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Senate Estimates: F35 Joint Strike Fighters

Estimates & Committees
Scott Ludlam 3 Jun 2014

Senator LUDLAM: Can you just confirm some of the numbers for us and make sure that that open-source reporting is correct. Australia, under minister Faulkner, committed to the purchase of two of these aircraft. The government in 2009 committed to 14, although I believe we were still in a position where we could back out of that sale if the aircraft were not ready in time. Was that correct? Or an additional 12, I should say.

Air Marshal Brown: It is an additional 12.

Senator LUDLAM: That takes it up to 14. The commitment of April of this year of an additional 58 takes it up to a total of 72. There is speculation about an additional 24, which would take us to a total of 100. For each of those cohorts—two, 12, 58 and 24—could you outline for us what we are contractually obliged to actually do?

Air Marshal Brown: I might be better off handing over to the CEO of DMO to actually talk about contractual arrangements.

Mr King: I will lead off, but Air Vice-Marshal Chris Deeble can provide more detail. We actually place orders on an annual schedule.

CHAIR: We have actually got a scheduled tea break at this point. There may be people here who are anxious to use the time for various things. We might just break and come back at quarter past.

Proceedings suspended from 21:01 to 21:16

Senator LUDLAM: Mr King, regarding the various numbers of aircraft—the two, the 12, the 58 and the speculative 24—that take the Joint Strike Fighter capability of Australia up to 100 aircraft, I want to know how we get out of those contracts if the aircraft continues to be unairworthy? At what point can we cut and run, or can't we?

Mr King: I do not agree with the statement 'unairworthy'. The way we place the contracts is on an annual buy. We foreshadow in advance the number of aircraft we want to buy in a particular year. As we progress towards that year we firm up the price for that year and then we place an order for that year's buy.

Senator LUDLAM: So we do not know how much they are going to cost from year to year?

Mr King: A lot of the commentary you are talking about—

Senator LUDLAM: You do not yet know what I have read. I have not mentioned any commentary.

Mr King: Sorry, that was an earlier question from another senator. It is about the cost of the aircraft, but the costs are now tracking as predicted. In fact, the most recent cost for the aircraft has been slightly under what has been estimated both by the project and by the independent cost agency of the US.

Senator LUDLAM: Let's just work through them. Regarding the two aircraft that were committed to by, I think, Minister Faulkner, we have effectively purchased those—we have paid for those. Is that correct?

Mr King: I am not sure if we have paid for them, but we have certainly ordered them and they will be delivered soon.

Senator LUDLAM: They are committed. What do you define as 'soon' with a project like this? When do we take delivery?

Mr King: July, I think it is for the first aircraft.

Senator LUDLAM: Next month. Will they be in Australia at that point, or will Australian pilots be training in the US?

Mr King: They remain in the US and they are used in a pool in the US. It is our contribution to a pool.

Senator LUDLAM: But from July they are legally Australia's aircraft?

Mr King: They are.

Senator LUDLAM: Tell me about the next 12. How does that work?

Mr King: I will pass to Air Vice Marshal Deeble to go over the detail.

Air Vice Marshal Deeble: I am the program manager for the JSF program. The next purchase is in low-rate initial production 10. We will make the commitment to that in the 2016 time frame, and they will be delivered in 2018. We will commit to LRIP 11 the following year, and they will be delivered in 2019. That will be another eight aircraft. From LRIP 11 we move into full-rate production, and we will be committing to full-rate production 1, 2 and 3 in the subsequent years, and will deliver 15 aircraft at full-rate production. Full-rate production 4 will deliver the last nine aircraft, to give us 72 aircraft, and those aircraft will be delivered in 2023.

Senator LUDLAM: Given the rather troubled production and design history of this procurement, starting with the next 10, beyond the two we will take delivery of in July, what if by 2016 they are not ready?

