. While it may be usefull to know it serves no reall point... unless you plan on acquiring a carrier. It probably won't happen in the short term, and there is little likelyhood of the RAN getting a flatop that can handle FA-18F's, but it could well be a prelude to a purchase of the F-35B in the next 10 or so years.

Welcome watto,
Your experience and first hand account will be appreciated I'm sure. As for the F-15, it is in no way obsolete and there are good prospects for sales and upgrades in the next few years. Indeed it is possible that any further delays in the F-35 would see further USAF sales. I realise you are sceptical of the claims made to you about this but to expand on the following comment

We didn't want the current problems of being the only country operating the type as has happened with the pig.
The report on the F-111 by ANAO in March confirmed that the excuses surrounding the F-111 are in a word, CRAP. Read ANAO report for more information. If anything we stand to loose an independant industrial base capacity and a unique strategic asset so some bureaucrats can cover their snivelling incompetent arses. As for the Australian government covering it's arse, they could have done this more effectively if they had poured half the money they are wasting on the Super Hornets into rebuilding the F-111. Concurrently they should have begun seriously "pressing the flesh in Washington" to garner support for selling the F-22 (this in addition to a "proper" evaluation of the actual needs and all possible contender systems would need to be done).

As for the C-17 purchase, it was the right decision made the wrong way. I have no doubt that the ADF needed this capabillity, and it is indeed impressive that the time frame from deciding to order to receiving first of type was so small, but no proper study or paper need was identified. This is in direct contravention of the governments own rules on acquisition programs.

Anyway, welcome to ATS watto, we look forward to hearing from you in the future. And feel free to run a search on other F-111 related threads and add anything you feel relevant.


posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 08:57 AM
the `Vark is ideally suited to the needs of RAAF - and they really should be actively looking at purchasing the bone yard airframes for spares / attrition replacements than buying a squadron of super bugs.

posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 09:08 AM
reply to post by Harlequin
I absolutely and totaly agree Harlequin it's logical and relevant. However we are not politicians because we have commonsense, so the dumb decision will stand.


posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 09:10 AM

Originally posted by The Winged Wombat
Westy, I'll take it that you made an educated guess on that one, shall I?

Yes I did. I figured that if the Aussies insist on decommissioning the Pig why not go for the recommended "replacement" suggested by the US Air Force, the Strike Eagle. Unless of course Australia was thinking long term and strategic. Perhaps it wanted to replace one means of power projection (i.e. long range strike aircraft a la F-111) by another (i.e. carrier based operations with the Super Hornets). The latter offers much more global capability and gives Australia a naval (fixed wing) air arm once again... Now sure the prospect of the F-35B crossed my mind but that would be too blatant a move. Australia has no need for the F-35B unless it was considering conducting operations from sea, this would be a dead give away with the Canberra class. With the Super Hornet they still get a modern and very capable naval aircraft while making prospects of a carrier seem less likely. They can always play the familiarity card, classic Hornet, and the "interim" solution proposal. I was not aware that RAF pilots had begun receiving carrier training, a most interesting development. Also, the fact that the RAF wanted an identical version of the USN's Rhinos stuck out to me...

Far fetched plan? Perhaps, but the RAN is already planning to acquire large amphibious assault ships...

posted on Aug, 22 2007 @ 10:48 AM

I was just having a bit of a dig. The timing of your comments and the news release might have indicated that you had been sitting in the bar with a certain RAAF pilot discussing his forthcoming carrier training.

It is also interesting that the news item presented by thebozeian of the Minister's statement today, doesn't confine the training to the FCIs (or "Top Guns") but apparently to all who convert to the type. Now unless this is a free lunch (and we all know there is no such thing as a free lunch) then there has to be a purpose for this (this always assumes that we believe politicians do things for a logical purpose - debatable).

Certainly the obvious is to prepare pilots for a forthcoming carrier purchase (anyone know of a particular carrier that might come up for sale shortly?). We are in a unique position in our naval history at the moment in that we don't have anyone in the services who has carrier experience, so if such a purchase was anticipated it would make a lot of sense.

Without a carrier, the retirement of the F-111 in favour of the SH (or indeed the F-35) is likely to result in a shortfall in force projection capability (I'm not sure of the HI-LO-LO-HI unrefuelled range v warload here). Thus more evidence of the need for a carrier. I am also of the belief that F-111 pilots currently go through the same preparatory course with the PC-9 lead-up squadrons (or whatever they call them these days) at Williamtown before going onto the Pig (can someone confirm this is still the case?). If so they are already trained in fighter tactics.

This leads to another possibility, although probably less likely. That might be a squadron of Australian SH's operating from a US carrier as some future 'coalition' contribution. I think this very unlikely, however, simply because it would mean removing half our long range strike force from home. What makes this even more unlikely is that your ships are alcohol free - not something out lads are used to
Alternatively, and probably more likely, it could indicate a much higher than usual rate of exchange pilot postings between the RAAF and the USN.

I don't believe that either government would entertain the expense of training two squadrons of pilots just for the sake of participation in exercises, merely to keep their carrier qualifications current.... (How many traps / how often to remain current, Westy?)

