The RAAF lacks the resources to provide meaningful support to US-led military strikes

The Royal Australian Air Force's senior acquisition official has told local aerospace companies that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is unlikely to provide meaningful support to any US-led strike on terrorist strongholds due to major readiness shortcomings.

The shortcomings mean that the RAAF is not able to offer an airborne strike or combat air support capability, a situation which replicates shortfalls in 1991 and 1998 during campaigns against Iraq.

Air Vice Marshal Ray Conroy, Australian Defence Material Organisation head of aerospace acquisitions, told an industry briefing in mid-September that the ADF had been caught out by the terrorist incidents and that the Australian Government's options are likely to be limited.

He also said that any international campaign against terrorism would probably result in changes to the ADF's 10-year capability plan, which was only publicly released at the end of June.

Conroy's comments follow increasing concerns expressed within the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) that ongoing operations to intercept illegal immigrants are unsustainable beyond the short term. The RAN has five warships directly involved in the operations.

RAAF sources say General Dynamics F-111 strike operations would be severely restricted because of delays of nearly 10 years in fitting the aircraft with new electronic warfare (EW) self protection systems, a two year hold-up in integrating new strike missiles, and because too few pilots are available.

An interim EW upgrade for F-111Cs has been underway for three years with this including the fitting of missile approach warning and decoy systems. The RAAF is also acquiring five podded EW systems from Elta. These were delivered in June but the full suite will not be operational for at least another six months.

The RAAF is to lease five Raytheon Beech King Air 350s or Cessna Citation Bravos to replace its British Aerospace 748 navigation trainers. The aircraft will be modified to navigation trainers by BAE Systems Australia, prime contractor for RAAF navigation training systems since 1997. Previously the BAe 748s were to be replaced with Raytheon Beech 1900Ds equipped with Northrop Grumman APN-241 radars. The replacement aircraft are due to enter service in mid-2003. Usage rates are predicted at 4,000-5,000h a year.

Source: Flight International