Mr King: I will start the answer. The description 'they are not ready' is unlikely, because of the milestones that have been established for the program—you might recall it was re-benchmarked about three or four years ago. The project is hitting all of those milestones. It is still developmental in only a number of small areas—they are important but small. So to be not ready would have to require a major setback. But the government's decision is that provided the cost and capability and Australian industry commitments are met, then we will place the orders. If prior to that something went dramatically wrong we obviously would not place an order. Provided it is making all its benchmarked progress, we will.

Senator LUDLAM: Do we have the legal ability to avoid purchasing those aircraft if they are too expensive, not airworthy, too slow—

Mr King: We are not legally obligated until we actually place the order.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you. That is helpful. Despite the April announcement of Senator Johnston and the Prime Minister, we are still actually only legally committed to the two aircraft that we were committed to in 2009. Is that correct?

Mr King: In terms of signing a contract. Obviously the government has made a commitment to progress the project, to buy the aircraft. And only in the event that something is seriously amiss, we will progress the project.

Senator LUDLAM: These aircraft were originally scheduled for delivery in 2010. So I guess I am bringing to you the proposition that something is seriously amiss, or they would have been here four years ago.

Mr King: You can always say that. I know it frustrates a lot of people, but most defence projects are highly developmental. You just cannot buy them off the shelf without risk. America and other partner nations have put a lot of money into developing the fifth-generation leading aircraft of the world. It did run into a lot of difficulties. They were very public. They are audited in America. But since the re-baselining of the program cost targets, capability targets and delivery targets have all been met.

Senator LUDLAM: Let's come to those. Can I just confirm that there are three different aircraft types and all of those that are on purchase by Australia are the A-type, which has been designed for the US Air Force.

Mr King: That is correct.

Senator LUDLAM: We are not procuring any of the jump-jets the US Marines were after.

Mr King: That is correct.

Senator LUDLAM: Is it correct, though, that they are all based on the same airframe and there are three different configurations.

Mr King: Fundamentally the same design, with three variations. Correct.

Senator LUDLAM: It is the intention—and maybe you should put this question back to the air force—that Australia will end up with one aircraft, rather than having to maintain, train and keep in the air more than one of these frontline multirole aircraft?

Air Marshal Brown: We will have a mix for quite a while, and there will be decisions taken in the 2020s as to what the final mix will looks like.

Senator LUDLAM: Has it not long been the ambition of the air force to stand everything else down and just end up with one?

Air Marshal Brown: The original ambition of the air force was to have one.

Senator LUDLAM: When was that ambition superseded?

Air Marshal Brown: Probably originally in 2003.

Senator LUDLAM: What happened at that time?

Air Marshal Brown: At that stage we had two ageing air frames, the F-111 and the F-18. It was decided to retire the F-111 in 2010 and we bought 24 Super Hornets to replace the F-111.

Senator LUDLAM: So, indefinitely, we would still be operating the Super Hornets, the F-35s and the Growlers, for the foreseeable future, if all goes well?

Air Marshal Brown: I think there are decision points for down the track in the 2020s as to what the ultimate mix will be.

Senator LUDLAM: Let's come to the announcement—and I might have to put this to you, Senator Johnston, because I genuinely do not understand it. You have said that the new jet fighters do not involve any new spending. You have assured us that the money is already there—this is going back to your press conference of last April. It is money that successive governments have carefully put aside to ensure our nation's defences are strong. Senator Johnston, can you point out for us where in the budget papers this $24 billion has been set aside—in what fund, pool or appropriation?

Senator Johnston: Mr Prior will take you through it.

Senator LUDLAM: As you wish.

Mr Prior: If you were to turn to page—this will not be a satisfactory answer.

Senator LUDLAM: It is really nice to have that foreshadowed, because it so rarely is!

Mr Prior: Not from my doing, but because of the rules of the PBSs. On page 62 of the portfolio budget statement is the Capability Development Group's expenses statement, which includes a depreciation charge, which, in PBS language, is an approximation of capital flows for an agency. The funds set aside for the JSF and other capital items across the future are contained in the budget component for the Capability Development Group. So there are funds set aside in the Capability Development Group for future acquisitions.

