Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] News, Discussions and Updates

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
Seems to me that if they felt it necessary to replace a single aircraft then maybe they need to consider getting a few extra attrition spares or perhaps convert some of the prewired super hornets.
Is that basically what the other SH are? Flying spares? Now our F-35A capability is quite strong. They are no doubt useful but with a portion already wired, we could convert one.

I would imagine if the line was dead, we could possibly bring a retired airframe/ex USN online and convert the RAAF SH to growler. If required. No doubt expensive.

This appears cheaper. Just replace the Growler with a growler.

Complete spare airframes seem like a bit of a waste, particularly for a niche aircraft like this in the RAAF. The Canadians canibalised a lot of their CF-18 across the life, however, the RAAF rarely does that, particularly with US aircraft, when there are other options (bone yard, exUS fleet, new builds etc).

I doubt spares are a big part of the calculation really. They’d have an operational capability they want and then they’d be thinking about how many aircraft to sustain that. That one fewer aircraft means more hours racked up on the other 11, which might be an issue over time.
I would imagine the RAAF can manage this across the squadron. However the SH is quite a durable aircraft, with a long service life. Given the role, the loss could have in theory be managed across the other airframes, but this provides the full compliment of airframes. Of all the same lot and configuration.
 

ADMk2

Just a bloke
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
Is that basically what the other SH are? Flying spares? Now our F-35A capability is quite strong. They are no doubt useful but with a portion already wired, we could convert one.

I would imagine if the line was dead, we could possibly bring a retired airframe/ex USN online and convert the RAAF SH to growler. If required. No doubt expensive.

This appears cheaper. Just replace the Growler with a growler.

Complete spare airframes seem like a bit of a waste, particularly for a niche aircraft like this in the RAAF. The Canadians canibalised a lot of their CF-18 across the life, however, the RAAF rarely does that, particularly with US aircraft, when there are other options (bone yard, exUS fleet, new builds etc).


I would imagine the RAAF can manage this across the squadron. However the SH is quite a durable aircraft, with a long service life. Given the role, the loss could have in theory be managed across the other airframes, but this provides the full compliment of airframes. Of all the same lot and configuration.
The Supers are a bit more than just ‘back up’ for the F-35 fleet. With the LRASM announcement, they will be our primary airborne maritime attack capability for quite some time…

Not to mention come December they will be the only fighter we have capable of deploying any kind of serious stand-off weapon (Harpoon Block II and JSOW).
 

Stampede

Well-Known Member
Trouble is we really don't know the actual combat aircraft strength of the PLAAF, PLANAF, and the output of the combat aircraft production facilities. It is difficult to find verifiable open source data apart from what may appear in various US Congress reports. Even the SIPRI data is at best qualified. We could be underestimating or overestimating their quantity. Now as to Sqn strength km do they have a Sqn strength of 12 aircraft?

The PLA is following a western style of force structure and if you look at the PLA-GF they have a similar structure to the US Army. I would then very strongly suspect that the PLAAF will have a similar force structure to that of the USAF, so their fighter sqns could very well have upwards of 18 - 24 aircraft each. The PLA has definitely forsaken the Soviet Russian model ever since Gulf War 1 and probably the hiding that the Vietnamese gave them around 1979. The Vietnamese certainly wouldn't be able to do it now.

WRT their quality. They haven't been in real combat since the 1979 hiding, so any institutional memory is failing. The PLAAF and PLANAF don't have any modern combat experience that we are aware of. So they have had to read books, papers, watch videos, and obtain as much intelligence as possible, in order to obtain as much information that they can in order to simulate modern aerial combat. This includes C5ISR, everything and meld it all into a viable workable system. The real problem they have is that they don't know how well it will work in a real war situation. It could be really good, or it could be absolute rubbish. They don't have any friends who they can trust, who has real world air combat experience that would be able to help them.

That doesn't mean that they will be easy beats and it will one sortie then home for tea and medals. Far from it because the last thing we can afford to do is to underestimate them and disrespect their abilities. That's what caused MacArthur to lose the Philippines and the Poms to lose both Hong Kong and Singapore during WW2.

