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Thread: Defense analyst: Australia's purchase of the Super Hornet is a big mistake

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    Defense analyst: Australia's purchase of the Super Hornet is a big mistake

    Flying into trouble

    Australia is risking its credibility in the region if it pursues its plan to buy 24 Super Hornet aircraft, writes Carlo Kopp.

    LAST week's disclosure of negotiations to procure 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets as interim replacements for Australia's existing F-111 fleet is the latest instalment in the sorry saga of the RAAF's decline as a credible regional air force.

    Until last week, senior Defence figures repeatedly denied that Super Hornets were being sought as gap fillers to overcome continuing difficulties with the long running F/A-18A Hornet Upgrade Program, increasing delays with the Joint Strike Fighter, and Defence's campaign for premature retirement of the F-111 fleet.

    The Super Hornet is the US Navy's follow-on fighter to the "Classic Hornet", currently flown by four RAAF squadrons. While slightly larger than Australia's Hornets, the Super Hornet's agility, supersonic speed and acceleration performance, critical in air combat, are no better than the earlier model, due to a Congressional mandate during development. With unique engines, radar, airframe and electronic warfare systems, the Super Hornet shares little real commonality with its predecessor, driving up support costs. All it offers is a better radar, improved avionics and 36 per cent more internal fuel, at a price tag estimated at $2.5 billion.

    The bad news is that the Super Hornet is not competitive against the latest Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK fighters, operated or being acquired by China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, and it is also not competitive against the Boeing F-15 models being acquired by Singapore, South Korea, and flown by Japan.

    The larger Sukhois are faster, much more agile, and have greater range and firepower than the Super Hornet. The Russians are now testing an advanced supersonic cruise engine in the Sukhoi fighter, which will effectively double the combat speed of the Russian fighters, putting them well out of reach of the lacklustre Super Hornet.

    The Super Hornet is not a credible air combat fighter in this region, and no upgrade can ever make it so.

    The stated intention to use the Super Hornet as an interim replacement for Australia's F-111s is no less incredible.

    Capable of carrying about half the F-111's payload of smart bombs to about two-thirds the distance achievable by the F-111, in raw firepower terms the Super Hornet delivers around one-third the punch of the F-111.

    To match the range and persistence of the F-111, the Super Hornet must be supported by aerial refuelling tanker aircraft in numbers that Defence has no intention of ever acquiring. In real terms, replacing F-111s with Super Hornets reduces strike capability three-fold.

    Claims by Defence that the F-111s will become dangerous to fly after 2010 are absurd, given the advanced testing used to verify structural integrity of the fleet. Defence has repeatedly inflated the cost of operating and upgrading the F-111 in evidence to Parliament, and made factually incorrect claims on a wide range of technical issues, while publicly admitting "we don't know what we don't know". In short, the Defence leadership has no credibility whatsoever in justifying the early retirement of the F-111s. Even a fraction of the budget required to buy the Super Hornet would equip the F-111s with new engines, new wings and new avionics, allowing them to remain in use decades longer.

    Compared to the mediocre Joint Strike Fighter that Defence intends as the ultimate replacement for both the F/A-18A and F-111 fleets, the Super Hornet has inferior stealth and avionics. Neither of these aircraft were designed to be credible in air combat against the latest Russian Sukhois.

    Nor were they designed to defeat the advanced Russian S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, largely superior to the US Patriot, and now appearing in this region.

    In strategic terms, Defence is re-equipping the RAAF with a fleet of aircraft that will be little more than a bad joke in the region — and doing so despite better alternatives, such as the superlative F-22A, and despite repeated advice to the contrary.

    Defence runs a real risk that as further difficulties emerge with the Joint Strike Fighter, and its cost continues to creep up, a future government will bale out, and with Super Hornets already in service, opt to buy more to replace the legacy Hornets. This further reduces capability against the non-credible Joint Strike Fighter plan. A far better strategy for the future of the RAAF is to scrap current planning, and start again.

    The F-22A Raptor suffers none of the limitations of either the Joint Strike Fighter or Super Hornet, and is in production and operational in the US.

