I will not reinvent the wheel with a statement that we, the Europeans, tend to look at our continent and that would be it.
We peek to the west to have a look at the USA, and lately at the South China See thanks to the American “pivot” – it resonates even in Europe.
Even the maps are Europe-centric and it has a historical background. This is somehow normal but I think that we tend to miss many interesting things, especially in the defense aviation which brings us to Australia.
Australia is one of the closest US allies in the region and more broadly it’s part of the five eyes initiative. This is as close as you can get. It’s Navy is a very important asset in a bigger, global picture. Australia also has a marvelous location for reinforcing US presence in the region with it’s ports and airfields. I’m not a martinis so I will restrain myself from going to deep in the ships, subs etc. but I do understand that they represent a formidable force.
Instead let’s try to focus on it’s aviation. Australia is one of the biggest F-35 participants with 72 aircraft planned to be bought. The first two have already landed in the country and made a great show at this years Avalon. The 72 aircraft is the lower level – previously even 100 was considered with top tier generals speaking about this number.
The most important factor is the 1 to 1 ratio. 72 F-35A’s are supposed to fill the shoes of the aging 71 aircraft strong F-18 Hornet fleet. This is not a common thing. Countries buying the F-35 tend to buy lower numbers counting on the superiority of the new type compared to older 4th generation fighters. Australia chose a more rational path with 1:1 replacement.
Further more there is the F/A-18E/F fleet which still has a big potential and can be further enhanced with modernization which is a normal path for multi-role aircraft. The 24 aircraft fleet can be a great support asset for the F-35 which will be the crown jewel, although the JSF brings much controversy to the table – a common thing in many countries and something reasonable considering the delays and costs..
On top of that we have the EA-18G Growler. This machine, as proved during last Red Flag, can be very helpful in today’s and future combat scenarios flying side by side with the F-35. The crucial thing is that Australian Super Hornet fleet is “Growler ready” with all the wiring done already. When the time comes they can be easily turned into those superb aircraft. Let’s not forget that the Growlers have a few F-22’s on their account during training scenarios.
Surveillance transport, and training
But that’s not the end of the story. Australia also has a fleet of AP-3C Orion aircraft and E-7A Wedgetail machines to patrol the surrounding seas.
On top of that we have a very capable transport fleet with C-27 Spartan, latest C-130J aircraft and C-17 Globemaster III heavy transporters.
To supplement that massive fleet Australia has decided to buy KC-30A MRTT which allow to fill the tanks of it’s combat machines and also transport various forces all around the globe.
The training fleet has also been reinforced with the PC-21 turboprop. This machine is also state of the art and is replacing older training aircraft.
At the end comes the cherry- Australia is buying the MQ-4C Triton which will complement the P-8A Poseidon who together are supposed to replace the aging Orion fleet.
If we sum all up the force is superb. Not only quite big but also packed with high tech assets which often replace older types on a 1:1 to basis. The most interesting thing is the holistic approach to the aviation fleet. We can observe a very mature force with almost all elements being brand new, top notch or just about to receive upgrades/replacements.
Good job Australia!