The Royal Australian Air Force appears keen to convince its new government about the merits of keeping with last year's purchase of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet multirole fighters, with the service's chief officer expecting a "a rational" outcome from the nation's ongoing review of the purchase.

Canberra's new Labor government earlier this year launched a review of its air power requirements, including the former administration's order for Super Hornets as replacements for the RAAF's ageing General Dynamics F-111s, and the planned acquisition of Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

"We are asking them to spend a lot of money, so it is understandable that they want to examine it," said Air Chief Marshal Geoff Shepherd during the Global Air Power Conference, held prior to the start of the Singapore air show. "The review is under way, and it is a process we want to fully participate in. Perhaps, because they were in the opposition when the decision was made, they did not have all the information," he said.

"I am confident that these rational men in power will make a rational decision. We are confident that will be the case when the facts are put to them."

Any cancellation of the Super Hornet order could result in Australia having to pay damages to Boeing, which has already cut metal on the RAAF's first aircraft. Australia last March became the first export customer for the aircraft, with its two-seat fighters scheduled for delivery from 2010.

While some in Australia have suggested that the RAAF's F-111s could be upgraded while the country waits for JSF deliveries, that idea may face problems as the service has already begun retiring the type. "Under the previous government's plans, the F-111 fleets were starting to be wound down from 12 months ago, and they are scheduled to retire in 2010. To reverse that may prove to be difficult," said Shepherd.

The F-35, though, remains at the fore of Shepherd's plans, even though the review will also examine the various options if there are further delays to the project. "Our future is with the JSF by 2020 we want to have an all F-35 fleet," he said. "We believe that the Super Hornets will serve us well until the F-35s come in. If the government gives us the OK for the F/A-18s, we will be able to handle any delays to the F-35 through mid-life upgrades for the Super Hornets."