Senator LUDLAM: For how many years?

Mr Prior: The PBS—and this is the unsatisfactory part, you might say—is currently a four-year statement. Clearly we have budget plans that go well beyond four years. In fact they go to 10 years. So these statements do not contain budget calculations beyond the four years that are required to be put in this document.

Senator LUDLAM: Referring to the full figure of $24 billion for the purchase, operation and maintenance of the aircraft, when the Prime Minister said that this money has been carefully put aside, he was not referring to the $24 billion at all. The sum in the PBS, from memory, is three and a bit.

Mr Prior: No, in our budgets in Defence we do set aside funds for future capability acquisitions.

Senator LUDLAM: But that money does not exist. It could be changed by a future policy decision of government. There is no actual pool of money sitting there.

Mr Prior: As with all budgeting for all Commonwealth agencies, appropriations are only for the year in which the budget occurs.

Senator LUDLAM: I am aware of that.

Mr Prior: So, if you are saying, 'Has the parliament appropriated money for future years—'

Senator LUDLAM: That is, set aside.

Mr Prior: Clearly they have not. There is no legal appropriation for those funds in the future. Has a budget estimate been made for those future expenditures? Yes, there has been.

Senator LUDLAM: But anything in the out-years is completely imaginary? It could be changed by a policy decision of a future government? There is no big pool of capital sitting there to take us all the way through that acquisition? I know I am labouring the point, but I actually found that press conference entirely deceptive. It is not like we have a fund set aside to buy these planes, which is exactly the intention the Prime Minister was proposing to convey, I suspect.

Mr Prior: I am not trying to labour the point unnecessarily, but a budget, as you know, is a future expectation of expenditure.

Senator LUDLAM: It is different to carefully putting something aside. My understanding of carefully putting it aside is that it exists, not that there is a decision for future governments to continue with.

Senator Johnston: We do not carefully put it aside, because the money would just sit there doing nothing. We actually budget, so that when the money is appropriated it is committed pursuant to what the budget says.

Senator LUDLAM: We are just going to have to agree to disagree.

Senator Johnston: I think we are.

Senator LUDLAM: I am not sure if this one needs to go back to Mr King. Is there a particular heads of agreement or a written document that we have signed either with the US government or with Lockheed Martin. What are the actual clauses, what are the conditions, that we have signed up to?

Mr King: I suppose there are two in effect—I will get the terminology correct. One is that we participate in the program. That was a decision made quite some time ago. That is with the US government and other partner nations. The second one we have signed is with Lockheed Martin, relating to Australian industry opportunities.

Senator LUDLAM: Did the Prime Minister's and Senator Johnston's press conference of April bring with it any new document, any heads of agreement, any MOU or anything at all with either the US government or the defence contractor.

Air Vice Marshal Deeble: It did not need to.

Mr King: I am not sure what you mean by the question.

Page 110 Senate Monday, 2 June 2014


Senator LUDLAM: Is there anywhere written down the conditions upon which we have signed up for the most expensive defence acquisition in the history of the Commonwealth?

Gen. Hurley: Going back to the point that was made before, the government has made a decision that it will build the air force based on 72 JSFs. We have not entered into contract for that, so the only arrangements we have standing at the moment were when we entered into the JSF program in the early days, and the arrangements, as Mr King has mentioned, with Lockheed Martin. The announcement was not saying, 'And tomorrow we start negotiations for a contract for 58 aircraft.' It was 'It is the government's intention to build an air force based upon 72 JSFs, which we will procure in the manner as described over time and will enter contracts as appropriate when each of those annual purchases are decided upon.'

Mr King: It is not unusual for nearly all of our defence projects. Essentially we go back to second-pass with the government with a business case about the costs, the risks and the capability that is to be acquired. The government then approves that and then the DMO enters into contract negotiations with the supplier. Otherwise you would have a supplier before you have an approval. So there is nothing unusual about that approach.

