The procurement of around 100 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft – widely expected following a government review of air combat capabilities but confirmed in the May 2009 Defence White Paper – is to be augmented by a number of other key acquisitions. These will eventually include approximately seven new high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to complement the AP-3C replacement as well as new tactical transports to replace the DHC-4 Caribous that were finally retired at the end of 2009.
In May 2012, the Australian DoD announced spending cuts in the defence spending over the next four years leading to some programmes like the F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighters to be delayed. However, Defence Minister Smith confirmed that several projects that had been considered to be under threat will progress in the coming year. These include a new battlefield airlifter to replace the retired Caribou fleet and a decision on whether to upgrade 12 of the RAAF’s 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets to the EA-18G Growler electronic attack variant.
Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
Project AIR 6000 is expected to be Australia’s most expensive defence procurement to date, with up to AUD17 billion to be spent on procurement of 100 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft and potentially a further AUD20 billion in operational costs.
Despite early misgivings expressed by the Labour government, approval was announced in November 2009 for the Phase 2A acquisition of an initial batch of 14 JSF aircraft at an estimated cost of AUD3.2 billion. According to statements by Defence Minister Smith in November 2010, “Australia’s first two aircraft will be delivered in 2014 in the United States.” The next four are expected to be delivered in 2016 and the remaining eight to follow in 2017. However Australia’s DoD announced defence spending cuts in May 2012 and the acquisition of the initial tranche of 14 F-35s was delayed by two years until 2016-17.
Approval for a follow-on Phase 2B batch of 58 aircraft will be considered in 2012. With the first batch, this will be sufficient to equip three front-line squadrons and a training unit, with these squadrons planned to be operational by 2021. A subsequent Phase 2C acquisition to increase the total number to 100 (allowing creation of a fourth operational squadron) will be considered in conjunction with a decision on withdrawal of the F/A-18F Super Hornet from around 2020. The total expected cost for these additional 86 JSF aircraft will be AUD17 billion, as announced by the government in November 2010. At that time, the defence minister also said: “Operational costs for a total fleet of about 100 aircraft would be in the order of AUD20 billion over a 30-year life based on the currently expected rate of effort and assuming the economies of scale of an eventual all Joint Strike Fighter fleet.”
In February 2010 then-defence Minister John Faulkner welcomed the restructuring of the JSF programme by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates to deal with cost and schedule issues, and said significant buffers had been built into the Australian JSF acquisition programme to deal with such factors. However, in July 2011, Defence Minister Smith stepped away from guaranteeing additional purchases of the F-35, stating that the project is starting to “rub against” the country’s ceilings for schedule and cost. The delay on the initial tranche of F-35 purchases will allow Australia to avoid taking delivery of the aircraft until its continuing development problems have been ironed out.
In early 2007, the government started a USD5.9 billion (AUD6.6 billion) procurement programme of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft as a ‘bridging’ air combat capability to cover the gap left by retirement of the F-111. Following the delivery of the first five to Amberley in March 2010, a total of 20 were confirmed in-country by August 2011 and the RAAF took delivery of the remaining four were in October 2011, completing the formation of its first and sixth squadron. The first squadron of F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft achieved IOC in December 2010 and full operational capability is anticipated for December 2012.
A total of 12 of these Super Hornets incorporate wiring to enable a possible future upgrade to the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare configuration. The EA-18Gs would provide the RAAF with an entirely new tactical capability and a decision on the upgrade is expected to be made in 2012.
As part of the package, Australia will also receive the AIM-9X Sidewinder IR-homing air-to-air missile and two types of Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) – the AGM-154C (JSOW-C) and JSOW C-1. The RAAF ordered 50 JSOW-Cs in October 2007 as part of a larger USD617 million weapons package and the first JSOW-C weapon was delivered in September 2009. The first two test-drops of the JSOW-C weapon outside the US were conducted in late 2010, by a Super Hornet over the Woomera Test Range in South Australia. Both tests were successful, according to the DoD. Meanwhile, the JSOW C-1 is currently in production with deliveries due to begin in late 2011.
In August 2011, the Defence Minister announced that Australia would order more F/A-18F Super Hornets if there were further delays or problems with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme. He added that the DoD had advised him that Australia could wait until 2013 before making alternative arrangements to avoid a gap in the country’s air combat capability.
The RAAF took delivery of the last of 12 C-130J-30 Super Hercules medium transport aircraft from Lockheed Martin in late 2001 as part of a USD900 million (AUD1 billion) project. These aircraft replaced 12 elderly C-130Es.
