The Royal Australian Air Force has warned the Australian government that it is facing the risk of not meeting readiness targets due to problems with ageing equipment, particularly its General Dynamics F-111 bombers.

The service also predicts an adverse impact from ongoing operations on its global capability forecasts as part of the revised Australian defence budget, which is expected to get parliamentary approval within the next two weeks.

Revised budget documents released last week reveal a A$1.087 billion ($562 million) overspend on the May 2001 national budget target. The RAAF is also reiterating warnings made in the 2001 defence budget and in November that it is experiencing severe pressures on operational availability.

The RAAF says: "Further evidence is emerging of the increasing logistics costs associated with operating ageing aircraft. There is considerable pressure on logistic support for the [Boeing] F/A-18 and F-111." Last week the RAAF announced it had temporarily grounded its F-111s earlier this month.

The revised budget papers reveal additional funding has provided within the past eight months for the acquisition and integration of PGSUS AGM-142E missiles for the F-111s.

AGM-142 funding now stands at A$335 million, down A$60 million on fiscal year 2000 funding approvals but an A$18 million increase on last year.

The papers also reveal that RAAF's Lockheed AP-3C Orion upgrade project is experiencing major problems with performance of the Elta EL/M 2022(V)3 radar. "Acceptance of the type is being delayed pending resolution of remaining software and radar performance issues. Achievement of this milestone is expected early in 2002-3, following promising recent progress on rectification of remaining deficiencies."

Source: Flight International