Four Corners tonight raised disturbing questions regarding Dr. Brendon Nelson’s decision to scrap the F111’s (no, the alleged 'wing defects' seem to be a myth) and to purchase 24 Super Hornets for $6.6 billion. The claim is that the Russian-made Sukhoi 30 fighters (bought by India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China) sell for half the price and are much better aircraft.
A case was made that we have wasted billions of dollars, ended up with second-rate fighter aircraft and possibly lost air superiority in the region. More than that, the purchase seems to have been made without careful evaluation of the capabilities of alternative aircraft and largely on the basis of the personal views and convictions of Brendon Nelson.
The Super Hornets have not been purchased by any other country outside the US and are intended to be an interim replacement for 100 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) due from the US to arrive in 2014 at a cost of $16 billion. Paying $6.6 billion for an interim aircraft seems a lot when the FIII’s seem such a fine fighter. Moreover committing at an early stage to the JSF leaves us vulnerable to US corporate opportunism and 'holdup'.
Defence staff dispute the claims of poor quality of the Super Hornets but the criticisms of procedure, waste of public money and carelessness with respect to our defence priorities need to be assessed. I’ll summarise press links as they come to hand. I welcome comment particularly from those with a defence focus - there does seem to be an problem here.
The full-transcripts and a video of this edition of Four Corners is available at its website.