"Vertical take-off jets sought for Navy
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July 09, 2008
THE federal government has been urged to buy a dozen vertical landing strike fighters to avert another Gallipoli.
The Navy League, a defence lobby group, today said 12 new short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) versions of the Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) would give the Royal Australian Navy back an aircraft carrier capability lost in 1982 when HMAS Melbourne was decommissioned.
In an editorial in the latest edition of its magazine The Navy, the league said there was an obvious linkage between the new landing ships, now under construction, and the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) version of the Lockheed F-35 JSF.
It said acquisition of a dozen STOVL JSFs for use aboard the landing ships - known as LHDs (landing, helicopter, dock) - should be included in the upcoming defence White Paper.
“Like it or not, the ADF's new amphibious capability will be used at some stage and when used will mean the situation is a serious one, requiring serious and decisive firepower,” it said.
“However, without an airborne fire support capability, then all the LHDs can do is deliver our troops into the waiting gun sights of the enemy, in many respects just like at Gallipoli.”
The Navy League said having between four and six STOVL aircraft, crewed by the RAAF, aboard each LHD could provide the tactical support needed to conduct amphibious operations around the region.
The two new landing ships, based on a design by the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, will each be able to transport up to 1,000 troops as well as helicopters, vehicles including tanks, and landing craft.
Both feature a ski-ramp for use by jet aircraft but the former government persistently denied planning to resurrect an aircraft carrier capability.
Australia is considering buying up to 100 JSF aircraft to meet future air combat needs. However, JSF is also being offered as a STOVL variant for the US Marines and Britain's Royal Navy and a carrier version for the US Navy.
The first STOVL JSF conducted a successful conventional takeoff first flight last month but has yet to perform a vertical landing.
Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, speaking from aboard HMAS Anzac off Hawaii where he is observing the major Rimpac naval exercise, said all such issues had been canvassed in the air capability review.
“That review will form part of the White Paper considerations and therefore the government will express any views on those topics when we release the White Paper,” he told AAP.
The Gallipoli comparison is a bit far-fetched as we're likely to avoid opposed landings but its good to see someone keeping the debate alive and lobbying for fixed-wing naval aviation. They've even been diplomatic enough to suggest the RAAFies fly them.
On a side note, I'm at home in Nowra for a few weeks. There's always been an approach path to Albatross over the house so I've had the opportunity to see a couple of low level flights of C-17s go over with the undercarriage down. I must say they look absolutely awesome!