Speech by The Hon. Greg Combet, AM, MP
Australian Minister for Defence Materiel and Science
JSF Advanced Technology & Innovation Conference Melbourne
Monday, 3 May 2010
Thank you Air Vice-Marshal Harvey for your kind introduction and good morning everyone.
I would like to thank all of you for attending this very important conference, particularly those who have travelled so far to be here.
I note that today’s conference is well-represented by the JSF Program Office and the major JSF contractors; Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, GE and Rolls-Royce. I appreciate your support for this ongoing Australian initiative.
I also appreciate the wide range of attendees from Australia; from R&D organisations; industry; and from Defence and other government departments.
This is the fourth Australian JSF Advanced Technology and Innovation Conference, and its sub-title is “Advanced Technology for a Future JSF: From Ore in the Ground to Parts on the Aeroplane”.
The sub-title reflects an opportunity for Australia to make use of its valuable natural resources. For example, Australia possesses around 40% of the world’s titanium yet we are doing little with it despite its use increasing rapidly in both civil and military aerospace;
The aim of this conference is to help bring Australian technology and innovation together to the benefit of the JSF Program, because it is through our partnership in the JSF Program, the world’s largest collaborative defence program, that we will meet our strategic and economic goals.
I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss the status of the Joint Strike Fighter program, including the issues around affordability. I then intend to discuss the current and future Australian industry opportunities and finally I intend to make an announcement around the Commonwealth Government’s support for Australian companies seeking to win JSF work.
Late last year, I visited Lockheed Martin at Fort Worth for discussions on progress of the JSF Program and to see first-hand what had been achieved since I visited in 2008.
I was impressed with what I saw at Fort Worth, but the visit also highlighted to me the immense challenge posed by the JSF Program – nine partner nations and many of the world’s leading aerospace companies in partnership, developing three variants of an affordable fifth-generation stealth fighter that will be the backbone of our tactical air combat capability for the next generation.
As we have seen over the last few months, there is no doubt that the JSF Program will continue to face challenges that must be overcome. But if the JSF wasn’t so challenging, it wouldn’t deliver what we all want. The significant advances in capability provided by the fifth generation JSF warranted Government accepting a degree of risk in this program.
You are all aware of US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ recent statements on JSF cost and schedule issues, as well as on contractor performance not meeting expectations over the last year or so. The Australian Government welcomes the decisive action that he has taken to deal with these issues and we are committed to working with the US and other partners to make this Program a great success and a model for future international collaboration.
In raising his concerns about JSF cost and schedule issues, however, Secretary Gates stressed that he saw no fundamental technical challenges that threatened the ultimate success of the Program. Indeed, we have seen major technical achievements recently, including:
-- the successful first short take-off, hover and vertical landing of the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing variant;
-- first flight of the first mission systems aircraft;
-- completion of certification and first flight of the Helmet-Mounted Display system;
Just last week the first two Conventional Take-Off and Landing test aircraft flew a total of 16 successful sorties in a period of only seven days.
There has also been good progress in ground static testing and development of JSF sensors and completion of around 85% of the total 20 million lines of JSF software.
When I was at Fort Worth in 2009 I was able to witness the assembly line working on the first production aircraft.
It is important to restate that overall, no official review of the JSF program such as the 2009 Joint Estimating Team report have discovered any fundamental technological or manufacturing problems with the JSF program, or any change in the aircraft’s projected military capabilities.