Australia demands JSF resolution

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By Peter La Franchi in Canberra

Australia is pushing for a resolution of long-standing technology release issues with the USA ahead of its proposed signing of the production, sustainment and follow-on development (PSFD) phase agreement for the Lockheed Martin-led multinational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project later this year.

Meanwhile, Australia has ruled out a potential Lockheed F-22 acquisition, despite decisions by the US Congress to allow development of an export version.

Visiting the USA last week for bilateral talks in Washington, Australian defence minister Brendan Nelson said that release issues were critical: “We certainly won’t be signing the memorandum of understanding on procurement, follow through and sustainment at the end of the year unless we have those guarantees.” Nelson said the issue was part of talks held with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “We want to make darn sure that we’ve got it signed, sealed and delivered in terms of access to technology and data to maintain the aircraft, and also that Australian industry gets a fair share of the action,” he said.

Australia would stick with the F-35, Nelson said, and was still to see whether the USA would in fact release the F-22 to the international marketplace despite moves by Congress.

“We’re prepared to make the largest investment we’ve ever made in air combat capability in terms of some A$16 billion [$11.7 billion] of investment, but Australia is not in a position to be able to buy F-22A Raptors, even if they were to be sold by the USA, and then buy strike capability as well.”