Transcript of Sept. 11 interview of Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon by ABC1’s Kerry O’Brien:
Joel Fitzgibbon, there's a report in The West Australian newspaper today that a top secret war game involving Australian and US military experts and Defence personnel in Hawaii has cast what they call deep doubt over the capacity of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35, to perform against jets used by Russia and China, some of which would be with some of our neighbours in this region. Does that concern you?
I've seen the report, Kerry, and I've asked for a full report from Defence and I'll rely upon that report to come to some conclusion about whether there is merit in the newspaper article.
But I think this vindicates my stand on the JSF. Despite the urgings of Brendan Nelson and Nick Minchin, I'm determined not to sign on the dotted line on the JSF until I'm absolutely certain it's capable of delivering the capability it promises, and that that capability can be delivered on time and on budget.
But do we actually have any alternatives, because the F-22 was the one that many Defence analysts would like to see Australia have; at this stage it's not available, and even the future of the F-22 is in doubt. So what would our alternative be to the JSF anyway, even if you decided that it wasn't up to what Australia requires?
Certainly within the midpoint of the next decade we will want a fifth generation aircraft. And it's true that there's only one flying at the moment; that's the F-22 Raptor, and there's an internal debate in the US now about whether they will sustain that aircraft. So that reduces the odds of that being a part of the combat mix.
Then of course there's the development of the Joint Strike Fighter. Now, we will need now to rely upon the eventual delivery of the Joint Strike Fighter and all of its capability.
But some innovative things I'm looking at with the Super Hornet which will get taxpayers better value for money and will deliver greater capability could, for example, provide us with the opportunity to push the purchase of the JSF out to the right, therefore giving more time to secure the capability we're looking for. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full transcript, on the Australian DoD website.