Regarding the F-35B. Well we are in the program (for the A version) so if a carrier purchase was to happen, and since we are buying the SH's rather than leasing them.... now let's see.... IF the USN was to buy them back from us when the F-35As arrive.... Hmmmmm then we would have nothing to operate from the carrier, would we. How interesting. Putting 2+2+2 together, perhaps that was the original plan! Gee we might have to keep the SHs for a few years just to make it look legit though.

The Winged Wombat

[edit on 22/8/07 by The Winged Wombat]

posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 09:01 AM
Wombat my understanding is that most, if not all fixed wing pilots pass through the PC-9. Im pretty sure this is conducted at RAAF Pearce though. Then all fast jet candidates move onto the Hawk LIF at Williamtown (and possibly Pearce?), Willard856 could probably answer this one better than I can though.

As for carriers, Super Hornets and F-35B's, it will indeed be interesting to see what happens to the Rhino's in ten years time. Will they remain in inventory or go the way that the RAAF's F-4E's did in the 70's? Keeping them on strength would seem like an unnecessary duplication given that both it and the F-35 are swing role aircraft with about the same range and fill broadly simmilar roles. I seriously can't see how they would be operated off an RAN carrier (unless my aforementioned idea on one beeing built materializes in a decade or so), but why train our FA-18F pilots if this is not the case? There is absolutely NO way that the RAN would take delivery of ex USN conventional carriers, even if there are a number of them now available. Unless the US would be willing to supply the crews AND fund the operating costs, that idea is not feasible. Just one Forrestal type would require manpower equivalent to about half of the RAN's entire strength! The only other option is that we take delivery (30 years late) of a recently retired RN Invincible class. But again, what could we operate off them until (or if?) the F-35B comes along? Are there any Sea Harriers still in an airworthy enough condition? Because the Invincible's dont have steam catapult's or angled decks you can't operate conventional aircraft like the FA-18F and I doubt it would be worth retrofitting them, the cost would be astronomical. This only leaves retired USMC assault ships like the Tarawa class, again because they follow USN manning philosophy out of the question, and again only capable of operating Harrier type aircraft until the F-35B comes along.

No this whole carrier training thing is very puzzling. Given the enormous cost increase of the projected Ford class super carriers Could the USN be quietly taking another look at the idea of operating mini carriers in the 20-50,000t bracket with high automation and low manning requirements? Maybe the ADF are in the loop and expressing interest?


posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 09:27 AM
theres a squadron of 10 year old Harrier F/A-2`s available with Invincible - the youngest was built in 1999 and has hardly any flight time.

SO that option is feasable - unless they want a conventional ex-USN carrier by the back door.

[edit on 23/8/07 by Harlequin]

posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 10:11 AM
Oh god you market that Invincible everywhere!

posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 11:44 AM
Thanks Lee,

Back in the Macchi days, all F-111 jocks went through the LIF course, but I wasn't sure if that was still the case.

The carrier scenario just doesn't make any sense. We can't afford a carrier that could launch the SH and if we went for a VTOL type then the USN carrier qualifications would be a total waste of time. Maybe it is a free lunch!

Perhaps they are planning on rotating half a squadron of SH pilots at a time through an exchange scheme with the USN, to form a cadre of pilots with sea time (a new FAA) for if/when we buy a small carrier and F-35B. But then the SH's become redundant with only a remote possibility of selling them back to the USN, who would presumably be retiring theirs in favour of F-35B.

Harlequin, we are already buying the Super Hornet as an interim replacement for the F-111, and currently trying to figure out why the pilots to be converted onto the type will be carrier qualified, so its not a matter of buying another type. We are trying to figure out just where the carrier qualifications lead when we don't have a carrier to operate the aircraft.

The Winged Wombat

[edit on 23/8/07 by The Winged Wombat]

posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 11:53 AM

Originally posted by Daedalus3
Oh god you market that Invincible everywhere!

she`s too new really and has alot of life in her to be cut up - india allready fly the harrier so is really logical anyway - and RAN were due to buy her before the falklands

[edit on 23/8/07 by Harlequin]

posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 12:04 PM

Originally posted by The Winged Wombat
(How many traps / how often to remain current, Westy?)

From what I'm told you need 10 day traps in a T-45 trainer for initial qualification. Then depending on the aircraft you're assigned you do day traps and perhaps night traps (only if you aircraft is carrier based) again to qualify. If you are based on a squadron that typically deploys you do more day and night traps than one primarily based shore. The number it takes to remain current again depends on you situation. However in this case I think the RAF pilots would need to perform at least 10 day traps and 10 night traps to remain current after qualifying.

The Ford class topic...

The Ford class is not really too expensive for a next generation super carrier. The first ship (CVN-78) will be expensive because the RD is factored in and because she is the first, however subsequent ships will be lower in price. This also does not factor in the lifetime reduction in cost due to a smaller crew and a very configurable design. In any case the USN is still interested in keeping at lest ten super carriers given the new naval challenges that are likely to emerge in the coming decades.

The role of "escort carrier" however is being revived, sort of. The New LHA-6 class (replacing the Tarawa) has a displacement of 50,000 t and an ability to carry 38+ AC. It is seen as a small carrier able to support air and amphibious operations, the first one is scheduled to be delivered in 2013.

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