The seven remaining C-130H aircraft are scheduled to be retired between 2013 and 2015, although some may be sold to Indonesia earlier than those dates. Initially, the RAAF intended to acquire two additional C-130J-30s, but the March 2011 decision to procure another Boeing C-17A Globemaster III reportedly obviated the need for more C-130J-30s.
C-17A Globemaster III
The reduction in the C-130 fleet takes account of the purchase of Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic lift aircraft. Four of these aircraft were acquired under Project AIR 8000 Phase 3 via the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme at a total cost of USD1.89 billion (AUD2.1 billion) including facilities and a training package. The first aircraft arrived in Australia in December 2006, with the fourth and last being delivered in March 2008. IOC was attained in September 2007.
The importance of these aircraft was reinforced during humanitarian missions in 2010-11, both in Australia, and during the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand. As a result, in April 2011, Australia confirmed that an order had been placed for a fifth C-17A in an FMS deal worth an estimated USD300 million (including four spare engines, training and logistics support). Delivery of this aircraft occurred in September 2011, at which time Australia announced it had issued a letter of request to the United States for a sixth aircraft under an FMS deal worth USD280 million. Delivery of the additional platform is expected in early 2013.
Phase 2 of Project AIR 8000 is concerned with acquisition of a replacement for the 13 DHC-4 Caribou withdrawn from service in November 2009. In May 2012, the Australian DoD decided to buy 10 Alenia C-27J Spartan tactical airlifters at a cost of AUD1.4 billion (USD1.5 billion). The first deliveries will take place in 2015 and initial operating capability is expected by the end of 2016. The purchase will be made though the US FMS programme and the cost will cover initial logistic support including training for aircrew and maintenance personnel.
The DoD dispatched a letter of request (LoR) to Alenia Aeronautica for the C-27J Spartan in October 2011, saying “defence analysis has confirmed that the C-27J Spartan is an aircraft that could meet Australia’s battlefield tactical airlift capability need.” The request, which was published in a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notification in December 2011, is for 10 aircraft, spare engines, defensive countermeasures, communications systems, training, support, and sustainment.
Alenia C-27J was selected over the EADS CASA C-295. Media reports in December 2011 quoted the head of the RAAF as saying that he did not want the C-295 as it cannot accommodate as many of the army’s vehicle types. The C-27J was also thought to be favoured by Australia due to its commonality with the C-130J.
As a temporary replacement following retirement of the Caribou, five King Air 350 aircraft have been leased from Hawker Pacific, augmented by the transfer of a further three examples from the army in November 2009.
Project AIR 5402 is replacing and enhancing RAAF air-to-air refuelling (AAR) capabilities through the purchase of five new generation Airbus KC-30A (A330) Multirole Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft for service with No. 33 Squadron at RAAF Amberley, Queensland. The new aircraft are to have a secondary role of strategic airlift and will be capable of refuelling fighter, strike and AEW&C aircraft. The RAAF took delivery of four aircraft in 2011, and the fifth was expected to be delivered in 2012.
Under the terms of the AUD1.4 billion contract, signed in December 2004, the first KC-30A was scheduled to enter service in early 2008, following completion of testing in Australia and military type certification. However, the programme has suffered from repeated delays and the first Airbus A330 destined for the RAAF only arrived at Brisbane on 1 June 2008 before being formally inducted into the KC-30A conversion facility five days later. This aircraft was the first of four A330s to be modified by Qantas Defence Services (QDS) in Australia. A fifth example (actually the first KC-30A) was flown for the first time on 15 June 2007 after being converted to tanker-transport configuration by EADS CASA at Getafe in Spain.
The MRTT programme is now more than two years behind schedule and has been placed on the government’s so-called Projects of Concern list. Moreover, Jane’s learned in March 2011 that significant contractual difficulties were holding up delivery of the first two aircraft. According to Jane’s source’s, the aircraft had been ready for delivery from Airbus Military since January 2011 but remained at the company’s facility at Getafe near Madrid because the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) was unhappy with the size of the envelope within which the air-to-air refuelling boom moved when extended. They also said the DMO was unhappy with the quality and timeliness of KC-30A technical publications. Moreover, in late March 2011, a DoD spokesperson confirmed that the Spanish military certification agency INTA had withdrawn its technical certificate for the boom, following what it described as a serious incident in January 2011 when the boom separated from an RAAF KC-30A and was lost at sea during a training flight with Portuguese Lockheed Martin F-16s. The KC-30A was being flown at the time by Airbus Military. In response, an Airbus Military spokesperson told Jane’s: “As is only natural after any incident, and in order to continuously improve our products, some lessons were learned from the January incident. Some minor modifications were defined and will be implemented prior to delivery.” It later described the incident as “of an operational nature” – generally taken to mean human error.
Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C)
In mid-2000, Australia selected Boeing as the preferred tenderer to supply four AEW&C aircraft under Project Wedgetail. The aircraft are based on the Boeing 737-700/800 series with a Northrop Grumman Multirole Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar fitted in a longitudinal housing running along the top of the fuselage.
In the May 2004-05 budget, the government exercised its option to add two further aircraft to its original purchase. The first two aircraft were scheduled for delivery in late 2006 with the balance to follow by 2008 but integration issues, shortfalls in radar performance and delays in development of the Electronic Support Measures (ESM) suite by BAE Systems Australia have put the USD3.5 billion (AUD3.9 billion) programme years behind schedule.
The first two aircraft received initial acceptance by the RAAF in early May 2010, although the ESM had yet to be fitted. The third and fourth aircraft received initial acceptance later in 2010. The fifth aircraft – the first with fully mission-capable ESM – was to have been delivered in late 2010 but will now be handed over in the second half of 2011. The sixth platform will be delivered towards the end of 2011 and final acceptance for all six aircraft will occur in the first quarter of 2012.
In January 2010, Boeing was awarded an USD736 million (AUD800 million) five-year in-service support contract for the Wedgetail programme. Warren King, general manager programmes of the Defence Materiel Organisation, said the performance-based support contract included provisions for development work to continue on the MESA radar.
Deferral of Project AIR 7000 Phase 1 (to acquire unmanned aerial vehicles) has not affected Project AIR 7000 Phase 2 which seeks to replace the RAAF’s ageing fleet of AP-3C Orions that are due to retire in 2018. Acquisition of eight new maritime patrol aircraft will cost around USD4.5 billion (AUD5 billion) and is expected to be approved around 2014-15 to achieve an IOC during 2017-19.
In May 2009 it was announced that the Australian DoD had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the USN to jointly develop the Boeing P-8A Poseidon multimission maritime aircraft (MMA). Australia joined the USN’s P-8A development effort and received ‘first pass’ approval in June 2007 together with funding of AUD150 million.
Under project AIR 7000 Phase 2, Australia plans to procure the eight new maritime patrol aircraft. The project received ‘intermediate pass’ together with a DoD approval for AUD100 million (USD100.8 million) on 13 December 2011.
Under Project Echidna (AIR 5416), a number of ADF combat and support aircraft were to receive an Electronic Warfare Self-Protection (EWSP) suite to improve survivability in high threat environments. In September 2009 the government announced a reduced scope for Air 5416 Phase 2, which was to have provided EWSP for ADF helicopters. Modifications were to be completed on 12 Black Hawks by mid-2010 to provide a basic level of self- protection but work would be discontinued on a more advanced equipment suite including the Australian developed ALR-2002 radar warning receiver.
Phases 4B1 and 4B2 of Project Echidna will see the RAAF’s C-130Js equipped with the US baseline equipment of AN/ALR-56M RWR and a Large Aircraft IR Counter-Measures (LAIRCM) set – based on Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-24(V) Nemesis DIRCM system. The same fit equips the RAAF’s C-17A strategic transports and six Wedgetail AEW&C platforms and will also be installed on the five KC-30A multi-role tanker-transports.
Under the separate Hornet Upgrade Programme (HUG) Phase 2.3, the RAAF’s 71 F/A/-18A/Bs had received the AN/ALR-67(V)3 RWR, additional pylon-mounted chaff and flare dispensers, and the EL-L-3222 radar jammer pod by late 2009.
Project AIR 7000 Phase 1B had sought to acquire a fleet of High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial systems for maritime patrol and other surveillance missions. The fleet was scheduled to enter service between 2009 and 2011 at a cost of up to USD1.2 billion (AUD1.5 billion). The most likely candidate was thought to be Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV. However, in March 2009, the phase was deferred and approval for a HALE capability will not now be sought until sometime after 2019. Consistent with this, in March 2009, the Australian DoD announced that Australia would not join the development phase of the USN’s broad-area maritime surveillance (BAMS) programme in which the RQ-4N Global Hawk is intended to complement the P-8A.
