Australia is to defer a funding decision on an expansion to its Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornet life-extension programme pending a review of the number of airframes required to keep the fleet operational beyond 2012. Additional airframe modifications had been put forward for indicative funding approvals in last month's Australian national defence budget, but this will now be delayed by at least a year.
The additional airframe upgrade "is not a project that will go forward this year", said Air Vice Marshal Kerry Clarke, head of Australian Defence Force capability systems development, at Australian Senate budget hearings. "It is contingent on the numbers [of aircraft] that we need and will be approved in financial year 2006-7."
Australia is already running a limited Hornet airframe life-extension programme, and inducted seven aircraft into the programme last year. Acquisition of an electronic-warfare jamming system for the F/A-18 fleet and a follow-on stand-off weapon capability will proceed this year.
PETER LA FRANCHI/CANBERRA
Source: Flight International