|I read a bit of bad news for all of us Aussies today. Indonesia is to take purchase of 2 SU-27's and 2 SU-30's, the first of a possible 24 of each type to be bought. Apparently this puts our upgraded F/A-18 force 4th in quality, behind Singapore and Malaysia(fortunately both allies), and Indonesia, in our immediate region. The Hornet's are also suffering centre barrel fatigue, which means that training hours are being limited to preserve the airframes. To make it worse, the Indonesians are looking at buying S-300's and an intergrated air-defence system, which seriously degrades the deterrant posed by our F-111's and their AGM-142's.
While the current Indonesian government is relitively friendly, their are lots of Generals who are pissed off about our involvement in the liberation of East Timor. If their were a coup, it could spell trouble for us. I don't see that our government has any choice but to upgrade our airforce, to get us through the next 10 years before the JSF can be expected to arrive. Possible options are,
-Leasing/buying new fighters until the JSF arrives. The late model F-16's would solve the fatigue problems of the F-18's, but would not give a real advantage over the SU-27.
-An F-18E/EF-18G combo would be formidable, with the EW aircraft giving us a real advantage, though I don't like the idea of the "E's" getting caught without the "G's". This plan would however have training/maintainance advantages, as we already use F-18's.
-A "silver bullet" force of F-22's has been suggested as part of the JSF buy, to give us a clear air to air advantage over any adversary. The government has rejected this, but mabye the idea or a variation of it needs to be introduced to get us through the next few years. While the F-22 may be to expensive/not available to Australia, a squadron of Typhoon's, to replace the oldest F-18's, may give us the edge we need. The F-18's could then be kept in reserve and rotated through the remaining squadrons, to extend the life of the force and give the pilots the hours they need. This would also give us an independent ability to provide dissimilar air combat training, though it would introduce another completely different logistics train.
-ALCM's like the Joint Standoff Weapon for the F-111's, outranging the S-300s would provide us with the deterrant we need. They would also mean the F-111's could continue to adopt the less demanding high-level approach.
-Long-range missile defences(ie, Patriots), for our northern facilites and for Darwin has also been suggested.
Any thoughts on this?