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Jump jets for the ADF?

By Richard Brabin-Smith and Benjamin Schreer

Is there a case for Australia to acquire F-35B Joint Strike Fighter short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft to operate from the two new Canberra-class landing helicopter docks (LHDs)? The government has directed that this question be addressed in the development of the 2015 Defence White Paper.

This report is an independent assessment of the costs and potential benefits of such an acquisition. Reintroducing organic naval air power into the ADF would be a big strategic decision, and very complex and expensive, so it’s important to have a clear view of the circumstances in which it might be beneficial enough to be worth pursuing. And it’s important to be aware not only of the direct costs but also of the potential risks and opportunity costs. Overall, this report concludes that the benefits would be marginal at best, wouldn’t be commensurate with the costs and other consequences for the ADF, and would potentially divert funding and attention from more valuable force.