Senator LUDLAM: I am just trying to get my head around not its unusualness but what is actually going on. What stage of the process are you at now? Second-pass has obviously been through cabinet—

Mr King: That is right—for these additional purchases. We have already had second pass for the original 14. Just using that as an example, we had approval for the first 14 and we have not gone to contract for all of those aircraft yet, because our buy profile is not to be procured until the year after next. So we have those approvals in advance of entering into the contracts.

Senator LUDLAM: I guess you will appreciate why I am labouring this point, in terms of sunk cost and what is actually committed and spent on this project, it is actually only those two aircraft?

Mr King: Plus some other expenditure.

Senator LUDLAM: Some on-costs?

Mr King: Planning and so on. And for being a member of the development phase.

Senator LUDLAM: Where can I find some written criteria on which the government would decide either to delay or abandon the purchase of the aircraft, either in terms of delays in provision of the aircraft, cost or capability?

Senator CONROY: I cannot find the criteria on which we purchased them.

Senator LUDLAM: You were in government. That is a whole separate problem.

Mr King: You cannot, and there is a very simple reason in my opinion, but I cannot speak for the government here. But if I were being asked for advice from the government, when you try to procure these very complex systems you have a range of issues that the government of the day will have to consider for whether to proceed or not. To be totally prescriptive about just one element of that decision would give inadequate consideration to the totality of the matters the government of the day would have to consider, which starts with providing Australia with adequate defence.

Senator LUDLAM: I suppose I, and many others greatly more qualified than me, would contest that this aircraft can actually do that—that is has been compromised in its design. Its design history, which is fascinating, has compromised it. At the outset, it is that we are attempting to build a fighter that it at once stealthy, can fly at supersonic speeds, is a fighter, is a bomber and can take off and land vertically, and that there is in fact no such air frame that can do all of those things. That we have bought a jet—

Gen. Hurley: We are not buying an aeroplane that has all of those characteristics. We certainly do not want it to be a jump-jet. We are buying the A version, which is the conventional take-off and landing version of the aircraft.

Senator LUDLAM: Which has nonetheless been compromised in the design phase by having to satisfy the criteria that the US Marines set down.

Gen. Hurley: That is not necessarily so.

Senator LUDLAM: Is that completely incorrect?

Mr King: The US, amongst all of our Western friends and suppliers, is the most open about their procurement. Here we answer questions from senators about what their operational test and evaluation people have found. All of those matters are published—the issues that are facing the JSF. But none of them are at the level that you are discussing—they are at completing the development into the final capability of that aircraft. They are all available publicly.

Senator LUDLAM: Something that was available publicly was that the aircraft could not fly within 40 kilometres of an electrical storm, and we are proposing to base a substantial number of them in Darwin. Has that been solved.

Gen. Hurley: I think it is just pulling on comments that were made at certain stages of the development of the aircraft. It is at a certain stage of development and it does not have all its kit or systems fitted in it. So whilst you are doing that you put some protections around what you do in the aeroplane. Would we ever buy an aeroplane that could not fly within 40 kilometres of an electrical storm? Believe me, we would not.

Senator LUDLAM: Has that equipment been reinstalled in the two that we are about to get delivery of in July? I believe the equipment that was meant to protect it from lightening was removed because the airframe is too heavy. Have the two that we have purchased and that we take delivery of in July been refitted?

Air Marshal Brown: On the issue around the lightening, until you do some test points on the aeroplane, that is a restriction you often put on. I think at this stage that restriction has been removed.

Mr King: It is in the process of it, I think. In fact, I am attending a conference to be updated next week. The work on that, as two people have said, was more a conservative measure. In fact, our own DSTO did some work on the program to assist in doing that evaluation, and I believe that issue has basically been retired.

Senator LUDLAM: This all sounds a little vague: 'We believe this. We're not sure. We might have that.' The two aircraft that we are taking delivery of in July in the US—they are not to be flown to Australia, I guess—have had the lightening fasteners installed.

