posted on Oct, 8 2004 @ 08:13 PM
There is a lot to be said for the arguement that while the present airframes are tired, the design is not.
There is some madness or disease that make politicians, technogeeks and staff officers go wide eyed, kneewobbly and pants wetting when someone offers
an totally clean sheet design with all the bells and whistles and lights.
Yet ask them for replacement airframes of a proven design with the latest kit fitted to them to perform the same role effectively at a lower unit cost
and they show absolutely no interest.
My wife calls it pe...stature envy....when my short arsed mate traded his little $15,000 Suzuki 4x4 for a $60,000 SUV to do the same job.
F- 14, F-15, F-16, F-18, Harrier II, F-111. These are all good Airframes. With modifications they could take all new systems from radars to engines
to new skinning, and all keep on performing the roles F-22 and F-35 do. The difference is they are proven, affordable in greater numbers.
My big issue has always been no matter how big, well armed and hi tech th new planes and ships are, say 220 Raptors can not be deployed to as many
locations or cover as many fronts (Norad, ME, Europe, Asia) as 650 F-15s fitted out with similar systems. This win one hold one idea is crud. So the
guys holding one have to take higher casualties while the thier mates win the other because the Government is cheap?
And you do lose capacity. I know the USAF doesnt deploy F-111 anymore, but then they have a layer above the Aaardvark in the form of B-52s, B-1Bs and
B-2s which can cover that gap.
The RAAF sole operator of 30 odd F-111s doesnt. We had an achievable scheme supported by industry where ours (plus some stored airframes in the US we
wanted) could be stripped and totally refitted to produce a Super Cruising F-111 with SOWs and BVRs, extending its useful service life beyond 2040
instead of 2020. But the F-35 lobby have convinced them to buy additional JSF and retire the F-111 in 2010. Provided the cost doesnt blow out or the
project get cancelled the JSF might be a good F-18 replacement if its not an overhyped lemon. But we will loose the F-111s radius-payload capability.
We are also getting far fewer (the higher the cost goes) F-35s. That might be okay for a US with a large inventory of supporting older airframes to
manage but for Australia with fewer than 100 combat aircraft to be replaced....50 or 60 airframes (if we are lucky) suck. And if we get it wrong is
the US going to give us our money back to try again?
Much like the USN is losing its F-14/Phoenix combination. My commiserations.