2013-04-21 In a recent piece in The Australian, the foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, weighed in on the F-35 discussion in the Pacific.
The essential argument can be simply put: You can be part of 21st century airpower or choose to drop out.
The controversies about the F-35 remind me of the derision the F-111 attracted in its development phase. The F-111, of course, went on to become Australia’s strategic strike capability for decades.
But whereas there were only about 500 F-111s built, and we were the last to operate them, there will be 3000 or more F-35s and they will be manufactured for decades to come.
This has enormous implications for their ability to be supported and maintained.
Australia is notionally planning to buy 100 F-35s, though this figure is pretty fudgeable.
When you acquire genuine world-leading new technology, there are always alarums and diversions, delays and cost over-runs. We are a wealthy nation with a very small population in a teeming region with more than its share of instability. A key ingredient of our national security doctrine is to maintain a technology edge over our neighbours. But most of the region now has fourth-generation fighters with essentially the same capabilities as our own.
The F-35 is the best of the fifth generation. With constant American software upgrades, it would keep us ahead of the pack for decades.
We would be crazy to go any other way. If we did, not seeing might well become believing, quite bitterly.
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