Gen. Hurley: I believe you may be confusing two issues. One was a matter of test data about where you can fly the aircraft. The other was the removal of a device to lighten the load. I think it was in fuel control or something. I do not think we removed anything that was lightening protection or something like that. It was a matter of assuring ourselves that the aircraft could fly in that environment safely. I will get some more information on that.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, if you can.

Senator FAWCETT: I believe it was the gas generator to generate the gas in the fuel cells. Due to a risk of explosion, it was removed due to weight.

Senator LUDLAM: The hour is getting a bit late. If you feel like clarifying that on notice for us but with specific regard to the two aircraft that we have just spent huge amounts of money on, it would be very good. There is a fair bit of material—and Dr Jensen has canvassed some of it in the public debate—to the effect that for a generation 5 aircraft, it is slow, it is heavy and, if you get within a certain distance of it, you can kill it. And that, effectively, its advantage on the battlefield will be that it will be killing things from over the horizon; that its electronic warfare is superior to anything else on the planet.

Air Marshal Brown: Can I just address—

Senator LUDLAM: I can sense your impatience, Air Marshal. Please go ahead.

Air Marshal Brown: We have been very patient over the years, because the majority of commentators who make comment on this aircraft have never flown a fighter in their lives.

Senator LUDLAM: Should we need to pass comment on the most expensive acquisition in Australia's history?

Air Marshal Brown: You can pass comment but I do not think you should be considered in any way expert—

Senator LUDLAM: I am not putting myself up here as an expert.

Air Marshal Brown: unless you have actually done the job. The simple fact of the matter is that the JSF is faster than the Classic Hornet or the Super Hornet. Speed is no longer the great determinant in air combat. In fact, if you have a look over the history of air combat, 95 per cent of the kills have been taken by five per cent of the pilots. The great determinant has been the situational awareness of those individual pilots at the time. The situational awareness of the JSF is contributed by the system around it, as well as the aircraft itself. So to make these sorts of inane comments about weights, speed and turn rate has been the determinant factors in air combat is, frankly, irrelevant.

Senator LUDLAM: Tell us what is relevant and why this is such a great jet.

Air Marshal Brown: What I just said before is that the aeroplane is far superior in the level of fusion that it has got in all the sensors.

Senator LUDLAM: Just break it down for an amateur as to what you mean by that.

Air Marshal Brown: For a start, it is a stealthy aeroplane. If it comes up against a 4th generation aircraft, that 4th generation aircraft has no ability to target a JSF. So you have the immediate advantage that your opponent cannot see where you are.

Senator LUDLAM: What about other 5th generation jets?

Air Marshal Brown: Other 5th generation jets are in a similar case because most of those radars operate either an L- or an X-band.

Senator LUDLAM: That is the case at the moment. What about in 10 years time, when we take delivery of these things?

Air Marshal Brown: When you have a look at it, there is not much technology that would allow the targeting of missiles outside X-band.

Senator LUDLAM: What about in 10 or 15 years time? It is a 40-year acquisition.

Air Marshal Brown: I do not believe there will be much change in that. The VHF radars that you talk about need other radar technology to track missiles with.

Senator LUDLAM: I do not expect you to have this information at the table, but could you take on notice for us—whoever feels most qualified to provide it—the various criteria by which jets are judged to be either fourth or fifth generation? In addition, can you tell us which of those criteria the JSF meets and which it does not?

Air Marshal Brown: Yes, we can do that, but I could talk to you about it now if you wanted me to.

Senator LUDLAM: It depends how much latitude I am going to be given by the chair, because I have a fair bit to cover.

Air Marshal Brown: We can take it on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: It is likely to get fairly technical fairly quickly, so I would appreciate that. I will go back to the issues about which views were expressed along the lines of: 'The jet is back on track', 'We are not too worried about delays and cost overruns anymore', 'They have most of it sorted', and so on. There has been a fair bit of discussion in the literature about the 'buggy' software on the aircraft. Is that all now ticked off?

Mr King: Buggy software?

