Defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon has announced that the controversial purchase of 24 Super Hornet aircraft will go ahead.
The review of the Howard government’s decision to buy the aircraft — at a total cost of $6 billion even though the RAAF hadn’t wanted them — reached some damaging conclusions, including:
- There has been a lack of sound, long-term air combat capability planning decisions by the former Government over the course of the last decade.
- The retirement of the F-111 was made in haste but is not irreversible. The cost of turning the F-111 back on would be enormous and crews and skills have already moved on.
- The former Government’s decision to leave Australia’s air defences in the hands of the Joint Strike Fighter project was a flawed leap of faith in scheduling terms and combined with the quick decision to retire the F-111 early, allowed an air combat capability gap to emerge.
- The subsequent timetable the former Government put on the acquisition of an interim fighter left Defence planners with no choice but to recommend the Super Hornet. No other suitable aircraft could be produced to meet the 2010 deadline the former Government had set. One year on, that is now even more so the case.
Cancelling the order would still incur a financial penalty and create “undesirable tensions”, and the final conclusions is that “the Super Hornet is an excellent aircraft… and is the only aircraft which can meet the small delivery window created by the former Government’s poor planning processes and politically-driven responses.”
As a shareholder in Australia Inc, I’d like to know why the former “board members” allowed this to happen. When company directors are negligent they become personally liable so why, given the report’s damning conclusions, does Brendan Nelson not become personally liable?
Why were established evaluation and purchasing processes ignored? What is the connection between former defence minister Brendan Nelson (a member of the Liberal Party), and the then chairman of Boeing Australia, Andrew Peacock, a former leader of the Liberal Party?
Hat-tip to Tim Dunlop, who also notes:
[D]o you make procurement decisions on the basis of strategy or is it on occasion necessary to build strategy around procurements that have already been made? I mean, the White Paper may be still six months away but it is hardly as if it is being written from scratch. It looks like Fitzgibbon has decided that getting the Super Hornet decision locked away was the more important factor and is happy enough to make strategy decisions with the Super Hornets in the mix. To paraphrase another Defence Minister/Secretary, sometimes you do strategy on the basis on the equipment you have.
As in this case. We’re buying the Super Hornets because, essentially, it’s the only choice left.
[Photo: A US Navy (USN) F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft, Strike Fighter Squadron 115 (VFA-115), Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California (CA), launches from catapult three during flight operations on board the USN Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. US Navy via Wikipedia.]