    If Australia is to have any strategic credibility in the region, it cannot pursue the path sought by the Defence leadership.

    Dr Carlo Kopp is a defence analyst and research fellow in regional military strategy at the Monash Asia Institute. He has flown the Super Hornet.

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    Military Professional wabpilot's Avatar
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    Dr Carlo Kopp is a defence analyst and research fellow in regional military strategy at the Monash Asia Institute. He has flown the Super Hornet. No thread is well and truely fouled up until Carlo Kopp is quoted with approval.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wabpilot View Post
    Dr Carlo Kopp is a defence analyst and research fellow in regional military strategy at the Monash Asia Institute. He has flown the Super Hornet.

    No thread is well and truely fouled up until Carlo Kopp is quoted with approval.
    Who is he? I quoted him not because I agree with him. I just wanted to solicit some views on his assertions.

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    Military Professional wabpilot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zhang Fei View Post
    Who is he?
    A nut with a word processor and a slightly disfunctional slide rule. Carlo Kopp shows up from time to time mainly touting the greatness of the F-111. He likes to watch them at airshows. If the RAAF retires the F-111 he'll be deprived of his greatest pleasure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zhang Fei View Post
    Who is he?
    A mobile phone engineer who thinks Australia will be completely defenseless unless they immediately purchase a fleet of new F-22's.

    Funny, somewhere out there is a writeup of the Super Hornet when it first came out. He was given a test ride in a two-seater configured with declassified (airshow) software. At the time, the he was of the opinion that the Super Hornet wouldn't have any trouble with Flankers. Wonder what changed? Lol.

    One has to wonder what his response would be if the RAAF announced they were considering a fleet of these Flankers he says are such a threat?
    "We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way." -President Barack Obama 11/25/2008

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    Quote Originally Posted by highsea View Post
    A mobile phone engineer who thinks Australia will be completely defenseless unless they immediately purchase a fleet of new F-22's.

    Funny, somewhere out there is a writeup of the Super Hornet when it first came out. He was given a test ride in a two-seater configured with declassified (airshow) software. At the time, the he was of the opinion that the Super Hornet wouldn't have any trouble with Flankers. Wonder what changed? Lol.

    One has to wonder what his response would be if the RAAF announced they were considering a fleet of these Flankers he says are such a threat?
    At least you blokes don't have his APA/AFTS partners registered here as members. He would have to be on Sukhois christmas card list!
    Last edited by gf0012-aust; 02 Jan 07, at 04:21.

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    ^^^knock on wood...
    "We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way." -President Barack Obama 11/25/2008

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    I swear to god, Carlo Kopp is the real threat to the ADF, not our neighbours, who either operate small or utterly out of date Aircraft, as well as being totally uninclined to threaten Australia or Australian interests abroad. We're not going to be fighting any major conflicts in our neighbourhood any time soon, especially in the Air around our neighbourhood, it's all going to be COIN, peacekeeping and peacemaking. We need the ADF to be large enough, and well equipped and resourced enough to engage in at least one such small operation (Say Battalion/Regiment level) while simultaneously conducting a larger Brigade sized operation (that being a full Bde, not of this 2 battalions with 2 companies crap) in support of an Ally or Allies elsewhere. The RAAF fits into this by providing AD, CAS, Airlift and Interdiction to such operations, its pretty unlikely that the RAAF is going to be conducting major operations around Australia for a good while, so having a fleet of stupendously expensive Stealth fighters isn't really the way to go, I figure we should just settle for a larger AF of 200 SuperBugs that will provide us with an economical way to have a force that is large enough to be able to handle multiple deployments and still defend Aus (the **** happens factor is always there), capable enough to ward off any realistic threat (I would like to think an RAAF with 200 SuperHornets could handle an RMAF of 18 F-18Es and 18 Super Flankers) and interoperable with our Allies (this would include those neighbours we are supposedly in some sort of arms race with). It'd also save us some cash on conversion costs, and we'd then be able to do something more drastic like, say, deploy a package of 50 warplanes, a mix of F-18E, F-18F and some EF-18s as well without stretching the RAAF to breaking point, and the funny part would be that this would be more powerful than any AF in our region except USN CAGs.