Senator LUDLAM: I understood you to be saying that speed, turn rate and all that other stuff were no longer a factor in air combat, that it is now all about electronic warfare and dominance of electromagnetic spectrum—

Air Marshal Brown: Let me just pull you up there. It is a matter of degree. You certainly still need to be able to go at a certain speed and you still need to be able to turn at certain rate. It is the relative importance and how all these things work combination. All jets will have advantages and disadvantages, but a fifth generation jet is far superior to any fourth generation jet out there. I have been in the situation of flying against fifth generation jets in a fourth generation jet. I do not think many of your commentators, or anybody that you quote, has been in that situation.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, but we are not here just to take things for granted. I am sorry if you are finding this insulting or offensive, but we are not here to just take stuff for granted—particularly with a procurement of this magnitude.

Air Marshal Brown: That is true, but I will quote again the number of air forces around the world that have ordered this aircraft. What you are fundamentally saying is that the US Air Force, US Navy, US Marines, the Israeli Air Force, ourselves, the Turkish Air Force, the Dutch and the Italians have got it wrong. Frankly I find that insulting.

Senator LUDLAM: I am just here asking questions. It is my job.

Air Marshal Brown: That is fine.

Senator LUDLAM: Just tell us about the software, then. I am not sure where that all came from. Has it been debugged and is the aircraft ready to fly?

Mr King: The aircraft is flying. There are a lot of aircraft flying, but it is an incremental build of capability. The level of software that we want for initial operations capability is called Block 3i. The 'i' is for initial. It is currently mostly written. It is a very large software program. You do not have a point in time where absolutely everything is resolved—that is the same for any big software system—but you do have a point where it is stable, secure and ready for use. At the moment it is planned for 2015-16—to support the US program. We do not need it until 2020. Even if our assessment is wrong by six months or whatever, it will be ready in sufficient time for our use in Australia.

Senator LUDLAM: So what are we taking delivery of in July?

Mr King: An aircraft with a lesser baseline. But remember that the software can be added.

Senator LUDLAM: A lesser baseline than what? What will it not do? What can it not do that the aircraft will be able to do in 2020?

Mr King: I will pass that to Air Vice Marshal Deeble

Air Vice Marshal Deeble: The aircraft will be delivered in the July time frame with Block 3i software. There are some delays to elements of that at this point in time. We are working through that. But I envisage that there is only about three to six months' worth of delay. That will not delay any of the training that we will undertake. Currently to declare IOC in the 2020 time frame, we can accept 3i or 3F. 3F is running slightly delayed at this point in time—a delay of around six months. Again, we have plenty of scope. It was due to be delivered at the end of 2017 and we will not bring the aircraft back to Australia until the end of 2018. So we have some scope in the schedule to cater for any delays in that software.

Mr King: But, just to be clear, through the life of this aircraft there is already planned a block 4, and it will go on for the life of the aircraft. That is just the nature of modern systems. It exists in all of our platform systems—in our ships and our aircraft. They are software based and are always being upgraded and tuned and their capabilities are being improved.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand that. But at what point does the US government, or Lockheed Martin for that matter, consider the aircraft is actually ready for combat?

Mr King: Lockheed Martin does not play in that space. Lockheed Martin is a supplier. It is the US forces that determine when the aircraft is ready for operational capability.

Senator LUDLAM: And what is their date?

Mr King: It depends on whether it is the marine version, the air force version—

Senator LUDLAM: No, of the A—the one that we are buying.

Mr King: We will actually make our own determination that it is ready for—

Senator LUDLAM: Sorry, you just told me it was the US government. At what point will you make a determination, then? When will this aircraft actually be ready if the July ones that we are taking delivery of still have unfinished software?

Mr King: We need to have it ready for initial operational capability by 2020.

Senator LUDLAM: So we are going to be flying the aircraft for six years before it is actually ready? What am I missing?

Air Marshal Brown: One of the most complex parts of this airframe is actually the training. At the moment I have pilots qualified in F18s, so those initial two aircraft will go into a training pool in the United States and we will start to cycle some of our F18 qualified people through there so that we can actually establish enough pilots to establish the first squadron.