Consideration has also been given to the acquisition of a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (TUAV). At one point, it looked as if this would result in procurement of the Boeing I-View 250, for which a contract valued at USD113 million (AUD145 million) had been concluded with the US aerospace company. Boeing had teamed with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to satisfy this requirement, but the contract was eventually terminated in September 2008 as a consequence of what the DoD said in a statement was “unacceptable delays” in delivery. At the time, Jane’s sources said that the DoD would look to replace the Boeing/IAI programme with a system that would require fewer design modifications.
This appears to have culminated in Project Nankeen, in which the IAI Heron UAV system was leased from MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, while a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was concluded with Canada for assistance. This included the training of RAAF personnel, which began in July 2009. The first Heron was handed over in Israel in early December 2009 and subsequently deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan on 18 December. Formal acceptance by Australia followed in late January 2010, allowing operational deployment of a total of three airframes to commence by the end of that month.
In July 2010, the lease arrangement was extended to permit a second year of operations, scheduled to conclude in December 2011. Ahead of that deadline, in July 2011 a further extension was granted to permit a third year of UAV surveillance using the leased Herons. The contract will now end in December 2012.
The Australian DoD announced in January 2009 that it had signed an agreement with Boeing Australia to resolve “long-standing commercial issues” associated with Project Vigilare, a replacement for the RAAF’s air defence and control system. The USD210 million (AUD270 million) programme – Project AIR 5333 – consists of data processing and voice communications software and hardware intended to receive, process and fuse a mass of information from a variety of Australian and allied networks and systems. These include civil and military air traffic control radars and Link 11 and Link 16 tactical data networks, together with inputs from specialised data sources such as the Jindalee Over-The-Horizon Radar Network (JORN), Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft, and the RAN’s future Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs). Designed with future growth in mind, Vigilare will also be capable of accepting, and using as required, developments in satellite and UAV imagery, electronic intelligence (ELINT), space-based infra-red systems, signals intelligence (SIGINT) plus a range of other data and voice intelligence inputs.
The system will fuse this material to help compile the ADF’s Recognised Air Picture (RAP) across Australia’s area of interest, which stretches from the mid-Indian Ocean to the western Pacific.
The programme was originally scheduled to be completed in 2003. The critical design review was successfully completed in July 2008 and in February 2010 Boeing Australia said the system would undergo operational testing in mid-year before being handed over to the Commonwealth. It was eventually commissioned into service in September 2010, allowing the legacy Warden system to be decommissioned on the same day.
Concurrent with the acquisition of the JSF, Phases 3 and 5 of Project AIR 6000 will acquire reserve stock holdings of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons for the JSF and Super Hornet. The estimated cost for both Phase 3 and 5 is USD672 million (AUD750 million).
In February 2006 the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) was selected as the new long-range air-to-surface weapon for the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B fleet at a cost of up to USD405 million (AUD450 million). Australia received its first JASSM test units in March 2007 and was initially expected to declare an IOC for the system in late 2009. However, there have been delays to the programme and the first live release of the JASSM from a RAAF F/A-18A/B took place in July 2011; it is not yet known if this has taken place and a revised IOC announcement is still awaited. The JASSM was to cover the gap in strike capability left by the retirement of the F-111C in 2010. However, as a result of delays and “risks to capability” with the weapon’s acquisition, the DoD added the programme to its ‘Projects of Concern’ list in November 2010. The programme was removed from the list in December 2011.
Phases 3 and 5 of Project AIR 6000 will acquire reserve stock holdings of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons for the JSF and Super Hornet. The anticipated cost for of each phase is toward the lower end of a USD450 million – USD1.35 billion (AUD500 million – USD1.5 billion) range, with IOC anticipated between 2017 and 2020.
Joint Direct Attack Munition
Under Project JP 3027 Phase 1, the performance of the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) weapons employed by the RAAF will be enhanced. Options include range extension wing kits, improved guidance and enhanced warheads. The project is expected to cost in the region of USD67 million (AUD75 million) and, pending government approval around 2011, should deliver an IOC between 2012 and 2014.
In June 2011, Australia approached the United States for permission to procure Raytheon air-to-air missiles to equip the Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet of Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets. The potential deal, to be progressed under the US FMS mechanism, calls for the provision of up to 110 AIM-120C-7 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, air training missiles and associated equipment and services. The DSCA said the deal is estimated to cost USD202 million.
Source : Jane’s.com