Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced last week his Government will purchase new jet fighters to boost Australia’s air defence capability. Australia will spend $12. 4 billion for 58 Texan-built F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter jets.
Boasting the fighter planes’ capability, the prime minister gave some specs: a top speed of 1960km/h, fire air-to-air missiles, guided bombs and a cannon using the most sophisticated avionics and sensors.
F-35 is built on the premise that “it will see first, shoot first and kill first,” according to a phrase from a US Pentagon official in charge of their development.
Abbott said Australia is sure to dominate the skies when another war breaks out. “You just don’t know what’s around the corner,” he was quoted as saying.
He defended the decision by citing Australia’s past war-readiness and military capability such as the 1990 coup d’état in East Timor, the 1999 invasion of Iraq, and the decade-long military commitment in Afghanistan from 2002.
in a joint press release, the prime minister and the Minister for Defence said Australia will purchase the fifth generation F-35 which they said is the most advanced fighter ever made anywhere in the world. Both are confident F-35 will make a vital contribution to Australia’s national security.
Along with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains a regional air combat edge. The F-35 will also provide a major boost to the ADF’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
The first F-35 aircraft will arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2020.
Australia has been working with the United States as a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter programme since the Coalition joined in 2002. Acquiring F-35 aircraft will reinforce the ADF’s ability to operate seamlessly with US forces and Australia’s capacity to continue supporting our shared strategic interests under the US alliance.
The F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including in regional areas and for the local defence industry with more jobs and production for many locally-based skilled and technical manufacturers.
The total capital cost of $12.4 billion for this acquisition includes the cost of associated facilities, weapons and training.
Around $1.6 billion in new facilities and infrastructure will be constructed, including at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.
As a result of the Howard Government’s decision to join during the development phase, Australian defence industry has been awarded over $355 million in work and stands to win well in excess of $1.5 billion in JSF-related production and support work over the life of the programme – creating long-term advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs.
The F-35 will replace the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet aircraft. For over three decades, the Classic Hornet has been the backbone of Australia’s air combat capability. These aircraft have delivered exceptional service to Australia’s security but will be withdrawn from service by 2022.
The new 58 F-35 aircraft, in addition to the 14 already approved in 2009, will provide the RAAF with a total of 72 aircraft to form three operational squadrons and one training squadron.
The Government will also consider the option of acquiring an additional squadron of F-35 aircraft to replace the Super Hornets in the future.
The Government remains committed to building a strong, capable and sustainable Australian Defence Force.
Anti-war activists gather in Canberra
Not everybody is happy with the announcement. A peace group gathered in the Tent Embassy in Canberra — outraged with the purchase calling it provocative and extravagant.
The Independent Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN), an anti-war group claims more than a hundred joined their peace rally this week focussed on Australia’s defence spending. According to the group, they will collect signatures to petition against the acquisition. Around 700 signatures have been collected this week, the group said.
Justin Tutty, executive member of the IPAN said “We are supposed to be in deep financial hole – so how on earth can we afford such an extravagant military purchase?”
IPAN is convinced that in a time of peace, Australia should be investing in education and health and cutting back defence spending.
Adding the controversy is a statement coming from Pentagon. Tutty said that even the project manager at Pentagon finds the planes to be “risky, risky, business because they are unreliable and need too much maintenance”.
“No Australian Defence strategic study has said we these strike fighters. The USA buys these for foreign wars but we do not need them. They are provocative in this time of global instability, and build fear rather than security. If we want peace, we need to invest in aid to our region, not aggressive military posturing” he concluded.
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