Gen. Hurley: One of the important points about making a decision now in the nature of our future Air Force was to allow us to do the detailed planning to train our pilots, to develop and build our facilities, and to put our training systems and our maintenance systems in place in Australia. So it is not just the airframe. In moving now to get that IOC, the IOC is defining the whole of that fighting capability, not just what an aeroplane can do. We need this time to make a fairly significant transition, and you have heard the Chief of Air Force talk about the difference between generation 4 and generation 5 aircraft. It is a completely different way of thinking about how we are going to fight into the future with this aeroplane, and we have a lot of programs which need a high degree of integration to bring the capability into play. So I do not think you are missing anything other than that it is not just the platform; it is all the systems that we have to put in place, workforce and so forth, to sustain it once we have it in play.

Senator LUDLAM: I have seen a briefing by Boeing, which I acknowledge at the outset was a competitor way back when the US government was trying to work out what to do, that highlights the F35's vulnerabilities to radar detection. What can you tell us about how stealthy this aircraft actually is and how something as solid and lumpy and immovable as an aircraft can keep up with the evolution of the arms race in detection? How can you keep it stealthy as detection technologies mature over a 30- or 40-year period?

Mr King: I can start. It is fundamentally engineered to be stealthy against the radar frequency environment. Clearly, in a public hearing we are not going to go into the specifics of that. Let me put it another way: if you do not start with a stealthy aircraft, how are you going to make a fourth generation one undetectable? Always with the purchase and acquisition of arms, the question is of it being designed to be as capable as it can be today and with a path to the future. JSF is our best starting point for that. Any other aircraft you start with starts from an even worse position.

Senator LUDLAM: I do not expect you to go into too much detail, I guess, given the sensitivity of what we are discussing, but it is kind of all over the defence literature that the F35 will be able to be detected by Russian and Chinese radar systems that are in the development cycle. So I am still not at all clear how an aircraft like this keeps pace with evolution in those technologies.

Air Marshal Brown: I do not believe that there will be an aircraft fitted with radar that will have the ability to detect it. And stealth is more than just the radar; in fact, it is the infrared signature and it is also the electronic emissions that come out of the aircraft, which can be just as important as the overall radar signature. So low probability detection of electronic emissions is an important factor as well. There are actually three areas, when you talk about stealth; it is not just against radar.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you just spell out those three for us? There are the emissions from the aircraft itself—

Air Marshal Brown: Low electronic emissions from the aircraft, a low infrared signature and a low radar signature.

Senator LUDLAM: And the radar signature is the shape?

Air Marshal Brown: Shape, materials—there are a lot of factors that go into it.

Senator LUDLAM: Given what you have said, some of its other performance characteristics are lower than they might be—you have made the point that stealth is all important and the fact that it can kill you from a very long way away—or the fusion I think is how you put it—how confident are you in the stealth characteristics of the aircraft?

Air Marshal Brown: I am extremely confident in the stealth characteristics of the aircraft. It is comparable to an F-22, which has proven to be a good fifth-generation fighter. And they are very difficult for anybody else to replicate.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you just spell out for me—Senator Xenophon put a quote to you before where General Mike Hostage—chief of US Air Combat Command, so not a Greens senator; somebody with a bit of skin in the game—on 3 February this year said:

'If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 … will be irrelevant. [It] is not built as an air superiority platform.'

Now that is all very well for the US air force, because they have both of those aircraft. We do not, and we probably never will. What is your response to that comment—that is, the F-35 is somewhat defenceless by itself?

Air Marshal Brown: Senator, I would like to get the rest of the comment. If we could take that one on notice, what I would like to do is get the full comment back to you and we could read the entire—

Senator LUDLAM: By nature it is somewhat out of context.

Air Marshal Brown: Yes; it is well and truly out of context.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay, I will put that reference to you through the secretary. We will come back to this later.

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