04 Februari 2016
F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (photo : imgur)
Australia will never achieve regional air superiority with the new Lockheed F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter and should instead look to the US F-22 Raptor, a former RAAF officer says.
Retired Wing Commander Chris Mills said the F-35 was never designed to achieve air superiority and was outclassed by advanced new Russian aircraft entering service in regional air forces.
In a submission to a Greens-instigated Senate inquiry examining acquisition of the F-35, he said the F-22, now in service with the US Air Force, was designed to dominate the skies.
Production of the F-22 ended in 2011 and in any case US law specifically bans exports.
Mr Mills said the answer to providing Australia and other western countries with a superior future air combat capability was to bring the F-22 back into production.
“To those who say it can’t be done, my answer is that USAF has kept all the production tooling with capacity for several hundred new aircraft to be built,” he said.
Aeronautical engineer Danny Nowlan said advances in radar technology would soon erode the F-35’s stealth capability while the aircraft’s basic design was fundamentally broken and couldn’t be fixed.
“The alternative to the F-35 is to restart F-22 Raptor production and for the US Congress to release it for export,” he said.
“When it comes to modern fighters the F-22 Raptor is the platinum standard.” Australia plans to acquire 72 F-35 aircraft and maybe as many as 100. So far just two have been delivered.
The RAAF plans to have its first two F-35 squadrons ready for operations in 2020.
Development of this advanced stealth aircraft has been beset by delays, technical problems and cost increases.
JSF was chosen for the RAAF because of its ability to perform a number of different roles, including bombing missions.
Another former RAAF officer, retired Wing Commander Anthony Wilkinson, a former F-111 navigator, said JSF’s range was too short and its bombload too small for it to be a proper strike aircraft. “I would argue that defence planners have lost the plot,” he said in his submission.