Procurement: Super Hornet Shoots Down F-35s

Archives

p>

December 24, 2006: In a surprise move, Australia is in negotiations to become the first export customer for the F-18F " Super Hornet". The proposed purchase of 24 aircraft will allow the Royal Australian Air Force to retire its aging force of 22 F-111 bombers by 2010. Ironically, this is because of the F-18F being an "evolved" version of the of the F-18 Hornets already in service with the RAAF. Earlier that had been the major reason why the F-35 was chosen to replace the F-111s. But now the  Super Hornet also has something that it did not have when Australia was making its earlier decision: proven combat performance over Iraq and Afghanistan.

The RAAF is doing this largely because of the potential for cutbacks in funding for the F-35 by the U.S.  Congress, that could delay production. Such delays could mean that the  F-35 would not enter service in  Australia by 2015. Not only is Australia looking to quickly replace its aging and expensive-to-maintain F-111s, but some of its Hornets have had fatigue issues - and acquiring the F/A-18F will allow the RAAF to retire its older airframes. The fact that the F-18F is an "upgrade" will also be used to convince the bean-counters and lawmakers to go along with this as a temporary measure - even though the F-18F is actually a new plane that is 20 percent larger than the original F-18, has engines generating 35 percent more power, and weighs 30 tons, compared to 23 tons for the older F-18s in RAAF service.

The F-111 first flew in 1964. It has a combat radius of 2,140 kilometers and can carry 15 tons of air-to-ground weapons - or up to 36 500-pound bombs. In its day, it was arguably one of the finest tactical bombers in the world, and had a solid track record over Vietnam, Libya, and Iraq. The F-18s in Australian service have a combat radius of 535 kilometers and carry 6.5 tons of weapons. The Hornet proved itself in combat over Libya, Iraq (1991 and 2003), and Bosnia. The F-18Fs that Australia contemplates buying have a combat radius of 1,095 kilometers and carries up to 8.8 tons of weapons, in addition to some stealthiness, and a new radar, in later production blocks.

The F-18F will easily integrate into the RAAF. It can carry just about anything the Australian F-18s can carry, and with two extra hardpoints, it can carry more of them. Transition from the F-18 will be very simple, and Australia will also not have to be saddled with supporting the aging F-111s. The total cost for this purchase will be just under $2.4 billion.

One potential loser in this decision is Lockheed Martin. If the Australian experience with this first Super Hornet purchase is a good one, more of them may be purchased, instead of  F-35s. The Super Hornet, which costs $58 million per plane, slightly higher than the $50 million "fly-away" price tag of the F-35. However, the Super Hornets will be much cheaper than the $110-115 million each for the initial production versions of the F-35. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 

Article Archive

Procurement: Current 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

wreath Help Save the Content Elves Christmas!
 

Christmas is around the corner. StrategyPage needs your help to make it a merry one for our content elves. Because of falling ad revenues and the owners of the site wanting you to have a good experience, the content elves may recieve no gifts from Santa Dunnigan.

What can you do to help the content elves have a merry Christmas? There are three possibilities:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..

Drake appreciates any help you can give him.

Subscribe   Contribute   Close