What the PRC is doing to Taiwan is grey war tactics designed to wear down the Taiwanese defenders, wear out their aircraft, and acclimatise them to PLA combat aircraft in the Taiwanese ADIZ so that it becomes routine. That will numb the Taiwanese into a false sense of security and the CCP is working on the principle that the world will sicken of the Taiwanese crying wolf all the time; until one day it's too late. IMHO the FVEY group and other nations should guarantee Taiwan's security, defence, and freedom to choose its own future. If the PRC don't like that, how sad, to bad, never mind.
Note to self, when cut and paste, actually paste.
Lesson learnt from lack of pudding and public disgrace.

The Taiwan chapter is both interesting and concerning, but without wanting to derail this RAAF thread, the question was really about what sort of commitment is required to a given mission.

To re phrase.

If we were to send up a flight of four aircraft ( Not three ) having put in the appropriate man hours in between flights would we expect a 100 percent reliability .
I'd guess not
Therefore I would imagine for such a commitment a spare or two fueled and crewed would be available in reserve.

Remember the commitment was to send four aircraft and nothing less.

Appreciate the feedback

Regards S
 

Anthony_B_78

Active Member
Note to self, when cut and paste, actually paste.
Lesson learnt from lack of pudding and public disgrace.

The Taiwan chapter is both interesting and concerning, but without wanting to derail this RAAF thread, the question was really about what sort of commitment is required to a given mission.

To re phrase.

If we were to send up a flight of four aircraft ( Not three ) having put in the appropriate man hours in between flights would we expect a 100 percent reliability .
I'd guess not
Therefore I would imagine for such a commitment a spare or two fueled and crewed would be available in reserve.

Remember the commitment was to send four aircraft and nothing less.

Appreciate the feedback

Regards S
My understanding is that if you’re prepared, they’re all operational aircraft, then yeah just one spare with crew would be sufficient since modern aircraft tend to have an 80% or greater availability. I’ve read about USAF / USN missions where they basically had that kind of contingency in place.
 

John Newman

The Bunker Group
The Supers are a bit more than just ‘back up’ for the F-35 fleet. With the LRASM announcement, they will be our primary airborne maritime attack capability for quite some time…

Not to mention come December they will be the only fighter we have capable of deploying any kind of serious stand-off weapon (Harpoon Block II and JSOW).
Yes, agree completely.

Once the last Squadron of Classic Hornets is retired at years end, so is their JASSM and Harpoon capabilities too.

Let’s hope the introduction, and integration, of LRASM and JASSM-ER to the Super Hornet fleet happens sooner rather than later.
 

hauritz

Well-Known Member
The Supers are a bit more than just ‘back up’ for the F-35 fleet. With the LRASM announcement, they will be our primary airborne maritime attack capability for quite some time…

Not to mention come December they will be the only fighter we have capable of deploying any kind of serious stand-off weapon (Harpoon Block II and JSOW).
Also the loyal wingman may require a dedicated back seat ... at least in its early phase. With sixth generation fighter technology perhaps becoming available in the 2030s it could be prudent to hang onto them for at least another decade or so.

The Defence Strategic Structure plan does allow between $4.5 to $6.7b for what is described as "Additional Air Combat Capability" which is a rather curious turn of phrase. The same document straight out identifies that the Growler will be replaced yet nothing directly saying the Rhino will be replaced. They could be just talking about a Block III upgrade which actually looks pretty extensive.

 

John Newman

The Bunker Group
The Defence Strategic Structure plan does allow between $4.5 to $6.7b for what is described as "Additional Air Combat Capability" which is a rather curious turn of phrase.
The project you mentioned (timeline is 2025/26 to 2030/31), has been a ‘line item’ in previous DCP/DIIP for many many years now, dates back to 2011 or 2013 from memory?

Back in earlier DCPs it was named ‘the 4th combat squadron’ or similar, it was the budget allocation for a decision by a future Government to fund the replacement of the F/A-18F fleet with that ‘4th’ squadron of F-35A.

Will the Super fleet be replaced with F-35A? Who knows, but a budget allocation is still there.