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    More to the point, this guy obviously either expects that we're going to have an AF of planes that either require 100+ maintainance hours to every flight hour, or an AF that will be non-existant, either because its planes are grounded due to servicability issues, or because all its planes have crashed. Seriously the JSF looks alright, my argument is that it's looking like it will also be too expensive to completely outfit an Air Force that is really large enough to do its job, the Super Hornet is not exactly perfect but it's probably the best balance between economics, performance and operability, something this idiot doesnt want to hear because he lives in a fairy land where the 30-odd Raptors that we could afford and the 30-odd F-111s that won't be flying past 2010 because they'll either be grounded or scattered in peices across the deserts, fields, jungles or seabeds of Australia and South East Asia is actually enough to do the job the RAAF is actually going to be doing.
    In future, ignore Carlo Kopp, because thats exactly what every Politician, Soldier and Engineer in this country is doing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zhang Fei View Post
    Who is he? I quoted him not because I agree with him. I just wanted to solicit some views on his assertions.
    He thinks the only thing that can save austrailia is a good number of F22's. He's pretty arrogant as well and thinks he knows more about F22's,JSF"s F 18's,F 111's etc than the defense contractors and RAAF.His site is a good source of technical information but the threat is exaggerated.He's a defense analyst and nothing more. I do give him credit for him getting his work publihsed in good magazines and other publications but I wouldn't take his word on strategic issues over that of the RAAF or Lockheed,boeing etc.Just try to use the site for techncial info(except on the JSF or F 18) not strategic issues.

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    I wonder what kopp would say if autrailia was building ICBM's .......................................

    Kopp:NOOOOOOOOOO they're 2 vulnerable we need ohio subs with D-5's!

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    Quote Originally Posted by urmomma158 View Post
    I wonder what kopp would say if autrailia was building ICBM's .......................................

    Kopp:NOOOOOOOOOO they're 2 vulnerable we need ohio subs with D-5's!
    Her Majesty's Australian Submarines New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, kinda has a nice ring to it.

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    RE: Defense analyst: Australia's purchase of the Super Hornet is a big mistake

    Quote Originally Posted by wabpilot View Post
    A nut with a word processor and a slightly disfunctional slide rule.
    I am glad to see a proper phrase to discribe Mr Copp, "a slightly disfunctional slide rule." I whole heartedly agree.
    One thing I don't like about Mr Copp is that he does not stake his reputation on a concrete solution. Something that can be checked in 20/20 hindsight. He does do a good job of critizing others who make a living on making decisions that are need to be implimented. I don't see him ever placing himself in a position where he has to back what he says.

    Adrian

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    He has flown the Super Hornet.
    He makes it sound like he is an aviator that actually piloted the aircraft.

    the Super Hornet shares little real commonality with its predecessor, driving up support costs. All it offers is a better radar, improved avionics and 36 per cent more internal fuel, at a price tag estimated at $2.5 billion
    He also makes it sound like each unit costs $2.5 billion, all by itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by avon1944 View Post
    He does do a good job of critizing others who make a living on making decisions that are need to be implimented. I don't see him ever placing himself in a position where he has to back what he says.
    Well said.


    What a slimey little dolt...

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    Quote Originally Posted by TopHatter View Post
    He makes it sound like he is an aviator that actually piloted the aircraft.
    Kopp is an experienced pilot, and has flown quite a few types.

    His ride in the Super Hornet was a typical incentive ride, the PIC does the takeoffs and landings, runs through a few basic maneuvers and then sets up the plane for the backseater.

    The backseater then gets to check out the handling, do a few maneuvers, play with the radar, and so on, under the supervision of the PIC.

    What Kopp was allowed to see wasn't representative of a combat-coded AC, since he doesn't have the clearance. It was just a "gee-whiz" ride.
    "We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way." -President Barack Obama 11/25/2008

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