If a future Government decides to stick with the Supers that budget allocation could be pushed further to the right (remember the Super fleet was originally to be interim for 10 years, replaced in 2020, but that was extended out to 2030).

At the end of the day it’s much better to have a potential future budget allocation than none at all, gives the Government future options.

Edit:

Found a copy of the 2012 DCP, the project is:

AIR 6000 Phase 2C New Air Combat Capability - 4th Squadron

See attached image:

DFD76AD4-E0B1-45DC-941D-35DA87DF4A05.png
 
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John Newman

The Bunker Group
Edit:

Found a copy of the 2012 DCP, the project is:

AIR 6000 Phase 2C New Air Combat Capability - 4th Squadron

See attached image:

View attachment 48566
Just to add to my post above, it’s worth reading this specific paragraph from the 2012 DCP:

“AIR 6000 Phase 2C is the final acquisition phase for the AIR 6000 project and will comprise a fourth operational squadron of F-35A aircraft, associated support and enabling capabilities, and attrition aircraft to support the planned fleet life. The decision to acquire the fourth operational JSF squadron will be considered in conjunction with a decision on the withdrawal of the F/A-18F Super Hornet in the FY 2015-16 to FY 2017-18 timeframe.”

Or more specifically this bit:

“and attrition aircraft to support the planned fleet life.”

In other words the often mentioned “up to 28 aircraft” is not only the 4th squadron, it also includes attrition aircraft too.

I remember this being pointed out in a number of Defence articles years ago, mentioned a few times on the ADBR and AA websites for example.

As I remember it, a ‘nominal’ split was 18 aircraft for the 4th squadron, and 10 attrition aircraft.

Let’s assume the Government decides not to proceed with replacing the Super Hornets with F-35A aircraft, we may still see a ‘small’ purchase of approx 8-10 extra F-35A to fulfil the attrition requirement.

Cheers,
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
My understanding is that if you’re prepared, they’re all operational aircraft, then yeah just one spare with crew would be sufficient since modern aircraft tend to have an 80% or greater availability. I’ve read about USAF / USN missions where they basically had that kind of contingency in place.
In reality the rule of threes still applies, because whilst in peacetime operations it is possible to husband resources and with planned maintenance retain a high availability rate,; in wartime that isn't possible due to high sortie rate requirements and battle damage.

I would also question your claim about 80% availability rate for US combat aircraft because they have had ongoing maintenance problems over the last 10 years due to maintenance funding being diverted to war funding and wall building. If the aircraft are newbuilds then at least 80% availability should be the norm.
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
As I remember it, a ‘nominal’ split was 18 aircraft for the 4th squadron, and 10 attrition aircraft.

Let’s assume the Government decides not to proceed with replacing the Super Hornets with F-35A aircraft, we may still see a ‘small’ purchase of approx 8-10 extra F-35A to fulfil the attrition requirement.
This may actually be a flexible number.
Its known there is a general shortage currently, with a backlog or at least a delay in logistical supply. Eventually I would expect this improve with time.

However, a lot of ifs in this equation, nothing is confirmed.

The replacement of the growler makes me think the SH and growlers arent' going anywhere.
Even if a decision was made today to order additional F-35A's when would first delivery occur? 2027? 2028? When would they be stood up as an operational squadron?

The lack of integration of Naval strike capability on the F-35's is also disappointing. Australia has a large stock of harpoons, some JASSM and now LRASM. None of which are usable from the F-35A.

With the Blk III upgrades now available, the new Growler pods incoming, might be worth keeping the SH and Growlers around for a while yet. The idea that 4th gen would be completely dead by 2030 is now looking unlikely. Future conflicts look like being fought with a mix of generations of fighters on both sides.

Also interesting if they wait until the new trainer is chosen, keeping knowledge, equipment and people familiar with F414/F404 might be useful. If the trainer and the SH engine logistics can be merged, it may make supporting the SH much easier going forward and flight and logistics support more robust. Certainly it would seem odd to create a deliberate gap between the two.
 

Anthony_B_78

Active Member
In reality the rule of threes still applies, because whilst in peacetime operations it is possible to husband resources and with planned maintenance retain a high availability rate,; in wartime that isn't possible due to high sortie rate requirements and battle damage.

I would also question your claim about 80% availability rate for US combat aircraft because they have had ongoing maintenance problems over the last 10 years due to maintenance funding being diverted to war funding and wall building. If the aircraft are newbuilds then at least 80% availability should be the norm.
Yeah I was referring to your operationally available aircraft, not the total force. I know it’s a while ago now, but there’s some good literature available on USAF and USN operations in the Gulf War.
 

Stampede

Well-Known Member
Just to add to my post above, it’s worth reading this specific paragraph from the 2012 DCP:

“AIR 6000 Phase 2C is the final acquisition phase for the AIR 6000 project and will comprise a fourth operational squadron of F-35A aircraft, associated support and enabling capabilities, and attrition aircraft to support the planned fleet life. The decision to acquire the fourth operational JSF squadron will be considered in conjunction with a decision on the withdrawal of the F/A-18F Super Hornet in the FY 2015-16 to FY 2017-18 timeframe.”

Or more specifically this bit:

“and attrition aircraft to support the planned fleet life.”

In other words the often mentioned “up to 28 aircraft” is not only the 4th squadron, it also includes attrition aircraft too.

I remember this being pointed out in a number of Defence articles years ago, mentioned a few times on the ADBR and AA websites for example.

As I remember it, a ‘nominal’ split was 18 aircraft for the 4th squadron, and 10 attrition aircraft.

Let’s assume the Government decides not to proceed with replacing the Super Hornets with F-35A aircraft, we may still see a ‘small’ purchase of approx 8-10 extra F-35A to fulfil the attrition requirement.

Cheers,
A mystery many of us would like answered.

Just a note, we ordered 75 classic hornets back in the day for three front line Squadrons. Spain acquired about 79.
Are 72 F35's enough?

100 Aircraft for 4 frontline Squadrons plus extra for training / deep maintenance and attrition so yes these numbers look about right.
28 extra or maybe more! Hmmmmmmmm.

Or do we soldier on with the Super / Growler combo for many years.

The mystery.

Maybe the evolution of other technology and systems provides the answer.

I still do however see a regionally unique advantage in having some aircraft land vertically !!!!!!!

Regards S
 

Stampede

Well-Known Member
This may actually be a flexible number.
Its known there is a general shortage currently, with a backlog or at least a delay in logistical supply. Eventually I would expect this improve with time.

However, a lot of ifs in this equation, nothing is confirmed.

The replacement of the growler makes me think the SH and growlers arent' going anywhere.
Even if a decision was made today to order additional F-35A's when would first delivery occur? 2027? 2028? When would they be stood up as an operational squadron?

The lack of integration of Naval strike capability on the F-35's is also disappointing. Australia has a large stock of harpoons, some JASSM and now LRASM. None of which are usable from the F-35A.

With the Blk III upgrades now available, the new Growler pods incoming, might be worth keeping the SH and Growlers around for a while yet. The idea that 4th gen would be completely dead by 2030 is now looking unlikely. Future conflicts look like being fought with a mix of generations of fighters on both sides.

Also interesting if they wait until the new trainer is chosen, keeping knowledge, equipment and people familiar with F414/F404 might be useful. If the trainer and the SH engine logistics can be merged, it may make supporting the SH much easier going forward and flight and logistics support more robust. Certainly it would seem odd to create a deliberate gap between the two.

"The replacement of the Growler makes me think the SH and Growlers are not going anywhere."
Suggest your correct, these aircraft will probably be flying well into the 30's

Will they be upgraded?
Will they compliment an additional purchase of F 35 's ?
or
will they be worked hard pending some future decisions ?

With the dramatic Submarine turn about I'm wondering what the script is.

At the end of the day nothing would surprise me.


Regards S
 

Tasman

Ship Watcher
Verified Defense Pro
The lack of integration of Naval strike capability on the F-35's is also disappointing. Australia has a large stock of harpoons, some JASSM and now LRASM. None of which are usable from the F-35A.
Totally agree. I am staggered at the lack of progress in integrating maritime strike weapons into the F-35A force, especially as, in Australia's case, they were originally ordered to replace the F-111C in the strike role as well as the classic Hornets in the air combat/ ground attack mission. I presume that this has stemmed from the USAF not seeing maritime strike as a priority for the JSF, which is disappointing from Australia's point of view. Hopefully RAAF F-35As will eventually receive a suitable long range maritime strike weapon capability. The apparent lack of urgency in dealing with this shortcoming has surprised me. Mind you the RAN has also demonstrated that it can move at a snail pace in integrating new weapons systems as evidenced by the total lack of observable progress in fitting CIWS to the LHDs (originally scheduled to begin in 2018 IIRC).
Tas
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
I presume that this has stemmed from the USAF not seeing maritime strike as a priority for the JSF, which is disappointing from Australia's point of view.
Yes I think this is the crux of the matter - or at least the lack of urgency for an AShM in the JSF program in general. JSOW-C was supposed to provide the interim anti-shipping capability but I suspect the threat environment has fast outpaced that one. At present, the first true AShM you're likely to see on the F35 is the Joint Strike Missile, probably followed by the LRASM. Beyond that, you'd really be waiting for hypersonic programs like HACM and SCIFire to deliver a hypersonic anti-shipping weapon later this decade or early next. At that point I'd the current AShM drought on the F35 should become something of a flood. I suspect this may be a significant contributor to the US holding out for the Blk IV F35 the way it is...
 
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StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
has stemmed from the USAF not seeing maritime strike as a priority for the JSF
But shouldn't the computers architecture be common across all three, and thus the F-35C and (and sometimes B) should be integrated as well? I guess the USAF has more sway on this programs priorities than the USN has. Its not just missing a single naval strike weapon, its basically all of them. I hope the LRASM integration goes smoothly and this will turn the F-35A into a formidable naval strike platform.
 

ddxx

Member
For the final batch of the program, would a squadron of F-35Bs potentially make sense from a operational flexibility and ally interoperability perspective? I’d imagine in our region, being largely defined by sea and islands, having the ability to land and take off from numerous, simplistic air fields would be a rather useful capability well worth the small trade off in range?
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
For the final batch of the program, would a squadron of F-35Bs potentially make sense from a operational flexibility and ally interoperability perspective? I’d imagine in our region, being largely defined by sea and islands, having the ability to land and take off from numerous, simplistic air fields would be a rather useful capability well worth the small trade off in range?
It would not just be a trade off in range though. It would be an additional aircraft type which costs more than an F-35A, has additional/slightly different maintenance requirements, as well as possessing different flight characteristics and limitations. While similar to and using a common systems architecture as an F-35A, F-35B's would require pilots, ground crews, and maintainers who were all trained for F-35B's. Certainly this is a feasible possibility, but one would need to really consider whether VTOL ops is a valuable enough capability for the RAAF/ADF as a whole, to justify the additional costs and effort. Unless the answer to that question is "yes", then there would need to be other, better reasons for opting for F-35B's.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
For the final batch of the program, would a squadron of F-35Bs potentially make sense from a operational flexibility and ally interoperability perspective? I’d imagine in our region, being largely defined by sea and islands, having the ability to land and take off from numerous, simplistic air fields would be a rather useful capability well worth the small trade off in range?
The USMC has been developing a capability where it will be able to operate F-35C off austere expeditionary fields using metal matting for runways and ramps and mobile arresting wires. The aircraft are refuelled either from fuel bladders previously flown in, or KC-130J parked on the ramp. All the fuel, spares, munitions etc., are flown in for the duration of the deployment if it is short term or inland. If it is close to a coast and long-term such material could be supplied by sea.

The RAAF already have the Shornets and an expeditionary airfield squadron capable of laying the matting and everything else that is required. All that would have to be acquired is probably six or so KC-130J-30, a couple or three sets of the portable bare field arrestor gear, and the approach guide path gear. It's a darn sight cheaper than going all out buying F-35B and you have most of the assets in place.

 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
Interesting article, the F-35C also offers more range and load capability compared to the B. For island hopping, it would be nice to have both but with limited finances, the C version for this role has merit.
 
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